Guest Columnist - Donald Chappuis
The following is an article written by Donald Chappuis. Steve Chappuis’ brother, for the “Times-News” of Hendersonville, North Carolina for Veterans Day.
We reprint the article below to acknowlege the remakrable and unique Archie A. Chappuis/Dabavol family from Rayne.
All six children went to LSU and graduated at a
time when very, very few children went to college: Dick, Steve, Dorothy, Jack, Donald and Moon. All were outstandingly successful in their fields of endeavor. All five of the sons served with distinction in World War II. Steve became a General and was the most decorated solider from Louisiana. Dick, Jack, Donald and Charles (Moon) were all ranked officers from Colonel, Captain to Lieutenant. Dick was a successful businessman, Steve was a General in the Army, Dorothy was a housewife married to a successful lawyer, Jack is a doctor, Donald is an Electrical Engineer and Moon graduated with an Agricultural Degree and then went back to LSU to obtain a law degree.
Brig. Gen. Steve A. Chappuis, a hero of three major battles of World War II, died last summer at the age of 94. He had important roles in: (1) the D-Day invasion of Normandy June 6, 1944; (2) the airdrop and battles at Zon and Best, Holland, in Sept. 1944; and (3) the defense of Bastogne during the battle of the bulge in December, 1944.
In 1941, Steve was a 28 year old 1st Lieutenant in the regular army. At that time, when the army’s parachute corps was being formed, he was selected for parachute training and was assigned to the 502nd Parachute Infantry Battalion. In 1942, after the unit became the 502nd Parachute Regiment, it became part of the 101st Airborne Division. During this period Steve was made commanding officer of the second battalion of the 502. The entire division was transported to England in September 1943, and there underwent further training and preparation for the invasion of the continent.
As part of the largest land, sea and air campaign ever, Steve led his battalion in the middle of the night in the vast air jump into the French countryside. Their objective was to knock out four 122 mm gun positions that overlooked Utah Beach, where American amphibious forces were scheduled to land in a few hours. Luckily they found the gun positions already destroyed by earlier bombardments, allowing them to move on and repel the enemy along the beach access roads, and prevent their assaulting the beachhead from the rear. Further action included clearing the Germans from the town of Carantan allowing linking up the Utah beachhead with the adjacent Omaha beach.
It was three months later that the 101st Division was called on to make another air drop in enemy territory. This time it was in daytime, and three airborne divisions landed behind the front lines in southern Holland in an effort to outflank the German army by securing bridges and making a quick end run, and attacking from the east.
The battle involved fierce fighting against superior forces, and heavy casualties were suffered. Steve’s battalion was successful in rescuing another battalion that had been encircled at one of the bridges being defendcd. The valiant effort, called Market-Garden and commanded by British General Montgomery, was not successful in its intent but certainly had an impact on the course of the war.
In December 1944, the 101st returned to France for a well-earned rest, but this was the time Hitler had decided to make a last ditch attack against the Allied armies, and unleashed his Ardennes offensive, later called “The Battle of the Bulge.” It was so fierce, surprising and well planned, that the unsuspecting American defenders were quickly overrun, and were falling back in disarray. General Eisenhower and General Bradley were quickly moving their reserve divisions into the overrun areas to stop the German attack.
The 101st Airborne Division was hurriedly moved to Belgium by truck with orders to hold the important crossroads city of Bastogne. Within a short time the division was completely surrounded by German forces. Steve’s regiment, the 502nd Parachute Infantry, had set up defensive positions near the village of Rolle, and on Christmas night the Germans attacked. Though the fighting was fierce, the defense was successful with the destruction of 18 German tanks on that cold Christmas Day.
As we know, Bastogne held. Just five days later the 101st was relieved by an armored column led by General Patton. For his action and leadership, Steve was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, the medal for exceptional heroism in combat.
Don Chappuis, who lives in Connestee Falls, wrote this remembrance of his older brother, Steve A. Chappuis, a World War II veteran and career Army officer who died Aug. 19 in Tacoma, Wash, at age 94. A retired engineer, Don Chappuis served in WWII in the US Army’s 157th Engineers Combat Battalion.