Battlefield Fallujah - Episode 6: Into the City, RCT-7 (November 7-9, 2004)
Regimental Combat Team 7 pushes into the city with 1st Battalion, 8th Marines, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Infantry, and 1st Battalion, 3rd Marines destroying enemy in zone and seizing objectives to protect the flank of the main effort.
Supporting RCT-1 was Regimental Combat Team 7 (RCT-7), comprising 1st Battalion, 8th Marines; 1st Battalion, 3rd Marines; 2nd Battalion, 2nd Infantry; and additional Iraqi Security Forces. RCT-7’s mission was to destroy enemy in zone and seize RCT-7 objectives in order to protect the flank of the division’s main effort.
Lieutenant Colonel Nicholas Vuckovitch, RCT-7s Operations Officer: "The primary objective we had was Division Objective Number Two, which was the Mayor’s Complex. The Mayor’s Complex was indicated as a priority objective due to a couple reasons. First one, it was believed to be a command and control node for the Mujahideen in Fallujah. Number two, it was key terrain to seize in order to stand up the follow on or interim government. RCT Objective One was the Hydra M'homadi Mosque. Again, based on intelligence, very active command and control mode for the Mujahideen in Fallujah."
The division wanted objective 2, the Mayor’s Complex, taken early in the operation because it was also going to be used to stand up the follow-on or interim government. RCT-7 organized three forays to get a closer look at the terrain it had to transit and to evaluate the enemy.
Lieutenant Colonel Vuckovitch: "At the squad level and below, there was organization, there was some very well-disciplined fires. Also disciplined to the extent they held a ground and some of the fires were accurate. They were using some very effective infiltration means, moving in very small groups of four, maybe six. Gathering in large groups for a short period of time, but then moving on foot, very savvy to the sound of ISR, very savvy to the sound of the AC-130 and aircraft approaching overhead. They possessed skills in small unit movement and also small unit defense and fire movement, in some cases. They had definitely received training and had been trained, no doubt in my mind."
The regiment also inserted the specially trained teams from 2nd Force Reconnaissance Company. Captain Jason Schauble, one of its platoon commanders, said: “We did two separate dismounted night missions looking for trafficable routes for both 1/8 and 1/3. The first mission was successful. However, on the second mission approximately 300-meters from the city, Team Two did get compromised and had to pull back to call in artillery and air support.” The team was able to extract without casualties, after watching an AH-1 Cobra attack helicopter put a Hellfire missile into the insurgents’ position. Team One was inserted into the northwest edge of the city.
Staff Sergeant Mark Detrick, 2nd Force Recon, Team 1, Team Leader: "My team, they're 500-yards from the main city of Fallujah. We built up our sniper hide that morning. We started observing people up in the buildings. Right off the bat, took some shots with the SASR. I was carrying the SASR and a .50 cal sniper rifle. 'Cause they were several-hundred-yards away inside brick buildings, so, I was punching holes in the building to try to deter 'em or hopefully get 'em."
The information the teams collected was incorporated into the regimental intelligence plan and used to determine the best routes to reach the breach points.
Lieutenant Chris Boggiano’s 2nd Platoon, BRT (consisting of 20 men and four HMMWVs), was tasked to set up 2-2 Infantry’s assembly area. At first light, the platoon was authorized to move. Staff Sergeant Jimmy Amyett noted, “We had to drive the HMMWVs up a steep slope. We’re looking straight at the sky and, all of a sudden, we crested the top and there was the city. The minute we pulled up we started receiving small arms fire . . . then we started raining down thunder on them using mortars and artillery.”
Lieutenant Colonel Peter Newell, commander, U.S. Army 2nd Battalion, 2nd Infantry Regiment, moved two tanks forward to a location where they could fire into the city.
1st Lt. Christopher Conner, commanding officer, 1st Battalion, 8th Marines: "That night, as the attack kicked off, sitting on the edge, and you could see everything that was going on. You could see the air doing their part, artillery doing their part. And, the Marines were really, really pumped up. They were ready to get into the action, ready to go."
On D-1, Task Force HVT (High-Value Target), composed of Marines from 2nd Force Reconnaissance Company, was assigned to precede the breach.
Major David Morris, 2nd Force Recon, Air Officer and Forward Air Controller: "Our objective in there was to conduct sniper operations, reconnaissance and surveillance, and shape the battlefield. Essentially, Colonel Tucker wanted us to bloody the nose of the Muj and let them know that we were going to take care of business."
Three reconnaissance teams and a SEAL sniper team conducted a nighttime infiltration to within a few hundred meters of the city and set up hidden shooting positions, known as sniper hides. They immediately spotted small clusters of enemy.
Major Morris: "We saw four to five Muj that were outside the building, and kept going in and out, and we had... it was an educated guess, that there were probably several more in the building. Well, to take those out with the snipers would be very, very difficult because we may get one or two before the rest of them move. So, that was our initial request for CAS. It took nearly an hour to get an approval on that thing and we're just lucky that the Muj did stay at the same building. So, we prosecuted this target [at] the train station. We put a GBU-12 on it. We destroyed the entire building. All the Muj were eliminated that were outside the building, and then whatever Muj were inside.
Also, we received friendly fire. It was pretty dedicated fire. It was 25-mm. It was heavy caliber, and it was very, very accurate. It was actually coming into our position. It was accurate enough that it was coming in, and ricochets were coming in within a few feet of our personnel. And, it was several hundred rounds. So, we finally had to fire a red star cluster to get 'em to stop because they were not only firing on the Headquarters element, they were firing on all the teams as well. We don't know whether or not they saw us as enemy or whether or not it was just several hundred stray rounds that went a little bit too far and they didn't realize they were shooting out of their area."
The teams took out four of five priority targets that RCT-7 wanted eliminated before crossing the line of departure.
Major Morris: "So, we started prosecuting a lot of CAS targets. We ended up getting to take out four of the six priority targets that RCT-7 wanted taken out before they went across the LoD. Not necessarily by us, but they needed taken out either by tanks or by someone. We did several arty missions, several sniper shots. We dropped anything from GBU-12, the laser-guided bomb, to doing strafing runs with 20-mm and 25-mm from Harriers and from F-18 Hornets. That's more of an intimidation factor because we had several Muj that were coming up with AK-47s and attempting to move towards our positions. They didn't know specifically where we were but, after we ran a couple strafing runs on them, they didn't have any desire to come up toward our positions. So, it's a very good intimidation tool to keep them back because they see that aircraft coming down straight at them, and then hundreds of bullets flying at them."
The teams used laser-guided bombs and cannon fire from aircraft to attack insurgent personnel and positions, in addition to taking out individual enemy with well-aimed sniper shots.
