Today’s #VeteranOfTheDay is Navy Veteran Wreford Goss Chapple, who served as a naval submariner throughout World War II and fought in defense of the Philippines.
Wreford Goss “Moon” Chapple was born in Billings, Montana, in March 1908. After graduating from Billings High School, Chapple entered the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. While there, he was elected the president of his graduating class in 1930. Following graduation, he was commissioned ensign on June 5 and was assigned to serve aboard a vessel in the Asiatic Fleet.
After two years in the Asiatic Fleet, Chapple detached for submarine training at the Submarine Base in New London, Connecticut. Afterward, he became a submariner and served out his first assignment aboard USS S-38 with the Asiatic fleet in 1933. Chapple served aboard USS Pike, Perch and Tarpon, rising to the rank of lieutenant before returning to serve aboard S-38 by 1940.
Placed in defense of the Philippines, S-38 under Chapple’s command resisted the invasion of the Japanese forces alongside the rest of the Asiatic fleet. With the attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, the Japanese quickly followed with the invasion of the Philippines the following day, beginning what would become a desperate struggle for many, in which Chapple, too, was tested.
With orders to guard Luzon against the invading Japanese fleet, S-38 alongside three submarines and 14 fleet boats moved to guard the nearly 20-mile-wide entrance of the Lingayen Gulf. The defense of the Lingayen Gulf proved to be a trial by fire for Chapple and the crew of S-38. The first sub to arrive, S-38 became isolated, essentially stranded while surrounded by Japanese destroyers overlooking the landing operations. S-38 took advantage of an opportune moment and fired upon four unsuspecting transport vessels. Missing, S-38 rapidly dove, avoiding the depth charges the now well-alerted Japanese forces were setting off. Following 45 minutes of bombardment, S-38 found a new target, the Mayo Maru, as it offloaded enemy troops. Firing two torpedoes, S-38 scored a fatal hit, splitting the Japanese ship in two and sinking the 5,000-ton vessel.
Reigniting bombardment, S-38 once again evaded depth charges in the bay, diving once more and running aground in the bay. For the next 12 hours, S-38 and its crew ran on silent while enemy vessels continued to bomb over 300 square miles of the gulf in search of them. Electing to remain there until the bombardment let up, S-38 and its crew eventually made their escape from the treacherous waters. For his actions in the Lingayen Gulf, Chapple was awarded a Naval Cross.
Chapple’s outstanding record of perseverance continued throughout the war in the command of S-38, USS Permit and USS Bream, advancing to the rank of captain by July 1949.
After serving in the Korean War and reaching the rank of rear admiral, Chapple retired in 1959. Among his many medals and honors, Chapple also received a Silver Star and a Bronze Star Medal.
Chapple died in May 1991.
We honor his service.
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Veterans History Project
This #VeteranOfTheDay profile was created with interviews submitted to the Veterans History Project. The project collects, preserves, and makes accessible the personal accounts of American war Veterans so that future generations may hear directly from Veterans and better understand the realities of war. Find out more at http://www.loc.gov/vets/.
Writer: Milosh Mihajlovic-Klaric
Editors: Alexander Reza, Annabelle Colton
Researchers: Patrick Woods, Timothy Georgetti
Graphic artist: Kiki Kelley