John Charles Spahr

United States Marine Corps

Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 323
Aircraft Group 11
3rd Aircraft Wing
MCAS Miramar, California

Entered the Service from: New Jersey
Died: May 2, 2005
Buried at: 
Awards: Air Medals (4)
Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medals (4) 
Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal
National Defense Service Medals (2)
Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal.

MAJOR JOHN CHARLES SPAHR  of Cherry Hill, New Jersey died from injuries received when the F/A-18 Hornet aircraft he was piloting apparently crashed in Iraq on May 2, 2005. He was assigned to Fighter Attack Squadron 323, Aircraft Group 11, 3rd Aircraft Wing, Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, California. His unit was embarked aboard the U.S.S. Carl Vinson. 

San Diego Union Tribune- May 9, 2005

Marine pilot who died in Iraq crash is identified
Miramar flier may have collided with another


Investigators in Iraq yesterday identified the body of a Miramar Marine Corps Air Station pilot who apparently was involved in a midair collision with another fighter jet from his squadron.

Maj. John C. Spahr, 42, the executive officer for Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 323, was discovered still strapped into his ejector seat in the vicinity of Karbala, a city in south-central Iraq, according to a statement from Central Command in Baghdad.

The remains of the second pilot also were found, but the military was withholding his name until his family could be notified, the statement said.

Both pilots were flying single-seat F/A-18 Hornets. Officials from the Department of Defense confirmed yesterday that wreckage from both planes had been found.

Spahr, a native of Cherry Hill, N.J., is survived by an ex-wife and a 9-year-old daughter who live in San Diego.

He entered the service Aug. 11, 1989, and joined his current unit June 5, 2002. His awards include four Air Medals, four Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medals, one Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal, two National Defense Service Medals and the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal.

Stephen Spahr last spoke to his brother three weeks ago, while John was deployed with his squadron aboard the aircraft carrier Carl Vinson. They talked about family and how they would get together in June. The major was scheduled to be promoted to lieutenant colonel then.

"He asked me about my new baby, and all he wanted to talk about was family," said Stephen Spahr, who lives in Havertown, Pa., a Philadelphia suburb. "His two favorite things in the world were his daughter and work."

Stephen Spahr remembered John as an accomplished football player and rower with plenty of heart.

When forming a team, "he would always pick the kid who was a little overweight or wasn't quite as good to spare (his or her) feelings. He was very caring, almost to a fault. He was just a good guy," his brother said.

The pilot had a stage talent as well.

"His call sign was 'Dukes' and he could do a very good impersonation of John Wayne. He did the stagger and everything," Stephen Spahr said.

Spahr and the other F/A-18 pilot from the same squadron were reported missing Monday while flying at 30,000 feet. They belonged to the Death Rattlers, as their squadron is known.

A Miramar spokesman said any comment from the squadron would to have wait until Spahr's memorial service, which has not been scheduled.

Spahr attended Saint Joseph's Preparatory High School in Philadelphia. He received college degrees from the University of Delaware.

Spahr had been flying F/A-18s since 1993, according to his official biography. He attended the Navy's "Top Gun" fighter school in 1996, later was an instructor pilot there and was sent aboard the carrier Constellation when the Iraq war began in March 2003.

Yesterday, Pentagon officials said both fighter jets' fuselages had been found. The fuselages were discovered at separate locations, but Central Command did not indicate the distance between them.

U.S. military leaders have said there was no indication of hostile fire in the area when radio contact was lost with the Hornets..  

Camden Courier-Post - May 5, 2005

N.J. Man is Victim of Crash in Iraq
The Cherry Hill native was one of two Marine pilots whose fighters apparently collided earlier this week.

Inquirer Staff Writer

John Charles Spahr worked with handicapped children after college - he loved his job as a gym teacher, using his strong body and caring spirit to help the young people who needed him most.

But he had always dreamed of being a pilot, and began thinking of another kind of service, his family said.

After a few years, Spahr, a Cherry Hill native and graduate of St. Joseph's Preparatory School and the University of Delaware, entered the Marines.

Yesterday, the military confirmed that Spahr, 42, whose plane was reported missing earlier this week, died 15 miles from Karbala, in south central Iraq.

Spahr and another pilot, who both had launched from the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson, were flying single-seat fighters about 30,000 feet over Karbala when radio contact was lost Monday evening. The two planes likely collided, the military said.

Spahr, a major, was executive officer of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 323, based in San Diego, where he had lived for a decade. He had been flying F/A-18s since 1993, and in 1996 graduated from the Navy's "Top Gun" fighter weapons school, where he was first in his class, his brother Stephen said. Later, he was asked to teach others there.

When the Iraq war began in 2003, he was aboard the aircraft carrier USS Constellation. He began a second tour of duty in Iraq a few months ago.

His family gathered yesterday in Cherry Hill to make plans for his burial, but they also swapped stories of someone whose three-times-a-year visits were cherished.

Stephen Spahr said his big brother could light up a room by sheer dint of personality.

"He was extremely outgoing," Stephen Spahr said. "You don't get to that position in the military without a lot of charisma."

He was a perfectionist, but he also cared about everyone, his family said. If someone praised him for his bravery overseas, John Spahr would brush the kudos aside and ask for prayers for the ground troops.

"He was very caring - very much for other people," his brother said. "He always looked out for the underdog. He'd pick the overweight kid on the kickball team."

Once he decided to switch from education to the military, Spahr committed to a rigorous lifestyle. He often put in 16-hour days at work.

Still, family was first. He was especially devoted to his 8-year-old daughter, Chandler, and to his wife, Diane.

Stephen Spahr said his brother made certain to keep in touch with his mother and siblings, too, despite the thousands of miles between them. There were many trips between Cherry Hill and San Diego every year.

