The United States Army in Operation Iraqi Freedom
Isolation of the Regime
One time, we had gotten the left track of our Bradley hung up on really heavy cable and wire. It was so bad that when we tried to get out of there, we couldn't. The other combat vehicles . . . started off to their next objective and we thought we could get ourselves unstuck, so we said we'll catch up because it wasn't that far away, but as we continued to try to drive and continued to try to cut the stuff out of our vehicle, it just somehow got worse.
So now we have our Bradley back up on the highway and it came to a point where the vehicle would no longer move forward or backward. So, my driver and gunner got out and tried cutting the stuff away, and as we were sitting there, we came under heavy machine gun fire, at least a 14mm machine gun, and [we] had electrical lines right next to our Bradley and big, huge explosions and electrical power lines flying everywhere and fire and smoke . . . pretty exciting.
And the Iraqi civilians coming down this highway saw what was going on and were parking their cars and getting out with pry bars and machetes and anything else they could find and helping my gunner and driver--they actually pushed my gunner and driver out of the way and took charge trying to untangle this stuff out of our Bradley's tracks--while we were under fire. It's just another signal to us that these people really appreciated us being there and they were really trying to take care of us.
Captain Mike Melito,
assistant battalion S3, 1-3 ADA, 3rd ID
Summary of Events
Coalition air operations began to focus more assets on the isolation and destruction of regime leadership and their ability to command and control units. The air component's attack priorities shifted to striking Iraqi ground units defending the approaches to Baghdad and providing close air support to coalition ground troops. The air component continued to strike strategic targets as ground units closed on Baghdad. On 4 April Tallil Air Base south of An Nasiriyah became home to coalition A-10 Warthog aircraft. The coalition air component's dominance of the air now allowed it to stack attack aircraft and await targets. Warthogs, Army Apaches and Marine Cobras flew low-altitude missions at will, providing excellent support over urban areas. On 6 April the coalition declared air supremacy over all of Iraq.1
The maritime component continued to clear and maintain the waterways, patrolled the Khor Abdullah, and discovered more weapons caches along the river. The maritime component handed over port operations of Umm Qasr to the land component. A British military port management unit assumed responsibility for running of the port. The coalition now had a fully operational port on Iraqi soil and began the steady flow of food and products for the Iraqi people.
CFLCC units seized objectives that isolated Baghdad, thus denying reinforcements or escape by regime military forces. Soon, V Corps took control of the corridor from Karbala to Baghdad in the east, and the I MEF gained control of the ground from Salman Pak to Baghdad. Ultimately I MEF advanced on Baghdad from the east, crossed the Tigris River, and drove through significant concentrations of troops, destroying the Baghdad Division of the Republican Guard at Al Kut and elements of the Al Nida Republican Guard Division between Al Kut and Baghdad. UK troops continued to secure the Al Faw peninsula and the southern oil fields while expanding their influence by advancing into Basra and ridding the town of regime death squads. Through aggressive foot and mobile patrols, British forces established control over a large part of the city of Basra. The performance of the British in Basra set the standard for future stability operations in large urban areas.
Figure 132. Isolation of Baghdad sequence of events
By 29 March, V Corps had concentrated 3rd ID and began to solve the problem of securing its LOCs. Lieutenant General Wallace had the corps within striking distance of the Republican Guard divisions defending the approaches to Baghdad. Moreover, the Corps was sound logistically and operationally. This was important since Wallace expected the effort to isolate Baghdad to be the start of the truly hard fighting. Nonetheless, he had reason to be confident about the immediate future. The corps was well on its way to being logistically able to sustain the expected fight in and around the capital: the 3rd ID had completed 3-5 days of replenishment and sustainment operations. Theater and corps support troops had brought fuel, ammunition, and food forward to Objective RAMS. Most important, 3rd ID had concentrated, and Wallace now had sufficient combat power--the 82nd Airborne Division and the 101st Airborne Division--dedicated to keeping the LOCs open. While combat had by no means stopped or even slowed during the refit operations, the corps had all but ceased moving north from 25 to 29 March. Instead, the corps focused on refitting and on cleaning up the roads and key chokepoints between the Kuwaiti border and Objective RAMS, in the vicinity of An Najaf. While some of these actions had been planned
Figure 133. Objectives in the vicinity of Baghdad
in advance, committing the 82nd and 101st to the LOCs had not been in the original scheme of maneuver. Similarly, the MEF concluded a stiff fight in An Nasiriyah and cleaned their long and difficult-to-defend LOCs. Other important changes had occurred since Wallace had unveiled his plan to the commanders of Army and Marine Corps units on the troop list for the attack. For one thing, the I MEF would retain control of its units rather than subordinate part of 1st Marine Division to V Corps as originally planned. Second, 4th ID was rushing to get ashore and into the fight from Kuwait instead of attacking south from Turkey. Other units that Wallace originally envisaged joining the fight as part of V Corps either were no longer troop listed or would arrive too late.
Moreover, V Corps and I MEF knew a lot more about the enemy, including that the assumption that the Iraqis would not fight was wrong. On the other hand, assumptions on the quality of Iraqi regular force effectiveness had proved fairly accurate. The demonstrated ferocity and tenacity of paramilitary forces were important and unpleasant surprises. While the CFLCC, corps, and MEF all knew much more about how the enemy fought, they continued to have difficulty finding and tracking units, especially the paramilitary forces. Finally, the Iraqis had been able to force V Corps and I MEF to fight in cities that they had hoped to bypass or seize in stride. Regardless of the changes in task organization, forces available, and general conditions, defeating the regime still required attacking into the capital.
Figure 134. Objectives in the vicinity of Baghdad
As the corps' main effort, 3rd ID was poised in the vicinity of Objective RAMS and ready to surge forward. The 101st had closed on An Najaf and was ready and able to continue the attack. Finally, the 2nd BCT of the 82nd Airborne Division had assumed responsibility for much of the LOC, freeing the rest of the corps to focus on attacking. The isolation of the regime began with the move from RAMS. Establishing the cordon around Baghdad can be divided into four distinct but overlapping events:
- The five simultaneous attacks that set the stage for the assault through Karbala Gap
- he attack through the Karbala Gap to Objective PEACH
- he attacks to seize Objectives SAINTS and LIONS
- he attack to seize Objective TITANS
These actions, constituting the major moves to complete the isolation of Baghdad, are described in detail following this brief overview.
CFLCC Conference at Jalibah
On 28 March Lieutenant General McKiernan went forward to meet with his commanders on the ground. McKiernan traveled to General Conway's I MEF command post at Jalibah, where he met with Conway and Wallace. McKiernan wanted to hear directly from his subordinates how they assessed their "stance" for the transition from the march up-country to closing on Baghdad, which he had identified as one of the regime's two centers of gravity. He identified the second as the paramilitary forces. The sandstorm had finally abated, and the theater, corps, and MEF logisticians had brought supplies forward, but there was intense fighting ranging from Basra to An Nasiriyah and other points in the MEF zone. In V Corps' zone the fighting ranged from As Samawah north to An Najaf. The meeting began with McKiernan providing his assessment on enemy forces and asking some key questions of his subordinates, including their satisfaction with the level of risk along the LOCs. In McKiernan's words, "we did the wargaming and we looked at the running estimate" of the situation.2 Both Wallace and Conway had some concerns they believed they needed to address prior to crossing the "red line or red zone" that referred to entering the inner defensive cordon outside of Baghdad. Wallace briefed his plan for a series of attacks designed to set the conditions for the assault to isolate Baghdad. McKiernan asked what he needed to set that stance. Wallace responded by saying he needed to position the corps by 31 March to launch his attacks on 1 April. Conway noted that the MEF was undertaking "a systematic reduction of the bad guys in An Nasiriyah" and he wanted 1 UK Armoured Division to execute some "pinpoint armor strikes" in Basra. Conway also observed that "Joe Dowdy (Colonel Joe Dowdy, commanding 1st RCT) was in a 270-degree fight."3 After hearing his commanders, McKiernan made a decision, as he put it, to "take time to clean up and make sure we have the right stance in our battlespace before we commit into the Baghdad fight, because once we commit to the Baghdad fight, we can't stop."4 That decision moved CLFCC into setting the conditions to isolate Baghdad.
Five Simultaneous Attacks
On the heels of the effort to secure the LOCs and resupply the corps, Lieutenant General Wallace wanted to position the corps to isolate Baghdad. Just prior to the meeting at Jalibah, he saw opportunity in a plan that Major General Blount at 3rd ID had developed to launch north to an objective near Karbala. He polled the rest of the corps units to see if they could conduct any complementary operations. Virtually every unit had coincidentally considered local operations within hours of one another. Wallace, along with the corps G3, Colonel Steve Hicks, took control and synchronized them. Attacking in five directions, the corps regained momentum, deceived the Iraqis as to the main effort, and completed securing of the LOCs. These actions enabled the attack through the Karbala Gap and the subsequent isolation of Baghdad.
The Karbala Gap
The corps expected its first major armor-on-armor fight to be against the Medina Division at the Karbala Gap. Although unrelenting air attacks by fixed-wing aircraft and attacks by the 101st Airborne Division's attack helicopters weakened the Medina, it remained a significant threat. The narrow gap between Bahr al-Milh Lake (Buhayrat ar Razazah) and the city of Karbala offered the only relatively open approach to the outskirts of Baghdad. Other routes crossed a river or entered the mazes of irrigation ditches and soft agricultural land along the Euphrates River valley. Attacking through the Karbala Gap also avoided the urban sprawl in the Euphrates Valley; the lake afforded protection of the corps' left flank, and once north of the gap, maneuver space opened to the west. To describe the Karbala Gap as "relatively open" does injustice to the problem of attacking through the gap. Colonel Will Grimsley, commanding 1st Brigade, 3rd ID, elucidated the conditions in the gap as follows: "We prepared for Karbala of course to be the end all, the chemical target from hell with a choke point 1,800 meters wide, which it is ... if you look at a map ... when you take the city [Karbala], when you look at a 1: 50,000 map, and you go all the way to the lake [Milh], what you quickly realize is that this is all agricultural land. It is very chopped up with rock quarries, and there are really only two or three little roads that lead through the Karbala Gap and across the irrigation canal that runs from the lake and feeds into the farmland, as well as the city water for Karbala. What that connects you down into is a one thousand, eight hundred-meter gap with two roads that you can cross ... a huge mobility challenge."5
This natural chokepoint, further cluttered by irrigated farm fields, offered obvious advantages to the defenders, having all of the attributes of a classic engagement area. That is to say the Karbala Gap afforded good fields of fire to the defenders and limited maneuver space and few exits for the attackers. Here, the Iraqis could bottle up the 3rd ID and destroy it with a combination of artillery, tank, and antitank missile fire. Moreover, intelligence had assessed the gap at Karbala as the start of the "Red Zone," the area where coalition forces expected the Ba'athist regime to employ chemical weapons in a last desperate bid to protect its seat of power.
For all of these reasons, Lieutenant General Wallace and his staff paid particular attention to creating an environment that would ensure the 3rd ID could maneuver safely through the gap. Establishing this environment, or in Army parlance--setting conditions--included a series of feints and the five simultaneous attacks. All were linked to a deliberate deep strike and air interdiction efforts. Wallace intended the feints to draw the Iraqis into believing the corps would actually push across the Euphrates River south of Karbala and approach Baghdad from due south, adjacent to the advancing marines. He believed this would cause the Iraqis to reposition their well-camouflaged forces to meet the expected threat, and thereby be vulnerable to air strikes and deep fires as they moved. The resulting destruction of the exposed Iraqi forces would clear the Karbala Gap of a significant artillery threat and much of its armored forces, allowing the 3rd ID to defeat the remnants of the defending Medina Division on its own terms.
Once through the Karbala Gap, V Corps would prepare for the final phase of ground combat--the isolation of Baghdad and attacks into the city designed to remove Saddam Hussein and the Ba'athist regime. The plan required effecting control of Baghdad; but V Corps, I MEF, and CFLCC hoped to avoid a house-by-house, block-by-block reduction of the defenses in the city.
The original plan envisaged the corps and the MEF advancing more or less abreast, with 4th ID attacking from the north to isolate Baghdad. The soldiers and marines would concentrate on the city and establish an inner cordon. Never intended to be a hermetic seal, this cordon would rather consist of five brigade-size operating bases placed on key terrain encircling the city and cutting the major roads in and out.
The Threat at Karbala
|From:||D101 ACE CHIEF|
|Sent:||Sunday, March 23, 2003 12:33 PM|
|To:||101ABN G2 LNO|
|Cc:||D101 DM G2; D101 DM G2 PLEX; D101 ACE BATTLE Captain; D101 ACE PRODUCTION; D101 ACE FAIO; D101 ACE CM&D|
|Subject:||RE: 101 Special Product|
Best route for 3rd ID; therefore, is to go east of the Karbala Gap.*
AR column engaging 3rd ID now in the vicinity of Objective RAIDER is likely an advance guard/ screen line from the [Iraqi] 2nd AR Brigade. I haven't heard any reporting of BRDMs associated with the RECON company; therefore, I assume this is an armor unit.
No comms with 3rd ID, would be interesting to get their assessment and make sure they have this info. The 3rd ID [liaison officer] in our TOC does not have comms.
Also, we're in the RED ZONE as we approach Karbala. This is the trigger for chemical release (according to Intelligence estimates). Additional reporting of chemical release authority to regional commanders, coupled with chemical defense training and supplies [corroborates] this assessment.
Email from 101st Airborne Division
Analysis and Control Element chief
|*Editor Note: Author was apparently unaware of corps plan to mitigate the threat.|
Named after the planner's favorite National Football League teams, the operating bases at Objectives SAINTS, LIONS, BEARS, TEXANS, and RAVENS would position the corps to execute the final stage of the fight for Baghdad. The final battle for Baghdad would be a sequence of raids and limited-objective attacks to control, neutralize, or destroy the regime's symbolic and physical levers of power. Presumably, this could be done without a step-by- step reduction of the city, avoiding a slugfest that would produce large numbers of dead and wounded fighters and civilians.
Attacking through the Karbala Gap, V Corps planned to seize three objectives west of the Tigris River--LIONS, SAINTS, and BEARS. The 3rd ID assigned these objectives to its three brigade combat teams, 1st BCT, 2nd BCT, and 3rd BCT, respectively. The 1st BCT would initially secure Objective PEACH, the corps' actual crossing site over the Euphrates River. The 2nd BCT would pass through PEACH and attack to seize Objective SAINTS, a key intersection of Highways 1 and 8.
Major Prentiss Baker,
CFLCC IO targeting office,
interview with Major Robert Foley.
Following 2nd BCT through PEACH, 1st BCT intended to move due north on or the Saddam International Airport (later renamed the Baghdad International Airport, or BIAP). Once relieved from the Karbala mission by the 101st, 3rd BCT planned to follow the rest of the 3rd ID and attack to seize Objective BEARS, but later they refined the position of this objective and called it TITANS, to the north of the city. The marines, remaining under the I MEF's control, would move up the east side of the Tigris and the Diyalah River, then cross the Diyalah and close the cordon at TEXANS and RAVENS.
The defending Iraqis continued to reposition, desert, or die in place. By 1 April, the Medina Division--originally composed of two armored brigades, one mechanized infantry brigade, and supporting assets--was largely destroyed. On 3 April, V Corps assessed the Medina as being down to only three maneuver battalions but noted that the 15th Mechanized Brigade of the Hammurabi Division was on the move to "backstop the Medina" south of Baghdad. The corps also believed a brigade of the Nebuchadnezzar Division had moved to a position in the vicinity of Al Hillah. Through 6 April, the Iraqis continued to move units to the Karbala Gap-Al Hillah area to reconstitute their defenses in the south, but they also moved units to Fallujah to block V Corps attacks from the west. Eventually, units from the Adnan, Al Nida, and the regular army all maneuvered south and west to reinforce the approaches to Baghdad.
Cleaning Up to the South
After V Corps completed its operations to attack through the Karbala Gap, it left one unfinished piece of business--cleaning up Al Hillah. After the 101st's feint toward Al Hillah as part of the five simultaneous attacks on 31 March, it kept the town isolated. The division deliberately did not force a fight and withdrew far enough to preclude being drawn into an ugly urban battle. Now, as the corps moved north some six days later, Al Hillah was the only part of the line running from the lake through Karbala to Al Hillah that had not been secured. Doing so would clear the last defenders that could interdict the Highway 8 approach to Baghdad. It would also protect the LOCs west of the Euphrates as the corps brought troops and supplies up through the Karbala Gap. Most important, Al Hillah remained, as Wallace described it, a "hornets' nest."6
The 101st's 3rd Brigade took the task in hand, leading off with a feint on 8April, employing a force built on Lieutenant Colonel Ingram's TF 2-70 AR, Thunderbolts. Coming off an attack at Karbala on 5 April, the Thunderbolts had one day to prepare, continuing their growing tradition of task organizing on the fly. Attached to the 3rd Brigade on the 6th, they gave up an air assault infantry company and a tank company. In return, the Thunderbolts received an air assault company from 3rd Brigade on the 7th and retained a tank company and a mechanized infantry company. Despite the changes, the Thunderbolts remained an agile and deadly combined-arms, light/heavy-mixed force ready for an urban fight.
