Johnny Mike Spann: The first American to die in combat after the 9/11

CIA Agent Johnny Mike Spann: The first American to die in combat after the 9/11
CIA Agent Johnny Mike Spann was the first US combat casualty in the War on Terror. He was killed in Afghanistan on November 25th, 2001 (Photo: XY)

Not many people know that the first US combat casualty in the War on Terror was a CIA agent. Johnny Mike Spann, 32 was the first US citizen who lost life at the beginning of the War on Terror in Afghanistan.

Former Marine

Prior to his joining the Central Intelligence Agency, Johnny Mike Spann served in the United States Marine Corps. He left Marines in the rank of Captain. In the aftermath of the bombings of 9/11, Spann volunteered to be sent to Afghanistan to search for Osama Bin Laden. A 32-year-old CIA paramilitary officer was among the first U.S. warriors sent to Afghanistan after the Sept. 11 attacks to confront al-Qaeda.

Along with other CIA SAD (Special Activities Division) operatives, he joined up with the Northern Alliance and US Special Operations Forces already on the ground for their siege of Mazar-i-Sharif. Several hundred Taliban prisoners were taken and rounded up into a fort in nearby Qali-i-Jangi known as “the Pink House”. Mike was roaming northern Afghanistan, chasing members of al-Qaeda and the Taliban, looking for signs of another potential attack and the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden.

Mike Spann, a member of the CIA’s paramilitary Special Activities Division, was among those dispatched to Afghanistan in the weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks to track down Osama bin Laden. He was shot to death during an uprising by Taliban prisoners on Nov. 25, 2001, near Mazar-e-Sharif.

Shannon Spann holds 6-month-old Jake as she walks behind the casket of Johnny "Mike" Spann at Arlington National Cemetery on Dec. 10, 2001.
Shannon Spann holds 6-month-old Jake as she walks behind the casket of Johnny “Mike” Spann at Arlington National Cemetery on Dec. 10, 2001. (Photo: Doug Mills/AP)

Death of CIA Agent Mike Spann

On November 25th of 2001, Spann was in the Pink House interrogating prisoners. Among these was John Walker Lindh, a California native who traveled to the Middle East to join the Taliban. Hundreds of Taliban members, who had been taken prisoner at a fort in northern Afghanistan called Qala-i-Jangi, were staging a massive uprising against their Northern Alliance captors. Mike and at least one other CIA operative, along with several journalists, were inside the prison, interviewing Taliban prisoners.

While interviewing other captives, Spann was attacked by a prisoner and shot him. That initiated a prison riot where Spann was quickly rushed. He fired on his attackers with an AK-47, and when all the rounds from that were spent he turned to his 9mm pistol. By all accounts, Spann went down fighting before being overrun and killed by the angry mob.

John Philip Walker Lindh (born February 9, 1981) is an American who was captured as an enemy combatant during the United States’ invasion of Afghanistan in November 2001.

Mike Spann is also known well beyond Winfield. For some, his standing as the first American to die in combat after the Sept. 11 attacks makes him a symbol of the struggle against terrorism. In the courtyard where he died, the new Afghan government erected its own memorial to him.

The museum inside CIA headquarters in Northern Virginia features the Bible that was used during a memorial service for Mike Spann in Afghanistan
The museum inside CIA headquarters in Northern Virginia features the Bible that was used during a memorial service for Mike Spann in Afghanistan (Photo: CIA)

A little off-topic I know, but no matter where they were recruited from, CIA agents of all types have played a vital role in the War on Terror since day one.

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