Air Force Releases ISR Feed of Chapman’s Final Fight

TSgt. John Chapman is seen at an undisclosed location in Afghanistan in this undated photo. Chapman will posthumously receive the Medal of Honor later this month. Air Force photo

The Air Force on Thursday released video, taken by a circling remotely piloted aircraft, showing the final moments of TSgt. John Chapman as he fought, alone, to the death against approaching Taliban fighters on a remote Afghan mountaintop in March 2002.

The video feed played a key role in the decision to award Chapman the Medal of Honor later this month. Chapman, a combat controller embedded with a special operations team during the Battle of Robert’s Ridge, was originally awarded the Air Force Cross, but the ISR feed showed Chapman using his final moments to protect an oncoming quick reaction force, the act that drove the decision to upgrade his award.

The grainy black and white video begins at about 4:27 a.m. local time on March 4, 2002, in Takur Ghar, Afghanistan, when Chapman and his team are inserted via an Army Chinook helicopter to engage Taliban bunker positions on the mountain. The video shows Chapman charging into occupied enemy bunkers, moving out of cover to attack a machine gun that had been firing on his team. During this attack, he was wounded and temporarily incapacitated, according to the video.

At this point, Chapman’s team thought he was killed and the team retreated while under fire. At about 5:41 a.m., the feed shows Chapman regaining his faculties and continuing to fight, alone. Two minutes later, Chapman is continuing to fight enemy positions that are attacking a US quick reaction force on helicopter RAZOR 01 when he is hit and killed.

Chapman will posthumously be awarded the Medal of Honor on Aug. 22. Another member of the team that day, US Navy SEAL Master Chief Special Operator Britt Slabinski was awarded the Medal of Honor for his role in the battle earlier this year. Chapman will be the first airman awarded the nation’s top honor for valor in combat since the Vietnam War.