The newly reorganized task force moved to an assembly area about 18 kilometers west of Al Hillah. There, Ingram issued an operations order at 2230. The following morning, supported by artillery, CAS, and attack aviation, the Thunderbolts attacked east, crossing the Euphrates at Objective MURRAY and reaching the western edge of Al Hillah. Other 3rd BCT units reconnoitered toward Al Hillah, both on the same axis as the Thunderbolts and from the south as well.7 At the close of operations, the 3rd Brigade soldiers had the town isolated.
The division followed up on 8 April with an attack at 0600. Although the Iraqis--and apparently Syrians--in Al Hillah fought hard, resistance collapsed the next day. The 101st reported capturing "huge numbers of weapons."8 With its mission complete at Al Hillah, 3rd Brigade of the 101st consolidated and prepared to attack north toward Objective GRADY via Al Muhmudiyah and Al Iskandariyah, some 50 kilometers distant. The following morning, 3rd Brigade continued the attack, ultimately reaching Baghdad.
Following the fall of Baghdad International Airport (Objective LIONS), the corps developed information that the Iraqis intended to mount an attack to retake the airport-- with the report first appearing in the corps' 7 April intelligence assessment.9 However, the repositioning and counterattacking Iraqis fought essentially piece-meal, if they fought at all. Identifying specific Iraqi units became difficult with all the ad hoc mixing taking place. In most instances, coalition air forces had hammered units opposing V Corps and I MEF, and in some cases, the Iraqi soldiers simply walked away from their equipment. In other instances, combat systems presumed destroyed by air strikes remained capable of firing, and did so. Coalition ground units learned to re-engage any Iraqi tanks, armored vehicles, or guns to ensure that they really were "dead."
Parallel and Supporting Combat Operations
Of course, these maneuvers could not have been successful in isolation. The corps was confident of its ability to defeat the Republican Guard units in open combat, where all of the US advantages in sensors and precision long-range weapons could be brought to bear. These advantages would evaporate if the Republican Guard melted into the city to conduct a deliberate urban defense. Thus, while the corps advanced on Baghdad, a highly focused air interdiction effort hampered the remaining Republican Guard divisions from repositioning into the city. Equally important, I MEF fought a supporting effort on V Corps' eastern flank, destroying many Iraqi units and preventing others from affecting the main effort. Close Air Support
The Air Force's and Navy's contributions to the campaign cannot be overestimated. Lethal combinations of A-10s, F-15s, F-16s, F/A-18s, B-1s, B-52s, and a host of other aircraft were absolutely essential to the ground campaign's success. The Air Force's investment of air liaison officers and enlisted terminal attack controllers embedded into the maneuver units paid off in spades. Throughout the entire campaign, 79 percent of air operations (15,592 of 19,898 attacks) were CAS or kill box interdiction--direct targeting of Iraqi ground targets in support of coalition maneuver.10 These were generally effective in hindering the bulk of the conventional forces from reaching cities, either by destroying them en route or by inducing the soldiers to abandon the equipment. The only complaint the Army commanders had was that the clearance of fires process was sometimes unwieldy.11
I've Got A-10s
You can move, and when that A-10 starts his strafing run, you can do anything you want to do as a task force commander because the bad guy's head is not coming off the hard deck. His head is not coming out of the ground. If he is in a hole, he is hugging Mother Earth and praying to whatever God he can to that he lives through this. You can maneuver anywhere you want to maneuver as long as that cannon is firing. As long as that A-10 is flying above you and turning and moving, you can do anything you want to do. You could hear the roar of screams of joy when [the air liaison officer] would come over the radio and say, "I've got A-10s." When the A-10s came in, first of all you could see them, second of all the control, the positive control, over what we were shooting with was absolutely phenomenal.
Lieutenant Colonel J.R. Sanderson,
commander, TF 2-69 AR
interview 12 May 2003 by Lieutenant Colonel David Manning
JSOTF-North, the 173rd Airborne Brigade, and the Kurds
The SOF in northern and western Iraq continued to harass the Iraqi forces and inhibit them from repositioning against the main effort at Baghdad. The JSOTF-North, with its 173rd Airborne Brigade and the Kurdish forces, conducted a series of attacks to defeat the Iraqi 4th ID (30March), 2nd ID (31 March), 8th ID (2 April), and the 38th ID (2 April). They also attacked and defeated a unit of the terrorist group Ansar Al Islam during Operation VIKING HAMMER (28- 30 March). VIKING HAMMER produced a number of important effects, including securing the Kurds' rear area and perhaps causing the Iranian government to deny Ansar Al Islam sanctuary. VIKING HAMMER reinforced Kurdish trust in the US commitment and prompted the Kurds to reallocate combat power to attack Iraqi units defending the Green Line. Finally, they seized Khurma on 28 March. This series of operations, pressing and maintaining contact with the defending Iraqi forces through a combination of Kurdish direct action and US air power and deep fires, caused the Iraqi units to begin to melt away.
One of the last coordinated tactical Iraqi efforts against JSOTF-North occurred at Debecka Ridge on 6 April against a position known informally as "The Alamo." There, a small group of special forces soldiers held commanding positions overlooking a wide valley up which the Iraqis advanced.12 Although greatly outnumbered by their attackers, the special forces troopers were heavily armed, with .50-caliber machine guns, Mk-19 automatic grenade launchers, 60mm mortars and, most important, the Army's newest antitank weapon, the Javelin missile. They were also able to call on supporting Air Force and Navy fighters and bombers armed with precision-guided weapons.
Figure 135. JSOTF-North operations along the Green Line
The Iraqis attacked during daylight with a platoon of T-55 tanks, two platoons of mechanized infantry mounted in tracked carriers, and an additional infantry force in trucks. Iraqi commanders supported the attack with artillery and mortars and at least one 57mm air defense weapon.13 The T-55 tank platoon led the attack straight up the road toward the special forces position at the top of the ridge, with tracked vehicles arrayed in combat formations in the open fields on both sides.
Although the Iraqi attack may have appeared tactically sound, and it certainly had numerical superiority, it was doomed from the beginning. The special forces soldiers picked off the Iraqi armor with shoulder-fired Javelin missiles long before it could even close to within accurate range of the American positions. Enemy infantry died under withering heavy machine gun and 40mm grenade fire. The special forces troops destroyed the Iraqi supporting weapons either with their own mortars or by calling in CAS.
The defending special forces troopers stopped the Iraqi armored attack with no US casualties. Regrettably, a supporting bomber mistook a group of Kurdish Peshmerga and US special forces grouped on a ridgeline near the battle for the enemy. The aircraft mistakenly attacked the group, killing several and wounding others. The Javelin antitank missile proved its worth once again during this battle. Already employed by TF 2-7 IN against T-72 tanks in downtown Baghdad, it devastated the exposed T-55s in the fields of northern Iraq. One of the special forces soldiers became the Army's first Javelin "Ace" after he destroyed two personnel carriers and three troop trucks.14 After this final spasm of Iraqi opposition, the coalition forces continued to move east and south. With the conditions now set, they liberated Irbil on 1 April and Kirkuk on 10 April, and cleared the way for the I MEF and 101st Airborne Division to secure Mosul.15
Figure 136. Enemy disposition in the north
Figure 137. US and Iraqi positions during the Battle of Debecka Ridge, 6 April 2003
JSOTF-West and TEAM Tank
JSOTF-West continued its mission to destroy Iraqi forces in the area from the Jordanian border eastward. The SOF soldiers continued to prosecute intensive counter-TBM operations to ensure Saddam could not threaten Jordan or Israel with Scuds. Leap-frogging from air base to air base, SOF troops seized several key facilities, to include the Hadithah Dam. JSOTF-West seized the dam to prevent the Iraqis from releasing the water behind the dam. Had the Iraqis released the water, the resulting inundation of the Euphrates valley would have hampered movement. Troops from the 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment fought for nearly three weeks against a determined enemy to retain control of the dam, thus preventing inundation and protecting a vital piece of infrastructure for the Iraqi nation. Subsequently, 1-502nd Infantry Battalion of the 101st Airborne Division relieved the rangers at the dam on 19 April 2003.
As the JSOTF-West forces edged closer to central Iraq, the commander determined that he needed additional mobility and firepower on the ground to meet the Iraqi threat. Company C, 2-70 AR, originally attached to 3rd BCT of the 3rd ID, got this mission. On 31 March, Captain Shane Celeen's company attached to TF 1-41 IN was fighting several hundred miles to the east-southeast with the 82nd Airborne Division in As Samawah. During that fight, C/2-70 AR supported seizing a key bridge crossing on Highway 8. One day later, on 1 April, Celeen's company was attached to a SOF task force in the west. Because it would have taken far too long for the unit to drive out to the west, the company immediately road-marched south to Tallil Air Base for an air movement.16
Arriving at Tallil early on 2 April, the company linked up with SOF personnel and transported 10 M1A1 tanks, three M113 armored personnel carriers, a FST-V fire-support vehicle, two fuel trucks, three cargo trucks, and an HMMWV by C-17 aircraft to H-1 Airfield in western Iraq. Air Force transports moved Celeen's company in 15 sorties over three days. The C-17s and their crews provided flexible and responsive support to a complex problem. They exemplified the exceptional agility the US joint forces displayed in applying the right units to the right mission.17
On arrival at H-1 Airfield, the company came under the control of the 1st Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment. The rangers and the tank company road-marched 160 kilometers east,
Battalion Ranger 3/75th
Figure 138. Hadithah Dam
back toward Baghdad, and began conducting raids in the Bayji-Tikrit area. In addition to the raids, the company supported interdiction missions along Highway 1 to Syria, attempting to seal the border from fleeing Ba'athist and Iraqi military personnel. The company supported JSOTF-West from 2 to 24 April, until 4th ID assumed responsibility for the area.18 This rapid intratheater movement and multiple task reorganizations integrating conventional and SOF units demonstrate the power of joint integration to meet the ever-changing tactical and operational situation in the theater.
Rolling Phase IV Transition
In addition to the combat operations along the LOCs and at the approaches to Baghdad, corps forces had to seamlessly transition to stability operations and support operations for the areas already under control. More than just assisting in providing humanitarian aid, virtually every element of Iraqi civil society--from police to fire to basic utilities and food distribution--dissolved with the defeat of the Iraqi army and paramilitary forces. The liberated Iraqi civilians were happy to see the regime's representatives depart or die. However, they immediately looked to the coalition forces to provide basic life-support services.
The populace also drove the requirement for rolling transition because their needs could not wait for a tidy resolution of combat operations. They often confronted unit leaders with requirements while combat operations were going on just a few blocks away. At the risk of winning the battle but losing the campaign to liberate Iraqi civilians, the local commanders were torn between their fights and providing resources--soldiers, time, and logistics--to meet the civilian needs. Partially due to the scarce resources as a result of the running start, there simply was not enough to do both missions.
The SOF community, specifically the special forces and civil affairs troops, proved instrumental in mitigating this threat and challenge in the liberated areas. Working closely with the local civil and religious leaders in the towns and villages, the SOF soldiers helped the newly liberated Iraqis establish a modicum of order and discipline.
James Matise, US Army
Figure 139. Iraqis welcoming the 2nd Brigade, 101st Airborne Division
While not universally successful, outside of a few major cities, there were remarkably few instances of public disorder or popular resistance to coalition presence.
By the last days of March, CENTCOM, CFLCC, and all of the troops had learned a number of things about the Iraqis. First, in stark contrast to what some had asserted, CFLCC had a real fight on its hands. The irony is that the same pundits who in 1990 had direly predicted 10,000 American casualties--and criticized the Army in particular as not up to the task--had now, in 2003, predicted utter collapse of the Iraqis. It appears that some in uniform may have also accepted this analysis, but the coalition soldiers and marines doing the fighting knew better. The Iraqis did not instantly melt away, and they had learned from their experience in DESERT STORM. They understood that if they massed formations in the open desert, the Americans would destroy them rapidly and from a distance. Their planned defenses did not array their forces in the open desert. Rather, they planned to fight from dispersed positions in considerable depth. Saddam planned to use his paramilitary units, both militia and Fedayeen, to further extend the depth of the battlefield to deny sanctuary to US logistics units and to bleed coalition forces as they advanced.
The Iraqis also sought to deny to the coalition's technical intelligence a clear picture of their dispositions and intent. They positioned inoperable equipment to deceive and to decoy coalition efforts and attract attacks on unmanned, derelict pieces. Where and when they could, they hid units and shielded them in groves of palms or positioned them in and around targets that the coalition would be loath to attack, such as hospitals or schools. To the extent possible, they protected their communications by using cell phones, low-power radios, and couriers. They were able to shield or hide air defense, maneuver systems, tactical headquarters, and tactical missiles with some success.
It appears that the running start and speed of advance achieved tactical and operational surprise. The pace of coalition operations in OIF appears to have surprised the Iraqis and
Figure 140. A 101st Airborne Division soldier distributes humanitarian aid
Figure 141. Sample district council identification card
exceeded the rate at which they could respond effectively. Still, they did respond and demonstrated the ability to move brigade-size forces and to reposition whole divisions incrementally.
V Corps attacks in the last week of March may have produced significant Iraqi maneuver, movement, and counterattacks in the first two weeks of April.19 V Corps detected some movements of Republican Guard and regular army units trying to reinforce the crumbling Medina Division south of Baghdad or at least to reinforce the Euphrates River line. The problem posed for the Iraqis at the end of March and in the first days of April stemmed directly from their failure to achieve anything useful during the sandstorm
Figure 142. Soldiers examine an Iraqi air defense artillery piece hidden in a palm grove
and "pause." Although the corps found it very difficult to maintain a lock on specific units, it was, for the most part, able to follow general movements. Discerning what the Iraqis intended or why they were doing some of the things they did remained illusory. Every echelon found it nearly impossible to track militia and Fedayeen movements. This was further complicated by new reports of Syrians, in groups as large as 150, operating south of Baghdad. Against this ambiguous background, the corps resumed its advance north to the capital.
CLFCC's maneuvers to isolate Baghdad occurred across the entire country and across the spectrum of modern conflict. In a country the size of California and populated by several separate and often antagonistic cultural groups, coalition forces simultaneously executed
Figure 143. Iraqi forces reposition in response to coalition maneuver to Karbala
virtually every type of mission possible. Missions ranged from the attacks to seize SAINTS and LIONS, to classic river-crossing operations, to urban fights along the LOCs as far south as As Samawah, to humanitarian, security, and stability operations throughout southern Iraq, to searching for weapons of mass destruction and hunting the Iraqi senior leadership. The coalition did not focus merely on the physical isolation of Baghdad, but on making Saddam's regime irrelevant.
The V Corps sequence of attacks and maneuvers to isolate the capital exemplified distributed operations. Three separate divisional headquarters--82nd, 101st, and 3rd--operated simultaneously to finish clearing the LOCs, defeat remaining Iraqi forces south of Baghdad, and establish the inner cordon of Baghdad. Breaking into the "Red Zone," CFLCC had to take seriously the possibility that the Iraqis would respond with every weapon and capability they had--from the vaunted Republican Guard to chemical weapons. Most often, the troops in the field found the conventional Iraqi forces disorganized, ineffective, or simply not there. The paramilitaries, however, continued their fanatical, but suicidal, attacks. In any case, the corps had arrived at the city and was preparing for the end game, the slashing attacks to oust the regime and liberate all of Iraq. Every echelon of command, from Lieutenant General McKiernan at CFLCC to Lieutenant General Wallace at V Corps, to the division, brigade, battalion, and company commanders, all understood the final objective and could see how their mission fit in. Coordinating and synchronizing these various actions over such a large battlefield was a testament to the respective staffs' ingenuity, dedication, and just plain hard work.
V Corps' Five Simultaneous Attacks
At 1300 on 30 March, V Corps headquarters issued FRAGO 149M, which initiated a series of interrelated limited-objective attacks to begin early the next day. Beginning on 31 March, V Corps conducted an ambitious and extensive set of limited-objective offensive operations south of the Karbala Gap. These attacks would accomplish several tactical objectives, ending with the V Corps forces positioned to cross the Euphrates and isolate Baghdad.
Among other things, the 3rd ID's attacks aimed to deceive the Iraqi commanders as to where the corps' main effort would cross the Euphrates River--north or south of Karbala. If the Iraqi commanders bought the deception, they would reposition their artillery to meet the coalition threat. In repositioning, the artillery would be exposed to destruction from coalition airpower. Intelligence indicated that the Iraqis expected the coalition assault through the Karbala Gap, and the corps believed the Iraqis had turned the gap into a huge artillery and missile kill zone. Accordingly, Lieutenant General Wallace wanted to clear the gap and destroy any Iraqi artillery or missile units that could range it. He also wanted to destroy the enemy's reconnaissance capabilities, as well as any major maneuver forces south of Karbala. Doing so would eliminate the threat of a counterattack against his right flank as he maneuvered the corps. As the corps' main effort, the 3rd ID's attacks would restart the northward momentum. Last, upon culmination of the attacks, the division would be in position for the upcoming operations into the heart of Baghdad.
