Report: Air Force combat controller Tech. Sgt. John Chapman to have AF Cross upgraded to MOH

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Report: Air Force combat controller Tech. Sgt. John Chapman to have AF Cross upgraded to MOH

First, from Air Force Times:

Tech. Sgt. John Chapman, the combat controller who was killed during the fierce Battle of Roberts Ridge in Afghanistan in 2002, will be posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor, according to a report in Task and Purpose.

Chapman would be the first airman to receive a Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest award for valor, for actions since the Vietnam War.

Chapman originally received an Air Force Cross, the second-highest valor award an airman can receive, for his heroism during the March 4, 2002, battle against al Qaida fighters.

But newly-enhanced video from a Predator drone showed more evidence that Chapman was not dead, but instead unconscious, when a team of Navy SEALs withdrew from the battle under withering fire.

Now, I'm going to show some of that drone video here, but honestly, it is really tough to make out what is happening.  You can sort of see stuff, but it's not as clear as you are perhaps hoping:

I found a few more videos on the battle, and will include the better ones below.  The first one keeps referring to the SEAL Team without specifically referencing Chapman which kind of annoyed me, and it also has close captioning in some other language which was pretty distracting, but you at least get an idea of what is going on.


Also, somewhat oddly they talk about the helicopter crashing 7 kilometers awat, whereas on Wikipedia it says 11 kilometers, or 7 miles.  Either way, 7 miles or 7 kilometers, uphill, at elevation, against emplaced enemy positions is not a good look.  Secondly, where it says Chapman "dies where he falls" that has been taken over by subsequent findings, ergo the Medal of Honor.

Back to Air Force Times:

The video analysis suggested Chapman regained consciousness and resumed fighting al Qaida members approaching on three sides. Chapman is believed to have crawled into a bunker, shot and killed an enemy fighter charging at him, and killed another enemy fighter in hand-to-hand combat....

But it now appears he did not die at that point in the battle.

The New York Times reported in 2016 that the Air Force’s autopsy analysis found evidence that Chapman woke up and continued fighting. The bullets that killed Chapman struck him at an angle that would have been impossible if he had been lying dead in the position where the SEALs thought he fell.

The autopsy analysis also found he had bruises on his forehead, which he could not have received if he was dead, bolstering the theory that he was instead knocked unconscious.

Chapman's Air Force Cross citation:

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 4 March 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.


Anyway, here is a longer video about the entire battle, BUT NOTE, this was made PRIOR to them knowing that Chapman wasn't actually dead, but just unconscious, and only tangentially discusses him.  Also note that this wasn't even close to the deadliest day in Afghanistan, although at the time it was.  Later on we would lose far more in other helicopters and firefights.

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Based on previous pictures I've seen of Vietnamese signs (I don't read, write, or speak the language), the closed caption content looks to be Vietnamese. To me, that seems to be an odd choice of language to use for a documentary like this.

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News from the World of Military and Veterans Issues. Iraq and A-Stan in parenthesis reflects that the author is currently deployed to that theater.