A new review of surveillance video of a 2002 firefight between a US special ops team and Al Qaeda fighters in the mountains of Afghanistan that left seven Americans dead is now the focus of controversy—with the Air Force secretary pushing the Medal of Honor for one of their own killed during the battle.
The controversy involves airman John Chapman, the radioman for a SEAL Team 6 reconnaissance unit involved in the firefight.
The New York Times reported Saturday that the Air Force’s analysis of video taken by a drone during the action shows that after being left for dead Chapman fought alone bravely against Al Qaeda insurgents.
The Air Force concluded Chapman killed two fighters with the terror group—one in hand-to-hand combat—after the SEAL unit had retreated down the mountain in the face of withering enemy gunfire, the paper reported.
Chapman, 36, of Windsor Locks, Conn and the team’s radioman, would be the Air Force’s first Medal of Honor recipient since the Vietnam War. The Secretary of the Air Force, Deborah Lee James, recently recommended the award to the defense secretary whose approval is required before it goes to the White House, the paper reported.
Maj. Gen. Gary Harrell, a retired Delta Force commander involved in the broader operation that included the firefight, spoke to The Times and cautioned anyone who had not been there against second-guessing what may have happened.
“It’s easy to say, ‘Well, I’d never leave someone behind,” he told the paper. “It’s a lot harder when you’re getting your ass shot off.”
He added, “If anybody thought Chapman was alive, we would have been trying to move heaven and earth to get him out of there.”