The 101st Airborne Division's several attacks would support the main effort by adding combat power and credibility to the 3rd ID's deception efforts. Additionally, the powerful attack helicopters of the 101st Division would strike at any Iraqi forces south and west of
Figure 144. V Corps' five simultaneous attacks
V CORPS VRAGO 149M
Lieutenant General Wallace on the
Lieutenant General William S. Wallace
commander, V Corps
interview with Colonel French Maclean, 15 April 2003
Bahr al-Milh Lake, west of Karbala. This would add security to the corps' left flank from any possible Iraqi counterattack. The 101st's attack at An Najaf aimed to destroy the festering threat to the LOC.
The 2nd Brigade of the 82nd Airborne Division's continued attack at As Samawah would ensure that no Iraqis there could threaten the ever-lengthening network of roads linking the V Corps forces to their logistic bases in the south. Further, part of the brigade would attack to the northeast, cutting the routes being used by the Iraqis to reinforce from that direction. This would complete the isolation ofAs Samawah and eventually lead to its elimination as a threat to the LOCs. Wallace's desired end state envisioned positioning the 3rd ID to attack through the Karbala Gap to Objective PEACH, the actual crossing site for the corps, with the division's flanks secure and the corps' LOCs open. The 101st would secure An Najaf and control the LOCs around that city, while the 82nd achieved similar results at As Samawah.
In the end, the corps accomplished all of this, and more, but only after what, to some who participated, seemed a very confusing three days of combat across the entire corps area. The corps cut key enemy LOCs, preventing reinforcements or resupply into the south (An Najaf, As Samawah, An Nasiriyah). The attacks by the 3rd ID to Objective MURRAY and the 101st toward Al Hillah appear to have deceived the enemy into believing that the US would attack along Highway 8 as well as through the Karbala Gap. Lieutenant Colonel "Rock" Marcone recovered the map below (see insert pg C-10) from the body of the 10th Brigade Medina Division reconnaissance company commander at Objective PEACH. The map shows clearly that the 10th Brigade thought the main attack was coming from the south, with supporting efforts from the west and through the Karbala gap. The red circle in the center of the map is the bridge at Objective FLOYD. V Corps' action at that location clearly drew the attention of the Iraqis, who, either in response to V Corps or for reasons of their own, began repositioning artillery, armored, and mechanized infantry forces, which made them vulnerable to air attack. The corps and coalition air strikes destroyed dozens of individual systems and defeated several units. The Iraqis also defended their flank with only a reconnaissance battalion, no match for the "Marne" Division's march on Baghdad.
The 2nd BCT, 3rd ID Attacks Objective MURRAY (30 March 1 April)
The attack to MURRAY aimed to "cause the enemy to reposition forces and reinforce deception objectives."21 But as the first of the corps' five simultaneous attacks, it actually began on 30 March when 2nd BCT of the 3rd ID attacked northeast of RAMS to clear the enemy from some restrictive terrain and rock quarries and to position itself for the attack on Objective MURRAY the following day. The Spartans attacked with TF 1-15 IN and TF 3-15 IN abreast to clear the quarries north of Objective SPARTANS and to seize key intersections leading to a bridge over a canal outside of Al Hindiyah.22
En route, the task forces met light resistance until nearing Al Hindiyah, where TF 1-15 IN destroyed several technical trucks and dismounted Fedayeen. The 2nd BCT maintained contact with the enemy and destroyed several artillery, armor, and infantry units hiding in the quarries. Upon reaching their limit of advance, the lead task forces established a secure position west of Al Hindiyah, designated Objective SPARTANS 2. The remainder of the BCT closed on the objective and prepared for the attack on MURRAY the next day. The 3-7 CAV passed to the west of 2nd BCT and established a screen along the division's flank at Phase Line DOVER.23
The 2nd BCT also repositioned its direct-support artillery. The 1-9 FA moved to Position Area Artillery (PAA) NIXON, approximately 30 kilometers south of Karbala and east of Highway 28, to provide fires in support of 2nd BCT's planned attack on MURRAY. The battalion arrived in NIXON at 1008 and immediately received a call for fire against a platoon- size enemy force in the quarries at SPARTANS 2. Accurate artillery fire killed most of one Iraqi squad and convinced the rest to surrender.24 With the fight at SPARTANS 2 complete, the artillery and remainder of the brigade continued to prepare for MURRAY.
Starting 31 March, the 6-6 CAV of the 11th AHR provided one troop of AH-64 Apaches to 3rd ID as a quick-reaction force. The helicopters would address 3rd ID's concerns about the threat posed by any bypassed enemy forces on its eastern flank. Specifically, the division
Figure 145. Objective MURRAY
worried about Iraqis crossing the Euphrates River near MURRAY to attack the sprawling concentration of forces to the south at Objective RAMS.25 The 6-6 CAV provided continuous attack helicopter coverage, assigning each troop an 8-hour block of time and requiring a response time of no more than 45 minutes. Over time, the squadron's mission evolved into an area reconnaissance of Objective MURRAY. The 3rd ID eventually tasked the air cavalry to reconnoiter the main avenues of approach to MURRAY. Alpha Troop also launched a team of armed helicopters and reconnoitered the objective.
Attacking to MURRAY
The brigade employed a simple scheme of maneuver: Two infantry-heavy task forces, TF 1-15 IN and TF 3-15 IN, would secure the roads leading into MURRAY, while an armored task force, TF 4-64 AR (Tuskers) attacked into the town to seize the key bridge over the canal. The brigade's second armored task force, TF 1-64 AR, would remain in reserve and secure the area to the west.
At 0600 on 31 March, TF 1-15 IN, TF 3-15 IN, and TF 4-64 AR attacked to the east along three separate routes. Combat engineers moved with each task force, prepared to clear lanes if they encountered any mines or obstacles.26 The Tuskers, under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Phillip DeCamp, attacked along the main road leading to the bridge. Colonel Dave Perkins accompanied the Tuskers in his tactical command post (TAC).27 Perkins aimed to fix any enemy forces in the vicinity of Al Hillah to the east and to allow the 3rd ID's artillery to identify Iraqi artillery positioned within range of the Karbala Gap.
Fedayeen and Republican Guard forces engaged the Tuskers with small-arms and RPG fire as the task force entered the town. Approaching the bridge at 0650, A/4-64 AR, under Captain Phillip Wolford, reported receiving sporadic fire from the buildings nearby. The task force quickly destroyed the defending forces, seized the west side of the bridge, and brought enemy forces on the far side under main-gun and mortar fire. Wolford's tank company destroyed several civilian trucks mounting crew-served weapons, several of which erupted in massive secondary explosions from the ammunition they were carrying. Captain Chris Carter's A/3-7 IN passed Wolford's company and actually seized the bridge. As one indicator of the intensity of the fighting, the 10th Engineer Battalion commander, riding in his track in company with the 2nd BCT TAC, reported being under fire much of the day. Iraqis firing on the engineer track struck and wounded one soldier in the leg.28
After TF 4-64 AR secured the bridge, B/10th Engineers identified wiring under the bridge and began to cut it. They searched carefully, but apparently the Iraqis had not yet installed any explosives. They did find telephones and wire in positions near the bridge, indicating a prepared defense.29 The engineers also cleared ammunition caches, including one containing more than 1,000 mortar rounds. During the course of the attack and the remainder of the day, 1-9 FA fired 14 missions, destroying two buildings that were sheltering RPG teams, killing nine enemy fighters and effectively suppressing other targets. The artillery also fired five counterfire missions against Iraqi mortars.30
At about 0800, the Tuskers captured 10 enemy soldiers, including a platoon leader from the 2nd Battalion of the 23rd Republican Guards Infantry Brigade, a brigade of the Nebuchadnezzar Republican Guard Infantry Division.31 As they continued to root out small pockets of resistance, the Tuskers identified other soldiers wearing the red triangle flash of the Republican Guard. The presence of combat units from the Nebuchadnezzar Division was surprising and indicated that Iraqi units were being moved from the north to reinforce the defenses south of Baghdad. The presence of troops from the Nebuchadnezzar also suggested the importance the enemy placed on defending bridges south of Baghdad following their loss of An Najaf. Throughout the day, the brigade had sporadic contact with enemy forces at almost all of the blocking positions west of Al Hindiyah.32
The fight at the bridge continued throughout the day. At 1045, the enemy began to reposition forces on the far side of the bridge. They moved behind buildings and in the areas blocked from the Tuskers' observation by the arch of the bridge itself. TF 4-64 AR maneuvered elements onto the bridge so they could better observe and engage the Iraqis.33 Just after 1300, the task force reported that paramilitary forces on the east side of the bridge were using women and children as shields in front of their vehicles. The hapless civilians shielded the trucks from Americans reluctant to fire on civilians, allowing the enemy to reach positions near the bridge. One of the human shields, an elderly woman, attempted to run across the bridge but the Iraqis shot and wounded her in the back. Determined to rescue the woman, troops on the scene threw smoke grenades to cover their movement and evacuated her from the bridge while under fire.34
Figure 146. Enemy and friendly disposition in Objective MURRAY
One company from TF 4-64 AR cleared the police headquarters building near the bridge and confiscated a case of AK-47s and ammunition. Another company reported hundreds of AK-47s, RPGs, uniforms, 82mm mortar rounds, and 25mm ADA ammunition inside a large weapons cache located south of the bridge. The unit also captured documents outlining the defense of the city and the location of the military headquarters in that area.35 As the afternoon waned, the Tuskers, having accomplished what they intended, pulled out of the town and returned to the positions they occupied prior to the attack.36 The attack on MURRAY proved quite productive--killing some 46 Iraqi troops, capturing 23, and destroying 29 mortars and more than 1,000 mortar rounds. In addition, the troops destroyed one Iraqi 20mm AA gun along with a four-barrel self-propelled AAA vehicle. They captured or destroyed more than 50 AK-47s, 90 RPGs, and hundreds of RPG and mortar rounds. Finally, the attack into MURRAY fixed enemy forces east of the Euphrates River by demonstrating a threat to Baghdad from due south. This ultimately allowed 1st and 3rd BCTs to successfully attack north and seize the Karbala Gap, securing the actual route for the attack into Baghdad from the west.37
As TF 3-15 IN withdrew, one of its tanks slid into a canal. The commander estimated it would take all night to recover the tank and assigned a company-size force to provide security for the area. To provide protection for the recovery operation, 1-9 FA established a critical friendly zone (CFZ) around the recovery area. A CFZ is a programming feature within the AN/TSQ-36 Firefinder counterbattery radar. The Firefinder can detect artillery shells in flight and plot the point of origin--the enemy artillery tubes. By creating a CFZ, if the radar detects any enemy rounds falling into that protected area, the American artillery is cleared to fire immediately. In short, a CFZ links fire-detection radar to the guns and defines the area the guns must protect and reduces the reaction time for artillery from minutes to seconds. The TF 3-15 IN fire support element (FSE) planned fires in support of the recovery operation in case of an enemy ground attack. During the night, 1-9 FA fired two counterfire missions, to include a response to Iraqi indirect fires into the CFZ. This mission silenced an enemy mortar firing on the tank recovery operation, and the tank was successfully recovered.
Overrated - Underrated
Lieutenant Colonel Pete Bayer, G3, 3rd Infantry Division
Baghdad, 11 may 2003
The attack at MURRAY was important for several reasons. MURRAY marked the first fight the 3rd ID had against organized Iraqi Republican Guard forces. The attack also helped the division identify and destroy enemy artillery units from Karbala to Al Hillah and to gain a clearer picture of how the enemy had arrayed their defenses south of Baghdad.38 The 3rd ID also polished its ability to control simultaneously CAS and artillery. The 3rd ID artillery fired 20 counterfire missions and called 30 CAS and interdiction missions to support this engagement. The division continued to fight effectively and, more important, learn from each fight and adapt, while its opponents often failed to adapt. The 3rd ID rapidly communicated what the soldiers learned and assured that all of its units benefited from the experience of one of them.
While fighting at MURRAY, 2nd BCT also prepared to pass 1st BCT to the north. The 1st BCT was positioning itself for the planned attack to isolate the west side of Karbala. Although the 2nd BCT withdrew from MURRAY after defeating the Iraqi infantry battalion there, it maintained control of Highway 9 southwest of Al Hindiyah. That night, E Troop, 9th CAV led TF 2-69 AR of 1st BCT along Highway 9 to its attack position. This set the stage for the decisive attack through the Karbala Gap to the Euphrates.
The 1st BCT, 101st Airborne Division clears An Najaf (30 March 4 April)
Coalition commanders hoped to avoid fighting in An Najaf, which, along with Karbala, is considered by Shia Muslims to be among the holiest places in the world. Inside the city cemetery is the Tomb of Ali, son-in-law and cousin to Mohammed and founder of the Shiite sect. Coalition leaders saw no benefit to getting into a possible street fight that could be portrayed as an attack on Islam. As Lieutenant General Wallace put it, "It was never our intention to go into any of the towns."39 Prior to OIF, it also seemed reasonable to suppose that there would not be a fight for An Najaf. An Najaf is a Shia town where Saddam's regime was, to say the least, unpopular. None of the prewar estimates showed regular army or Republican Guard units defending the town. Moreover, none of these same estimates suggested much of a fight from the various paramilitary forces, including the Al Quds militia or the Fedayeen.
However, with little elaboration, the V Corps operations plan opined that the militia constituted a "ready reserve, with limited training and equipment..." and went on to add, "These forces are likely to defend the urban centers such as As Samawah, An Najaf, and Ad Diwaniyah."40 And that is just what they did. As they had at As Samawah, An Nasiriyah, and other towns, paramilitary forces came streaming out of the town, attacking 3rd ID furiously as it rolled past. For this reason, Wallace ordered the 101st Airborne to contain An Najaf.
The Approach: Isolating An Najaf
After relieving 2nd BCT, 3rd ID, the commander of 1st BCT, 101st Airborne, Colonel Hodges, felt that he had to close his brigade in on An Najaf. Although his original guidance was "...don't get stuck in the city," Hodges recalled that he "felt a little naked out there so I moved my first battalion (1-327 IN) closer to the city where they had a better-covered area."41 For this and a number of other reasons, An Najaf exerted a gravitational pull on the 101st. Some of the thinking that led to clearing An Najaf stemmed from the philosophical--potential slaughter of innocents--to the mundane--the 101st wanted an airfield to get their aircraft on hardstands, and An Najaf had an airfield.42
Anchored on Checkpoint Charlie astride the main road 6 kilometers southeast of the town and within sight of the airfield, 1-327 IN, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Marcus Deoliveira, cleared the complexes of buildings on the southern end of the city. Clearing one complex brought the battalion under fire from the next, drawing it ever inward toward the center of the town. On Deoliveira's left, TF 2-327 IN would similarly attack into the town. A number of reports, apparently from special operations troops, of possible atrocities in the city fueled the momentum to go into the town. According to Hodges, "We started getting reports . . . that (the Fedayeen) were killing families to make guys come out and fight. So we started getting the sensing that there might be a disaster going on inside the city."43
Even before Hodges felt the pull into the town, Lieutenant General Wallace and Major General Petraeus discussed different options for dealing with An Najaf. They spoke or met daily as the division's efforts to isolate morphed into an outright attack to clear the city. Wallace recalled that the two of them arrived at the decision to clear the city, "partly as a consequence of enemy action. As the 101st took some ground, including the agricultural university [at the southwestern edge of town] and the airfield, to improve their security, they drew attacks from the Iraqis.... Over time, speaking daily with [Major] General Petraeus, we found that we would have to clear the town. An Najaf, in some ways, is to southern Iraq what Baghdad is to the entire country. It was important and it was big enough that we determined it would be a test case for fighting in Baghdad."44
Printing Maps at Battalion Level
Lieutenant Colonel Marcus deOliveira
commander, 1-327 IN,
commenting on producing maps in the field
24 May 2003
Major General Petraeus also believed that attacking An Najaf had much larger implications for the corps itself. In seizing An Najaf, the division employed precision tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) - integrating precision attack by the Air Force on targets immediately followed by ground attacks. They would use these TTPs elsewhere along the fight to Baghdad.45 This precision minimized collateral damage and maximized shock to the defenders. With the two senior commanders in accord, the "Screaming Eagles" transitioned to the attack.
Entering the Town: Clearing An Najaf
In developing the scheme of maneuver to clear the town, 101st planners built on the work they had done to contain forces in the city and subsequently isolate it from external reinforcement. "Screaming Eagles" planners developed estimates of exfiltration routes that they believed the Iraqis were using to exit An Najaf and attack US units and LOCs. Their analysis also included determining the routes the Iraqis used to reinforce An Najaf from the north. Obviously, that told them something about the routes going the other way and where they should anticipate trouble.
Using imagery, combat information generated by 3rd ID and SOF, and other intelligence, the division developed a plan that envisaged a two-brigade operation.46 The planners divided the city into rectangular sectors, providing a method for ready reference and a good means of coordinating fires and reporting cleared areas. Equipped with highly capable mapping software, battalions printed maps with their own "plotters." Thus, each battalion had the means to illustrate the plan clearly. Moreover, the battalion commanders could assure that every small unit had the detailed maps that an attack in a city demands.47 With little time to plan the transition from isolation to attack, the ability to generate detailed maps and the constant situational awareness provided by BFT enabled the attack.