Staff Sergeant Detrick's team focused on the railroad tracks: "My team was tasked with the northeast side of Fallujah, the railroad tracks, to see if anything was mined, trafficability, route, pictures of the railroad tracks, slopes, angles, degrees, so they know whether they need engineer equipment to get over those railroad tracks."
The reconnaissance teams marked the routes for 1/8 and then pulled back to link up with it.
1st Battalion, 8th Marines
Lieutenant Colonel Gareth Brandl assigned battalion objectives — the al-Hydra Mosque, the Cultural Center, and the Mayor’s Complex — because they were significant ideological targets that the enemy wanted to hold. Brandl’s plan called for Bravo and Charlie Companies to pass through two breaches in the railroad to seize a foothold in the city. Alpha Company was to remain in the attack position.
At 1900, Weapons Company, two infantry platoons, and a platoon of tanks moved forward to covered positions. Two tank-escorted amphibious assault vehicles towing trailers containing line charges rolled up behind them. The first trailer was positioned, and the firing sequence initiated.
Major Mark Winn, Battalion Executive Officer: “It didn’t detonate... I think the munitions device was cut. One of the Marines, I think it was Lance Corporal Fowler, or Corporal Fowler, had to go out and manually charge, manually prime, the MICLIC. He was like the forward Marine in front of everybody while this firing’s going off, out there manually priming the MICLIC to blow.”
This time it worked. The second AAV moved into the cleared lane and repeated the process.
Charlie Company passed through the breach on foot.
1st Lt. Christopher Conner, Charlie Company Executive Officer: "We got the platoons on line. The way Charlie Company would be attacking would be 2nd Platoon was the west most platoon to include Ethan, pushing south. Beside it was 3rd Platoon. And, behind 3rd Platoon, protecting the flank of the company, was 1st Platoon. "Murphy", of course, enlisted in the Marine Corps a long time ago. He showed his face there that night. We had two D-9s, heavy equipment bulldozers, that would block roads for us. And, they were the ones who actually pushed all the earth to make that breach. Well, the very first one that went through the breach got stuck in the mud, in the swamp. So, automatically, boom, you know, there's one stuck.
So, now we only had another one to work with. And, the purpose of these D-9s was to secure our flanks. So, they were going to push up earthen barriers for us that protect our flanks running from east to west. Well, just as the second D-9 pulled in and started doing some work, it got stuck in the mud too. So, now we had a D-9 that was stuck and immobile. And, couldn't leave it, of course. So, automatically we had to leave one squad from 1st Platoon, who was protecting our flanks behind, [to] guard that D-9, the equipment and personnel running it."
Captain Theodore Bethea, commander, Charlie Company: "The breach consisted of Task Force HVT initially being in position to get a reconnaissance of where the breach should occur. Once they determined the lane for moving all forces through the area, they reported that in and then engineers prepped line charges to go ahead and conduct a breach. Basically, what happened was, the tanks moved forward with the AAVs towing line charges on trailers. Once the tanks moved up, one AAV moved up deployed its line charge, line charge detonated, then after that the AAV and that trailer pulled off to the side. The tanks moved forward, and the second AAV moved up and then deployed its line charge. Once both line charges were detonated, the engineers went through and marked with chem lights the entranceway to the breach, the path through the breach, and then the exit points from the breach. And that initiated my company on the Braxton Complex, which is located directly east of the major traffic circle. And the engineers did an outstanding job opening the gates of Fallujah for us."
The company dismounted from the AAVs and advanced toward their objective, the Braxton Complex, a series of run-down apartment buildings.
Captain Bethea: "We moved through at night, dismounted under direct and indirect fire. We moved across the major road behind the tanks. And once we moved out in front of the tanks, I immediately displaced them forward. The forward of our position. The objective we secured was the Braxton Complex, a known enemy strongpoint and half of it was rubble, which made our movement extremely difficult."
Sergeant Benjamin Eggersdorfer, Charlie Company, 3rd Platoon, squad leader: “When we first hit the city, there was a lot of confusion. The breach was a little further away than we had planned. With the tanks going off, there was a lot of confusion at first.”
Some of the confusion was caused by the fact that the houses they planned on using had been destroyed.
1st Lt. Conner: "We went through the breach. Got to the places where we thought we were gonna, kinda, go firm at until we readjusted but only to find out that the buildings that we had been planning on, you know, kinda going firm in, had already been destroyed. So, a little bit of confusion there. Buildings were smashed, it was a pretty chaotic scene in that people were tripping, falling. It was dark, of course."
Sgt. Eggersdorfer: “Once we moved into our houses, gained a foothold in the city, that’s when things started kicking off. The first night we managed to move maybe three or four houses southward. It was very slow moving... the dark, climbing over walls, going through the houses.”
Eggersdorfer's squad found that almost every house they searched had some sort of cache - weapons, ammunition, or explosives: "We pushed through, all through the day. Pretty much every house we went through, we found some sort of cache. Our attached engineers blew it as we went. Every house, almost, they were setting charges in, blowing caches."
As they advanced, they were hit with machine-gun, RPG, and sniper fire. Two Marines were wounded, one seriously enough to require immediate evacuation: "When we started moving out further down to the next mosque, we took fire. A Marine in one of the other squads was injured. Evac'd him. It was Lance Corporal McWilliams. He got a ricochet in the foot from a bullet. So, we moved him back. And my squad, and Lance Corporal Ward's squad were kinda pinned down in place as we were moving forward. Pinned down for approximately two to three hours. After that we ended up pulling back and there were multiple snipers up there."
Despite the resistance, Captain Bethea pushed two platoons forward to expand the foothold: "Upon seizing a foothold of the Braxton Complex, we immediately came under machine gun fire, RPG fire as well as sniper fire from the immediate areas. I pushed my 2nd Platoon forward, as well as my 3rd Platoon forward in order to expand the foothold. Once I knew that the foothold was expanded, I then called forth and had the Iraqi Forces come through the breach, and then join our company.
Once the Iraqis had joined our company, our Force Reconnaissance elements had joined our company, we were going into the attack, to press the attack with a force of 303 Marines and sailors. For the penetration in zone, I directed the company to fight in an L-shaped formation with two platoons abreast and one platoon being behind the platoon on my eastern flank, creating an L. And this formation maximized fire power to the front as well as denied the enemy to my flank, which is the asymmetric tactic in fighting a superior conventional force. Initial resistance to the front was heavy, and then he in turn attempted to roll my flank. And that's when my 1st Platoon was prepared to repel that assault."
His attached tank platoon led, using their 120 mm gun to take out enemy snipers: "Moving into the city was, once again, leading with fires. The most important fire support asset we had here in the city fighting was the tanks. The tanks could locate the snipers and strong points, and destroy them with main gun [120mm]. Additionally, as the enemy came toward our zone, we were able to employ the AC-130 that had extreme precision fires on enemy troops out in the open. And finally, the enemy that were attempting to hit our flank were destroyed by our 1st Platoon. Fires we faced were grenades, rocket-propelled grenades, machine-gun fire and sniper fire. One of our D-9s got stuck in the breach. I had an immediate security concern on that. Additionally, we had to link up with the Iraqis, which we had never worked with before. However, we had a good rapport with the handlers, and the handlers were consummate professionals. The handlers are all from prior military backgrounds, primarily Special Forces - former U.S. Rangers and Navy SEALS."
