SEAL Team 6 Left Him for Dead. But Maybe He Wasn't

Inside the effort to award a Medal of Honor to Tech. Sergeant John Chapman
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 28, 2016 3:50 PM CDT
Updated Sep 3, 2016 4:18 PM CDT
SEAL Team 6 Left Him for Dead. But Maybe He Wasn't
The Medal of Honor Flag is shown in this file photo.   (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

An incredible tale of bravery may have surfaced thanks to new "pixel signature" technology applied to 14-year-old videos—but it's a complicated revelation. The New York Times reports those videos, shot by overheard aircraft on March 4, 2002, may show Air Force Technical Sergeant John Chapman fighting al-Qaeda militants and killing two while alone on a mountaintop in Afghanistan. What's so shocking about the footage is not just the bravery. It's that Chapman was supposed to be dead. He was originally there with members of SEAL Team 6, providing support as their radioman. In the midst of a fierce and disastrous operation, Senior Chief Petty Officer Britt Slabinski determined the men needed to get off the mountain. Slabinski couldn't verify the wounded Chapman was dead, but he was nearly certain. So a "dead" Chapman was left behind.

The Air Force now suspects Chapman was alive for roughly another hour and tried to provide cover for a helicopter carrying Army Ranger reinforcements (three Rangers were among seven Americans to die that day; some say blame rests at the SEALs' feet). The conclusion comes thanks to technology that assigns those on the ground a pixel signature that can be tracked even when ground cover blocks a man from view. The Air Force secretary wants Chapman given the Medal of Honor; SEAL Team 6 has no issue with that, but hasn't taken a stance on whether Chapman was alive. Slabinski is outwardly skeptical, and suggests the Air Force would welcome a Medal of Honor, which it hasn't seen one of its own get since Vietnam. But a fresh look at Chapman's autopsy may provide further proof he was alive. Read the full story at the Times. (More Afghanistan stories.)

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