Figure 147. Scheme to isolate An Najaf
Figure 148. 101st Airborne Division's attacks into An Najaf
Clearing An Najaf also required a major change in the division's thinking. The staff had focused its planning originally against Republican Guard defenses in the Karbala Gap. As the focus changed to supporting the continued advance of the 3rd ID, it wound up fighting, as Petraeus put it, "the enemy they found, not the enemy they planned for."48
Although the division ultimately used two brigades to clear the town, with 2nd BCT attacking from the north and 1st BCT attacking from the southwest, the task of making the initial penetration of the city fell to Colonel Hodges' 1st BCT. Just before the attack, the unit made last-minute adjustments and drew ammunition for the battle that everyone believed would be fierce. Building on the foothold Deoliveira won, Hodges' brigade attacked on 31 March.
Changing the mission from isolation to clearing happened fast enough to preclude methodical planning at the battalion level. Lieutenant Colonel Chris Hughes, commanding the TF 2-327 IN on TF 1-327 IN's northern flank, quickly assembled an armed leaders' reconnaissance, using an attached tank platoon and a borrowed M113. Hughes brought rich experience to his battalion with five combat training center rotations at the JRTC and NTC under his belt. He also commanded an OPFOR company at the JRTC for 22 rotations and deployed as a "lessons learned" collector to Haiti. Hughes believed in combined arms and joint fires and now he set the conditions to put theory into practice. His reconnaissance party included the two company commanders who would lead the attack on 31 March. Hughes brought his D Company and its TOW antitank missile launchers forward to overwatch from just outside the city. He positioned himself about 5 kilometers outside of Najaf where he could see and control the fight. Hughes' team included both an Air Force Tactical Air Control Party (TACP) and a Combat Observation Lasing Team (COLT) from the brigade.
Hughes launched his reconnaissance at 1500 to place the sun at their backs and in the eyes of potential defenders. The reconnaissance party immediately came under fire from dozens of paramilitary troops operating from inside and around a mosque. They attacked the tanks and M113 energetically with RPGs, small arms, and even howitzers in the direct-fire mode. Hughes brought in fighters, artillery, and Army aviation to support the team, which also managed to enter a minefield. Eventually, the party returned safely, covered by the battalion's antitank company, artillery, and CAS.49 The fight lasted nearly 4 hours. D Company, along with the reconnaissance party, had all the fight they wanted. D Company fired 56 TOW missiles against point targets, actually managing to hit one of the Iraqi towed howitzers. D Company fired on targets the tanks could not reach, adding their efforts to the 65 tank rounds the Abrams crews fired. British Tornados, and US F-16s, B-52s and B-1s dropped 12 500-pound bombs, seven 1,000-pound bombs and five JDAMs. Gunships fired several hundred rockets and unknown numbers of machine gun rounds. Finally, the reconnaissance party broke contact and, using plastic explosives, cleared a lane out of the minefield and returned unharmed.50
The Weak, the Stupid, and the Brave
"The stupid would fire from a window and come back and fire from the same window. The brave were the ones that would let us bypass them and wait and attack us."
Lieutenant Colonel Christopher P Hughes,
commander, TF 2-327 IN,
Using tanks and Bradleys attached from TF 2-70 AR, Hodges formed combined arms teams supported by artillery and air. Over the course of the fighting, he methodically carved out parts of the city and eventually reached the Ba'ath Party headquarters. Highly
Figure 149. 101st Airborne soldiers, south of An Najaf
Figure 150. Engineers clear the streets with a D9 armored bulldozer
Figure 151. Supporting fires south of An Najaf, 31 March 2003
accurate maps, with clear control graphics dividing the city into sectors, eased the challenge of coordinating the difficult handoffs between units and reduced the likelihood of killing innocent civilians or doing unnecessary damage to the city's infrastructure. Hughes' battalion eventually fought its way into the city and to the Mosque of Ali. Convinced from his conversations with Colonel Perkins and what his battalion learned over the course of three days, Hughes believed that most of the people in An Najaf neither wanted to fight him nor obstruct his efforts. Hughes had a Free-Iraq Fighter who he felt provided good advice on how to work with the local clerics and the Ayatollah to reduce the fighting in the town. During the initial assault, his Free-Iraq Fighters recommended not fighting during the calls to prayer. Accordingly, Hughes brought up his PSYOP unit and had it broadcast a message announcing to the locals that the American forces respected their religion and would not prevent them from praying at the Mosque of Ali. According to Hughes, hundreds of Iraqis took him at his word and demonstrated it by waving white flags from the escarpment that led to the mosque. He believed that this gesture resulted in little resistance when 2-327 IN entered the city, and he also garnered an invitation to meet with the Grand Ayatollah Sistani later.51
Take a Knee
Appraising the situation as he was leading his troops, he thought: "Why does a guerrilla want to fight? Give him what he needs and he will not fight." Lieutenant Colonel Hughes lived by the philosophy of Sun Tzu: "A great commander is one who does not shoot a weapon." [Sun Tzu is reported to have put it this way, "To subdue an enemy without fighting is the acme of skill.]
Contemplating these thoughts, he yelled to his troops to "take a knee and point your weapons to the ground; smile, and show no hostility." Some of the Iraqis backed off and sat down, which enabled Hughes to identify where in the crowd the troublemakers were. He identified eight. Wanting to make sure that it would be clear where the shooting would come from, he gave the order: "We're going to withdraw out of this situation and let them defuse it themselves."
Hughes made sure his soldiers understood cultural differences and the meaning of restraint. With his own rifle pointed toward the ground, he bowed to the crowd and turned away. Hughes and his infantry marched back to their compound in silence. When tempers had calmed, the Grand Ayatollah Sistani issued a decree (fatwa) calling on the people of Najaf to welcome Hughes' soldiers.
"This gesture of respect helped defuse a dangerous situation and made our peaceful intentions clear," commended President George W. Bush during his weekly radio address.
Lieutenant Colonel Christopher Hughes,
commander, 2-327 IN,
interview with Major (CH) Peter Baktis, 11 July 2003.
When his battalion attacked into town, Hughes once again took Sun Tzu's counsel in mind. Sun Tzu offered the illusion of a golden bridge to defeat an enemy. In short, Sun Tzu held if a commander afforded the enemy an apparent means of escape, the enemy would use it. As Sun Tzu put it, "Show him there is a road to safety and so create in his mind the idea that there is an alternative to death. Then strike." Hughes intentionally did not interdict a route leading from the Mosque of Ali and then north toward Al Hillah. He planned, with 2-17 CAV, a Kiowa Warrior ambush on the route north of the town supported by his scouts, snipers, and TACP. The air cavalry executed the ambush with great success.52
Figure 152. The 101st Airborne Division "Thunder Run" in An Najaf
Although the division's operation to take An Najaf took nearly five days to complete, the turning point may well have come on 1 April, when A/2-70 AR attacked to the center of town. Alpha Company's mini-"Thunder Run" demonstrated the power of the US forces and that, just as Colonel Dave Perkins had told Lieutenant Colonel Chris Hughes, American tanks could move anywhere they wanted without hindrance.53 Leaders from platoon to corps took note of this. The next day, they conducted another run through the eastern side of the city. The combination of these two raids seemed to break the back of the resistance.
Joint Fires Support
But a handful of tanks did not assure success. A combination of guile, using tanks and infantry, supported by the 101st's organic air cavalry and attack aviation, coupled with CAS and artillery, that kept Hodges' brigade from, in his words, getting "stuck in a `Stalingrad' kind of city fight."54 The 101st employed all of the capabilities it could obtain from the joint and Army team. Using Air Force precision munitions to attack Ba'ath Party sites enabled the 101st to destroy centers of resistance while minimizing damage to the city. The division's own organic aviation provided valuable support as well. Both air cavalry and attack helicopters joined the fray, destroying more than 300 vehicles or weapon systems ranging from air defense artillery to "technical" vehicles.55
After the second armor raid, 1st Brigade maneuvered rifle companies using the sectors they had designated. They attacked deep into An Najaf against Saddam Fedayeen strong points, seizing important buildings and destroying massive amounts of captured equipment, ammunition, and weapons. Attacking the town from the north, the 2nd Brigade employed similar techniques with similar results. Coordinating the attacks, the division established a limit of advance to prevent fratricide as the two brigades converged. By the end of the day on 4 April, the 101st Airborne Division controlled An Najaf. What remained was to assure security and to transition from fighting on one block and handing out MREs on the next to assuring security and conducting stability operations and support operations.56
In An Najaf, the division started its adaptation to the enemy at hand. It learned from 3rd ID and subsequently from its own attacks in An Najaf, Al Kifl, and Al Hillah. At Al Kifl, the soldiers validated what they learned here--they "allowed the tanks to react to the initial small- arms fire [and then maneuvered] the infantry against the enemy once contact was made."57 Eventually, the division fought in eight different cities, noting that each required slightly different approaches based on the terrain and prevailing conditions. But the essential lesson of these urban fights was that integrating combined arms, heavy and light forces, armored raids, and a liberal application of precision airpower applied in each case.58 Their tactics evolved rapidly as the troops adapted to the enemy, and these fights proved useful as "dress rehearsals" for subsequent operations in Baghdad and elsewhere.
The 101st Airborne Division Feints toward Al Hillah (31 March)
After 2nd BCT took control of the bridge at Objective JENKINS, V Corps ordered the division to conduct a feint toward Al Hillah some 25 kilometers north. Accordingly, the 101st assigned this mission to Colonel Anderson and his 2nd BCT. Part of Lieutenant General Wallace's five simultaneous attacks, he intended for the feint to mislead the Iraqis as to the direction and composition of the main effort. By attacking north, the feint also would support 3rd ID's attack at Objective MURRAY. Thus, the division had to attack with sufficient force and for a sufficient duration to convince the Iraqis it was serious.
Task Organization and Planning
Since TF 2-70 AR was already at JENKINS and organized as a task force of two combined- arms company teams, Colonel Anderson assigned this mission to Lieutenant Colonel Ingram's well-traveled Thunderbolts. To support the feint, the division provided AH-64 Apaches from 3-101 AVN. Anderson's direct-support artillery, 1-320 FA, now composed of four 105mm howitzer batteries and a reinforcing 155mm howitzer battery, joined the fight as well. Ingram called this operation "Thunderbolt Fake." Although there was little time to plan, Ingram, who colleagues describe as unflappable, was not dismayed. In his mind, this is what tank battalions do. As he put it, "tank battalions are great at reacting. The NTC prepares you for that."59
The light infantry seemed undismayed as well. Their training also included combined heavy and light forces. For his part, Ingram believed that his attached light infantry company was "one of the best organizations I've seen. . . .with those guys behind me, I never had to look back. I knew where they were and what they were doing so. . . I could focus on the stuff to my front."60
At 0600, the Thunderbolts launched north with C/2 502 IN attacking along the Euphrates River road, just east of the river. Two kilometers to the east, B/2-70 AR made the main effort, attacking due north along the highway leading to Al Hillah. Given the ferocity of counterattacks against the bridgehead, it is not surprising that the task force immediately came under fire across its front. The Thunderbolts nonetheless continued to advance against the defenders firing a mix of RPGs, small arms, and artillery from two Iraqi D-30 towed 152mm batteries.
The Thunderbolts' tactics were well adapted to the urban fighting. Generally, a tank platoon led each of the two teams, with the infantry following. The tanks suppressed fire, and as the infantry came forward, the tanks ceased firing their main guns and passed the fight to the infantry--a straightforward tactic but hard to execute under fire. Not long after crossing the line of departure, B/2-70 AR suffered two casualties in its attached infantry platoon from C/2-502 IN, including one killed.
In the west, 1 hour into the attack and about 3 kilometers north of the bridge, Ingram ordered C/2-502 IN to assume hasty defensive positions. He further directed the infantry to deal with the enemy it was engaging and then to withdraw to the bridge. Faced with heavier contact in the east, Ingram called for attack helicopters and supporting artillery.61
Controlling and supporting the fight at TF 2-70 AR's command post located at Al Kifl, Anderson cycled artillery and air support as the Thunderbolts required. Heavy fighting persisted through the morning, but the Thunderbolts continued to make their way north toward the limit of advance, just 2 kilometers south of Al Hillah. Lieutenant Colonel Bill Bennett, commanding the supporting artillery, began his day at the 2nd Brigade command post south of Objective JENKINS to ensure that the preparation fires went off as planned. He now found that he had to
Figure 153. Lieutenant General William Wallace (left) and Lieutenant
Colonel Jeffrey Ingram, commander, 2nd Battalion, 70th Armor, standing in
formation for a ceremony
bound artillery forward to continue to support the attack. By 1000, his 155mm battery and one of his 105mm batteries moved north on Highway 9 on the west bank of the Euphrates. The two batteries bounded by platoon, laying their guns and firing right from the highway to stay close enough to respond rapidly to calls for fire.62
Colonel Anderson, with Bennett in tow, moved out of Al Kifl at 1000 and joined Lieutenant Colonel Ingram forward. Bennett's 155mm battery silenced the D-30s, while the 105mm howitzers fired rocket-assisted projectiles (RAPs) for the Thunderbolts. Bennett had the opportunity to see his guns in action as Thunderbolt scouts some 400 meters to his front adjusted fire onto Iraqi targets. Bennett was delighted with the accuracy of his guns, given that they had not had time to calibrate muzzle velocities for the propellants they had been issued. Moreover, they lacked the weather data to determine winds aloft and other information that would enable them to do the arcane mathematics that assured the highest accuracy. In short, according to Bennett, it was just like training at the JRTC, "...civilians on the battlefield, (operating) with fragmentary orders, with rapid moves (no time to plan)..."63
Overhead, C/3-101 AV supported with close-combat attacks and armed reconnaissance. Some of Charlie Company's aviators had fought in Afghanistan, so they well knew the danger posed by ground fire. More important, they learned running fire in Afghanistan. Thus, they were at least moving targets when they approached danger areas. As the Thunderbolts moved north, attacking up a four-lane highway, they were constrained as they passed through built-up areas
Figure 154. The 101st Airborne Division's attack to Al Hillah
on the way to Al Hillah. Accordingly, the task force asked the attack helicopters to reconnoiter the flanks as far as 5 kilometers north of the ground units. This proved dangerous as the Iraqis had S-60 air defense artillery guns hidden among palm trees. In the end, the aviators weathered intense fires, and along with Bennett's artillery, destroyed 26 S-60s, 12 D-30s, 6 mortars, and a "whole bunch of infantry."64 The attack helicopters did not achieve this without cost. The Iraqis damaged eight aircraft and wounded the company commander. However, of the eight, all but one returned to action soon.65
Figure 155. An Apache from 101st Airborne Division over Al Hillah
Despite the relative success of the combined-arms team fielded that day, the fighting never really tapered off. The Iraqis stayed in the fight and used human shields with fairly good effect. More than once aviators, who could see planned artillery targets from overhead, waved off fire missions due to the presence of civilians on the scene and intermingled with militia or Iraqi troops. During the course of the day, the task force identified units of the Nebuchadnezzar Division among the Iraqi defenders. Finally, at 1830 the battalion concluded its feint, reporting some 250 enemy killed. The Thunderbolts also destroyed two tanks and 15 other vehicles.66 With such an intense fight, the feint went far to convince the Iraqis that the rest of the corps would attack up this same route.67
The 101st Airborne Division Armed Recon South of Bahr al-Milh Lake (31 March 1 April)
On 31 March 2003, 2-101st Attack Aviation Battalion received orders to conduct an early morning armed reconnaissance southwest of Bahr al-Milh Lake. The mission was also part of the V Corps' five simultaneous attacks. With the rest of the 101st moving on the eastern flank along the Euphrates River valley, the 2-101st would determine if there were any enemy forces on 3rd ID's western flank. The pilots took off just before sunrise, using night vision systems to fly to their objective, but the sun had risen by the time they arrived in the designated area.68
Those guys Were Awesome!
Corporal Richard Bergquist,
C/2-7 IN, attached to 3-69 AR
The pilots of 2-101st looked carefully but found only a small group of antiaircraft weapons set up to guard an ammunition supply point. As the AH-64s approached the Iraqi guns, the gun crews ran out of a building to man the systems to fire at the Americans. The pilots engaged and killed the crews and destroyed the guns before the Iraqis could man their weapons. Additionally, the flyers discovered large caches of ammunition, which they reported but were unable to destroy because of low fuel. They continued reconnaissance flights southwest of Bahr al-Milh Lake the next day.69
On 1 April, just as the aircraft of 2-101st were returning to base after another long day of looking for enemy forces in the open desert, the unit received an order to send two attack aviation companies to conduct a hasty attack to the southwest side of Bahr al-Milh Lake. V Corps had received a report via JSTARS that was interpreted as a large number of enemy vehicles moving in the area. The corps feared the enemy was mounting a counterattack.70 The battalion's ground crews immediately went to work rearming and refueling the aircraft. Charlie Company lifted off within 45 minutes of notification of the mission, a truly amazing feat. The company, along with the battalion commander in his aircraft, proceeded to the objective and conducted an armed reconnaissance of the area. Although they never found a large enemy formation (it probably was not there to begin with), the pilots took advantage of the situation and attacked the large ammunition supply point they had seen the day before.71
On the same day, the corps tasked 6-6 CAV to conduct a force-oriented zone reconnaissance of the western flank as far as Phase Line VERMONT. Fuel constraints did not permit the squadron to reconnoiter all the way to the designated phase line. However, it was able to make it to Phase Line CODY before the aircraft had to return to base. The squadron encountered no enemy forces. Wallace now knew that no significant Iraqi force could threaten his far western flank as he moved through the Karbala Gap toward Baghdad.