Bethea's men continued the attack, with Force Recon Marines protecting his eastern flank: “We pressed the attack throughout the early morning hours and then we consolidated again, right before our final phase line, before we deployed to attack to seize the mosque. By this point, the sun's starting to come up. It's becoming light outside. I had to ensure that my 3rd Platoon got up on line with my 2nd Platoon because they were heavily engaged in clearing pockets of enemy resistance. Additionally, we had another D-9 tractor that got stuck and so my 1st Platoon was providing security on that. I knew that, before I could press the attack on the mosque, I had to give the security requirements of the D-9 to the Iraqis [who were] in our rear.
So, I coordinated to have an Iraqi unit provide security of the D-9 with one of my 1st Squads. While that was going on, I was able to push my 3rd Platoon to get up on line with my 2nd Platoon. Once we started doing that, coordinating that, our Force Reconnaissance elements began taking casualties due to the intense rocket and sniper fire they were taking in order to protect my eastern flank. Conducted CASEVAC to take care of those casualties as quickly as I could. By this time, it was about 0700 in the morning. Continued taking very heavy sniper fire, RPG fire and machine gun fire from our eastern flank, and the Force Recon Marines were fighting it off with absolute professionalism."
As the company advanced, an insurgent fired several shots at them from an alley.
1st Lt. Connor: “We maneuvered around this individual. We started maneuvering down another alleyway. There were a couple of insurgents at the end of this alleyway. As Marines started going down, this is where we took our first casualties. The insurgent rolled a hand grenade down the road. Ended up exploding and fragged one of our Marines, and he went down. Marines being Marines, going to get their wounded, they ran up, they grabbed him, pull him out of the kill zone. And, the insurgent, who they did not have eyes on yet, threw another hand grenade and fragged those Marines. Initially, the Marines though that they were trapped in an IED alley because they didn't see an insurgent anywhere. They thought that somebody was watching them and doing it remote-detonated. They didn't realize it was grenades. All of a sudden, we had two squads pinned down because every time they were trying to go down the road they were getting hit.
A couple other Marines got fragged just a little bit but kept on going, but there were three down hard, at that point. That's when the machine gun team for that squad pulled out its thermal optics, started looking around. They saw the guy hiding behind the building and opened up on him. And, he's history now. But, unfortunately, he had buddies who were crawling all around the street. We had Basher on station, which is this [A]C-130 gunship. We had him in direct support of us. Since we were the main effort at the time, we had the air support. My FAC and I got on the radio, had Basher roll around. He was spotting individuals [but] since the enemy was so close to us, at that point, Basher was having a hard time discerning, you know, who's friendly and who's not. I gave pos reps to my FAC. I told him exactly where our guys were at. Basher was like, ‘Okay, I think I got ’em, then’. We told Basher to go ahead and prosecute. He ended up toppling the building with these guys in it. Basher estimated about 31 guys, right there. So, that was a good surface that we hit hard, and now it became a gap for us."
Shortly before dawn, Charlie Company hunkered down for a breather. The company's embedded journalist, Luis Sinco, took several photographs. The next day, his image of Lance Corporal James Blake Miller, resting on a curb, smoking a cigarette, hit the front page of more than 150 papers. The iconic image and the young warrior in the photo became known as the "Marlboro Marine".
1st Lt. Christopher Conner: Lance Corporal Miller, he is with 1st Platoon, Charlie Company 1/8. He is platoon radioman. So, he carries the radio for the platoon commander - goes everywhere where the platoon commander goes. So, you can imagine this kid is pretty much exhausted because platoon commanders have to be everywhere on the battlefield. After the initial breakthrough, when we go through the breach, we encountered some pretty hard fighting all the way up until that morning. That morning, I guess, was the time when the platoon could finally, you know, take a second to sit down and relax. And, that moment in time when Lance Corporal Miller sat down, popped a cigarette in his mouth - think there was still rounds whizzing by - to take a drag off the cigarette, [the] embedded reporter who was with us, he was up taking a picture of Lance Corporal Miller.
Somehow, someway, the very next day, Luis, who took the picture, was able to get that picture back to the LA Times who he works for. Next morning, I believe it was November 10th back in the States, Marine Corps birthday, that picture showed up on just about every front page in the free world of Lance Corporal Miller smoking a cigarette after an exhausting day and night of fighting. Rumor has it that this picture is as big as the Iwo Jima flag-raising [photo] right now. Lance Corporal Miller, great Marine. Couldn't have happened to a better guy. Right now, he's thinking, you know, what is everybody making a fuss about because, you know, 'Hey, it was just a picture, I was just doing my job, doing my part, just like any of us were that day.'"
Charlie Company was positioned less than 500-meters from the battalion’s main objective, the al-Hydra Mosque.
Captain Michael Stroud, Bravo Company’s Forward Air Controller, was on a roof: "At that point, I had no visibility on calling plane targets. Basher, an AC-130, was on station. We had reports of where some of this rocket-fire and mortar-fire was coming from. I had Basher go take a look at it, and he found a group of 10 to 15 individuals, which was well beyond our front lines. He PID'd them and I cleared 'em hot, and [Basher] engaged the individuals. While he was doing that, 3rd Platoon took some fire. I got Basher back. [I] had him search the area for where the fire was coming from. Running to the south, he found four individuals. One had broken off, but he engaged the [remaining] three, under my control. I never worked with the AC-130 before and found out that it's actually a pretty awesome weapon."
After running the two targets, Stroud moved south with Bravo Company to Phase Line Cathy in support of an attack on the al-Hydra Mosque.
As daylight broke on the morning of November 9th, Force Recon prepared to move to support the attack on the mosque.
Major Morris: "As we got ready to move, they fired a smoke mission. Basically, it was a screening mission, you know, with arty. That mission came in right on top of us. Basically, the canisters landed all over the place. They actually caught... I think it was one of Bravo, it was one of the other Marines not from Charlie Company... but it, basically, caught his blouse on fire and they had to pull it off of him. So, it was a little bit short. But we moved from there. It provided a great screen for us."
Lt. Colonel Brandl launched the attack on the mosque with two companies. Bravo Company was to provide support by fire from the Iraqi Cultural Center across the street from the al-Hydra Mosque, while Charlie Company seized the area surrounding the structure. An attached Iraqi unit called the Emergency Response Unit (ERU)—billed as the national SWAT (special weapons and tactics) team, trained by former SEALs and other special ops forces—was tasked to enter and search the building. The al-Hydra Mosque was a known insurgent command-and-control center and a weapons storage location. It was also considered to be a key piece of terrain.
