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First Name: Robert

Last Name: Chapp

Birthplace: Chicago, IL, USA

Gender: Male

Branch: Marines (present)

Middle Name: Anthony

Date of Birth: 08 February 1939

Date of Death: 14 April 1967

Rank: Sergeant

Years Served:
Robert Anthony Chapp

•  Vietnam War (1960 - 1973)


Robert Anthony Chapp
Sergeant, U.S. Marine Corps

Robert Anthony Chapp was born on 8 February 1939 in Chicago, IL, the son of Frank A. and Lucille V. Chapp.

On 25 February 1967, Sergeant Robert Anthony Chapp was serving with the 1st Squad, 1st Platoon, B Company, 1st Battalion, 9th Marines, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Amphibious Force, in Quang Tri Province, South Vietnam.

On that day, Sgt Chapp sustained wounds from small arms fire. He died of his wounds on 14 April 1967. His body was recovered.

Medals and Awards

Purple Heart
Combat Action Ribbon
Navy & Marine Corps Presidential Unit Citation
Navy Meritorious Unit Commendation
Marine Good Conduct Medal
National Defense Service Medal
Vietnam Service Medal
Vietnam Cross of Gallantry with Palm
Vietnam Civil Action Medal
Vietnam Campaign Medal


The name Robert A Chapp is located on Panel 18E Line 25 of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall.

Combat History & Events Leading to the Death of Sgt Chapp

Sgt Robert Chapp was assigned as squad leader of the 1st Squad of 1st Platoon, Bravo Company when he joined the 1st Battalion, 9th Marines on Okinawa in late 1966. After a couple months of training, the Battalion became the “Float Battalion” of the Special Landing Force. After making a practice landing in the Philippines, the Battalion conducted Operation Deckhouse V in the Mekong Delta. The operation was intended to disrupt the activities of the Viet Cong’s 518th Coastal Security Battalion and the C-530 Company in Phanh Phu District of Kien Hoa Province, south of Saigon in the Mekong River Delta. Sgt Chapp’s company took part in the amphibious landing phase that kicked off the operation. His platoon launched in Amtraks (LVTP-5) from the USS Washtenaw County (LST-1166) in the second wave and assaulted the beach on 6 January 1967 at 07:43. The landing was unopposed.

Once the beachhead was secure, Sgt Chapp’s company moved off to the Northeast along the beach to conduct search and destroy actions. It was during this operation that Sgt Chapp was first exposed to combat. On 7 January, the 2nd and 3rd Platoons of Bravo Company were moved via continuous helicopter lift to the north side of the mangrove swamp behind the beach, leaving Sgt Chapp’s 1st Platoon to sweep the shoreline. Once positioned, the entire company began sweeping in a northeasterly direction within their assigned sectors to locate and destroy any encountered Viet Cong forces. During this operation, Sgt Chapp’s platoon operated independently and swept through the small villages and the dry rice patties on the South China Sea to the Northeast of the landing beach. Sgt Chapp’s platoon operated on this narrow front that was bounded on the north by mangrove swamp for 7 days before they were relieved and helo-lifted to the operation’s command ship, the USS Iwo Jima, and were designated the Battalion reserve for the final two days of the operation.

During the period ashore, Sgt Chapp’s platoon received sniper fire daily and was involved in a few intense fire fights with what appeared to be squad-size Viet Cong units. The first serious action occurred at approximately 22:00 on 8 January when his platoon was attacked in their night defensive position by small arms and rocket propelled grenades (RPG) rounds. The platoon and its attachments suffered only one minor wound as Sgt Brown, the leader of the 60mm mortar section, received a gunshot wound to the right hand. Two days later, on 10 January, SSgt Cutbirth’s platoon passed through a village gate at 14:45. As they moved up to the village through the narrow beach approach, they received small arms fire from approximately a squad of Viet Cong, who sprung an ambush from prepared positions. As the Marines assaulted up the beach, the Viet Cong broke from cover and escaped through an abandoned village into the mangrove to the north. Unfortunately, during the assault, LCpl Robert W. White [Honoree Record ID 285494], an M-79 man, received a fatal gunshot wound to the chest; LCpl Robert A. Clark, a rifleman, received a grazing gunshot wound to the neck; and LCpl Pereira, a 60mm Mortar ammo-man, was also wounded.