The 82nd Airborne Division Clears As Samawah (31 March 6 April)
As Samawah had been a thorn in V Corps' side since the very beginning of the war. The 3-7 CAV, leading the corps' attack, had fought a tough fight there, as had the following task force, 3rd BCT's TF 2-7 IN.72 Later the 3rd BCT defeated a long series of attacks launched from the city against the division's vulnerable and vital supply lines. The 2nd Brigade of the 82nd Airborne had relieved the 3rd BCT on 28 March and assumed the mission to keep the Iraqis from interfering with the logistics flow north. Colonel Arnie Bray's brigade would now remove the thorn by entering the town and clearing it once and for all as part of the five simultaneous V Corps attacks.
Colonel Bray felt ready for the task. He had no illusions about the fight and no pre-conceived notions about the enemy. Bray believed the enemy would fight differently than he expected. Bray's conviction stemmed from two rotations at the NTC, two more at the CMTC, and a fifth at the NTC as part of a Joint Forces Command exercise called MILLENNIUM CHALLENGE. In each of these experiences, along with his experiences in Bosnia and Panama, Bray learned that the adversary seldom behaves as expected. In short, the opposing forces cheat--they never play by the rules. Bray found that true again at As Samawah where the enemy "used mosques, fired from hospitals, used ambulances to resupply. They would surrender with a white flag and then duck behind a vehicle and fire. They took civilians and used them as hostages."73 Bray anticipated this, telling his troops on arrival in Kuwait, "You know what? This damned OPFOR (enemy) cheats just like the guys back at CMTC."74 Bray's comparison of the enemy to what the troops call the "lying, cheating, stealing OPFOR" is not unusual. Most commanders and troops found that their training centers replicated the enemy far better than they expected and, in any case, gave them fair warning of the possibility. Bray made no judgments about the enemy's behavior, but neither did it surprise him. He described it as "that is home field advantage."75
Ultimately Bray experienced each of these "OPFOR" tricks for himself, but he first learned of them from 3rd ID. Bray and his brigade had planned nearly every conceivable contingency for which they might be used from sudden regime collapse to operations on islands in the Gulf. One thing was always clear to him and the brigade--they would go north. Lieutenant General McKiernan made that plain when he briefed the 82nd's leadership in early March. According to Bray, McKiernan described the options for the 82nd as either the regime collapses and the 82nd is used to secure the area or the regime fights and the 82nd goes forward to "secure the LOCs, bridges or other things but you got to go north. The only constant is that you got to go north." 76 Bray anticipated the LOC security mission to be his most likely because at the CFLCC "rock drill" in Camp Doha in late February, General Wallace brought it up for discussion.77 Getting the word to go north therefore came as no surprise. Every echelon of command from CFLCC to Bray's battalions ruminated on and planned for the possibility of committing the paratroopers to secure LOCs.
Bray arrived in the area of operations on the evening of 26 March. The following day he relieved Colonel Dan Allyn's 3rd BCT of responsibility for As Samawah. Allyn handed off TF 1-41 IN, good combat information on the town and introduced Bray to special forces troops operating in the area. The special forces troops also introduced Bray to "other government agency folks."78 Bray now found what every unit that remained in the same area for a few days did. Units in contact produce combat information and are able to develop intelligence about an area over time. Generally in Operation IRAQI FREEDOM, units had by this time garnered information that proved accurate so that they could act on that information with confidence, as the 101st did in An Najaf. For example, on the basis of radar data and firing incidents, Colonel Allyn advised Bray that the enemy in As Samawah had about 20 mortars. Bray confirmed that by destroying approximately 20 mortars and the attacks ceased.79 Bray's task ultimately included clearing As Samawah, but it began with guidance to open Highway 8 to coalition use. The end state from General Swannack was clear as well. According to Bray, Swannack said, "I don't want anybody or anything to touch a US or coalition force along this road." 80 Abundantly clear guidance and not attainable if the enemy remained in the southern part of the town.
On the evenings of 29 and 30 March, the brigade probed As Samawah to gain information about enemy locations, dispositions, and intentions. The 3-325 Airborne Infantry Regiment (AIR) attacked from the southeast along with TF 1-41 IN. The units made good use of these initial attacks, learning how to integrate the light and heavy forces in urban terrain
Figure 156. 82nd Airborne attacks in and around As Samawah
and confirming the superiority of US forces at night. The 3-325 AIR found that moving into positions at night to engage enemy forces when they moved at first light was an effective tactic. These probing attacks typically provoked Iraqi mortar and RPG fire, but the paratroopers countered with mortar and artillery fire of their own, with much greater effect. The first night's combat resulted in 14 enemy KIA and 3 WIA at a cost of one American WIA. More important, the brigade developed intelligence with each of these attacks. Generally, the heavy troops developed information on Iraqi TTP that saved the infantry from learning it on foot or in HMMWVs.81
Beginning on the morning of 30 March, the brigade conducted a series of simultaneous limited attacks from the east, west, and south of the city. Colonel Bray based his plan on intelligence the brigade S2, Major Michael Marti, assembled from earlier operations, the special forces teams, and from local Iraqi citizens. These attacks and the earlier probes resulted in the brigade learning the local patterns of operation. According to Major Marti, these patterns were straightforward. At the outskirts of town the Iraqis, and perhaps some Syrians, employed suicidal attacks. In the city they fought house to house, employing human shields, and near the bridge over the Euphrates the paramilitary troops employed RPGs fired in volleys and mortars registered on the road and bridge. Marti observed, "They never changed the way they fought, so we were able to use appropriate tactics to counter. Fighting started at 0800 local every day and then stopped at 1800. It was like they were punching a clock like Wile E. Coyote in the cartoon." 82 Marti believed that the intelligence overlay provided to the 2nd Brigade by the 3rd ID's 1-30 IN proved invaluable in helping to discern patterns they could exploit. Based on what they learned from the 3rd ID, SOF troops operating in As Samawah, and on their own, Colonel Bray and his staff concluded they needed to focus on the Ba'ath Party leadership. Accordingly, they targeted and struck sites where they perceived Ba'ath command and control nodes would be.83
The attacks of 30 March and earlier probes prepared the brigade for the main attack to seize the city and the bridges to the north. Driving the enemy north of the river would preclude ground attacks against Highway 8. TF 1-41 IN, which had two mechanized infantry companies but no tank company, manned checkpoints south of the town and made some limited advances north. The 1-325 AIR attacked from the east, and 3-325 AIR attacked from the west to draw out the Iraqi defenders and kill them.84 A special forces A-Team 555, with considerable experience gained during operations in Afghanistan the year before, provided valuable targeting and intelligence support. The enemy in As Samawah attempted to reinforce with fresh troops coming down from the north along Highway 8. The AC-130 gunships and Air Force A-10 CAS aircraft hit targets north of the river, attacking these reinforcing units and the marshaling sites the Iraqis were using.
The brigade began its assault on 31 March to cut off Iraqi ground access to Highway 8, with the 1st and 3rd Battalions of the 325th AIR attacking from the east and west. TF 1-41 IN attacked from the southeast while simultaneously securing the ground LOCs south of As Samawah. CAS and AC-130 gunships also supported the attack.85 Kiowa Warriors from division provided support as well. The light attack helicopters proved effective in attacking point targets in the city. In one instance, one of the companies identified an enemy mortar position to an attack pilot by first having him locate a particular blue door and then describing the target location in respect to the blue door. The pilot and some his friends destroyed the mortar position.86 Although the Iraqis fought back with determination, the brigade continued to make steady progress advancing deliberately. The 1-325 AIR executed the initial thrust seizing a toehold on the city's southeastern outskirts. The troops encountered particularly stiff resistance when they stormed a cement factory the paramilitaries were using as a forward observation point and a weapons cache. The paratroopers supported the assault using their .50- caliber sniper rifles, to pick off defenders from great distances. They also fired TOW missiles to destroy a Ba'ath Party headquarters and against an Iraqi sniper in a tall smokestack near the cement factory.87
Many of the local Iraqi civilians did not leave the area during the fight. At one point, 4 hours into C/1-325 AIR's attack on the cement factory, battalion Command Sergeant Major Ortiz and his driver, Specialist Hutto, watched two mortar rounds pass directly over their heads, landing in the center of a flock of sheep and several shepherds that had not moved away from the area. In fact, both the sheep and shepherds were seemingly unconcerned about the battle raging around them. Sadly, the Iraqi mortar rounds killed several sheep and wounded two of the shepherds.88
The two battalions' pincer movements into the city appeared to force some pro-Saddam forces to flee from the north end of As Samawah. However, the "All Americans" closed the trap by using the division's Kiowa Warrior helicopters to attack the fleeing men and vehicles with accurate rocket and machine gun fires.89 More important, by sunset on 31 March Bray's paratroopers had driven the Iraqi defenders away from Highway 8. At this point in the fighting, Bray felt frustrated by having inadequate intelligence from inside the town. The special forces troopers had not penetrated into As Samawah, so most of what they reported came from a contact in the town. Bray did have contact with one of the local tribal chiefs, who swore if Bray got tanks in town that he (the sheik) would produce 600 fighters of his own. In the end, Bray delivered, but the sheik did not. Still, information improved daily as the troops penetrated As Samawah.90
Squeezing As Samawah
On 1 April, the attacks continued against objectives within indirect-fire range of the corps' LOCs. The 2-325 AIR, which had arrived at As Samawah on 31 March, participated in this attack. The commander and staff had planned their operation in the 1-325 AIR headquarters only 3 1/2 hours before going into action. On 2 April, 2-325 AIR then feinted westward along the river toward the bridges. This attack drew concentrated machine gun and mortar fire from Iraqi forces north of the river. The battalion estimated that it killed about 50 Iraqi fighters.91 During this series of limited objective attacks, the brigade estimated that it killed from 300 to 400 Iraqis and destroyed approximately 30 civilian trucks mounting heavy machine guns.92
On 3 April, the brigade conducted several attacks within the city, while the long-range weapons of TF 1-41 IN's Bradleys contained the Iraqis attempting to exit the city to the south. Although he tried to avoid attacking hospitals, Colonel Bray had to launch an attack against one on the west side of town that was being used as a support area for the enemy. The soldiers also engaged a paramilitary force assembling on an athletic field, using Kiowa Warriors, field artillery, and CAS. TF 1-41 IN eventually drove through the city all the way to the bank of the Euphrates River.
Seizing the Bridges
On 4 April, the brigade ordered 2-325 AIR and TF 1-41 IN to seize the key bridges over the Euphrates River. Taking the bridges would enable convoys to move through As Samawah instead of bypassing it, fully opening up the LOC. At 0335, following a 30-minute mortar and artillery preparation, TF 1-41 IN attacked, followed by 2-325 AIR. Their combined attack flushed the Iraqi soldiers into streets and buildings on the northern outskirts of the city, where they were picked off in house-to-house combat. The Iraqis either surrendered or were shot. Shots from men in a taxi crossing the bridge crackled just a few feet from the US soldiers. The Americans returned fire and destroyed the taxi before it could escape across the Euphrates.93
"We have people surrendering in this next building," an 82nd Airborne unit commander called over the radio. In another radio transmission, a soldier announced discovering three Iraqi artillery pieces. By midday, three plumes of oily smoke from destroyed Iraqi vehicles drifted across the skyline.94 Three US soldiers were wounded in the fighting and dozens of Iraqi soldiers were killed or wounded. Several civilians, wounded in the assault, sought medical help from US troops after the fighting.
The attack was successfully concluded, and the Bradleys of TF 1-41 IN moved north to set up blocking positions along Highway 8 toward Ar Rumaythah.95 For much of the night, an Air Force AC-130 gunship pounded Iraqi positions along the north side of the river. The sound of .50-caliber machine guns, grenades, and Hellfire missiles from Kiowa helicopters firing on the Iraqi paramilitary soldiers rang through the city.96 Seizing the bridges across the Euphrates kept the Iraqis from sending more fighters and supplies into the southern part of the city. The 2nd BCT now turned its attention to attacking north along Highway 8, toward Ad Diwaniyah.97
The protracted fighting in As Samawah apparently drew enemy forces down to the south, denuding Ar Rumaythah of Iraqi fighters. The townsfolk there threw the Ba'ath Party officials out of the town and celebrated the arrival of the American paratroopers.98 By 6 April, organized resistance in the area collapsed and the townspeople came out in mass.
Setting the Baghdad Cordon
The corps commander asked the division what were its plans if the division receives a chemical attack in Karbala. The division commander said they have numerous preplanned decon sites, but in the short run they would continue the mission and decon at the first opportunity.
The corps commander asked if there would be any combat power left between Karbala and An Najaf once the 3rd ID attacks. The 3rd ID plan is to keep two Linebacker [Bradley Stinger Fighting Vehicles] companies back to keep LOCs open.
The corps commander said he is not concerned about the fighting strength of the 3rd ID but that he has concerns about the logistics tail of the 3rd ID.
The corps commander asked how many [days of supply] the 3rd ID has to go forward with. The3rdIDcommandersaidmostunitshavesix[daysofsupply]andsomehaveuptoeight.
Scribe notes of Lieutenant General Wallace,
meeting with 3rd ID senior leaders
31 March 2003, 1715.
With the Iraqis off-balance from the cumulative effects of the five simultaneous attacks, the 3rd ID now prepared to execute the corps' main effort--breaching the Karbala Gap and attacking Republican Guard forces directly. Although the combined effects of Army aviation deep strikes and unrelenting Air Force strikes appeared to have weakened the Medina division, Major General Blount and Lieutenant General Wallace expected its remnants to present a credible threat. Moreover, the gap also marked the boundary for the Iraqi's self-declared "Red Zone," where intelligence reporting indicated Saddam had authorized chemical weapon strikes to check the advance. Thus, facing an expected combined-arms threat heavily reinforced with artillery, a ubiquitous paramilitary threat, and the potential for chemical weapons, the 3rd ID attacked north.
What followed was an exercise in command initiative, momentum, and classic exploitation of success. The 3rd ID did not find a coherent Medina Division capable of a coordinated defense. Rather, any organized conventional resistance was smaller than company-size. Much of the Iraqi equipment, although well placed in prepared positions, was abandoned. While the paramilitary troops continued to attack out of the towns, Karbala in particular, there were not as many as the division had seen in As Samawah and An Najaf. And, finally, the Iraqis did not employ chemical weapons. Thus once through the gap, the division continued on to Objective PEACH, a bridge on the Euphrates, crossed the river and advanced into objectives SAINTS, LIONS, and TITANS in a continuous series of attacks.
However, enemy intentions remained unclear to the division and corps as the events unfolded. Uncertainty abounded as to what available information and events said about the Iraqi defenses in and around Baghdad. Yet instead of slowing his division's tempo to better assess and understand the enemy situation, Major General Blount pushed forward relentlessly. As the division advanced through the Karbala Gap to Objectives SAINTS and LIONS, he accelerated the attack in order to exploit success. As the BCTs achieved each objective faster than projected, Blount and Wallace worked to keep the Iraqis off-balance and unable to respond effectively. Of course, they balanced aggressiveness against uncertainty stemming from what they did not know, but both understood the value of retaining the initiative. Aggressive and persistent attacks appear to have prevented the Iraqis from ever regaining their balance or their ability to operate coherently. The Iraqi's best-prepared defense of their most valuable piece of terrain--Baghdad--crumbled and did so rapidly.
Breaching the "Red Zone": Karbala Gap (2-3 April)
|Yes, the American troops have advanced farther. This will only make it easier for us to defeat them.|
Iraqi Information Minister
Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf,
The Karbala Gap was, in military parlance, "key terrain." A narrow corridor with little room to maneuver, the Karbala Gap still offered the best high-speed avenue of approach to Baghdad. This gateway to outer Baghdad would also serve as the main supply route once the division and corps established the cordon positions. The Iraqis also realized this, and planned to defend at the gap with the Medina Division, eventually reinforcing with other Republican Guard units as the Medina withered under coalition strikes. However, the actual Iraqi disposition was hard to discern with clarity. The mixture of units and the confusion about whether any specific unit would fight, run, hide, or just evaporate, made it difficult to gauge accurately the conventional threat in the gap.99 What is clear and is proven by the captured map discussed earlier is that the Iraqi defense shifted with more focus to the south, thus leaving the Karbala Gap lightly defended.
Moreover, the town of Karbala, on the eastern shoulder of the gap, promised to be a threat similar to that experienced at An Najaf and As Samawah. For these reasons, the 3rd ID had to fight its way through the gap, defeat any defending Iraqi conventional forces that stood between it and the city, and isolate and eventually neutralize any paramilitary threat to the force or the LOCs.
