Jake Gyllenhaal tapped to play TSgt John Chapman in movie chronicling his heroic last stand

| March 26, 2021

TSgt John Chapman

In the early days of the War in Afghanistan there was a US Air Force Combat Controller named John Chapman assigned to a Navy SEAL team. On March 4, 2002 the team was aboard a US Army Special Operations MH-47E Chinook helicopter to take a 10,000ft mountain peak Takur Ghar.

Their airship taking numerous enemy hits, they crashed landed, but not before one of the SEALs, PO1 Neil Roberts, was thrown from the aircraft. The team decided to return to retrieve his body. The battle that follows would be known as the Battle of Roberts Ridge.

Aircraft were up, observing and recording through infrared cameras the battle that followed. Chapman literally ran up the steep mountain, through thigh-deep snow, and single-handedly assaulted a enemy defensive fighting position. Taking out the enemy within he came under fire from multiple locations. Leaving the position of relative safety, Chapman exposed himself to intense enemy fire and charged towards the next enemy bunker, housing a machine gun that had his team pinned down.

He charged from his bunker only 12 meters away from the enemy. As he ran towards the enemy machine gun, Chapman was mowed down by fire.

The remainder of the SEAL team, saved entirely by Chapman’s heroic actions, continued the fight but ultimately had to withdraw. Seeing Chapman’s wounds, all of the other team members believed he was dead and in the hasty retreat he was thus left behind.

Chapman received the Air Force Cross for his heroism and sacrifice. Years later, the video recorded of the encounter would be enhanced and analyzed. When they took a closer look at the video, they accounted for all of the Americans there and left behind. Just after the SEALs left the mountain, the fallen Tech Sergeant Chapman woke up and began to move. Not just move. He stood up and fought. Hard.

Though severely wounded, alone, and without help or hope of rescue and atop a frigid mountain top held by heavily entrenched enemy fighters, Chapman fought. He carried a one man war to the enemy, engaging in a bitter fight with the Al-Qaeda left behind.

The enemy fighters approached the combat controller from three directions. It’s obvious he never gave up, even in the face of overwhelming enemy force. From the video it seems as if he took cover in a bunker, shot one of the enemy approaching, and then fought another in hand-to-hand fighting before John Chapman gave the ultimate sacrifice.

After review of the video, Chapman’s AFC was upgraded to a Medal of Honor. He is the first Air Force recipient of the MoH since the Vietnam War. Master Chief Petty Officer Britt Slabinski, who was in command of the SEAL platoon at Roberts Ridge, had initially received the Navy Cross for his role in the battle. About the same time the review of Chapman’s award resulted in the upgrade so too was Slabinski’s upgraded to a Medal of Honor.

The video of Chapman’s unbelievable last stand is the first video recording of a Medal of Honor recipient’s actions. This incredible tale is going to now be made into a movie with Gyllenhaal in the role of Chapman.

From Task and Purpose;

The movie about him takes place 15 years later as Air Force Capt. Cora Alexander investigates whether the airman is worthy of an upgrade to the Medal of Honor, according to Deadline. Chapman was awarded the Medal of Honor by President Donald Trump on August 22, 2018.

“Alexander has to uncover the truth, and in revealing Chapman’s sacrifice to the world, she forges her own path to self-forgiveness and personal redemption,” wrote Deadline, in a synopsis which resembles that of the excellent 1996 film Courage Under Fire, starring Denzel Washington.

It was not clear who would play Alexander, or even if she was based on a real person. But hopefully with Schilling and Longfritz at the writer’s desk the rest of the film will be very real indeed. Lead actor Gyllenhaal also has experience playing service members, as he portrayed Marine sniper Anthony Swofford in the 2005 film Jarhead. Still, Gyllenhaal wasn’t the first choice for Chapman’s family, who told Task & Purpose in 2018 that Chris Pratt would be well-suited for the role.

I agree with the family, Chris Pratt would have been a way better choice.

The movie’s synopsis sounds almost identical to the 2019 movie The Last Full Measure, which tells the story of Airman First Class William Pitsenbarger (which we discussed here on a Valor Friday piece once). It’s a truly magnificent movie about the heroism of Pitsenbarger, who very much like Chapman fought to the end. Also like Chapman, the Medal of Honor was denied him for many years.

In The Last Full Measure, the movie largely focuses on the story of how Pits’ award was finally realized. It sounds like that’s what this movie about Chapman is going to do as well. I understand that it’s hard to make a 120-minute movie about a single, short event (though it has been done with Lone Survivor, Deepwater Horizon, and Patriot’s Day – so basically any Mark Wahlberg movie about a real event now that I think about it) and they use the additional story to flesh out the others involved in the tale. I just think it takes some of the focus away from the real hero of the story and puts it onto someone else. Time will tell I suppose.

 

Category: Afghanistan, Air Force, Air Force Cross, Medal of Honor, Valor

Comments (10)

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  1. Green Thumb says:

    Hardcore Motherfucker.

    Rest well, TSgt Chapman.

    You actions on that fateful day are legendary and will never be forgotten.

  2. E4 Mafia 83-87 says:

    I’d be afraid that Hollyweird will try to add some “woke” nonsense to the story. Much respect to guy that went out with a roar not a whimper.

  3. Jay says:

    TSgt Chapman definitely made the grass grow on the mountain THAT day. His name and story will hold up well in ANY argument of “Who is the bigger badass.”

  4. Devtun says:

    The book ‘Alone at Dawn’ is beyond words. RIP MSgt John Chapman.

  5. KoB says:

    “If we are to die today, then let us die as men!” “Bring every weapon to bear…including your bare knuckles.” “…then we will sell our lives dearly…” “Headbutt the Hangman.” Gotta wonder if he beat the last one to death with them big brass ones.

    “Hardcore Motherfucker” Indeed GT. I’ll place wager that TSgt Chapman has yet to have to buy a Flagon of Mead in Valhalla. I’ll also wager that there was wailing, gnashing of teeth, and rending of cloth by the families and goats of TSgt Chapman’s dead enemies.

    That whole damn God-Forsaken Country is not worth one drop of the sweat from this Hero’s ‘nads, much less the life blood he spilled. Not familiar enough with either of these Hollywood types to make a judgement as to who would portray TSgt Chapman. I do hope that Hollywood gets it right and does him justice.

    Rest easy, Good Sir!

  6. Anonymous says:

    Definitely deserving of the MoH.

  7. Slow Joe says:

    Navy SEALs leaving an Airman behind.
    Why am I not surprised.

  8. RIP TSgt Chapman, and for you Mr. Liberal Jake g hollyweird lefty, I wouldn’t waste my money watching you and your ilk.

  9. Andy says:

    I must be honest. When I saw the IR footage and what that young did, I cried like a little girl. I cannot fathom what he went through and the personal pain he endured. What I can fathom is Michael had to be with him as they slew evil on that ridge. Rest easy young man.

  10. Ex Coelis says:

    Also think Chris Pratt would be the much better choice… While less than perfect – I think General G.S. Patton had a good aspect on matters of such – “It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank God that such men lived.” RIP TSgt Chapman