On 13 January 1967, Sgt Chapp’s platoon had made its deepest penetration to the Northeast and was ordered to retrace its earlier advance and move approximate 1500 meters back to the southwest. At 08:45, the front of the column began receiving sniper fire. A fire mission was called in to place 105mm artillery shells on the area from which the sniper rounds were thought to originate. The first round the battery fired was a White Phosphorus (WP) marking round, which could be easily seen and adjusted before the high explosive rounds were fired. Unfortunately, the marking round was long and exploded on the south side of the middle of the column. Three Marines suffered minor WP burns, one was Sgt Telles, the squad leader of the 3rd Squad. The Marines were treated by the platoon's Navy Corpsman and remained in the field. Later that afternoon, the Alpha Company Command Group and the 2nd Platoon of Alpha Company relieved, SSgt Cutbirth’s platoon and they returned to the command ship. Operation Deckhouse V concluded on 15 January and, after stops in Vung Tau, Vietnam; Subic Bay, Philippines; and Camp Schwab, Okinawa; the Battalion returned to Vietnam on 5 February. The Battalion debarked their shipping and moved by landing craft up the Perfume River to the LCM (Landing Craft Medium) Ramp in Hue. Once ashore, the Battalion moved by truck to Phu Bai Combat Base to rejoin the 3rd Marine Division. Sgt Chapp’s Bravo Company learned that they were going to be detached from the Battalion and proceed by C-130 aircraft to the Khe Sanh Combat Base. They were to relieve 1st Battalion, 3rd Marines of the security mission for Khe Sanh Combat Base.

In mid-February, the DMZ Front Headquarters of North Vietnam Army made a decision that they wanted to make a show of force and expose the vulnerability of the Marine strong-points arrayed just south of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) through a coordinated mortar attack. The planned targets included the Marine installations at Phu Bai, Dong Ha, Con Thien, Rockpile, Camp Carroll, Khe Sanh and the Special Forces Camp at Lang Vei. The only attack that did not occur was at Khe Sanh, where Sgt Chapp’s Bravo Company, through patrolling activity, detected the NVA force as it was moving in to conduct the mortar attack. All of the other locations were mortared on 25-26 February 1967. It was during Bravo Company’s response to locating the NVA mortar force and turning them back that Sgt Chapp received the wounds that would later kill him. The following is an account of the events of 25 February that occurred approximately 2500 meters west of the Khe Sanh Combat Base.

A squad from 2nd Platoon, Bravo Company, commanded by Sgt Donald E. Harper had, while on patrol, surprised the perimeter security of the NVA mortar section as they set up to mortar the Khe Sanh Combat Base. During the brief fire fight that ensued, a couple of Marine weapons were abandoned on the top of a hill at grid coordinates XD823424. Captain Mike Sayers, Commanding Officer of Bravo Company 1/9, sent the preassigned “Sparrow Hawk” reaction force (Sgt Chapp’s 1st Squad of 1st Platoon) to retrieve the abandoned weapons (one 12 gauge Shotgun and 1 M-14 rifle). The Sparrow Hawk personnel included the following:

Squad Leader – Sgt Robert Anthony Chapp

1st Fire Team:
LCpl G. L. Smith (Automatic Rifleman)
PFC T. G. Anderson (Rifleman)

2nd Fire Team Leader – Cpl C. Faniete
LCpl F. D. Thompson (Automatic Rifleman)
PFC L. E. Nez (Rifleman)

3rd Fire Team Leader – Cpl H. Tucker
PFC J. P. A. Coyne (Automatic Rifleman)
PFC R. A. Alvarado (Rifleman)

M-79 Grenadier – LCpl D. T. Perez
Squad Radioman – LCpl L. V. Carroll

Attached Weapons

Machine Gun Team Leader – Cpl Vermillion
LCpl Cornik – Machine Gunner
LCpl Gallihagh – Ammo Man
PFC J. L. McBride – Ammo Man

Platoon Corpsman – HN Daniel W. Polland
Platoon Radioman – LCpl Frederick A. Westerman
Platoon Right Guide – SSgt Kendell Dwayne Cutbirth
Platoon Commander – 2ndLt David L. Mellon

The reinforced squad left the Khe Sanh perimeter early afternoon on 25 February 1967. It was an overcast day, but visibility was good. They were not in the clouds, which was typical of that time of year at the Khe Sanh Combat Base. They followed the road westerly out of the Combat Base for about 1000 meters and picked up a less-traveled but substantial trail. They proceeded about another 1000 meters and were met on the trail by Sgt Harper’s Squad. Sgt Harper had his squad in a defensive perimeter on the south side of the trail, slightly east of the base of the hill where they had encountered the NVA. Sgt Harper briefed 2ndLt Mellon. The Lieutenant instructed Sgt Harper to have his squad remain in position to act as a reserve in the event he needed reinforcement, once the force got to the summit of the hill. Cpl Wright of the 2nd Squad agreed to guide the force to the top of the hill, as his shotgun was one of the weapons abandoned after it was shot out of his hands earlier.

The Squad proceeded in a well-spaced column another 100 meters to an intermittent stream bed at grid coordinates XD828423. The stream was bordered on both sides by an incredibly thick stand of bamboo. They followed the trail across the stream and passed through the bamboo. On the other side of the bamboo, they encountered 10-foot tall elephant grass. As they entered the elephant grass on the northwest side of the bamboo, the squad transitioned from a column formation to get on-line for the gradual assault up the hill. The tall elephant grass limited visibility and created real control problems for the squad, so Lieutenant Mellon positioned himself toward the left flank and SSgt Cutbirth and Sgt Chapp positioned themselves toward the right flank. However, the elephant grass was so tall and dense that they could not maintain visual contact.