Figure 157. The scheme for the isolation of Baghdad
Challenges of Templating the Enemy
At the other echelon, two battalions were shown as unlocated and one battalion was in the vicinity of its garrison location. One echelon assessed a maneuver defense from Karbala with one battalion in the gap, while another had the enemy defending from its garrison and controlling bridges, and a third echelon had the enemy defending bridges from the eastern side.
Major John Altman
brigade S2, 1st BCT, 3rd ID
derived from interview, 15 May 2003
The division developed a relatively simple scheme of maneuver. The 3rd BCT would lead the attack with the mission of isolating the town of Karbala. As from the start, the plan intended for units to avoid entering the built-up areas that offered the paramilitary defenders obvious advantages. The 3rd BCT would isolate the eastern portion of Karbala, while 1st BCT would follow to isolate the western portion and seize key bridges on Highway 28 and a dam on the western side of the gap, designated Objective MUSCOGEE. Once it seized the dam, the 1st BCT would continue on, attacking through Objective CHARGERS slightly north of Karbala, where it expected to find the remnants of a Medina brigade. Finally, the plan required the 1st BCT to seize Objective PEACH, the division's real crossing site over the Euphrates River.
The 2nd BCT would leave Objective MURRAY, its previous feint objective, to follow 1st BCT and cross the Euphrates at PEACH to continue the attack on the east side of the river. After crossing the river, the 2nd BCT planned to seize Objective SAINTS, located at the intersection of Highways 1 and 8 about 15 kilometers south of the Baghdad city center. When he deemed the time right, Perkins planned to use one or more task forces to attack south from SAINTS toward Objective BALDWIN and then Objective CASEY to destroy Iraqi units located east of the river. The division scheme of maneuver required 3-7 CAV to move through the gap and maneuver to the northwest to protect the 3rd ID's western flank.
The division was concerned about a possible counterattack by the Hammurabi Division, then located to the west of Baghdad. The intended end state for these attacks envisioned 2nd BCT across the Euphrates, 1st BCT at the crossing site and prepared to attack north to Objective LIONS, and 3rd BCT containing Karbala. Once the 101st arrived to relieve 3rd BCT at Karbala, the 3rd would cross the river at PEACH and attack north to seize Objective TITANS to isolate the western side of Baghdad.
Figure 158. Scheme of maneuver from Karbala Gap through Objective PEACH
Launching the Attack
Having rearmed and refitted from the fight around As Samawah, 3rd BCT led 3rd ID's attack. Expecting a possible chemical attack, the division wore overgarments designed to protect against chemical weapons. At midnight on 1 April, TF 2-69 AR initiated the 3rd BCT's attack to isolate Karbala. TF 2-69 AR conducted a forward passage of lines through 2nd BCT and attacked to isolate the eastern side of the city. The TF 2-69 AR met minimal contact while working through the severely restrictive wetlands to the east of Karbala. TF 2-69 AR eventually established a blocking position on a paved road running south of Highway 9.100
At 0200 on 2 April, 1st BCT attacked with TF 3-69 AR on the right and TF 3-7 IN on the left to isolate the western side of Karbala and seize Objective MUSCOGEE. The brigade seized two crossing sites and then moved to contain Karbala from the west. They made contact with dismounted forces on the western outskirts of Karbala, fighting through the resistance quickly in an effort to get through the gap during the night. At 0533, TF 3-69 AR killed numerous dismounts and destroyed a mortar platoon in the vicinity of the Highway 28 bridge on Objective MUSCOGEE.101 By 0600, TF 3-69 AR had seized both the bridge and dam on MUSCOGEE and cleared a minefield blocking Highway 8. Throughout the fight, an attack helicopter company supported 1st BCT by attacking targets north of the dam at MUSCOGEE and artillery east of the dam.102
Figure 159. V Corps' plan to breach the Karbala Gap
As the battalions' parallel attacks progressed, the Iraqis responded with rocket and howitzer fire from the east. The brigade called in CAS to deal with the rocket artillery, and DIVARTY fired counterbattery missions in response to radar acquisitions. CAS and counterbattery silenced the Iraqi artillery, helping to protect the brigades as they transited the gap. Air Force and Navy aircraft flying in the vicinity of Karbala also contributed when they identified and destroyed an armored column moving from the north side of the city toward the dam on Objective MUSCOGEE.103
Sensing an opportunity, Brigadier General Lloyd Austin, the 3rd ID ADC-M, decided to maintain the momentum by continuing the attack to the river. He directed 3rd BCT to relieve 1st BCT at Karbala so that 1st BCT could attack to seize the bridges at Objective PEACH. Consequently, 3rd BCT's TF 1-30 IN relieved 1st BCT's TF 2-7 IN. At 0648 on 2 April, 3rd BCT assumed sole responsibility both for isolating Karbala and securing Objective MUSCOGEE. The division ordered the 937th EN group forward and attached it to 3rd BCT to control traffic flow over the bridge at Objective MUSCOGEE. With the gap secured and Karbala isolated, 3-7 CAV moved through at 0854 en route to protect the northwest flank. The squadron had its ground troops in their initial position within 21/2 hours.104
Finding the Way
This would not have been the. . . course of action anyone would have selected. Everyone was under contact--1-64 AR destroyed several motorized rifle companies going through Karbala; 1-15 got into contact at 2100 when it turned into a swamp; and 4-64 turned west and got into a firefight. . . [but] the intent was to maintain momentum.
What I think helped was that we had FBCB2 and BFT; I could track where the brigade was on all the "snail trails." I could conduct time-distance calculations to determine how long it would take for units to cover their respective routes.
Colonel David Perkins
Commander, 2nd BCT, 3rd ID,
command briefing, 18 May 2003.
The 1st and 3rd BCTs' quick successes in isolating Karbala and moving through the gap had cascading consequences, allowing Major General Blount to accelerate the 2nd BCT's timeline also. However, to do that the brigade had to change its route. Now, rather than following 1st BCT through the gap along congested roads, 2nd BCT planned a new route east of Karbala. Theoretically, this would allow the brigade to get through PEACH more quickly, increasing the pressure on the Iraqi defenses east of the Euphrates River. The 2nd BCT started moving north on 2 April.105
Unfortunately, the move to the east proved to be a tougher task than either Blount or Colonel Perkins had anticipated. The 2nd BCT quickly discovered that the new routes could not support its movement. The road east of Karbala was cratered in earlier fighting, and there were still paramilitary forces in the zone. The ubiquitous irrigation canals, soft soil, and narrow, unimproved secondary roads further impeded movement. The brigade bogged down, and at 1634, Perkins elected to turn the trailing four-fifths of his brigade around. They retraced their route and moved to the west of Karbala to get to PEACH.106 Thus, only the lead units, TF 1-15 IN and the tactical command post--aided by an armored vehicle-launched bridge (AVLB)-- negotiated the route east of Karbala. The remainder of the BCT, TF 3-15 IN, TF 1-64 AR, TF 1-64 AR, 1-9 FA, and the 26th FSB moved around to the west of Karbala on Highway 28. At one point, Perkins had units moving along four separate routes, all in enemy contact. As a result, 2nd BCT did not reach Objective PEACH until 3 April.107
Crossing the Euphrates: Objective PEACH (2 April)
Just like Vietnam
Lieutenant Colonel Rock Marcone
Commander, 3-69 Armor
interview 15 May 2003 by Lieutenant Colonel David Manning
While 2nd BCT maneuvered to take advantage of the division's success around Karbala, 1st BCT initiated its attack to secure PEACH, the crossing site over the Euphrates. At 1229 on 2 April, 1st BCT's TF 3-69 AR attacked from Objective CHARGERS, north of the Karbala area, to seize the bridge on Objective PEACH. Meanwhile, 3rd BCT continued to defeat enemy forces in and around Karbala, holding the right shoulder of the gap open while providing traffic control for the division's movement through the gap.108
Forty minutes later, the brigade reported that TF 3-69 AR, Power, had reached the southern edges of PEACH, and TF 2-7 IN had arrived in EA HANNAH. Lieutenant Colonel Marcone, the
Figure 160. V Corps' Scheme of maneuver, Objective PEACH to Objective SAINTS
commander of TF 3-69 AR, planned the attack in two stages. First he planned to seize ground on the near side of the river from which he could suppress enemy on the far side and generate smoke to obscure the crossing site. Once Marcone had his suppression forces established, he intended for his assault forces to attack through the crossing site on the Euphrates and expand the bridgehead while securing other key terrain to facilitate follow-on V Corps operations to Baghdad.109
Marcone sent his scouts out first to develop the situation. The scouts immediately got into a fight beyond their means to win. The enemy had positioned a battalion of infantry on the western approaches to the bridges at PEACH. There were also elements of an enemy reconnaissance battalion in the area. Marcone committed his Alpha Company to clear the zone along the river up to the near side of the crossing site and used his mortars to support the assault to the crossing site. 1-41 Field Artillery Battalion moved with and fired in direct support of TF 3-69 AR. Marcone also had a company of Apaches flying in support of his assault. Marcone and his staff coupled their mortars and artillery with CAS to suppress the defenders as his troops approached the bridge. The task force also fired artillery where it estimated the enemy would position troops to fire demolitions to drop the bridge. TF 3-69 AR had learned from defending the bridge at JENKINS just how the Iraqis prepared bridges for demolition. At JENKINS, the Iraqis employed demolition-firing mechanisms apparently made in Germany to German army specifications. The task force analyzed the gear and reached some general conclusions about how far from the bridge the enemy engineers could, or would be. By map analysis, Marcone and his engineers reached some conclusions about where the trigger teams might be positioned, and so the redlegs from 1-41 FA leveled that ground with deadly accurate artillery fires.110
Figure 161. TF 3-69 AR's attack toward Objective PEACH
Electronic attacks against enemy command nets sought to degrade the Iraqis' ability to offer a coordinated defense. By 1500, TF 3-69 AR had secured the west shore of the bridges and A/11 Engineers began to check them for demolitions. The Apaches and CAS continued to engage targets on the far shore in support of the operation.111As TF 3-69 AR approached the bridge, the supporting artillery executed a fire plan, mixing smoke and high explosives to suppress the enemy and obscure their view of the task force as it closed on the near side. Marcone's Alpha Company "scraped" the enemy off the northwest bank while Captain Todd Kelly's troopers of Team C/2-7 IN secured the near side of the bridge and swept the eastern bank of enemy forces. Team C/3-69 AR and Team B/3-7 IN staged and prepared to assault the far side of the crossing site when called upon.
Figure 162. Aerial photograph of Objective PEACH
Just before 1600, the engineers of A/11 EN BN under the command of Captain Dan Hibner, having identified wires on the bridge abutments, conducted an assault river crossing with soldiers in RB-15 inflatable boats. They intended to disarm the explosives from both sides of the river. However, at 1615, before they could clear the bridges, the Iraqis fired the charges designed to drop the bridge. The explosion damaged the northern span, but perhaps because of the preparation fires, the southern span remained useable with three lanes. The engineers cut the remainder of the wires to prevent further destruction. Marcone sent infantry across the bridge to secure the far side. Three company teams raced across the bridge on the heels of the infantry, crossing in less than a half-hour.112
The Iraqis still had one card to play. As the assault force went in, the Iraqis fired perhaps as many as 200 152mm howitzers rounds on the near side support-by-fire position from which Team A/3-69AR supported the assault.The barrage fell in minutes, suggesting that the Iraqis had massed one or more battalions and fired a time-on-target mission of several volleys. The tank company/ team moved out without injury, but all of its tanks and Bradleys had scars. During the enemy's barrage, Marcone's smokers, 5/92 Chemical Company, courageously remained in position near the river to provide critical smoke cover for the soldiers working on the bridge and displaced only after their mission was completed. Because the brigade had its counterfire radar oriented elsewhere, it obtained no acquisitions, so the task force had no means of exacting revenge.113
Figure 163. Engineers surveying bridge at Objective PEACH
Figure 164. Engineer clearing demolitions from bridge at Objective PEACH
Figure 165. TF 3-69 AR attacks to seize Objective PEACH and expand the bridgehead
To expand the bridgehead, the task force had to control the road net that brought traffic to the bridge. This was a daunting task for four maneuver companies. Essentially two roads formed two sides of an equilateral triangle with the tip at the main bridge. One of the roads came into the bridgehead generally from the northeast and the other from the southeast. Accordingly, the task force continued the attack until it seized both bridges and defensible terrain encompassing the two major roads. Marcone identified an intersection about 5 kilometers east of the main bridge as key terrain. As he put it, "Charlie Company comes across and he has to get this piece of ground. If he owns this nobody can get to us quickly."114 Accordingly, Marcone ordered Captain Jared Robbins and his tank company team east to secure a blocking position they named S6.
TeleEngineering and Bridge Expansion
Once Robbins headed east, Captain Dave Benton's mechanized company team crossed and turned north, rolling up from the flank what turned out to be a reconnaissance company of the Medina Division's reconnaissance battalion. The Medina's reconnaissance troops had oriented to the west so Benton's Bradleys and tanks quickly destroyed the Iraqi BMDs and seized Objective POWELL and the near side of the canal bridge south of Objective CLINTON. With the canal bridge now under his control, Marcone sent Hibner's engineers to determine whether the bridge could be used. It could, so Captain Chuck O'Brian's tank company team moved from its support-by-fire position and assaulted over the canal bridge and through Objective CLINTON to support-by-fire position A6, north of the canal. Marcone retained a force composed of dismounted infantry and engineers to defend the Euphrates bridge.117
Troops rummaging around the battlefield made several discoveries. First, they confirmed that a light infantry battalion and elements of a reconnaissance battalion had indeed defended the area around the Euphrates bridge. Second, among the destroyed combat vehicles, Marcone `s troops recovered the operational map discussed earlier. The map showed that reconnaissance battalion had been employed in an economy of force mission (see insert pg C-10). More important, the map illustrated the coalition main effort as coming from the south on the east bank of the Euphrates. This was tangible evidence that the feints of the five simultaneous attacks had some effect on the enemy dispositions and assessment of coalition intentions. Reflecting on the map and the Iraqi perception of likely coalition actions, Colonel Will Grimsley observed, "we actually out thought him."118
To the south, 3rd BCT continued to root out enemy forces in and around Karbala--primarily dismounted soldiers armed with small arms and mortars. Clearing the zone permitted the division to move logistics traffic freely through the Gap. Simultaneously, 2nd BCT continued to work its way through and around restrictive terrain to get to its attack position southwest of PEACH. From there it would mount the subsequent attack to Objective SAINTS. Seizing PEACH enabled the division to cross the Euphrates where it chose. Seizing SAINTS had greater implications. SAINTS would cut off Baghdad from the south and cut off forces in the south from the regime in Baghdad. It also established the first part of the cordon around the city.
Figure 166. Floating bridge emplaced to support additional crossings just north of Objective PEACH
The Smoke Mission at Objective PEACH
At approximately 1500, as the platoon approached its primary smoke position northwest of the bridge, the artillery battalion fired smoke rounds but to no effect due to unstable weather conditions. Without this concealment, the smoke platoon occupied a position along a narrow unimproved road with steep slopes on either side. The road resembled a levee and did not permit lateral movement.
Regardless of the lack of concealment, at 1515, the platoon began pumping smoke. As the smoke screen built it drifted steadily toward the smoke objective, the bridge over the Euphrates. Bradleys and tanks began crossing the bridge while engaging the enemy, using their thermal sights to see through the thickening smoke.
One hundred meters to the north of the platoon's position, the soldiers detected several Iraqi soldiers dressed in civilian clothes along with several technical vehicles (pickup trucks). The platoon leader called in a spot report and several minutes later, an Apache helicopter arrived and engaged the enemy from directly above the platoon's position. At approximately the same time, the wind direction shifted so the platoon leader terminated the mission. Suddenly, the platoon began to receive indirect fire. The platoon moved out and rallied at the base of the bridge. Fortunately, no one was hurt.
Staff Sergeant Wells,
platoon sergeant, smoke platoon, 92nd Chemical Company,
interview 13 May 2003.
Sealing the South: Objective SAINTS (3-4 April)
Because of all of the trafficability difficulties encountered in attempting to move around Karbala to the east, 2nd BCT did not arrive at its attack position all at once. TF 1-15 closed at around 1900 on 2 April, but it was almost 6 hours before the next units arrived.119Finally at 0112 on 3 April, 2nd BCT reported moving to its assault position, with an anticipated start time of 0700 that morning.120
As Lieutenant Colonel Marcone waited on 2nd BCT, he prepared for the worst, having received intelligence that an Iraqi Republican Guard commando battalion would attack that night. Marcone prepared to defend the bridgehead as he had at Objective JENKINS in Al Kifl, "I did the same thing I did at Kifl (Objective JENKINS). I have defensive positions, I have an FPF and I have a CAS kill box."121 In the end the Iraqis attempted a coordinated counterattack with a commando battalion and perhaps two brigades of Republican Guard troops. The attack began about 0300 on 3 April. Throughout the night Iraqis shelled the bridgehead, intermittently firing a round or two every 15 minutes. When the Iraqis attacked, the commandos came on foot from the north while the 10th Armored Brigade of the Medina Division attacked mounted from the south. Although the commandos did not attack with great energy, the 10th Armored Brigade did.
