The heroic final actions of Air Force Technical Sgt. John Chapman were recorded on drone video and released in June 2019, marking the first-ever Medal of Honor recipient’s actions to be caught on camera.
A CIA predator drone hovering at 10,416 feet captured the entire footage of Chapman’s battle on March 4, 2002, during which he sustained at least 16 wounds from gunfire and shrapnel, and is credited with saving the lives of his fellow 23 troops before succumbing to his wounds, earning him a posthumous Medal of Honor, Task & Purpose reported.
Watch the footage below:
In the midst of Afghanistan fighting in the Battle of Takur Ghar during Operation Anaconda, Chapman and a Navy SEAL unit had entered a mountainous area in deep snow in the early morning hours to retrieve a fallen SEAL when they came under heavy gunfire from multiple directions.
Chapman rushed in ahead of his team and took out two enemy fighters within a range of 10 feet. His actions cleared out the enemy bunker, allowing his team to advance to the fallen SEAL.
However, increasing enemy fire changed the course of events. Chapman was struck twice in the torso and incapacitated. Another teammate went down. His team retreated without him, unaware he was still alive.
Dan Schilling, a former combat controller wrote a new book about Chapman titled “Alone at Dawn” that describes the nine-minute video and how Chapman went beyond the line of duty for his fellow comrades.
Schilling said, “You’ll watch Chapman’s heroic actions as he saves the lives of his entire SEAL Team and then another 18 members of a quick reaction force, earning America’s highest award, the Medal of Honor.”
Chapman managed to get up and take on some two dozen enemy fighters on his own during a span of more than 40 minutes as American airstrikes rained nearby. During that time, he was able to make radio contact with his team, who eventually sent in another Chinook with 18 team members.
Kenny Longfritz, Chapman’s first sergeant at 24th STS said after he watched the video, “It was really grainy. But there was still somebody up there fighting, and you could see that,” according to T&P. He added that no one could argue that it was John in the video.
Enemy fighters were moving in, threatening the incoming Chinook, which prompted Chapman to make one last stand. He climbed out of the bunker, while estimated to have at least 12 wounds and in the process of dying, using nearly all of his ammunition to cover the incoming helicopter that made a controlled crash landing following an RPG hit.
“John was always selfless – it didn’t just emerge on Takur Ghar – he had always been selfless and highly competent, and thank God for all those qualities,” said retired Air Force Col. Ken Rodriguez, who was Chapman’s commander at the time, according to the Medal of Honor summary. “He could have hunkered down in the bunker and waited for the (Quick Reaction Force) and (Combat Search and Rescue) team to come in, but he assessed the situation and selflessly gave his life for them.”
Chapman fought until a shot to the heart ended his fight. He and six others lost their lives in the Battle of Takur Ghar.
The list of the fallen are below:
- Petty Officer 1st Class Neil Roberts – U.S. Navy SEAL
- Technical Sergeant John Chapman – U.S. Air Force combat control
- Senior Airman Jason Cunningham – U.S. Air Force pararescue
- Corporal Matthew Commons – U.S. Army Ranger
- Sergeant Bradley Crose – U.S. Army Ranger
- Specialist Marc Anderson – U.S. Army Ranger
- Sergeant Philip Svitak – U.S. Army 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment
Chapman’s Medal of Honor citation reads, “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.”
Chapman was originally awarded the Air Force Service Cross until a review ordered by then-Secretary of Defense Ash Carter in 2016 ultimately concluded that Chapman’s award would be upgraded. He received the Medal of Honor posthumously on Aug. 22, 2018.
This article has been upgraded to correct the number of medals received by Chapman.