Charlie Company Commander, Captain Bethea: "The mosque was a battalion objective - was actually Regimental Combat Team Objective #1. And, the reason it was is that, during the April offensive it was a key focal point for the insurgents. And, immediately behind the mosque was a former Ba'ath Party headquarters building, which was obviously key as well to the resistance in Fallujah."
1st Lieutenant Christopher Conner: “The minaret is very dominate in the terrain of Fallujah. I climbed all the way up to the top of the minaret, looked out. You can see the entire city of Fallujah from that minaret. You can see where the Marine forces actually staged forces at before the attack. So, if they had eyes, you know, if they had people up there, they definitely knew we were coming that day.”
If the enemy staged or attacked from a culturally sensitive location, such as a mosque, the structure would lose its protected status.
RCT-7 Intel Officer Major Lawrence Hussey: "The mosques and minarets, we could see fire coming from them. You could see it from the ground. You could see it from the UAV. The enemy made an assessment on us based on what we had done before... where, in their mind, they thought that we would not engage a mosque because we held it in enough regard that we didn't want to do that. They underestimated the fact that, if they're going to use that, and they're going to attack from that, and they're going to fight from that, then it becomes a military objective. It's no longer a protected structure."
Major Andrew Hesterman, RCT-7s Air Officer was concerned about how the media would report hits on mosques, but was confident that the precision strikes, which focused on the minarets, caused minimal damage: "The thoughts that went through my head as I looked back and realized that we've knocked over eight minarets and thinking what Al Jazeera or one of those places that's doing it. I mean, I can see it now, 'The emasculation of the Islamic people', or something to that effect. But, knowing that we did the right thing because we were very surgical about it - I'm still impressed with the aircrews' capability of putting the bombs right where we needed 'em - and it was the direct threat. I really think that the insurgents believed that they could use the mosque because we weren't going to shoot 'em. And, for the most part we didn't shoot the mosques. We shot 'em out of the minarets."
Charlie Company cautiously advanced through a built-up area to a location close to the mosque.
Captain Bethea directed his 3rd Platoon, the FIST, and Team 1, 2nd Force Reconnaissance Company, to cover the eastern flank: "The scheme for the attack on the Hydra Mosque consisted of Bravo Company providing support by fire on the western side of Route Ethan. What we did is, the Marines, we pushed forward and gained a last covered and concealed position, right across the street from the mosque. I had my 3rd Platoon, as well as the Force Recon cover my eastern flank, and they were inflicting heavy enemy losses as well as taking casualties during this mission."
1st Lt. Christopher Conner: "We called for some fires, called for some air. The intent here, though, was not to call for fire or air on that mosque because it was a pretty important piece of terrain and, at the same time, of course, we'd reduce collateral damage. We didn't want to destroy something like that, which would, in the long run, be very detrimental to the Iraqi government and the city of Fallujah. We made very sure that we weren't processing our fires near the mosque."
Force Recon Team 1 took up a position in a four-story building to provide overwatch. That is where they got into a sustained fire fight for the entire day, taking heavy fire from all directions.
Major Morris: "We moved into a building and set up and, little did we know, we moved into a hornet's nest. There was an area that, basically, was in a gap between where 1/8 was going to go and where 1/3 was going to go, and that seam was teaming with enemy. It was amazing. We got in there and we were taking fire from 360-degrees. I had never experienced anything like that in my life. We were taking dedicated machine-gun fire, dedicated sniper fire, heavy caliber fire. It was just absolutely amazing. We were firing back with everything that we had. We didn't carry 240 Golfs. We were firing back with sniper rifles. We were firing back with our M-4s. We were firing back with SAWs. We were firing back with our M203s. We had good eyes on specific targets. We fired a Laser Mav into a building. The problem was that, at that time, in the fog of war, the companies had started moving up. And, Bravo had started moving up. Actually, I think it was Alpha that had moved up. And, the problem was that we didn't know where everybody was.
So, we couldn't call in CAS because, we get on the top of the building and I look over 100-meters to our east [and] there's a squad of Marines sitting on top of a building. I look up 150-meters to my northwest and there's another squad of Marines. And we're, like... we have no idea... we know they're 1/8's but we don't know whose they are. There's just a lot of confusion. I look up a couple hundred meters to the north and there's another group of Marines on the building. And, I'm like, 'There's no way that we can call in CAS right now because everybody's danger close.' It was one of those things, we made a conscious decision, we could not do CAS, at that time, because we were afraid we would frag friendlies. And, we could not do arty. So, essentially, we were left to our own volition, what we had in our hands to prosecute these targets all around us."
The insurgents were shooting small arms and RPGs from fortified positions, and the team was returning fire when Petty Officer Nate Burnash, the team corpsman, was shot.
Staff Sergeant Detrick: "Started taking enemy fire from multiple directions. My corpsman, he's standing by the wall, rounds are impacting above us, but one of them ricocheted down, and hit him in the back and knocked him down. And, me and Staff Sergeant Sneed, we pulled him in, to a safe area, took his gear off. He had an entry wound, I believe, it was in the upper right shoulder. We went ahead and put an Asherman Chest Seal for a sucking chest wound on his wound. There was no exit wound. Got him on a litter. Got a CASEVAC to us. We took him downstairs. Loaded him on the CASEVAC."
Bravo Company was also shooting it out with the insurgents.
Captain Stroud: "The whole company was on top of these two buildings and started opening up. The sound was deafening... ricocheting off those buildings, off the walls, machine-guns, everybody packed together... it was loud."
A truck pulled up behind his rooftop position. At the same time, he spotted an insurgent in a doorway: "There was actually a truck that had pulled up behind us, like an SUV. [I] saw one guy in a doorway. I started firing that way. Everyone else was engaging that area. There was at least one dead body in front of the truck. So, we put a 203 [grenade] in the truck and caught it on fire. Some Marines later went down to that pos. There were two bodies outside the vehicle, and then you got the three inside. A couple of those individuals had suicide vests on. One, eventually, would later blow up outside the truck... nothing left, it blew up."
In the meantime, Captain Bethea had made his way to the last covered position across the street from the mosque, and encountered snipers who were quickly eliminated through a combination of tank fire and SMAWs [Shoulder-Launched Multi-Purpose Assault Weapons].
Bethea then had the tanks create three breaches through the mosque’s courtyard walls: “It was just my headquarters element... meaning myself, my first sergeant, some radio operators and then my 2nd Platoon is what lead to get the last covered and concealed position across from the mosque. I lead that element with a small security team for navigation purposes to get it right on the money. And we crossed several linear danger areas en route to the built-up area and took sporadic machine gun fire down all the alleyways. We seized the last covered and concealed position by getting the engineers forward and breaching into this compound. And once we breached the main entry into this walled compound, Iraqi Forces were right in trace of us and consolidated in that position. After we had the last covered and concealed position, we were immediately pinned down by very, very intense sniper fire. So, the immediate concern was to eliminate the sniper fire or else we couldn't get the Iraqis out of the compound to attack the mosque.
