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First Name: Johnny

Last Name: Spann

Birthplace: Winfield, AL, USA

Gender: Male

Branch: Marines (present)

Middle Name: Micheal

Date of Birth: 01 March 1969

Date of Death: 25 November 2001

Rank: Captain

Years Served:
Johnny Micheal Spann

•  Afghanistan War (Operation Enduring Freedom) (2001 - present)


Johnny Micheal Spann
Captain, U.S. Marine Corps

Johnny Micheal Spann was born on 1 March 1969 in Winfield, AL, the son of a real estate agent. Spann had a strong religious upbringing and graduated in 1987 from Winfield City High School, where he played football. At 17, he earned his Private Pilot License and later became a certified rescue diver and parachutist.

Military Service

In December 1991, while attending Auburn University, he joined the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve. After graduating from Auburn with a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice/Law Enforcement in 1992, Spann attended the Marine Officer Candidate School at Quantico, VA. He had originally wanted to go into aviation, but instead became a Field Artillery Officer and eventually served with the elite 2nd Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Company, specializing in directing indirect fire and close air support. In 1997, Spann served as second-in-command for a Joint Exercise Expedition in Latin America and Africa called "UNITAS." He served six years with the U.S. Marine Corps, including tours in Okinawa, Japan, and Camp Lejeune, NC, eventually achieving the rank of Captain. Spann joined the CIA in June 1999 and went on to serve in the Special Operations Group of the CIA's Special Activities Division.

Death at Qala-i-Jangi

Spann was killed during a riot at the Qala-i-Jangi compound near Mazari Sharif in northern Afghanistan according to CNN Reporter Robert Young Pelton. Earlier that day, he and another SAD officer questioned John Walker Lindh.

Officials recovered his body after Afghan Northern Alliance troops backed by U.S. air strikes, U.S. Army Special Forces and British Special Forces crushed the uprising.

Some sources state that he fought with his AK-47 until it ran out of ammunition, then drew his pistol until it, too, emptied, then resorted to hand-to-hand combat before finally being overcome. However, in a news report released shortly after the events it is stated that Spann fought only with his pistol, killing three attackers before being overwhelmed by weight of numbers. It was actually his companion, Dave, who opened fire with the AK-47. Time Magazine reported shortly after the events:

"According to members of a German television crew who were later trapped in the fort with Dave, Spann asked the prisoners who they were and why they joined the Taliban. They massed around him. 'Why are you here?' Spann asked one. 'To kill you,' came the reply as the man lunged at Spann's neck. Spann drew his pistol and shot the man dead. Dave shot another, then grabbed an AK-47 from an Alliance guard and opened fire. According to eyewitness accounts given to the German team, the Taliban fighters launched themselves at Spann, scrabbling at his flesh with their hands, kicking and beating him. Spann killed two more with his pistol before he disappeared under the crush."

Spann was the first American killed in combat during the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. He is memorialized with a star on the CIA Memorial Wall at CIA headquarters in Langley, VA, which honors individuals who died in the line of duty. Spann was posthumously awarded the Intelligence Star and the Exceptional Service Medallion.

Because the Intelligence Star is considered the equivalent of the U.S. military's Silver Star Medal, Spann was approved for burial in Arlington National Cemetery.


A small memorial to Mike Spann exists at Qala-i-Jangi Fortress outside of Mazar-i-Sharif, Afghanistan, and a Forward Operating Base is named in his honor.

Death and Burial

Johnny Micheal Spann died on 25 November 2001 in Afghanistan. He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, VA.

Spann was survived by his wife Shannon, also a CIA employee, and three children. His ex-wife, Kathryn Ann Webb, mother of two of his children, died of cancer five weeks after Spann's death.

Honoree ID: 3102   Created by: MHOH




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