Harlan Chapman was born in 1934 in Elyria, Ohio. He was commissioned a 2d Lt in the U.S. Marine Corps through the Navy ROTC program at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, on June 11, 1956, and then attended the Basic School at MCS Quantico, Virginia, from June 1956 to April 1957. Lt Chapman then went through pilot training and was designated a Naval Aviator in September 1958, followed by service with Marine Composite Reconnaissance Squadron One (VMCJ-1) at MCAS El Toro, California, from October 1958 to October 1959, and then deployed to Japan, from October 1959 to December 1960. This was followed by service with H&MS-33 from December 1960 to December 1962, and then with the 1st Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Company (ANGLICO) with Fleet Marine Force from December 1962 to December 1963. During this time, Capt Chapman completed Army Jump School. His next assignment was with Marine Fighter Squadron 212 (VMF-212) at MCAS Kaneohe, Hawaii, and aboard the aircraft carrier USS Oriskany (CVA-34) from January 1964 until he was forced to eject over North Vietnam and was taken as a Prisoner of War on November 5, 1965. After spending 2,657 days in captivity, Col Chapman was released during Operation Homecoming on February 12, 1973. Following refresher flight training, he took command of Marine Fighter/Attack Squadron 314 (VMFA-314) at MCAS El Toro, in July 1974, serving in this position until his retirement from the Marine Corps on July 31, 1976.
His Silver Star Citation reads:
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity while interned as a Prisoner of War in Southeast Asia from July 1966 to October 1967. Despite extreme cruelties during interrogation periods and sever maltreatment on a continual basis, Lieutenant Colonel (then Major) Chapman distinguished himself by his indomitable spirit and dogged tenacity. Refusing to provide the enemy with information, even that of a biographical nature, he aroused the increased wrath of his captors. By his steadfast determination, devotion to duty, and adherence to the Code of Conduct, Lieutenant Colonel Chapman knowingly brought harsher treatment upon himself. Disregarding his own personal safety and well-being in order to remain loyal to the United States and to set an example for his fellow prisoners, he illustrated a high degree of professionalism under the most adverse of conditions. Lieutenant Colonel Chapman's exemplary performance reflected great credit upon himself and upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service.