So, the way we did that was, we employed our tanks, giving them a cardinal direction of where the sniper fire was coming from. And once the tanks employed their main gun against the building where the snipers were from, that enabled us to get up and get eyes on where the sniper fire was coming from, so we could destroy them with our small rockets. Once we got the sniper fire threat neutralized, then we used the tanks to create breaches in the mosque for the Iraqis. The Iraqi handlers did not want to go into the door in the mosque thinking it may be booby-trapped. So, what we did, we used tank main gun rounds to blow three breaches into the mosque. And the tanks did exactly as we directed and required, as a result of geometry of fire issues with our adjacent unit, which was Bravo Company to our western flank. So, they breached the northern wall of the mosque, shooting from the north to the south. As well as they breached the western side of the mosque, firing from west to east.
I directed their fire to ensure that at no time they fired at Bravo Company. Once the tank rounds had conducted the breach into the mosque, the Iraqi handlers and I determined that the breaches were adequate. We then collected all of the smoke that we had within 2nd Platoon and on order, at my command, deployed as many smoke grenades as we could to create a couple seconds of smoke wall, so the remaining sniper threat that had only been neutralized not destroyed would be ineffective against the Iraqis. Once the smoke screen was set then the Iraqis breached the mosque and seized the objective. They were successful. They went into the breach and had four enemy KIA when they seized the mosque."
Several other insurgents were killed by the Force Recon snipers as they fled the building: "The tanks notified me of the enemy fleeing from the mosque through the alleyways after the Iraqis secured it. So, I sent my tanks on a patrol due south, where they killed two enemy in an alleyway that were fleeing from the mosque. So, once the mosque was secure, we still continued to kill the enemy as he was departing the area."
A sweep of the mosque uncovered a cache: "We found Dragunuv sniper rifles, AK-47s, rocket-propelled grenades, hand grenades, as well as explosives, and IED-making material. Also, in the mosque we found a clinic that we could see that insurgents had used to treat themselves."
After the mosque had been secured, the reconnaissance unit, now reinforced by Team 2, decided to move in order to provide better support to Charlie Company. They had to cross an open field to get to another building. Team 1 went across.
Staff Sergeant Detrick: "So, my team was the first team to cross the field. As we were crossing, we noticed there was already a group of grunts, a squad of 1/8, in a building kinda in the direction we're going. As we were crossing the field, as soon as we got, pretty much halfway through, down the alley, enemy machine-gun fire opened up, and just instantly took out my ATL, Dave Caruso. So, we were between a building and a garbage dumpster, taking heavy enemy machine-gun fire. I had some guys trapped outside the dumpster. They made it into inside the safe zone. From there, my SAW-gunner automatically was crawling over to my ATL that was down. He was outside the dumpster. He was trying to pull him in to the safe area. And, my point man and my RTO, they went ahead and punched across and found us a building to get into. Then my assistant radio operator, he went ahead and punched across. Me and my SAW-gunner we tried to go ahead and confirm if my ATL was actually KIA or if he was alive.
As I was crawling up to help my SAW-gunner out, some kind of armor-piercing anti-tank round punched through the garbage dumpster, hit the ground in front of me, bounced off my left forearm, hit the wall behind me and bounced back at me. It was basically a cylinder piece of steel about a foot-and-a-half by an inch in diameter. I got up to my SAW-gunner, he's like, 'I gotta cut my ATL's ruck', 'cause he was down. We cut his ruck. And, as soon as we cut his ruck, we could see that he... he was gone. So, we got up. My SAW-gunner ran across, tried to get to the rest of my team. Then I got up, ran across. As I was running across, I was carrying a SASR, the .50 cal that was pretty big and heavy, tripped and fell right in the enemy fire. I got up and definitely made it through there. Continued, got to the building, called the other team, my platoon commander, let him know what happened. Now my platoon was separated from Team 2 and my headquarters element."
Staff Sergeant Christopher Jewell, Team Leader, Team 2: "Team 1 ended up getting stranded. They made it across the road minus one of their guys... they were minus two, at that time, because they already MEDEVAC'd one. They got across the road, and they were stuck there, basically. They had interlocking machine-gun fire from both directions. That building was getting hit from the east, southeast and the direct south, continuously that day. We had shooting positions all around that building, sniper positions. I know that my ATL, he took out two guys across that road to the southeast with [a] sniper rifle. I had taken out one to the south about 200-yards away with a sniper rifle. My SAW-gunner and a couple guys from headquarters had taken out two guys that was running southeast, they were heading southwest. Got them behind a building. And, then we had some guys from Team 1 that was located in the northern part of the building to the northeast, take out about four or five guys that we know for sure. There's no doubt in my mind that we definitely disposed of a lot of fucking Muj that day. I believe that we ended up getting the upper hand in that area, and all those guys starting fleeing. And, as they fled, we killed 'em."
Another squad was able to retrieve Caruso's body.
Staff Sergeant Jewell: "1200 or 1300, a squad popped out of nowhere to the southeast, and end up grabbing one of our fallen comrades on the road and dragging him over to us. At that time, Team 1 was able to go ahead and push back to us across the road that they had desperately tried to get across."
1st Lt. Christopher Conner: "We tried to support them. At this time, we were encountering a lot of sniper fire. We fortified our position, called for a MEDEVAC to help our Force Reconnaissance Marines out. When MEDEVAC came up to get those guys, they encountered that same sniper. Unfortunately, they took two casualties as well in retrieving their casualty, and then got out of there."
Staff Sergeant Christopher Jewell: "Two more wounded in action, which was from my team. I had a Lance Corporal Bell got shrap in the face, put a hole in his... on his right cheek and chipped some of his back teeth. We MEDEVAC'd him. Another guy on my team, Sergeant Charleston, he just got a bunch of small cuts all over his face, but he stayed and kept fighting."
Major Morris spotted one of the insurgent's positions: "We managed to find an OP. It was an observation post that was very well hidden. It also had a mortar-tube in it. And, it also had a rocket-launcher in it. And, it was covered with - almost - it looked like our cammie netting. So, they could never see it from the air. We found that OP, we put about six sniper shots into it because we saw some movement in there. We didn't see any more movement from that OP."
