b. 14/07/1965 Springfield, Massachusetts. d. 04/03/2002 Takur Ghar, Afghanistan.
DATE OF MOH ACTION: 04/03/2002 Takur Ghar, Afghanistan.
John Chapman was born on July 14, 1965, in Springfield, Massachusetts, and grew up in Windsor Locks, Connecticut. He enlisted in the U.S. 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 AFB, 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 AFB, 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 AB, Okinawa, from November 1992 to October 1995. Chapman’s final assignment was with the 24th Special Tactics Squadron at Pope AFB.
On March 4, 2002, Chapman along with members of the US Navy SEALs took part in Operation Anaconda. The MH-47E Chinook, call-sign Razor 3 came under enemy fire, causing a Navy SEAL to fall out of 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.
14 years after his death, 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-Qaida 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. 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 K. Slabinski, up for the Medal of Honor, which he received in May 2018. Some time in March, Chapman’s family was notified that his Air Force Cross was to be upgraded to the Medal of Honor. His widow Valerie (nee Novak) was presented with his posthumous Medal of Honor at The White House on 22 August 2018 by President Donald J Trump.
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.
BURIAL LOCATION: ST MARY BYZANTINE CEMETERY, WINDBER, PENNSYLVANIA.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: FAMILY.