John A. Chapman

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John A. Chapman
TSgt John Chapman in Afghanistan.jpg
Chapman in Afghanistan
BornJuly 14, 1965
Springfield, Massachusetts, U.S.
DiedMarch 4, 2002(2002-03-04) (aged 36)
Takur Ghar, Paktia, Afghanistan
Saint Mary Byzantine Catholic Church Cemetery, Cemetery Drive Windber, Pennsylvania
Allegiance United States of America
Service/branch United States Air Force
Years of service1985–2002
RankE7a USAF MSGT.svg Master sergeant
Unit24th Special Operations Wing insignia.jpg 24th Special Tactics Squadron
Battles/warsWar in Afghanistan
AwardsMedal of Honor ribbon.svg Medal of Honor
Purple Heart ribbon.svg Purple Heart
Valerie Nessel (m. 1992–2002)

John A. Chapman (July 14, 1965 – March 4, 2002) was a Combat Controller in the United States Air Force who was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor on August 22, 2018 for his actions in the Battle of Takur Ghar during the War in Afghanistan.[1] He is the first airman to receive the Medal of Honor since the Vietnam War.[2] Previously, Chapman was the first Air Force Combat Controller to earn the Air Force Cross in any war in history.[3] Chapman was inducted into the Hall of Heroes on August 23, 2018, and posthumously promoted to master sergeant on the following day.

Early life[edit]

John Chapman was born on July 14, 1965, in Springfield, Massachusetts, and grew up in Windsor Locks, Connecticut.[4] In 1983 he graduated from Windsor Locks High School.[5]

Military career[edit]

Senior Airman John Chapman

Chapman enlisted in the United States Air Force on September 27, 1985, and was trained as an Information Systems Operator. Chapman's first assignment was with the 1987th Information Systems Squadron at Lowry Air Force Base, Colorado, where he served from February 1986 to June 1989, he then cross-trained into the Combat Control career field and served with the 1721st Combat Control Squadron at Pope Air Force Base, North Carolina, from August 1990 to November 1992. His next assignment was as a Special Tactics Team Member with the 320th Special Tactics Squadron at Kadena Air Base, Okinawa, from November 1992 to October 1995. Chapman's final assignment was with the 24th Special Tactics Squadron at Pope Air Force Base.[4]

Operation Enduring Freedom[edit]

Sgt Chapman geared for a Parachute jump

On March 4, 2002, Chapman along with members of the United States Navy SEALs took part in Operation Anaconda; the MH-47E Chinook, call-sign Razor 3[6] came under enemy fire, causing a Navy SEAL, PO1 Neil C. Roberts, to fall out during an insertion under fire; the helicopter landed 4.5 miles away from where the SEAL was killed. Once on the ground, Chapman provided directions to another helicopter to pick them up. After being rescued, Chapman and the team volunteered to rescue their mission team member from the enemy stronghold. After landing, SEAL team leader Britt Slabinski stumbled and fell. Chapman charged forward, killing two enemy soldiers and, without regard for his own life, kept advancing toward a dug-in machinegun nest; the team came under fire from three directions. Chapman exchanged fire from minimum personal cover and succumbed to multiple wounds, his engagement and destruction of the first enemy position and advancement to the second enabled his team to move to cover and break enemy contact. He is credited with saving the lives of the entire rescue team.[7]

Air Force Cross upgraded to the Medal of Honor[edit]

Chapman was posthumously awarded the Air Force Cross; the citation for the award read:

The President of the United States of America, authorized by Title 10, Section 8742, U.S.C., awards the Air Force Cross to TSgt John Chapman for extraordinary heroism in military operation against an armed enemy of the United States as a 24th Special Tactics Squadron, Combat Controller in the vicinity of Gardez, in the eastern highlands of Afghanistan, on March 4, 2002. On this date, during his helicopter insertion for a reconnaissance and time sensitive targeting close air support mission, Sergeant Chapman's aircraft came under heavy machine gun fire and received a direct hit from a rocket propelled grenade which caused a United States Navy sea-air-land team member to fall from the aircraft. Though heavily damaged, the aircraft egressed the area and made an emergency landing seven kilometers away. Once on the ground Sergeant Chapman established communication with an AC-130 gunship to insure the area was secure while providing close air support coverage for the entire team, he then directed the gunship to begin the search for the missing team member. He requested, coordinated, and controlled the helicopter that extracted the stranded team and aircrew members; these actions limited the exposure of the aircrew and team to hostile fire. Without regard for his own life Sergeant Chapman volunteered to rescue his missing team member from an enemy strong hold. Shortly after insertion, the team made contact with the enemy. Sergeant Chapman engaged and killed two enemy personnel, he continued to advance reaching the enemy position then engaged a second enemy position, a dug-in machine gun nest. At this time, the rescue team came under effective enemy fire from three directions. From close range he exchanged fire with the enemy from minimum personal cover until he succumbed to multiple wounds, his engagement and destruction of the first enemy position and advancement on the second position enabled his team to move to cover and break enemy contact. In his own words, his Navy sea-air-land team leader credits Sergeant Chapman unequivocally with saving the lives of the entire rescue team. Through his extraordinary heroism, superb airmanship, aggressiveness in the face of the enemy, and the dedication to the service of his country, Sergeant Chapman reflects the highest credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.