Later, one of Major Morris' sergeants spotted two men carrying weapons: "I had Sergeant Davis look over at me, and I'm on the top of the building, and he's like, 'Sir, who are those people right there?' I look out and 100-meters to our east, just below the building with Marines, slinking along our wall so that the Marines up there can't see 'em, is a guy with an RPK and a guy with an AK-47. They also have two more guys coming out that are carrying a carpet, that are trying to slink down the wall closest to our building. It was obvious that they were working together. It was obvious that there was probably something in that carpet. It was obvious that those guys, most likely, they had come out of the alleyway where the shots came that had killed Sergeant Caruso. So, we, basically, took all those guys out. We took those four guys out. And, almost simultaneously, the guys in the southern portion of the building came in contact with three or four more enemy Muj down on that side. And, we took those guys out. And, we believe they were all part of the same group that had killed Sergeant Caruso that were in that alley. So, it felt pretty good to take those guys out. We took 'em out with our M-4s. Myself and Sergeant Davis, we shot three of them. My gun jammed. My M-4 jammed. I jumped down. I cleared the jam. [I] got back up [and] by that time, the guy with the RPK had hidden behind bushes. It was the only place he could've gone.
The problem was, the Marines over there in that building couldn't see, and they had no idea where he was. So, I knew the guy was in the bushes. I put about 20 to 25 rounds of M-4 ammo into the bushes to try to get him out, just made dedicated shots all along the angle to see if we could get him. He didn't move. So, I don't know if I killed him then or what. But what we did was, to ensure that we got him, we brought the SAW up and we put about 200 rounds into that bush and he never moved. And then after the fact, later that night, somebody went up there and checked out the area, and they found his body back there. So, we got all four of those guys and that was a very, very good thing. For me it was very unique. Being a FAC, never thought I'd ever have to kill somebody with my M-4 or, you know, my own personal weapon. We usually... we're a stand off asset. But I tell ya, for me, that was probably the best thing that I did out there in the entire 10 days because we knew that those people had killed Sergeant Caruso. So, it felt pretty good."
Staff Sergeant Christopher Jewell: "At about 1800, right when it got dark, we went ahead and pulled out of that building. We moved west on Beth. And, then we went south on Ethan down to the mosque where we linked up, and everything kinda calmed down there for the night."
The battalion’s disposition at the end of the day found Charlie Company at the mosque and Bravo Company across the street in the cultural center. Alpha Company remained north of the breach, preparing to advance south to take the Mayor’s Complex.
2nd Battalion, 2nd Infantry
Captain Jeffrey Beauchamp, RCT-7 Army Liaison: "We had Alpha Company 2-2, which we called Team Mech, because they were a Mech infantry team, ‘cause they had a Tank Platoon with them, as well. And, Alpha 2-63, we called Team Tank, which had a Bradley Platoon, as well. Well, our mission was to destroy the enemy in zone, and our purpose was to protect the flank of the main effort. So, our sector was along the northeastern portion of Fallujah at first, for Phase Three Alpha. We brought our own two Paladins with us. So, they were in direct support of Task Force 2-2, and general support to RCT-7. So, they were fire for anybody who needed it, unless 2-2 had a mission, in which case, they fired our mission first. And, then we had our 120 mm mortar platoon. It was very responsive having two Paladins that were direct support. They were always ready to fire for us."
The Abrams and Bradleys of Captain Paul Fowler’s Alpha Company, 2nd Battalion, 63rd Armor Regiment (2-63), rolled out of their attack position right on schedule at 1714, fully an hour and 45-minutes before they were scheduled to cross the line of departure. Alpha Company took their attack-by-fire positions without incident and prepared to provide covering fire for the breaching operation. At 1900, Fowler ordered his vehicles to fire three volleys into the buildings that fronted the breach site. “The results were exactly as we had hoped,” Fowler said, “creating massive casualties and chaos within the enemy ranks, disrupting their ability to defend against the breach.”
Fifteen minutes later, Lt. Colonel Peter Newell, commanding officer of 2-2 Infantry, sent Alpha Company (Team Mech) across the line of departure.
Captain Sean Sims’ company went through the breach in about 10 minutes, but not without incident. “The minute the first Bradley went through,” Staff Sergeant James Amyett exclaimed, “it was like the Fourth of July down there with small arms fire coming from every direction. Staff Sergeant David Bellavia’s vehicle passed through when, “boom! It felt like the vehicle lifted off the ground. Sergeant First Class Cantrell’s [Bradley] had a small fire under its track leading up to the initial dismount.” Bellavia kept moving.
While Team Mech was going through the breach, Lieutenant Boggiano’s platoon moved to the high ground overlooking the city, “shooting anything that moved in the area.”
Captain Beauchamp: "We started making contact when we moved into the assault positions, the attack positions, and started seeing indirect fires. We were able to move a couple M1 tanks up to observe, into the city, where they were firing from. Hours before the LD, we'd already fired [and] destroyed probably 20 enemy positions, just with our M1 tanks returning fire."
Captain Neil Prakash, platoon leader with Alpha Company, 2-63 Armor (comprising two tanks, two Bradleys, and two infantry squads), attached to the BRT, was west of the cloverleaf when, “My gunner sees three to five guys running south to north across [Phase Line] Fran and go into a building in front of a mosque about two and a half clicks away.” Prakash lased it and came up with a 10-digit grid coordinate, which was needed for an artillery mission. “At the moment, there were guys running out of this building pouring diesel fuel into the streets and set[ting] it on fire,” he recalled. “I called Ramrod 18, the fire guy [artillery fire direction control], and told him what I saw.” After providing the direction, the grid, and distance, he requested one round for observation. “So, the round comes in and landed right on top of this guy pouring diesel on the flames!” Prakash screamed, “Fire for effect, fire for effect!” The two Paladins at Camp Fallujah fired twenty 155mm rounds, “something like one round every 30 seconds.”
Some hit the building and some hit just south of it, but every explosion was like a volcano: three to five guys shot up like they’d come out of a geyser—and they were perfectly still, not waving or fanning their arms... they were already dead as they were airborne and blossoming out.” Prakash estimated that the first salvo killed “30 to 50” insurgents. He called for an additional 10 rounds. “Right before this, a guy came out of the building... dragging his AK by the sling... and just then these 10 rounds land right on his head.”
At the same time, the BRT tanks were firing their main guns into the building. “My gunner sees a guy get blown off the seventh story... hit the ground so hard that he bounced up about two stories off the asphalt. It was the most insane, surreal thing I’d ever seen.” Some time later, Prakash was told that the fire mission he called took out Omar Hadid, the second in command of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.” A battle damage assessment (BDA) estimated that over 70 insurgents were killed.
Captain Beauchamp: "Team Mech secured the breach. At that point, the BRT, the reconnaissance troop, moved south on the eastern boundary of the city to observe the targets. Then Team Tank moved through the breach and they got a secure, what we call, Objective Coyote, which was a school yard."
They took the objective at 2328, a little over four hours after commencing the attack.
