CIA Officer the first American killed in Afghanistan after 9/11.
The first time we wrote about Johnny Micheal “Mike” Spann was in early May 2011, in the aftermath of the killing of Osama bin Laden:
Hearing the news of Osama bin Laden’s death brought forward many emotions and memories.
One of those memories for me was the story of Johnny “Mike” Spann, from Winfield, Alabama, the first American killed in the Afghanistan war, on November 25, 2001.[*]
Spann was a CIA operative, one of a small number of Americans who landed in Afghanistan, helped coordinate local forces hostile to the Taliban, and directed bombing and other military action.
The story of this small band of men has been told, but not told enough.
Spann was killed during the Battle of Qala-i-Jangi when Taliban prisoners gained access to weapons and attacked.
* In past years a commenter has correctly pointed out that Americans were killed in Pakistan in the prelude to the landing of special forces in Afghanistan, but Spann was the first American killed in Afghanistan.
Each year since then, on November 25, we have remembered Mike Spann. You can scroll through the Johnny “Mike” Spann tag for all our reports.
Each year the research seems to discover new facts and stories, including the letter from Afghan warlord Abdul Rahdis Dostum and the memorial he dedicated in Spann’s memory, interviews with his oldest daughter Alison, and the family’s reaction to the release of Bowie Bergdahl.
The research for this post yielded more new information, including this video of Spann’s funeral, which AP just posted to its YouTube archive page in July 2015:
And a photo of Spann’s father, also named Johnny, placing flowers at his grave at Arlington National Cemetery in February 2005. [Featured Image] He is buried at SECTION 34, SITE 2359.
And more details on the circumstances of his death, like this 2004 L.A. Times article, Detainees Describe CIA Agent’s Slaying:
Captives from Afghanistan have told FBI agents that CIA officer Johnny “Mike” Spann became the first American to die in a clash in Afghanistan after he shot to death a prisoner who was attempting to attack him, possibly sparking the prison riot that claimed his life.
The events surrounding Spann’s death three years ago have never been fully explained by U.S. officials. Government accounts have said he was swarmed by angry Taliban soldiers at the prison and crushed or beaten to death, but his father has suggested that his son may have been shoved to his knees and shot execution-style.
No concrete details on the death emerged in the court case of John Walker Lindh, the so-called American Taliban from Marin County, who had been interrogated by Spann shortly before the CIA agent died. The Afghan prisoners said Lindh shouted out around the time of the prison uprising that he was “an American and spoke English,” in an attempt to escape harm from U.S. and anti-Taliban Northern Alliance forces.
The newly public FBI reports, released Tuesday along with several hundred pages of other documents obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union in a lawsuit against the U.S. government seeking information on the treatment of detainees, do not indicate whether the detainees’ accounts were considered believable by U.S. officials.
And a CNN story about Spanns fathers reaction to the killing of Osama bin Laden:
Johnny Spann was driving down the road listening to music Sunday when he got the call: Turn on the news.
The father of the first U.S. victim in the Afghan war flipped to a news station.
Osama bin Laden was dead.
Spann swelled with emotion. He immediately grabbed his BlackBerry and logged on to Facebook, where he posted this status update: “The S.O.B. is finally dead.” ….
“This would’ve been his victory day,” his father says. “It sure would’ve.”
And the story of how Alison now works for a local TV news station:
More than a thousand people have gathered at U.S.S. Alabama Battleship Memorial Park this morning to honor the victims of the September 11 attacks in a special ceremony.
Giving the keynote speech at the memorial event is News 5’s Alison Spann, who joined the WKRG Staff in August as a digital journalist.
Spann’s father, Johnny Michael Spann, was the first American killed in the U.S. war in Afghanistan. “Mike” Spann was a CIA Captain in the Special Activities Division who was an Alabama native.
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