The Iraqi armored brigade advanced with a tank company forward, followed by approximately 50 M113 armored personnel carriers organized in two company formations advancing in staggered columns. Marcone's troops dispatched the lead three T-72s and the brigade withdrew. The Medina's armored troops lost their Brigade commander KIA in one of the three T-72s but did not give up. Instead, over the next hour, they maneuvered to the east and, between 0430 and 0500, attacked the road junction Marcone had identified as key terrain. The task force fired the linear target originally planned as an FPF and opened the CAS kill box, destroying 15 tanks and 30 M113s by combining tank and Bradley fires, artillery and CAS across a depth of 15 kilometers. As Marcone put it, "By 0530 we were done."122
Still on the move as Grimsley's troops destroyed the Iraqi A counterattack, 2nd BCT reported its lead approaching the bridge to attack. on PEACH at 0841 on 3 April. Lieutenant Colonel Charlton's TF 1-15 IN led the way. Colonel Perkins moved with Charlton and his troops.123 The brigade traveled in column with TF 1-64 AR and TF 4-64 AR trailing. The division now had the majority of 2nd BCT's combat power across the Euphrates River. TF 3-15 IN, rather than following the rest of the brigade, conducted a relief in place of 1st BCT at Objective PEACH. There they secured the bridgehead, reporting to 54th Engineers, who acted as the crossing area headquarters. This freed 1st BCT to execute its on-order attack to Objective LIONS.124
Essentially, SAINTS was a rectangle that encompassed the intersections of Highways 1 and 8 south of Baghdad. Perkins intended to attack and clear SAINTS with TF 1-15 IN against an estimated Iraqi infantry brigade supported by tanks and BMPs. As Charlton's mechanized infantry task force cleared SAINTS from west to east, Perkins planned to peel off his two armored task forces to attack south along Highways 1 and 8. He intended for the armor task forces to sweep through and destroy the remnants of the Medina by rolling them up from the rear and to clear the seam between the V Corps and I MEF zones. Once the division released TF 3-15 IN from securing the bridge, he planned to have Lieutenant Colonel Stephen Twitty's troops attack south along the Euphrates to clean up any survivors from the Medina. The brigade had rehearsed and drilled all of these tasks weeks earlier in Kuwait.125 It was good they had,
Figure 167. 2BCT attacks to SAINTS
since the brigade remained strung out from the march the night before. In fact, the brigade attacked to SAINTS straight from the march through Objective PEACH. The troops arrived at SAINTS, as one unit history put it, "smoked," but they knew what to do.
Within 20 minutes of crossing the Euphrates, Charlton's TF 1-15 IN reported contact with a platoon of T-72s and paramilitary forces in civilian vehicles.126 After dispatching the tanks and paramilitary troops, the task force continued to advance against relatively light, but determined resistance, nearing SAINTS by 1017. On the approach to SAINTS, Charlton's troops overcame several RPG ambushes staged by irregular forces and small units of the Nebuchadnezzar Division. Fixed-wing air supported the attack by striking Iraqi forces defending within SAINTS itself.127
Figure 168. The 2nd BCT disposition on Objective SAINTS, displayed on an overhead photograph
TF 1-64 AR, Rogue, was fast approaching from the west, followed by 1-9 FA. Once across the river, the artillery occupied its preplanned position area to support the brigade's attack on Objective SAINTS. Because the position area was primarily heavily irrigated farmland, 1-9 FA deployed its howitzers in nonstandard firing positions along the road. As the artillery battalion cleared the position area for occupation, it captured 11 enemy soldiers and found a dump truck filled with small-arms, mortar, and RPG ammunition. Once in place, 1-9 FA fired 15 fire missions in direct support of the brigade's attack on Objective SAINTS, including six counterfire missions against enemy artillery firing on the brigade detected by counterbattery radar.128
TF 1-15 IN reached the center of Objective SAINTS about 1300, encountering heavy resistance from infantry, tanks, and other combat vehicles defending along the roads and the major highway interchange nearly in the center of the objective.129 The task force established five blocking positions to secure SAINTS. A tank platoon from the task force moved into a blocking position on Highway 8 at the southern end of SAINTS, and at 1330 destroyed three T-72s on Highway 8. The brigade also received reports of more tanks coming south out of Baghdad. An hour later, TF 1-15 IN made contact with tanks in the palm groves on the northeast side of SAINTS and brought artillery fires and CAS in on them, as well as engaging them with TOW missiles. Many of the tanks and enemy fighting vehicles were well dug in, but there were others along Highway 8. Charlton's troops remained in contact throughout the day, destroying the defenders and defeating small-unit counterattacks.130
At 1245, just prior to TF 1-15 IN attacking into SAINTS, Major General Blount ordered Colonel Perkins to attack south to Objective BALDWIN and then CASEY as planned, but rather than remain, to return to SAINTS for the night. Blount's purpose was to destroy Iraqi forces south of SAINTS that may have repositioned in response to the V Corps' deceptive feints.
Figure 169. Iraqi tank burning in tree line at Objective SAINTS
Although intelligence reports indicated that most enemy forces oriented south on the east side of the river had either been destroyed or severely degraded by air strikes, Blount wanted to be sure.131 Perkins separated from TF 1-15 to travel with the Rogues of TF 1-64, who would attack south on Highway 8 toward Objectives BALDWIN and CASEY. Rogue effected a forward passage in contact through the TF 1-15 tank platoon at the blocking position on Highway 8 and started south. Rogue reported very little contact until arriving at the village of Al Mahmudiya (Objective BALDWIN), where they surprised and destroyed seven T-72s, four BMPs, and a number of other vehicles literally in the streets of the town. The task force continued south, destroying numerous but mostly abandoned Iraqi combat vehicles dug into prepared fighting positions that were oriented to defend against a coalition attack from the south. Apparently, the Iraqis had repositioned at least some forces in response to the feints of the five simultaneous attacks. As Rogue returned north, it encountered and destroyed two more T-72s.132
The Tuskers of TF 4-64 AR followed 1-9 FA across the Euphrates at PEACH and then continued toward SAINTS. They found plenty of work on the way, destroying a menagerie of tanks, trucks, technical vehicles, and an old US Army Jeep. Even the task force's tactical operations center got into the action, destroying a T-55 in self-defense. Lieutenant Colonel DeCamp's task force traveled with its logistics units intermingled with the combat troops for protection, so everyone fought. They reached SAINTS after 1300, having killed about 40 enemy infantry and destroying 18 enemy vehicles, including 11 BMP s and two tanks. About 1500 the task force tactical operations center, one maneuver company, and the battalion field trains established a position in SAINTS east of Highway 8. C Company conducted the attack southeast on Highway 1 as Perkins had planned. The company established a blocking position on the eastern edge of SAINTS with one platoon and continued south with two platoons abreast. The two platoons advanced down the highway in staggered columns, with one platoon traveling on the southbound lanes and the other on the northbound lanes. The company 298 command group and "Lightning 28," the Marine air and naval gunfire control team, followed the platoons. About 10 to 12 kilometers southeast of the Highway 1 and 8 interchange, the company made contact with an Iraqi mechanized infantry company that had assumed positions along the highway. Both lead tanks--C31 and C12--took heavy and accurate 30mm cannon fire from BMPs. Reacting to contact, both platoons maneuvered forward and destroyed 10 BMPs, 3 MTLBs, and numerous RPG teams, but not before taking "numerous" RPG and cannon fire hits themselves. Three tanks--C31, C32 and C11--took damage to their armor, but no rounds penetrated so C Company got away unscathed.133
At 1929, 2nd BCT reported all units moving to consolidate at SAINTS. The brigade defeated and largely destroyed what amounted to two battalions that opposed them in the north. After the fact, the brigade concluded that several different Iraqi units had defended on SAINTS. But, there did not seem to be any coherent, centralized Iraqi organization or command and control beyond the company or battalion level. By 0130 on 4 April, the brigade had closed on SAINTS, reporting very little enemy contact as the soldiers prepared for the next day.134 During the evening's tactical commander's TACSAT update, Colonel Perkins reported a battle damage assessment summary of 33 T-72s, two T-62s, 19 T-55s, 12 MTLB armored vehicles, 50 artillery pieces, six BM-21 rocket launchers, 127 trucks destroyed, and 700 enemy soldiers killed. The 2nd BCT continued to clear the area and prepared to attack into Baghdad along Highway 8.135
Seizing SAINTS and completing the destruction of the Medina Division and other forces south of SAINTS effectively isolated Baghdad from the south. The brigade made several more sweeps to the south with the two armor task forces, and ultimately with TF 3-15. During these sweeps the brigade completed mopping up remnants of the Medina Division and other units that remained between SAINTS and Al Hillah from 3 to 6 April. "By crossing the Euphrates, rendering all enemy forces combat-ineffective, and seizing the key LOCs, the [2nd] BCT set the stage for the division to complete the cordon of the city and eventually assault into the capital."136
Sealing the West: Objective LIONS (3-5 April)
|"No! We have retaken the airport! There are no Americans there! I will take you there and show you! In one hour!"|
Iraqi Information Minister,
Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf
Early on 3 April, as 2nd BCT moved through PEACH and attacked to seize SAINTS, the 1st BCT commander, Colonel Grimsley, called a meeting of his task force and battalion commanders at the brigade TAC to discuss their attack to seize Objective LIONS. Having accomplished the primary mission of seizing a crossing over the Euphrates at PEACH, it was time to consider the "on-order" task. Anticipating the possibility of continuing the attack, Lieutenant Colonel Smith, commander of the 11th Engineer Battalion, along with his operations officer, Major Garth Horne, and Captain James Lockridge from the battalion TAC, had already pulled the appropriate terrain products that they had produced before the start of the war. These products showed the multiple routes from PEACH to LIONS and the multiple water crossings involved to reach LIONS.137
Accelerating the Attack
During this meeting, Major General Blount and the division G3, Lieutenant Colonel Peter Bayer, arrived to consult with Grimsley. While Bayer and Grimsley anticipated attacking to LIONS the following morning, Blount wanted to move later that same day. According to Grimsley, "We thought we were going to spend a couple of days at PEACH quite frankly." but the CG advises, "We want you to go to LIONS, when can you go? Colonel Grimsley responds, "Sir 3 o'clock this afternoon, 4 o'clock at the latest."138 Pete Bayer remembered this decision as important because it reflected General Blount's vision for the next few days. The previous day as Blount and Bayer watched Colonel Grimsley's troops attack into PEACH, the CG already had shifted his focus to considering an armored raid into Baghdad ending at LIONS. Blount wanted to turn the heat up and seize the airport in stride to sustain the initiative. This would also relieve pressure from 2nd BCT in SAINTS and give the division control of a key regime target as well as a location on the outskirts of Baghdad from which to launch further attacks into the city. Blount was thinking in the future, not in the present.139
The 3rd ID anticipated roughly a brigade-minus of Special Republican Guards left defending the airport, or rather Objective LIONS, as the corps named the turf that included the airport. The division also believed the 17th Brigade of the Hammurabi Division would
Figure 170. Objectives in the vicinity of Baghdad
relocate to defend the roads leading from the airport to the city, southwest of LIONS. The 8th Brigade of the Hammurabi Division remained north of Baghdad, with some elements of the Adnan Division cross-attached to defend the northern and northwestern approaches to the city. Additionally, the 3rd ID estimated an additional SRG battalion and two brigades of light infantry remained available to defend within Baghdad proper. Finally, they estimated an additional 15,000 paramilitary fighters would defend the city itself.140
In response to enemy units moving south, the 3-7 CAV had established a guard position in the vicinity of Objective MONTGOMERY, the intersection of Highways 1 and 10. Once 3-7 CAV had completed its passage through 1st BCT at PEACH and TF 3-15 IN had relieved 1st BCT of responsibility for securing the bridges, 1st BCT could begin its attack.141
Because the Iraqis had managed to damage part of the bridge at PEACH, Blount directed his engineers to open a second route over the Euphrates. The 54th Engineer Battalion, already controlling the crossing site, emplaced a ribbon bridge. 2nd BCT's TF 3-15 IN arrived the morning of the 3rd to relieve TF 3-69 AR of the defense of the bridgehead.142 The conditions were now set for the 1st BCT to leave PEACH and attack to seize LIONS. TF 3-69 AR would lead the brigade, followed by TF 2-7 IN and then the remainder of the brigade.
Advancing the timetable for the attack wreaked havoc on the already congested crossing site. TF 3-15 IN was moving to relieve TF 3-69 AR from securing the bridge; TF 2-7 moved from north of HANNAH and passed over the bridge; and the medium ribbon bridge company moved forward to place the ribbon bridge in the water. All of this took place as 2nd BCT crossed the river. Consequently 1st BCT's forces arrived piecemeal at LIONS--TF 3-69 AR, TF 3-7 IN, and then finally TF 2-7. Blount understood the risk he took in not waiting to clear the traffic but felt the benefits outweighed the risk.143
Have a Good Fight -
Lieutenant Colonel Rick Carlson,
101st Airborne Division liaison officer to V Corps
interview by Lieutenant Colonel (retired) Arthur Durante.
True to his word, Grimsley had his brigade on the move shortly after 1500. At 1521 on 3 April, TF 3-69 AR's scouts, following closely behind 3-7 CAV, which continued on to MONTGOMERY, began reconnoitering the brigade's routes to LIONS.144 The routes consisted mostly of paved two-lane roads through some small towns. The task force, traveling in a column, made its way through the towns, tight turns, and across narrow bridges that afforded ample opportunity for enemy ambush. About 10 kilometers south of Highway 1, the column received ineffective mortar fire, while the Iraqis attacked the head of the column with machine guns and RPGs. For all of these reasons, the approach march took longer than expected so the task force refueled en route to the objective.145 At 1719, TF 3-69 AR finally moved onto Highway 1 and, at 1735, initiated preparatory fires onto LIONS.146
Lieutenant Colonel Marcone's troops continued their approach to a highway interchange approximately 3 kilometers to the southwest of the airfield, with the task force now in two columns, led by the Bandits of B/3-7 IN in the east and C/2-7 IN, Rock, in the west. From the interchange, the western column would launch to breach the wall around airfield. Approximately 15 feet tall, the masonry wall topped by concertina wire extended around most of the airport. Once Rock made a hole, the entire task force would move through it to clear the airport of the enemy.147
Figure 171. 1st BCT, 3rd Infantry Division's approach to BIAP
At 2115, TF 3-69 AR's combat trains turned off Highway 1 and started crossing a canal. A/3-69 maintenance team's HMMWV, carrying four people, toppled into the canal and came to rest upside down. The combat support soldiers immediately went to the aid of those in the HMMWV. Two soldiers did survive, but Alpha's team chief, Staff Sergeant Wilbur Davis, and Mr. Mike Kelly, an editor-at-large for The Atlantic Monthly, did not. The company trains regrouped after the rescue attempt and resumed their march to the east to support the company arriving late that night.148
TF 3-69's sister unit, TF 2-7 IN, had the mission to establish a blocking position along the Highway 8 intersection at the main entrance to the airport--a position defended by a Special Republican Guard battalion. This intersection inevitably became known as "Four Corners" and would be the site of intense fighting. For the moment, just driving up to the intersection proved much more difficult than anyone had imagined. Coming north from EA HANNAH (a position adjacent to the river about 20 kilometers south of PEACH), the task force had to travel more than 50 kilometers over very difficult terrain to reach the airport, arriving late that evening.149
Task Force 2-7 IN's unit history reports the difficulties in getting to LIONS on the dark night:
An intricate series of irrigation canals that created a waffle-like pattern on maps and satellite imagery stood between the task force and the nearest high-speed avenue of approach. In the darkness, TF 2-7 IN pushed down small farming roads. The Bradleys actually hung over the elevated roads in some places. Under the heavy traffic, a key unsupported bridge crumbled onto the canal road. Water flooded into these areas, making them all but impassable. Turning the large tracked vehicles around was not even remotely possible; pivot steering would result in further damage to the road. Backing the vehicles down the route was the only alternative. Adding to the frustration, most task force mortar and engineer vehicles pulled trailers. Mired vehicles further blocked the route. Only a sliver of moon provided light as the rear three-quarters of the task force slowly worked its way toward LIONS, ultimately arriving too late to participate in the initial stages of the attack.
The task force commander, Lieutenant Colonel Scott Rutter, and roughly a quarter of his troops, were past the crumbled bridge and continued along the original route to Highway 1. A scout section, followed by the S3, Major Coffey, B/2-7 IN, and the forward aid station, now led the element on the wrong side of the bridge collapse. Finally reaching Highway 1, the Task Force (-) sped north to the airfield.150
However difficult the sandstorms and desert terrain had been in the campaign's early days, this maneuver to LIONS, exacerbated by the extreme fatigue, darkness, and ever- present enemy, frustrated everyone.
Attacking Through LIONS
Approaching the airport wall on the one-lane road as planned, TF 3-69's western column encountered no enemy. Just prior to 2300 the western column punched a hole in the southwestern corner of the perimeter wall. C/2-7 IN led the way through the breach. At 0038, the rest of TF
Figure 172. Civilian aircraft destroyed on Objective LIONS, with UH-60L in foreground
3-69 AR entered the airport from the south via a gate in the wall.151 The first company team traversed the airfield against almost no resistance, moving to the far eastern side of the end of the runway and awaiting the remainder of the task force.
