Sunday, November 20, 2011


Johnny Micheal "Mike" Spann was a paramilitary operations officer in the Central Intelligence Agency's Special Activities Division. He was the first American killed in combat during the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. The tenth anniversary of Mike's death is November 25, 2011.

This is a written account of a fact-finding trip which Mike's father took to Afghanistan one year after his son died in an intense fire fight with 300 Islamic radicals. Some would say the jihadists were outnumbered but got lucky.
Dec. 8, 2002

We left to travel to Afghanistan to visit the Qala I Jangi fortress outside Mazar E Shiref where Micheal Spann was killed November 25, 2001. and to attend a dedication of a memorial that was erected there by General Dostum (Afghan military leader) and the Afghan people honoring Mike for his heroism in the war on Terrorism. 

We arrived at the fortress 0n Wednesday night, December 11, and were greeted by approximately 100 people. There were workers there that worked through the night finishing the large copper dome that was erected to shelter the large marble memorial.

The following day, December 12, 2002, there was a memorial service attended by approximately four hundred people, including many dignitaries.

The service was held in front of the memorial, which was erected about 25 feet from the Pink house that housed the Al Qada and Taliban prisoners that killed Mike. This memorial is also about 10 feet from where Mike took his stand to fight.

We were able to talk to eyewitnesses that were with Mike that gave us first hand information as to what happen step by step as they saw it. I asked if they had been interviewed by anyone, including reporters, as to what they saw and they said ‘ NO’. I thought this was strange that no one had. Instead they were reporting second hand information.

Witness’s included, a Afghan fighter that was within 30 feet when the fight broke out. He said he heard an explosion, saw prisoners rush out and kill an officer and four of his guards at the entrance to the pink house, then immediately rush Mike, (Mike was within 25 feet from the front corner of the pink house. His position was between the raging prisoners and the eye Witnesses). 

The Afghan fighter said that he fell to the ground and watched as Mike fought them. Stating that he was afraid to run, thinking that if he did he would be shot. He said Mike took a stand firing with his A K rifle until it was out of ammo, then his pistol until it was out of ammo, then fought hand to hand until he was overcome by the rage of prisoners. 

The Afghan was captured and taken into the pink house.  He told them he was one of them so they would not kill him. They all looked alike and dressed the same. According to the Afghan fighter "the prisoners wanted to go back out to get Mike to bring him inside to shoot him to be sure he was dead. They wanted be able to take credit for Mike’s death so when they were killed they could go to heaven for killing an American." 

The Afghan recounted how he was taken into the basement and did not know if the enraged group went back outside for Mike or not.  The fighter himself was injured and lost his right leg. 

Another witness was a Afghan intelligence officer who also was within a few feet of Mike. He said his job was to talk to the prisoner’s, to record where they were from and to take a head count. He said there were 538 prisoners. 

He fell to the ground watching Mike fight and was able to retreat back and escape while Mike engaged them alone. He said as they fell the ones behind kept attacking and he did not know how many Mike killed before running out of ammo. He said Mike first used his AK rifle, then his pistol, then his fist until he was overcome by the crowd that was attacking him.

Also on the scene were two doctors that were treating the injured prisoners as they were brought out of the pink house. Their account was the same. They recounted that there was an explosion.  Then the prisoners rushed out the front door and immediately killed an Afghan officer and four guards who had been sent there to search the prisoners, tie their arms and take their weapons.  

After the prisoners massed upon the Afghan officer and guards they rushed Mike.  As the Afghan  Intelligence officer stated previously, there were 538 prisoners there with some 150 of them already searched and in the court yard. The remaining prisoners were in the pink house, the main floor and in the basement.  

Doctors said that they lay on the ground between the prisoners and witnessed the fight. They said they thought Mike might run and retreat, but he held his position and fought using his AK rifle until out of ammo, and then draw and begin firing his pistol. While watching Mike fight they were able to jump up and run to safety. 

They said the only reason that they, and several others, were able to live was because Mike stood his position and fought off the prisoners while enabling them the time to run to safety.. The doctors stated that as they fled toward a safe haven they saw Mike run out of ammo and then witnessed him fighting hand to hand until he was overcome by the numerous Al Qada and Taliban prisoners. 

The doctors escaped to the guard house at the north end and then to the outside. They said the fight worsened as the prisoners were able to take the arms and ammo depot to supply themselves with more weapons.

Hearing these accounts was emotionally wrenching for my family and I, but we are so very proud of our son, brother, husband... of Mike... that, when put in that position, he had the guts to try to hold his position and fight at all costs. His supreme bravery and selflessness allowed several others to save their lives, even at the expense of his own.
While there, we were met with a group of women, some 120 in number,  that wanted to show their gratefulness to Mike. This was a very emotional experience as well. We had been told that Afghans were carrying pictures of Mike with them. 

At this meeting they told us how thankful they were for what Mike and other Americans had done for them and their country. They told us how they were beat and whipped; how some were killed under the Taliban rule. Then they would take a picture of Mike from their purse and show it to us...Putting it to their heart and weeping they would tell us of the respect and love they had for Mike. They said they would never forget him.  They are not alone.
While in Afghanistan we had an opportunity to visit an orphanage for children that had lost their mother and father in this conflict. So many lives lost and so much sorrow.  We understand their loss as it is our loss as well.
This trip was very important to all of Mike's family members. Personally, I knew that there were so many conflicting reports of what had happened. When I talked to reporters that had written stories none of them had talked to eyewitnesses that had been on the scene.

I was told that I should merely accept what I had been told and move on.  I knew that anyone who loses a loved one wants to know all the circumstances around their death. I knew that if Mike had been killed in a car accident that I would want to know how or what time or if it was his fault or did anyone try to help him or why the accident happened, and many, many more things.

It's natural to want to know the circumstances surrounding a loved ones death.  It helps us feel like they were not alone when they died - that we were - in some way - there with them to understand and love them.  

There are still things I have not found out. There are still other things that are not clear, as more and more people contact me to tell me things that they know and that they were a part of.  But I am getting closer to the truth and will keep striving to discover all of the details of my son's last moments on this earth.

I realize that Mike is not the only one that has lost his life and my heart goes out to all the families who have lost, as we have.  I am so very grateful for their sacrifice for freedom. For the freedoms of all Americans and peace-loving people.
I am also very thankful for all of our military, CIA, and all other government personal involved in preserving our freedom and freedoms around the world. 

You are all heroes to me. May you stay safe. 
God bless you and God bless America. 

Johnny Spann
P.O. Box 308   |  Winfield Al. 35594
Email Mr. Spann


©2001-2003 - Spann Family.  All rights reserved.
Website maintained by: Marshall Arts Web Design | Hamilton, AL