Captain Christopher Adams and the 1996 Khobar Towers Bombing

By Ethan Cole on
 November 25, 2023

Air Force Captain Christopher Adams, part of the 71st Rescue Squadron, demonstrated extraordinary valor during a terrorist attack in Saudi Arabia.

The Khobar Towers bombing, a devastating event on June 25, 1996, not only shook the world but also highlighted the resilience and courage of our military personnel in the face of grave danger.

Fortifying Against Threats

The Khobar Towers complex, housing around 3,000 airmen, army soldiers, and French and British troops, was no stranger to threats.

In response to prior attacks, significant security upgrades were implemented. Brig. Gen. Terryl Schwalier, the commander at the time, described these measures in a note to his wife: "We’ve turned our living area into a bit of a fortress—with cement barriers and concertina wire. Our cops are on 12-hour shifts, having doubled up on the gates and increased their patrols."

Despite these efforts, vulnerabilities remained, particularly at a stretch of fence adjacent to a public park.

The Night of the Attack: Alarm and Response

On Schwalier's final day as commander, Staff Sgt. Alfredo Guerrero and two sentries noticed suspicious activity involving a sewage tanker truck and a white car in the northern parking lot.

Their vigilance enabled a swift alarm, prompting urgent evacuation efforts by the tower's occupants.

In the midst of chaos, Captain Adams' focus was on saving lives.

He hurried to assist Lt. Col. Thomas Shafer, the commander of the 71st Rescue Squadron.

The bomb, equivalent to 20,000 to 30,000 pounds of TNT, caused extensive damage. Adams' decisive actions allowed Lt. Col. Shafer to survive with minor injuries.

“As a result of Captain Adams’ swift actions, Lieutenant Colonel Shafer survived with minor injuries. His personal courage and decisive action undoubtedly saved the life of his fellow wingman.”

Lt. Col. Thomas Shafer

Captain Christopher Adams: A Legacy Honored

Tragically, Captain Adams was among the 19 airmen who lost their lives in the explosion. Recognizing his bravery, Shafer recommended Adams for the Airman's Medal, a testament to his heroic life-saving actions. In a poignant ceremony held at Moody Air Force Base, Georgia, 26 years later, Adams was posthumously honored.

Lt. Col. Brian Desautels, the current squadron commander, remarked, “Adams represents what many of our airmen prepare to do. I’m just glad we were able to get him the recognition he deserved.”

Captain Christopher Adams' story is a powerful reminder of the bravery and sacrifice inherent in military service.

His actions during the Khobar Towers bombing remain a testament to the selfless dedication of our airmen and the enduring spirit of the United States Military.

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2 comments on “Captain Christopher Adams and the 1996 Khobar Towers Bombing”

  1. I lost a friend in that attack. Thanks for publishing. As an aside, when talking about Airmen (Air Force), maybe have an airplane instead of a ship in the head of the article.

  2. Captain Adams was and still is a hero. I fail to understand, however, why it took 26 years for his actions to finally be recognized. I’m a wife, mother and daughter of men in the military and to this day I have never understood why recognition for bravery etc takes forever to recognize. Many thanks to not only Captain Adams and his family but to all our brave men and women in our military.

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