Newell’s last unit, the attached Iraqi 6th Battalion, in large five-ton trucks, attempted crossing the breach. “They got hung up for a little while,” he said. Captain James Cobb explained that “The heavy tracked vehicles had eroded all the dirt that was supporting it, so when the Iraqi vehicles went over they just bottomed out on the rails.” The command Sergeant Major, Steve Faulkenberg, went back to straighten things out. Newell learned that “because of the poor visibility, [Faulkenberg] got out of his up-armored HMMWV to guide it. The gunner was looking one way and the driver the other. When they looked back, they couldn’t find the Sergeant Major. They got out of the vehicle and found he’d been shot over the right eye. Faulkenberg was immediately evacuated and taken to the rear. Major Lisa DeWitt, 2-2’s surgeon reported Faulkenberg’s death was “a shock to a lot of soldiers.”
Captain Sean Sims’ Team Mech immediately established a blocking position about 1,000-meters beyond the breach to provide support for Team Tank as it came through the breach and commenced its attack into the city. “Third Platoon rolled right through,” according to Capt. Jeff Emery, “and started clearing houses to gain a foothold in the city. I pushed my platoon [1st Platoon, Alpha Company] through and continued going down to my first objective. Emery’s platoon experienced sporadic small-arms fire but “used thermal sights to spot and place effective fire on them [the enemy].”
The two Paladin 155 mm Howitzers from Battery A, 1st Battalion, 6th Field Artillery, supported Newell’s battalion. They were positioned at Camp Fallujah along with a battery of towed M198 155mm Howitzers from Mike Battery, 4th Battalion, 14th Marines.
Captain Beauchamp: "Having those two direct support Paladins ii was much quicker just to fire the 155s at a target. It’s a 155 mm self-propelled Howitzer. It seemed to be very effective. Nothing like 155 raining down on the enemy to suppress or destroy them."
According to Captain Beauchamp, once inside the city, Team Mech and Team Tank continued moving south on two axes, always moving in sections, two vehicles at a time, with the dismounted infantry providing security for the vehicles: "What worked best was using the 25 mm cannon on the Bradley, or the main gun on the tank, to destroy enemy strong points, sniper positions, etcetera. Once Team Mech breached, Team Tank moved into a school, inside the city, and secured that piece of key terrain. And, then they essentially just started bounding forward through, down south, to Phase Line Fran, which was our limit of advance."
1st Battalion, 3rd Marines
Trouble at the Breach
Shortly after 2330, Newell received a radio call from Lt. Col. Mike Ramos, commanding officer of 1/3, requesting to send their tank platoon through 2-2 Infantry’s breach. The engineers got one of their D9 bulldozers stuck in the breach. Captain Gil Juarez’s Charlie Company, 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, had his 13 light armored vehicles [LAVs] spread out about 100 to 150-meters behind the berm, providing a screening force for the battalion’s attack position. “The night was pitch black,” he remembered. “There were support fires going out. We were putting out a smoke screen using M825 felt wedge [a 155mm white phosphorus shell designed to produce a smoke screen on the ground for a duration of five to 15 minutes] and we were getting occasional insurgent pot shots, mortar fire and RPGs. The word went out to bring up the engineers and the bulldozers.”
Juarez was assigned to provide security for the breach. “The plan was to cut the tracks and have the bulldozers create a breach site,” he recalled. “A D9 came out of the dark and starts to veer away from the breach site. The driver did not have NVGs [night vision goggles] and couldn’t see where to go, nor did he have a radio, so I notified my scout section to get control of the vehicle and get it over to the breach site.”
One of Juarez’s scouts ran out and jumped on the dozer and started yelling and pointing in the right direction. The driver acknowledged and started off again. However, within a short time, the bulldozer got fouled in the tracks. It created an obstacle that effectively plugged the breach, keeping vehicles from passing through. Captain Juarez recalled, “By this time, we’re way behind schedule so the battalion brought Charlie Company forward to advance on foot.” Captain Tennant recalled, “As I brought the company, one of my tracs set off an IED daisy chain... about five or six blasts. One of them hit the side of an AMTRAC packed with troops. One of my men was wounded severely, a traumatic amputation of an arm and a leg. Another caught a small piece of shrapnel and suffered a concussion. A third man, one of the AMTRAC crew, was struck in the face. All three were evacuated.”
Lieutenant Colonel Mike Ramos, 1/3’s battalion commander, made a command decision to recover lost time.
Lieutenant Colonel Vuckovitch: "He made an audible, early on, to utilize Task Force 2-2's breach site to his east, rather than waiting around and trying multiple options. He immediately made a call to head out east, breach, and come back to his zone, and it worked like a charm."
After transiting the breach site, 1/3’s tanks and AMTRACs cut back west to link up with Charlie Company and assist it in gaining a foothold on the northern edge of the city. To get the whole battalion into the city, it took about eight hours, a good chunk of the first night. It was almost daylight before they got the word to move. The company pushed ahead toward its objective, a mosque in the middle of 1/3’s zone. Bravo followed on their eastern flank and took a lot of gunfire from their flanks.
A few Marines were injured in a blue-on-blue incident when 1st Battalion, 3rd Marines’ 81 mm mortar platoon was fired on by the Army artillery battery at Camp Fallujah. Fortunately, there were no fatalities.
Captain Michael Burgoyne, Battery A Commander, 3-82 Field Artillery said the teams worked together to reduce the potential for injuring friendlies: "We have their location, as well as the target location, and the observer makes sure [artillery fire] - sorry - the observers make sure they're out of range of the lethal effects of our fire, Sir. It's a pretty good team we have working here together."
Captain Brian Mulvihill led his small detachment of Iraqi soldiers through the breach. It was Mulvihill, 22 Iraqi soldiers, one translator, and an Iraqi journalist. His assistant, Staff Sergeant Via, led 18 more. The two groups made it through the breach, but with difficulty.
The Iraqis were hesitant, they were being met with enemy fire, and Mulvihill was unable to get them into the city alongside Charlie Company: "One problem we faced was, as Charlie pushed in, their entire company made it in except for their attached Iraqis. So, we had our lead elements right at the edge of the city and around the corner, along the buildings that faced where the attack was coming from. [The] first rounds hit, Staff Sergeant Via and I sought cover by a wall. [We] turned to our right and saw a wave of Iraqis running towards us... diving at us to avoid getting shot. I especially noted the embedded journalist lying on top of my legs, as I was kneeling there, [he was] quivering. And, I had to kick him away from me to tell him to seek cover somewhere else."
Mulvihill grabbed the interpreter and told him to get the men lined up and to move quickly in order to catch up with Charlie Company.
Mulvihill led off and the Iraqis followed: “Every time a round hit, even near us or inside the city, the Iraqi soldiers scattered."
