Chance Phelps

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Chance Russell Phelps
Official photo
Born (1984-07-14)July 14, 1984
Riverton, Wyoming
Died April 9, 2004(2004-04-09) (aged 19)
Ramadi, Al Anbar, Iraq
Place of burial Dubois, Wyoming
Allegiance United States of America
Service/branch United States Marine Corps
Years of service 2003–2004
Rank Lance Corporal (posthumous promotion)
Unit 3rd Battalion 11th Marines
Battles/wars Iraq War
* Battle of Ramadi
* Operation Vigilant Resolve
Awards Bronze Star Medal
Purple Heart Medal
Combat Action Ribbon
National Defense Service Medal
Global War on Terrorism Service Medal

Chance Russell Phelps (July 14, 1984 – April 9, 2004) was a private first class – posthumously promoted to lance corporal[1] – in the United States Marine Corps. He served with 2nd Platoon, Battery L, 3rd Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment (3/11), 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Phelps was killed in Iraq as the convoy he was escorting came under heavy fire. His story is the subject of an HBO movie, Taking Chance.


Phelps was born in Riverton, Wyoming, moved to Craig, Colorado as a young boy, and then again to Clifton, Colorado where he graduated from Palisade High School in 2003. He was motivated to join the Marines by the events of September 11, 2001. After attending recruit training at MCRD San Diego, he attended artillery school at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. He was finally assigned to 3/11, with which he deployed in February 2004.


Phelps was killed in action at approximately 13:30 on April 9, 2004 (Good Friday) at the age of 19, outside Ar Ramadi, Iraq. Phelps's unit was conducting convoy escort (including the assistant commander of the 1st Marine Division, Brigadier General John F. Kelly[2]) when they came under heavy small arms fire, including rocket-propelled grenades. Despite being wounded, he refused to be evacuated, and instead manned his M240 machine gun (also reported to have been a M2 .50 caliber machine gun) to cover the evacuation of the rest of his convoy. Upon withdrawal, he sustained his fatal wound to the head.[3]


Phelps was buried in Dubois, Wyoming, on April 17, 2004. His remains were escorted home by LtCol Michael Strobl, whose accounts of the escort were recorded in an article he wrote entitled "Taking Chance".[4][5][6] In attendance were his parents, stepparents, sister, the Chief of Naval Intelligence (for whom his sister was an aide), and every veterans organization within 90 miles (140 km). Several days later, a memorial service was held in Camp Ramadi, Iraq, by his unit. Some time after that, Chance was officially awarded a posthumous promotion to lance corporal. Approximately the same time, a baseball field constructed in Camp Ramadi was dedicated Phelps Field.[7] In mid-2005, a mess hall at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms was dedicated Phelps Hall,[8] with his citation posted on a boulder in front. Phelps is also memorialized by a rock garden at the 3/11 office and at the Dubois VFW post, as well as a plaque that travels with Battery L wherever it deploys and a battery mascot named after the Marine.


Phelps's awards include:[9]

Bronze star
Bronze Star w/ Valor device Purple Heart
Combat Action Ribbon Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal National Defense Service Medal
Iraq Campaign Medal Global War on Terrorism Service Medal Sea Service Deployment Ribbon

Media attention[edit]

Phelps was the subject of a video segment originally broadcast on the News Hour with Jim Lehrer on April 20, 2004: entitled A Fallen Son.[10] PBS ran a segment on Phelps' journey home as part of their Operation Homecoming documentary in the America at Crossroads series on April 16, 2007.[11]

Taking Chance[edit]

An HBO movie based on LtCol Strobl's essay Taking Chance screened at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival and competed for the Grand Jury prize in the category of drama.[12] The script was also written by LtCol Strobl and filming completed in the fall of 2007, and premiered on February 21, 2009.[13][14] Actor Kevin Bacon plays the lead role of LtCol Strobl.[15] Taking Chance is directed by Ross Katz (producer of Lost in Translation[16]). The story of Chance Phelps, as told by LtCol Strobl, is also featured in the book Faces of Freedom, published in 2007.[17]


  1. ^ Philip Ewing. "Kevin Bacon tapped to play Marine officer again". Army Times. 
  2. ^ Run4Chance Bio, letter from BGen Kelley to LtCol Strobl
  3. ^ West, Francis J. (2006). "Ch 16 footnote". No True Glory: A Frontline Account of the Battle for Fallujah (trade paperback ed.). New York City: Bantam Books. p. 346. ISBN 0-553-80402-2. 
  4. ^ Strobl (ret), LtCol Michael. "Taking Chance". 
  5. ^ "Taking Chance by LtCol Michael Strobl (ret)". 
  6. ^ "KMIR6 NBC story on Taking Chance". 
  7. ^ "Phelps Field". 
  8. ^ "Phelps Hall". 
  9. ^ "Awards Reference". 
  10. ^ "A Fallen Son". 
  11. ^ "Operation Homecoming: Taking Chance". [permanent dead link]
  12. ^ "Taking Chance". Sundance Institute. January 2009. Archived from the original on 2009-02-10. Retrieved 2009-02-17. 
  13. ^ Seelye, Katherine Q. (February 14, 2009). "Fallen Soldiers, Coming Home in Public". Week in Review. New York Times. Retrieved 2009-02-17. 
  14. ^ Shales, Tom (February 21, 2009). "HBO's 'Chance' Finely Renders Solemn Honor For Fallen Troops". TV Preview. Washington Post. Archived from the original on July 16, 2011. Retrieved 2009-02-23. 
  15. ^ Taking Chance on IMDb
  16. ^ Ross Katz on IMDb
  17. ^ "Faces of Freedom". Archived from the original on 2009-02-25. 

External links[edit]