Fourteen years after Chapman's death,[8] Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James began pushing for a Medal of Honor, the military’s highest award, after new technology that allowed a deeper analysis of video of the battle suggested Chapman regained consciousness and resumed fighting Al-Qaeda members who were coming toward him from three directions. Chapman may have crawled into a bunker, shot and killed an enemy charging at him, and then killed another enemy fighter in hand-to-hand combat.[9] Naval Special Warfare Command allegedly attempted to block Chapman's Medal of Honor, as that would result in an admission that they left Chapman behind; when it became apparent that it could not be blocked, it was further alleged that they put the commander of the operation, Britt Slabinski, up for the Medal of Honor, which he received in May 2018.[10] Some time in March, Chapman's family was notified that his Air Force Cross was to be upgraded to the Medal of Honor.[11]

The citation accompanying his upgrade to the Medal of Honor reads as follows:[12][13]

Technical Sergeant John A. Chapman distinguished himself by extraordinary heroism as an Air Force Special Tactics Combat Controller, attached to a Navy Sea, Air, and Land (SEAL) Team conducting reconnaissance operations in Takur Ghar, Afghanistan, on March 4, 2002. During insertion, the team’s helicopter was ambushed causing a teammate to fall into an entrenched group of enemy combatants below. Sergeant Chapman and the team voluntarily reinserted onto the snow-capped mountain, into the heart of a known enemy stronghold to rescue one of their own. Without regard for his own safety, Sergeant Chapman immediately engaged, moving in the direction of the closest enemy position despite coming under heavy fire from multiple directions, he fearlessly charged an enemy bunker, up a steep incline in thigh-deep snow and into hostile fire, directly engaging the enemy. Upon reaching the bunker, Sergeant Chapman assaulted and cleared the position, killing all enemy occupants. With complete disregard for his own life, Sergeant Chapman deliberately moved from cover only 12 meters from the enemy, and exposed himself once again to attack a second bunker, from which an emplaced machine gun was firing on his team. During this assault from an exposed position directly in the line of intense fire, Sergeant Chapman was struck and injured by enemy fire. Despite severe, mortal wounds, he continued to fight relentlessly, sustaining a violent engagement with multiple enemy personnel before making the ultimate sacrifice. By his heroic actions and extraordinary valor, sacrificing his life for the lives of his teammates, Technical Sergeant Chapman upheld the highest traditions of military service and reflected great credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.

The long-awaited ceremony took place Wednesday 22 August 2018. [14] Then, on 23 August 2018, Chapman was inducted into the Hall of Heroes during a ceremony at the Pentagon, which was attended by family and fellow teammates.[15] Finally, on 24 August 2018, John A. Chapman was posthumously promoted to the rank of Master Sergeant and his name was added to the Medal of Honor wall at the Air Force Memorial. Over 1,000 members of the Air Force community attended; that day marks the first memorial push-ups conducted on the hill of the Air Force Memorial. John Chapman's name echoed across Arlington in that historic ceremony. [16]

Awards and decorations[edit]

Chapman received the following awards and decorations:[12]

United States Air Force Parachutist Badge.svg Basic Parachutist Badge
USAF - Occupational Badge - Scuba.svg Air Force Scuba Diver insignia
Medal of Honor ribbon.svg Medal of Honor
Purple Heart ribbon.svg Purple Heart
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Air Force Commendation Medal with one bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Joint Service Achievement Medal with oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Air Force Achievement Medal with oak leaf cluster
Bronze oakleaf-3d.svgBronze oakleaf-3d.svg Air Force Outstanding Unit Award with two oak leaf clusters
Bronze oakleaf-3d.svgBronze oakleaf-3d.svgBronze oakleaf-3d.svgBronze oakleaf-3d.svg Air Force Good Conduct Medal with four oak leaf clusters
Bronze star
Width=44 scarlet ribbon with a central width-4 golden yellow stripe, flanked by pairs of width-1 scarlet, white, Old Glory blue, and white stripes
National Defense Service Medal with one bronze service star
Bronze oakleaf-3d.svgBronze oakleaf-3d.svgBronze oakleaf-3d.svg Air Force Longevity Service Award with three oak leaf clusters
NCO Professional Military Education Graduate Ribbon
Bronze star
Small Arms Expert Marksmanship Ribbon with service star
Air Force Training Ribbon


