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First Name: Victor

Last Name: Chapman

Birthplace: New York City, NY, USA

Gender: Male

Branch: Army (1784 - present)

Middle Name: Emmanuel

Date of Birth: 17 April 1890

Date of Death: 23 June 1916

Rank: Sergeant

Years Served:
Victor Emmanuel Chapman

•  World War I (1914 - 1918)


Victor Emmanuel Chapman
Sergeant, U.S. Army
1st American Aviator Killed in WWI

Victor Emmanuel Chapman was born on 17 April 1890 in New York, NY, the son of John Jay Chapman, lawyer and litterateur, and Minna Timmins Chapman. Victor's mother, Minna, was the oldest child of wealthy Bostonian George Henry Timmins. Victor's father, John Jay Chapman, the great-great-grandson of John Jay, the first U.S. Chief Justice, was the son of the powerful and wealthy Henry Grafton Chapman, broker and president of the New York Stock Exchange.

Victor began his formal education at the Fay School in Southborough, MA. He spent two years there before enrolling in St. Paul's School in Concord, NH, in September 1903. He left that institution in 1907 to finish his schooling in Germany. Chapman lived in Germany, and for a time in France, before returning to the U.S. to spend one year at the Stone School in Boston. In September 1909, he entered Harvard University and graduated with an A.B. in 1913.

In September 1914, Victor enlisted as a Private in the Third Marching Regiment of the First Foreign Regiment of the French Foreign Legion. Victor reached the trenches in the third week of December 1914 as a machine-gunner and was soon wounded in the right arm by a rifle bullet.

On 1 August 1915, the news reached him as a surprise that he was to be transferred to French aviation. Victor concluded his eleven months of service in the Legion having seen one-half of his unit either killed or seriously wounded.

Victor reached Squadron V.B. 108 at Nancy, France, on 8 August where he was assigned as a mitrailleur-bombardier. On 20 August 1915 Victor flew on his first bombing run, on 24 August he flew a second mission, this time across the Rhine into Dilingen, Germany, where he bombed a rail yard. Victor made application for aviation school and entered the School of Military Aviation at Avord for pilot training on 26 September.

With Victor's family's financial and political influence with the French government it became a certainty that Victor would be assigned to the newly-formed Escadrille Americaine, N. 124. He was assigned to the Escadrille Americaine on 20 April 1916 and, on 13 May, flew as part of the Squadron's first patrol across enemy lines.

Victor was a very aggressive pilot, who attacked German aircraft whenever and wherever he found them, regardless of the circumstances. As a result, he was wounded several times. On 23 June, Victor attacked an enemy fighter and, during the attack, was jumped by three more enemy fighters. Even with those odds, Victor did not withdraw and his plane was severely damaged and out of control. French soldiers on the ground later reported that they saw a Nieuport streaking earthward with the pilot's head slumped over the side of the cockpit. They said the Nieuport fell apart in the air and crashed to earth six kilometers inside enemy lines. Although his body was not recovered, a funeral service for Sergeant Victor Chapman was held in the American Church at Paris on 4 July 1916 as a part of the American Independence Day service. He was twenty-seven years old at the time of his death and the first American aviator to be killed in World War One.

After the war, remains that were initially believed to be Chapman's were exhumed near where he had fallen. However, the dental chart of the skull proved the remains were not Victor's. Despite this evidence, the remains were reinterred in the American Cemetery at Romagne under Chapman's name. As a result, the remains in that grave were not moved to the Lafayette Escadrille Memorial near Paris and the crypt bearing Chapman's name remains empty.

Medals and Awards

Medaille Militaire (France)
Croix de Guerre with 2 Palms (France)


Victor Emmanuel Chapman was killed in action on 23 June 1916 in Meuse Champagne-Ardenne Region, France. His remains were never recovered. A grave bearing another man's remains under a headstone with Chapman's name, is located at the Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery and Memorial in Romagne, France.

A cenotaph in Chapman's memory is located at St. Matthew's Episcopal Cemetery in Bedford, NY.

Honoree ID: 2330   Created by: MHOH




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