"He was just - terrific," Stephen Spahr said.

Albert Zimmerman, director of alumni relations at St. Joseph's Prep in Philadelphia, was registrar at the school during John Spahr's time there.

"I just knew he was real smart," said a shaken Zimmerman, who had just learned of Spahr's death. "He was quite an athlete - he was a three-sport letterman: football, baseball and basketball. He also rowed crew."

Under his photo in his 1981 yearbook, a grinning Spahr was named "best all-around athlete."

Zimmerman was relatively new to the school when Spahr attended, and the young man made an impression on him. Teachers and students respected Spahr, said Zimmerman.

As he reflected on a person who seemed to have everything, Zimmerman said he wasn't surprised that Spahr ended up as a high-ranking officer.

"His sparkle - it just helped him through the ranks," said Zimmerman.

Spahr is survived by his wife, his daughter, his mother, four older sisters, and brother.

Funeral arrangements were incomplete last night..

Camden Courier-Post - May 5, 2005
Lend Sympathy To Servicemen's Kin

We extend out thoughts to the friends and family of John Charles Spahr, formerly of Cherry Hill, and Robert White, formerly of Camden.

In barely a week's time, two more servicemen with ties to South Jersey have perished in the war on terror.

On April 23, former Camden resident Army private Robert C. White III, formerly of Camden, died of noncombat injuries at the Kandahar Airfield in Afghanistan. On Wednesday the military confirmed that Marine Maj. John Charles Spahr, formerly of Cherry Hill, died earlier this week following the crash of his fighter jet in Iraq.

American fatalities in Iraq and Afghanistan are falling but, as these twin tragedies prove, our nation still is very much at war.

White, 21, was not involved in combat operations in Afghanistan, but his efforts in support of his fellow soldiers in the war on terror deserve to be remembered. White had been in Afghanistan since February with the 864th Engineer Battlion, 555th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade (Provisional). He worked in food service in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

He attended school in Camden until 10th grade and then moved to New York, enlisting in the Army Reserve in New Jersey in 2003. He bravely signed up for active duty two years later and was assigned to Fort Lewis, Wash. He leaves behind a wife, two children and his parents.

Spahr, 42, leaves behind a wife and daughter in San Diego, as well as his mother, four older sisters and a younger brother.

Spahr was executive officer of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 323, based at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in San Diego, according to The Associated Press.

"He was a real affable, outgoing, easy-to-get-along-with kid, really hard working," said Barbara Brown, a biology teacher at St. Joseph's Preparatory School in Philadelphia, where Spahr attended until 1981.

His Marine Corps F/A-18 Hornet fighter jet was one of two reported missing earlier this week. The second pilot still is missing.

Spahr had been flying F/A-18s since 1993, according to his official biography. He attended the Navy's "Top Gun" fighter weapons school in 1996, later was an instructor pilot there and was embarked aboard the aircraft carrier USS Constellation when the Iraq war began in March 2003.

Both men deserve our eternal gratitude for their willingness to place themselves at risk for the greater good.

Unfortunately, they are just the latest to join a growing list of local heroes who have died in Afghanistan or Iraq.

Camden Courier-Post - May 6, 2005

Marine Inspires Fond Memories

Maj. John Charles Spahr, a native of Cherry Hill, was remembered Thursday by family and friends as a consummate Marine, an inspiring classmate and a passionate family man.

The Marines and his family "were the main things in his life," said his only brother, Stephen Spahr, 40, speaking from the family home on a quiet Cherry Hill street.

John Spahr, 42, left behind a wife, Diane Spahr, and a 9-year-old daughter, Chandler, when the F/A-18 fighter jet he was flying over Iraq earlier this week collided with a second Marine Corps jet. The other pilot, identified Thursday as Capt. Kelly Hinz, 30, of Woodbury, Minn., also was killed.

Stephen Spahr said his brother, an 18-year veteran of the Marines, had recently been tapped for a promotion to lieutenant colonel. The ceremony marking the advancement in rank was scheduled for June at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, in San Diego - where Spahr, his wife and daughter lived. The entire Spahr family, including his mother and three sisters, was planning to attend.

"These guys are in a group by themselves," Stephen Spahr said of Marine Corps and Navy aviators, who fly under some of the most dangerous conditions on earth simply by taking off and landing aboard an aircraft carrier.

"Everything is about performing to 100 percent. He was absolutely like that. He was going to stay in (the Corps) until they kicked him out."

Spahr was executive officer of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 323, based at Miramar. The squadron is in the Persian Gulf aboard the carrier USS Carl Vinson.

Stephen Spahr said his older brother, well known as an excellent all-around athlete in high school and college, brought the same spirit to camping and skiing trips in Colorado with his family.

Spahr's remains were due to arrive at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware sometime Thursday. Stephen Spahr said funeral or memorial service arrangements would not be made until the military releases the body to the family within the next week or so.

"I can't remember a time when I was with him when he wasn't either making you laugh, giving you encouragement or pumping you up, or making you feel better about yourself," recalled Joe McCabe, a classmate of Spahr's at St. Joseph's Preparatory School in Philadelphia and in college at the University of Delaware. "He was just a very positive guy."

To friends like McCabe, it came as no surprise that Spahr eventually became an elite fighter pilot, attending and then teaching at the famed "Top Gun" fighter weapons school at Miramar.

McCabe said he has an enduring image of his friend from college days, when Spahr played on the Blue Hens football team.

"Saturday mornings during football season at 7 a.m., we're all sleeping it off, and I've got Johnny on the floor telling me to get my game face on," McCabe said.

"I wasn't even on the football team. But Johnny was ready.".