Once the reinforced squad was fully on-line, as confirmed by radio communications, the 105mm artillery fire mission that Sgt Harper had earlier placed on the top of the hill was adjusted to approximately 200 meters to the front of the squad and they began a gradual assault shifting the artillery fires to precede them up the hill. When the squad reached the crest of the hill, they assumed a defensive posture, while preparing to search for the lost shotgun and M-14 rifle. Almost immediately, they noticed movement to their front. A fire fight ensued and the Marines employed their M-14 rifles, M-60 machine gun, and lobbed hand grenades down on the NVA soldiers downhill on the reverse slope. While the Marines could not see the enemy, they surmised that in addition to the NVA soldiers immediately in front of their lines, they were receiving accurate small arms fire from the high ground to their front, which was the southeast approach to Hill 861.

There were a series of explosions in the Marine lines which were thought to be hand grenades, as they produced smaller shards of shrapnel than would have been expected from 82mm mortars. Additionally, the Marines did not hear the distinctive “thunk” that accompanied their own mortars being fired during earlier actions.

The watch officer at Combat Operations Center at the Base had been monitoring the squad’s radio traffic and scrambled a forward air controller (FAC) aboard a Huey helicopter to assist the Sparrow Hawk force. The FAC coordinated the delivery of 500-pound bombs to the immediate front of the squad by a flight of F-4B “Phantom” aircraft. At this point, in the face of overwhelming supporting arms, the NVA broke contact and withdrew from the area. During the period the squad was under fire, they sustained several casualties. The immediate KIA was SSgt Cutbirth [Honoree Record ID 242158], who died instantaneously from multiple fragmentation wounds. Gunshot wounds accounted for two other casualties, as well. Prior to being shot, Sgt Chapp was heard to proclaim, “I got one, I got one” indicating that he had shot an NVA soldier. Unfortunately, Sgt Chapp was, in turn, hit in the abdomen by a three-round burst of automatic weapons fire. He received through-and-through gunshot wounds to the abdomen. Hospitalman Polland immediately responded to the call of “Corpsman Up” and treated Sgt Chapp in the field. The rounds entered on his left side and exited on his right side. Lieutenant Mellon was the other Marine to receive a gunshot wound; he had a through-and-through wound to the right knee. The following men received fragmentation wounds:

Cpl Vermillion
Cpl Faniete
HN Polland
LCpl Westerman
PFC Anderson
PFC Alvarado
PFC Gallihagh

As the 1st platoon’s reinforced squad had sustained numerous casualties, Captain Sayers sent a further relief column to help consolidate the position, evacuate the casualties and police the battlefield. The balance of the 2nd Platoon under 2ndLt John Kramer was dispatched from the Combat Base to the position of the Sparrow Hawk squad. As Lieutenant Kramer’s force passed Sgt Harper’s squad on the approach trail, the two components joined and proceeded to the top of the hill as the fully constituted 2nd Platoon of Bravo Company.

Sgt Chapp’s injuries were so severe that he was evacuated from Khe Sanh to Alpha Med at Phu Bai, then on to Naval Support Activity, DaNang, and finally to the Air Force Hospital at Clark Air Force Base in the Philippines. Despite the best efforts of the physicians at the Base Hospital at Clark AFB, on 14 April 1967 Sgt Chapp succumbed to septicemia and peritonitis from the severe wounds he sustained on 25 February 1967.

Sgt Chapp’s body was returned to the United States for burial with full military honors.

On 27 March 1967, Captain Sayers wrote a letter to 2ndLt Mellon to provide some feedback on the results of the costly skirmish. [In his letter, Captain Sayers referred to the enemy as VC, when in reality they were NVA regulars from the 325C Division.]

“John (Lieutenant Kramer) swept the area. Result 9 VC by body count. 15 probables. A Special Forces agent reported VC retreating carrying 30-40 dead and wounded with them. John found 1 82mm mortar complete, 2 more baseplates, 1 more bipod, 180 rounds of 82mm with fuses, 1 complete Fire Direction Center with wire and telephones. One of the dead VC was a cadre officer from North Vietnam. He had lots of maps and other goodies showing the complete breakdown of their personnel, weapons, munitions, where they had come from, unit designation and mission. They were here as part of a coordinated mortar attack on Khe Sahn, Phu Bai, Dong Ha, Camp Carroll, the Rockpile, and Special Forces at Lang Vei. Everyone got hit but us. Other gear John found was the equivalent of a truckload of VC webgear (packs, cartridge belts, magazine covers, grenade pouches and canteens) Additionally, enemy weapons recovered included: 1 9mm pistol, 1 AK-47 automatic rifle, 3 other rifles, and a mortar sight. The Commanding General, 3rd Marine Division sent Bravo Company a real nice message saying how well Bravo Company did.”

[The information in the above Combat History & Events was furnished by Sgt Chapp's Platoon Commander, 2ndLt David L. Mellon (later Captain), and is used with his written consent.]

Honoree ID: 3631   Created by: MHOH




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