Born November 3, 1913, in Key West, Florida, Chapman attended the University of Florida, where he became a member of the Marine Reserve Officers’ Training Corps. Upon his graduation in May of 1935, he was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant and began a military career that lasted more than three decades.
In World War II, Chapman served in the Pacific aboard the USS Astoria. During the course of the war, he also served as Executive Officer of the Marine Corps School, Artillery Section, in Quantico, Virginia, and as Commanding Officer of the 4th Battalion, 11th Marines, in the Pelilieu and Okinawa campaigns.
During the post-war years, Chapman held several posts, including Commanding Officer of the Marine Barracks at Washington, D.C. and Director of the Marine Corps Institute. In 1961 Chapman was assigned to Marine Corps Headquarters, serving as Assistant Chief of Staff (1961-64), Chief of Staff (1964-67), and Assistant Commandant (1967-68).
In 1968 he became Commandant of the Marine Corps. As Commandant, Chapman directed the withdrawal of Marine ground troops from Vietnam and instituted a series of programs designed to ease racial tensions amongst enlisted men. After serving out his term as Commandant, Chapman retired as a full General on December 31, 1971.Shortly after Chapman’s retirement from military service, President Richard M. Nixon nominated him to serve as Commissioner of Immigration and Naturalization. His appointment was confirmed with the unanimous consent of the U.S. Senate and he took the oath of office on November 29, 1973. Chapman served as Commissioner until May of 1977, overseeing a period of rapid growth in the INS’ staff and budget. As head of INS, Chapman instituted the agency’s first major initiative to develop counterfeit-resistant documents. Chapman died on January 6, 2000, at 86.
Compiled from the following sources:
J.Y. Smith, “Gen. Leonard Chapman Jr. Dies at 86; Led Marine Corps, INS,” The Washington Post, Jan 10, 2000: B07; “Leonard F. Chapman, Jr. New Commissioner,” INS Information Bulletin, Vol. 23 Nos. 11-12 (Nov-Dec, 1973): 2; “Biography of Leonard Fielding Chapman, Jr.,” Chapman, Leonard Fielding, Jr. file at USCIS History Office and Library.