A short stretch of road in the Exway community is getting a new name this spring. About 3.5 miles of Cartledge Creek Road, between Highway 73 and Exway in Richmond County will now be known as Everett Chappell Road. Getting to this point has been a long labor of love for the late Everett Chappell’s younger brother, Ted Chappell, who now lives in Mt. Gilead.
Everett Chappell died in Korea at age 21, declared missing in action Feb. 13, 1951, and later presumed dead.
Ted and Everett were the youngest of Frank and Ella Chappell’s eight children. About three and a half years apart in age, they were best buddies as youngsters. “He was such a good boy,” recalls Ted. “It was a rural area and there weren’t any other kids so we played together, and like kids we fought some too, and got into mischief.”
One time when they were very young, the two towheaded brothers were sent out to the potato patch to spread burnt motor oil on the vines to kill the potato bugs. The first bit of mischief included purloining their daddy’s straw hat and their momma’s best bonnet to keep the sun off while they were working. At some point they decided it might be fun to find out what it would be like to have dark instead of white blonde hair. The oil did the trick, but they were quickly found out as the oil ran down their faces in the heat and led to a good spanking for both boys for ruining their parents’ hats.
Among their chores was carrying a bucket of milk to their grandma’s place two or three times a week. An old stump at the half-way point marked the switch off for carrying the bucket.
As they got older, other adventures came along. With some buddies, the brothers built themselves a boat, loaded it on the wagon bed, hitched up the mules and hauled it for launching in Little River. Ted recalls a water moccasin falling into the boat from an overhead branch and the crew, including Captain Everett, jumping ship right quick. Still later, an old abandoned house in the woods became their getaway for playing cards, a daring and sinful activity not allowed at home.
In the late ’40s and early ’50s, road works were going on near the Chappell home and Everett, then a young man, worked on the stretch of road near his home helping get it ready for paving. That’s the road that is now named in his honor.
With the road work done, Everett and Tim Bradshaw, from Rockingham, decided to join the Army. Everett’s enlistment date, as his brother recalls, was Feb. 13, 1950. The young men had just finished basic training when the fighting broke out in Korea. Everett and Tim shipped out together from Fort Lewis, Washington, both as part of the 15th Field Artillery Regiment. Over the coming months, they saw each other often.
About three years ago Ted and his wife, Ann, found several old letters in the attic of Ted and Everett’s sister Margaret’s home, including some from Everett written in September 1950 from Korea. They provide a glimpse of the hardship of that undeclared war.
Dear Margaret…I just got back from the rear rest line about 15 miles back and took a hot shower. It really made me feel good, the first one in two months. They were pumping water out of the river and warming it up by a gasoline heater…
I haven’t wrote any in the past week though, I have been pretty busy. The gooks came back across the river; we have been busy taking care of them. I have seen things this week I never want to see again, things no human should see, things I wouldn’t believe if I hadn’t seen them. In a way this may do me good; it will sure make me appreciate life when I get back. If a person never prayed before he learns how over here…
You said something about me not standing it. I will stand it if the rest can. That’s the way I figure it; there is some boys going through more than I am. There is times we all get so disgusted we don’t care for anything. I don’t mind bullets so bad; it is the shells and mortars coming in that scare me so. They had me pinned down in a rice paddy for two hours or more one night. I thought I was gone; that was the worst two hours of my life and when we did get out they started machine gunning us. Walter Winchell says the war will be over by the 19th of this month, I hope he is right.
Everett repeats his earlier words about shells and mortars and goes on: We had two boys to crack up yesterday, one of them was up for a 2nd lieutenant. He was corporal but he was working hard for that rank, but he just couldn’t take it no more. He passed out then started calling for his mother. He went to the hospital; in a way maybe he is better off. We had one boy to get hit six times and now he is back with us. I was on a machine gun with him last night. He told me if he goes up one more time he thinks he will crack up. I hope he doesn’t have to go up no more but he will have to…We have had seven or eight to crack up out of a hundred and thirty-five men. We had three officers to go that way…
I don’t write Momma anything much about the war for I know it will worry her.
In an undated letter to his mother, Everett writes that he is well. They had everyone to stop and write a letter to their parents this morning and tell them they were alright. The 2nd Div. was not completely wiped out as some reporters reported on the news. That is why we had to write. We were beat up terrible but not completely wiped out. We lost all our guns in my outfit. I am back here north of the Capitol of NK. It will be sometime before we go into combat again. We have nothing much to fight with. I will be alright. Please don’t worry about me for I may not ever go into action again. Well Momma, my hands are about to freeze. I will have to quit writing now…Don’t worry about me.
Then came Feb. 12 and 13, 1951, and what has come to be known as the “massacre at Hoengsong.” A story of that battle, researched and written by a Vietnam veteran, Gary Turbak, was reprinted in the February 2001 edition of VFW Magazine. It is among the letters, photos and email that make up several notebooks Ted Chappell has compiled to support his request to have a road renamed in his brother’s honor.
The article states that Chinese soldiers overran a night encampment of the 15th Field Artillery, and the Republic of Korea (ROK) soldiers who were supposed to be guarding fled. “Some 204 artillerymen ultimately died, resulting in one of the most concentrated losses of American lives in the entire war,” Turbak writes. Many, including the 15th’s commanding officer, died later after being taken prisoner, either on the death march or in a POW camp.
Among them was Everett Chappell. Ted was at a neighbor’s house when the family received the telegram that Everett was missing in action. In 1953, they received further word that the Department of Defense had declared Cpl. Everett Chappell “presumed dead.” No remains have ever been found and the family never received any other official information.
Everett’s Rockingham buddy, Tim Bradshaw, wrote in April that year to Everett’s mother, expressing his condolences but being able to add little to the sparse information the family had. Bradshaw’s frozen feet sent him to a hospital in Japan so he was not with the unit at Hoengsong. He held out a small hope: “The fact is a lot of the boys was reported missing before they had time to get in. I have not heard anything about him but I am sure he is OK. If I can find out anything I will write and let you know.”
Another North Carolina soldier in Everett’s unit was able to provide the family with more information. Joe Ford, from Rutherfordton, was also captured at Hoengsong. In September 1953, he wrote to give Margaret the name of another soldier, William Jones from Kentucky, who he said had more information about Everett’s death. Ford recalled sitting on an outpost with Everett, sharing the Christmas 1950 food package Everett’s mother had sent. “Margaret, we were told not to say anything to the families of the men that had died for 60 days so that the government would have time to tell the families, but I know that you would like to know,” Ford wrote.
Ted said he eventually was able to locate Jones and tried to talk to him on the phone but Jones didn’t want or was unable to talk about his experiences. Two years after Ford’s original letter, his wife wrote again to Margaret after getting a letter from her. “It is so very hard for Joe to talk about the boys he knew and didn’t get to come back. Joe said your brother was so kind and good and for you all not to worry about him for he felt that he was now with our heavenly father,” she wrote.
From what Ford knew of his own experience and what he heard from Jones, Everett was captured along with Ford on Feb. 13. Everett died about one month later. “Joe said he was sick and weak and was taken out from them,” Mrs. Ford wrote. “Joe said he didn’t see him after that but one boy told Joe that Everett had died.”
Old handwritten letters saved in an attic and on a computer in the basement of his Mt. Gilead home have enabled Ted Chappell to learn more about his brother’s short life after he went off to serve his country. Now, thanks to a brother’s love and persistence, that life and service is honored by his community in the green road signs along Everett Chappell Road.