Chapman's actions in the Battle of Roberts Ridge are were recorded from multiple angles from circling aircraft and are reported to be the first Medal of Honor ever recorded on video.[17]

Dan Schilling and Lori Longfritz wrote a book based on Chapman's Medal of Honor action titled Alone at Dawn: Medal of Honor Recipient John Chapman and the Untold Story of the World's Deadliest Special Operations Force[18], it has also been optioned for a feature adaptation by Thruline Entertainment.[19][20]

The Military Sealift Command logistics ship MV TSgt John A. Chapman (T-AK-323) was renamed in his honor in 2005.[21]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Fallen airman earning MoH". August 20, 2018. Retrieved August 20, 2018.
  2. ^ "Report: Fallen Air Force Tech Sgt. Approved for Medal of Honor". April 20, 2018. Retrieved May 29, 2018.
  3. ^ "TSgt John Chapman – CCSHF". CCSHF. Retrieved April 21, 2018.
  4. ^ a b "Veteran Tributes". Retrieved April 21, 2018.
  5. ^ "Fallen Windsor Locks Soldier Awarded Medal Of Honor". Windsor Locks-East Windsor, CT Patch. August 22, 2018. Retrieved August 23, 2018.
  6. ^ Kitfield, James (2011). To the Top of Takur Gar (PDF). AIR FORCE Magazine. p. 52.
  7. ^ "The Airman Handbook" (PDF). October 1, 2017. Archived from the original (PDF) on April 21, 2018. Retrieved April 20, 2018.
  8. ^ "Air Force Seeks Medal of Honor for Sergeant Who Died in 2002". Retrieved April 21, 2018.
  9. ^ Losey, Stephen (August 7, 2017). "Congressman: TSgt Chapman deserves the Medal of Honor". Air Force Times. Retrieved April 21, 2018.
  10. ^ Naylor, Sean D. (May 7, 2018). "The Navy SEALs Allegedly Left Behind a Man in Afghanistan. Did They Also Try to Block His Medal of Honor?". Newsweek. Retrieved July 27, 2018.
  11. ^ Szoldra, Paul (April 20, 2018). "John Chapman To Be First Airman Since Vietnam To Receive Medal Of Honor". Task & Purpose. Retrieved April 21, 2018.
  12. ^ a b "Tech. Sgt. John A. Chapman". National Museum of the US Air Force. Retrieved August 27, 2018.
  13. ^ "Read The Full Citation For Air Force Tech Sgt. John Chapman's Medal Of Honor". Task & Purpose. August 22, 2018. Retrieved August 25, 2018.
  14. ^ ‘How incredible the sacrifice:' In the chaos of an Afghanistan battle, John Chapman’s heroism was clear; August 22, 2018;
  15. ^ What Is the Hall of Heroes?; MARCH 20, 2019;
  16. ^ Personal account
  17. ^ Szoldra, Paul (July 10, 2019). "Watch John Chapman's incredible heroics in the first Medal of Honor action ever recorded on video". Task & Purpose. Retrieved September 11, 2019.
  18. ^ Schilling, Dan; Longfritz, Lori (June 25, 2019). Alone at dawn : Medal of Honor recipient John Chapman and the untold story of the world's deadliest special operations force (Firstition ed.). Grand Central Publishing. ISBN 1538729652. |access-date= requires |url= (help)
  19. ^ Busch, Anita (May 23, 2018). "Military Hero John Chapman's Incredible Story To Come To Big Screen, Courtesy Of Thruline Entertainment".
  20. ^ "Untitled John Chapman Project" – via
  21. ^ "Ship named for USAF hero". U.S. Navy's Military Sealift Command. April 2005. Retrieved July 28, 2018.

External links[edit]

  • The First Medal of Honor Ever Recorded - drone video footage showing TSgt. John Chapman's actions for which he was awarded the Medal of Honor.
  • John A. Chapman at Find a Grave