They linked up with the Marines and waited for Bravo Company to come forward: "So, we waited there for quite a while. Long enough, I hate to say it, for me to actually fall asleep sitting there. We were sitting on a curb in the rain. And, I should mention that my pack easily weighed 50 pounds plus armor, other magazines and stuff... I was carrying the radio for the Iraqis."
Mulvihill's Iraqi Forces followed along behind Charlie Company toward battalion Objective B, a mosque. Once they reached it, the Marines were to provide overwatch while the Iraqis cleared the “culturally sensitive” building. The Iraqi's were supposed to be the first ones into the mosque.
Mulvihill was concerned the Iraqis were not ready: "Despite the fact that we said the battalion was not ready to do any type of night operation, especially a night attack, that was still our mission.”
Upon reaching the objective, Charlie Company’s attached tanks fired a couple of suppression rounds at an insurgent machine gun inside the mosque: “It was time for the Iraqis to do their thing. I turned to the Iraqi platoon commander, or actually he was the company commander but it was a platoon size... he was the lieutenant because the captain had deserted weeks prior... I turned to him, said, ‘Get your men up, we’re going across this open area [and] we’re gonna take the mosque.’ At which point, he said his men were too afraid to do it. And, they're all sitting along either side of the road. And, I said, 'Get 'em up, we gotta go, we gotta do this, this is why they're here.' At the same time, Staff Sergeant Via was literally grabbing them by their gear and pulling them up [and] getting them into formation to go attack the mosque. We got some of them up. Then they didn't want to run across the field that had machine gun fire going across it.
So, out of frustration, [I] told Staff Sergeant Via, 'Let's go, grab as many as you can, we’re doing this.' The smarter move probably would have been to tell the American company commander, 'Hey, they're not going to take the objective. We've already received fire from them [the enemy], we've returned fire. ROE permits Americans to go in.' But we still wanted the Iraqis to go in first. But, in that situation, the tactically sound thing would have been to tell the American that, 'Hey, you guys take it, these guys won't do it.' My own personal pride wouldn't allow me to do that. So, I took off in a 200-yard sprint across this open area."
Mulvihill raced past the Marine tanks: “So, I made my way past the tanks and, in retrospect, the tank commander probably thought I was pretty crazy because, by the time I got past him, I looked back, and I was all alone. So, here was one guy [chuckles] running past this tank to the breach in the wall of this mosque. So, I turned around, I looked back, there was no one there for about 30 seconds, and then two Iraqis finally made their way to my position. Fifteen seconds later, Staff Sergeant Via had two more, literally pushing them and pulling them to get them up there. At which point, I told Staff Sergeant Via, 'Hey, we gotta just do this.' We went through the hole in the wall. I was scared like anything but adrenaline going, at that point, it wasn't going to stop me nor Staff Sergeant Via. I said 'Via, you got me; I got you, that’s it.’ And, we went in, and the Iraqis [chuckles] waited at the wall, while we went in and cleared with maglites, and I had my pistol, and he had his rifle.”
At daylight, as the company moved south, they received heavy fire from the side streets.
Captain Mulvihill encountered some challenges with his Iraqi forces: "So, this one particular street, we were receiving heavy fire. The Marines had security, laying down suppression fire. What they taught in Vietnam was, lead with a Vietnamese. We were taught, lead with an Iraqi. It just wasn't happening. The Americans had to go first. So, I made my way across the street and took the security on the far side, and looked back and, as the Iraqis [chuckles] are running past the street, they had their weapons on full auto, blasting down the street and looking forward, not even looking at what they're shooting at. Rounds easily went less than a foot by me as they ran past and they fortunately [chuckles] released their trigger. I grabbed one of them, put them on security. I turned around and grabbed the [Iraqi] platoon commander, I said, 'Listen, you can't...' - and, again, I'll hold the profanity - '... you can't just shoot at what you're not seeing, alright! You have security. Your job is to get past. When you pick up security you can then engage the enemy.'"
Major General Natonski also noted the Iraqi soldiers' fire "issue": "Their fire discipline left a little bit to be desired, like when they pulled the trigger on their AK-47, they didn’t let go until the magazine was empty."
Brigadier General Joe Dunford concurred that the Iraqi soldiers had problems: "Many of them may not know too much about geometry, which is a problem if you’re gonna shoot straight and you shoot to the right or the left. I mean, geometry’s an issue."
Captain Mulvihill’s Iraqis were following in trace of the battalion to their next objective, another mosque the Iraqis were tasked with clearing. Finally, it seemed, his Iraqis were gaining confidence in the daylight: “It was daytime now, and the Iraqis were a little more willing to fight. They had some confidence now. They saw the Marines were killing people [and] that no Iraqis were hurt or killed yet. So, they had a little more confidence. It still took me and Staff Sergeant Via being the first ones into the compound and leading them in. We cleared it, found some small arms but mostly anti-American propaganda in this one."
Mulvihill requested he be moved over in support of Alpha Company: "At this time, Alpha Company was going to assume the main effort, pass through Charlie Company's lines, and attack to seize BLT Objective Delta, which was a series of blocks south of, what was called, Phase Line Fran, and it was the automotive repair district of Fallujah. Per my request, I crossed back over to that company, and joined the advisor to that Iraqi company, attached... that was Sergeant First Class Warner, Army Reservist, tanker, actually. We brought those Iraqis forward and helped Alpha Company seize Objective Delta."
Mulvihill spent that night sleeping in the street: “Slept on the sidewalk. It was dark when we got there. When I woke up, I thought, 'I wouldn't sleep on the sidewalks of my suburban neighborhood in New York.' And, this was like East New York and Brooklyn...the worst dirtiest neighborhood possible. And, here I was just laying on the sidewalk, on the curb. I felt like a homeless person."
Produced and narrated by Laura Cross
Based on the book Operation Phantom Fury: The Assault and Capture of Fallujah, Iraq by Colonel Dick Camp
Special thanks is given to the Department of Defense.
Grateful acknowledgement is made to the U.S. Marine Corps for historical interviews.
Warriors featured in this episode:
Captain Jeffrey Beauchamp, U.S. Army
Captain Theodore Bethea, USMC
Captain Michael Burgoyne, U.S. Army
1st Lieutenant Christopher Conner, USMC
Staff Sergeant Mark Detrick, USMC
Brigadier General Joseph "Joe" Dunford, USMC
Sergeant Benjamin Eggersdorfer, USMC
Major Andrew Hesterman, USMC
Major Lawrence Hussey, USMC
Staff Sergeant Christopher Jewell, USMC
Major David Morris, USMC
Captain Brian Mulvihill, USMC
Major General Richard "Rich" Natonski, USMC
Captain Michael Stroud, USMC
Lieutenant Colonel Nicholas Vuckovitch, USMC
Major Mark Winn, USMC
Interviewers: Bret Bair, Chief Warrant Officer William Hutson, Lieutenant Colonel John Way, Captain Joe Winslow