Once through the wall, the task force attacked to clear its assigned sector of the airport.152 The lead platoons of TF 3-69 broke out on the southern edge of the airfield and maneuvered to clear enemy bunker positions along the outlying service roads. At approximately 0200 the Iraqis shelled them, but Marcone's tankers and mechanized infantry buttoned up and moved on. They attacked to midway up the airfield and turned to secure their eastern flank at 0430. Reaching their assigned limit of advance, they transitioned to a hasty defense. Because the tanks were running low on fuel, the task force conserved fuel by running engines just often enough to keep their batteries charged.153
As the sun rose on 4 April, there was a feeling of euphoria as the embedded media from CBS, SKYNEWS, and the New York Times conducted interviews and beamed to the world that American forces had seized Baghdad International Airport. While US presence on the airfield was a fact and there was no chance of 1st BCT giving it up, the mission remained a work in progress.154 It took two more days of fighting to clear the airport, including hidden tunnels, bunker systems, and outlying facilities such as the VIP terminal and the control tower.155
After sunrise enemy infantry in previously undetected bunkers posed a problem. Units of TF 3-69 AR spent most of the morning clearing bunkers and capturing Iraqi soldiers. For example, in one incident:
Sergeant First Class Richard Fonder and Specialist Joseph Ramsel of A/3-69 AR dismounted their vehicle and used hand grenades to clear a bunker that was too close to fire the main gun at and too well built to destroy with machine gun fire. Twenty enemy soldiers surrendered out of the bunker. While they were processing the EPWs, Fonder and Ramsel discovered an alternate enemy fighting position where other Iraqi soldiers were about to open fire. Ten more enemy soldiers surrendered after a volley of fire.156
Similar incidents occurred all over the airport as the 1st BCT continued to clear it.
The lead vehicles of TF 2-7 IN finally arrived at the airport at 0500 on 4 April.157 Moving onto LIONS, the task force received scattered small-arms fire and two RPG rounds. Lieutenant Colonel Rutter and the troops he had in tow moved rapidly to establish a blocking position at "Four Corners," the main entrance, on the eastern side of the airport. The main entrance featured a four-lane highway with a median to separate incoming and outgoing traffic. Large masonry walls with towers approximately 100 meters apart bounded the highway. Rutter's troops hastily cleared the remainder of their section of the airport. The remainder of the task force was still more than an hour away.158
Shortly after 0730 on the 4th, the trailing units of TF 2-7 IN entered the airport from the south. Flanked by trees on the right and an enormous wall on the left, the road they arrived on took on a gauntlet-like appearance. Sporadic small-arms fire rang out in the distance, and some rounds were fired near the convoy lead vehicle. Although the plan called for establishing the main blocking position at Four Corners, there was no "rear," and the enemy was all around.159 Setting up a blocking position in this environment proved problematic, since the enemy might come from any direction.
The TOC vehicles moved through Four Corners and established themselves adjacent to an overpass. With most of the task force now closed on the airfield, Lieutenant Colonel Rutter began moving units into their proper locations.160 All seemed to be quiet at first.
Rutter positioned the task force mortars, the forward aid station, PSYOP team, and combat trains around the large intersection. Exhausted soldiers cleared their immediate areas and moved into their assigned positions. After traveling through the night and essentially in contact for the past three days, everyone was relieved to finally reach the airport.161
Figure 173. A 3rd ID HMMWV on Objective LIONS
First Lieutenant Mark Schenck, writing in the Task Force 2-7 IN's unit history details what happened after a bombardment of several air-burst mortar rounds:
At this point (about 1030) a Fox chemical reconnaissance vehicle drove up the overpass to conduct chemical reconnaissance. A hidden tank fired and the Fox sped off the overpass, reporting a near miss from a tank main gun round. The frantic report from the FOX and realizing an enemy tank was within range of the task force shocked everyone. It became increasingly evident that moving in at dark the task force was now virtually intermingled with the enemy.
First Lieutenant (Paul) Milosovich moved a Bradley onto the bridge to scan for tanks. As soon as the Bradley reached the top of the overpass, a main gun round from a T- 72 slammed into the side of the unsuspecting Bradley from behind the large wall to the south. Strapped to the outside of the Bradley, the rucksacks exploded on impact, sending burning boots, t-shirts, and TA 50 (Army equipment) into the air.
The Bradley commander was thrown forward, out of the turret and onto the front deck of the Bradley. Acting without guidance and with no internal communication Private Class Gee re-aligned his Bradley on the road, pulling forward and then backing down the steep incline on the overpass. His actions prevented the T-72 from being able to fire at the vehicle again and saved the lives of his fellow crew members.
The nearest unit with Javelin antitank weapons was Bushmaster, west of the overpass, protecting the task force northern flank. A four-man team armed with Javelins climbed onto the overpass to engage the tank. Less than 1 kilometer south of the battalion's TOC, three Iraqi T-72 tanks sat on a road inside a compound wall. Unknown at the time, these tanks were not the ones firing at the overpass.162
Private First Class Davis engaged the lead tank, parked within feet of the second tank. The Javelin screamed off the overpass, buzzing over the battalion TOC, and slammed directly into the top of the unknowing T-72 with deafening thunder. The blast consumed the tank in a fireball and sent the heavy turret end over end more than 50 feet into the air. Secondary explosions complemented the initial blast as the internal
Figure 174. A 3rd ID Bradley on Objective LIONS
ammunition storage compartment ignited. The fire reached out from the burning tank, engulfing its neighbor and causing more explosions.163 Davis fired a second Javelin, causing even more explosions on the second tank. The third T-72 began to frantically try to determine the source and direction of incoming fire. Private First Class Jefferson Jimenez engaged it. His round missed, but damaged the tank, which limped away.164
Rutter described the effectiveness of the Javelin this way, "...it worked great! Right down on top of them...Boom!"165 Despite this success TF 2-7 IN's troubles were not over yet. Apparently, the T-72s were part of a larger counterattack. Iraqi observers adjusted mortar fires on the task force TOC. Captain Sam Donnelly, the assistant operations officer, detected the mortars firing from a bunker, which he pointed out to Major Coffey, the task force operations officer who was fighting from his Bradley. Coffey's gunner destroyed the mortars with his Bradley's Bushmaster 25mm
Soldiers Led the Way
Lieutenant Colonel Scott Rutter
commander, TF 2-7 IN
interview 15 May 2003.
chain gun. Meanwhile, hearing the ruckus, an M1 tank towing a disabled tank arrived, looking to help and did so by destroying two more T-72s coming from the south. The fight continued for 2 hours as TF 2-7 IN fought off counterattacking Special Republican Guard and paramilitary forces.166 Although it may not have been intentionally coordinated, a second, more dangerous counterattack occurred while B/11 Engineers were clearing a compound for an EPW cage adjacent to the Four Corners position. This counterattack involved as many as 100 SRG troops, who penetrated nearly to TF 2-7 IN's TOC. Lieutenant Colonel Rutter believed the Iraqis may have been attempting to break out from what they accurately perceived to be an encircled position.167
Sergeant First Class Paul Smith played a critical role in foiling the enemy's counterattack. His efforts caused the failure of a deliberate enemy attack hours after 1st BCT seized the Baghdad International Airport. He and other defending troops killed an estimated 20-50 enemy soldiers. Sergeant First Class Smith prevented a penetration in the TF 2-7 IN sector, defended the aid station, mortars, and scouts, and as a final act, enabled the evacuation of wounded soldiers.168
While the action raged at Four Corners, Lieutenant Colonel Rutter attacked another Special Republican Guard compound to the east with his Bravo Company, commanded by Captain Stephen Szymanski. As his soldiers moved forward, the Iraqi troops began firing RPGs, machine guns and automatic rifles at them. Enemy fire from windows in the buildings and dismounts on the ground forced Szymanski to break contact.169 Pulling back out of the compound, he called artillery on his tormentors. Artillery, mortars and A-10s all pummeled the compound. The Bravo Company soldiers followed the last mortar round back into the compound. The troops met very little resistance when they first re-entered the compound. But surviving enemy troops engaged them with small-arms fire from the second floor window of a partially destroyed building. Again calling in mortar fires, Bravo Company withdrew just out of contact.170 Immediately effective, the battalion mortars, firing time-delayed fuses, penetrated the roof and destroyed the building and, with it, the defending enemy.171
Essayons: Sergeant First Class Paul Smith
DESERT STORM veteran Sergeant First Class Paul R. Smith, platoon sergeant of the 2nd Platoon, was directing the efforts of his soldiers. At one end of the compound, a 1st Platoon armored personnel carrier pushed in a gate to gain access to the compound--revealing some 50 to 100 SRG troops. Simultaneously, the SRG soldiers reoccupied a tower in the compound and began firing RPGs, small arms, and directing mortar fire on to the engineers. The enemy wounded three soldiers in the APC that knocked down the gate.
Smith immediately ran to the wall near the gate and lobbed a grenade over the wall, momentarily driving the enemy back. Smith dragged the wounded out of harm's way and then jumped in the APC and backed it into the center of the compound. He then moved to the vehicle commander's position to fire the .50-caliber machine gun. Using the .50, Smith engaged the enemy in the tower and those attempting to rush the gate. Private Seaman came to his assistance and supported him by passing ammunition cans up to Smith. By suppressing the enemy and killing a great many of them, Smith enabled the company first sergeant to organize a counterattack that ultimately stopped the enemy.
Sometime during that fight, enemy fire mortally wounded Smith. The action at the compound was part of a large enemy counterattack that, if it had succeeded, may well have reached the tactical operations center of the task force. Sergeant First Class Smith's courageous action saved the wounded and permitted Bravo Company to withdraw from the compound, thus enabling CAS and artillery to destroy the remaining defenders.
Figure 175. Sergeant First Class Paul Smith
With the compound cleared, units moved in and occupied designated positions along what the task force called "Able Avenue." On 5 April, TF 2-7 IN soldiers also cleared the Special Republican Guard training compound on the airfield. Amenities there included running water, a weight room, and most important, no enemy contact. This served as the task force's home as they prepared for future operations.172
Clearing the Airport and Surrounding Areas
In the absence of working counterfire radar, Rutter's operations officer, Major Coffey, and his fire support officer, Captain Tim Swart, fired counterbattery fires on suspected enemy positions, with little effect. Task force patrols also reported sniper fires coming from a group of construction cranes at the nearby presidential palace. The task force called in both CAS and artillery. A-10 Warthogs and artillery destroyed the cranes and, presumably, the snipers. Sniper fires stopped and enemy shelling tapered off, allowing TF 2-7 IN and 1st BCT to focus on improving their positions at the airfield. They intended to stay.173
Figure 176. V Corps Soldiers moving onto Objective LIONS
Shortly after reporting the US presence on the airfield to the world, the 11th Engineer Battalion commander, Lieutenant Colonel and Colonel Grimsley conducted a reconnaissance of the airfield itself. Not surprisingly, the Iraqis had built obstacles across the runways that would have to be cleared to get them back in operation. Grimsley and Smith also found that several roads cratered by coalition air strikes were of limited use. Members of the media interviewed Smith next
Chaplain (Lieutenant Colonel) Ken Brown,
101st Airborne Division chaplain
to one of the road craters at approximately 1000, asking the difficult question of "when would it be usable?" Smith projected he would finish cleaning up the mess within 24 hours. The 11th Engineer Battalion came through, clearing the runway the next day.174
The 11th Engineers had more to do than repair runways. As the brigade and battalion TOCs moved to occupy a hangar in the center of the airfield, it became apparent the infrastructure-- water, sewers, and power--was not functioning. The engineers identified and coordinated numerous engineering requirements to jump-start a master plan for facilities management, including the supervision and control of all field sanitation projects, a cemetery for enemy remains, initial land management, and initial ordnance control.175
On 6 April at 0800, TF 3-69 AR held a memorial service for Sergeant First Class Wilbur Davis, who had died in the overturned HMMWV as the fight at LIONS started (promoted posthumously). On 7 April, Colonel Grimsley pulled TF 2-7 IN from the blocking position at Four Corners for a 24-hour period to provide the opportunity for some rest, maintenance, and preparation for future operations. The task force conducted Sergeant First Class Smith's memorial ceremony at 0600 that morning in a small field near the airfield, concluding with "Amazing Grace."176 Following the service, the soldiers continued to refit and recover from the combat operations and prepared for follow-on missions.177
3-7 CAV Blocking at Objective MONTGOMERY
On 3 April as the 1st BCT moved to start its seizure of LIONS, 3-7 CAV moved northwest to Objective MONTGOMERY, the intersection of Highways 1 and 10, to protect the division's northern and western flanks. The cavalrymen initially reported minimal contact at the intersections around the objective where they had established checkpoints. Enemy activity increased in the early evening but then grew quiet for several hours.178
The checkpoints attracted the Iraqi defenders. Enemy activity picked up steadily through the early morning hours, with 3-7 CAV destroying six T-72s and one armored fighting vehicle by 0435. During the morning, Captain H. Clay Lyle's A/3-7 CAV, Apache, destroyed a steady stream of Iraqis attacking his Bradleys and tanks in buses, pickup trucks, and civilian vehicles. Captured Iraqis included several from the Hammurabi Division, which the corps had tracked moving south toward LIONS. Apache troop and 3-7 CAV protected the main effort at LIONS, using direct fire, CAS, and artillery to engage Iraqis--presumably from the Hammurabi Division--counterattacking toward the airport.179
Later that day, after the fighting calmed down, the Air Force reported a battalion-size tank formation on the northern side of Highway 10, only 3 kilometers from the checkpoints. The squadron commander, Lieutenant Colonel Terry Ferrell, brought half of Apache Troop and his tactical command post up to plan an attack. First they watched from a kilometer away as F-16s, A-10s, and British Tornadoes dropped munitions on the area. Then A/1-9 FA fired the target area. The air was damp and humid that evening, and it held the smoke and dust at ground level, with the wind blowing the dense smoke toward Ferrell and disrupting his view. Unable to see the target area after the CAS and indirect fires ceased, Ferrell ordered cavalrymen from Apache troop forward to assess the battle damage.180
Figure 177. 3-7 CAV attacks to Objective MONTGOMERY
First Lieutenant Matthew Garrett led his platoon and the troop as it advanced in a staggered column. As Garrett led the troop forward, he noticed a high berm directly behind a small canal on the south side of the highway. While continuing to look for the enemy to the north--where the aircraft bombed--Garrett started scanning the overpass he was about to drive under. His gunner reported a possible vehicle behind the berm to their right front. Garrett had just reported possible vehicles on the south side of the highway when several of his tankers fired their main guns in the direction he had indicated. They had detected T-72s positioned every 50 meters behind the berm--on the side opposite from where the aircraft had engaged.
Altogether, 16 T-72s occupied prepared positions along the berm. Because Lyle had approached in a staggered column, each of his vehicles had a clear shot at the Iraqis. The tankers engaged so quickly that as soon as a gunner could get a lock on a target, someone else destroyed it. The Iraqis fought back and brought mortars, artillery, and air defense artillery guns used as direct-fire weapons into the fight. Lyle contacted the battalion fire support officer for suppressive fires. Apache broke contact as 52 rounds of high-explosive artillery smashed down directly on the remaining Iraqis. Captain Lyle's Apaches, along with the supporting artillery, destroyed a battalion of the Republican Guard in 15 minutes. In the end, Lieutenant Colonel Ferrell reported destroying 20 T-72s.181
Figure 178. Platoon leaders of Apache Troop, 3-7 Second CAV. (From left-to-right:
Second Lieutenant Fritz, First Lieutenant Wade, Second Lieutenant Devlin,
First Lieutenant Linthwaite, and First Lieutenant Garrett)
Sealing the North: Seizing Objective TITANS (6-7 April)
Up to this point, the corps was well ahead of schedule. In accordance with the original plan, Colonel Grimsley's 1st BCT occupied LIONS in the west and Colonel Perkins' 2nd BCT had secure positions to the south in Objective SAINTS. The corps needed only to seize Objective BEARS, on Baghdad Military Installation, in Taji, 6 miles north of Baghdad along Highway 1, to complete V Corps' part of isolating Baghdad. Taking BEARS required destroying remaining forces concentrated around Taji. Achieving that and securing the ground would provide V Corps with a second airfield near Baghdad and cut the lines of reinforcement from and egress to the north. Originally, V Corps intended to use 101st Airborne Division to take BEARS. However, to get the airborne troops in required an air assault via routes over heavily defended urban terrain. In the end, V Corps determined that the risks of overflying the urban areas were too great. The corps assigned 3rd ID the mission and they assigned it to 3rd BCT. Ultimately the objective was refined. In the end, Allyn's brigade attacked to seize Objective TITANS, located just south of the original objective, BEARS.
The Hammer Brigade had been very busy around Karbala since the first day of April. TF 2-69 AR led the 3rd ID attack in zero illumination, driving north to isolate the eastern side of the city, where it confronted both sophisticated RPG ambushes and suicide bombers, leading the commander to fear that he was facing "professional terrorists."182 After the initial attack into Karbala, both TF 1-30 IN and TF 2-69 AR fought a frustrating and wearying battle to keep Iraqi irregulars penned up in the city while the rest of Hammer protected division and corps units as they passed through the Karbala Gap. On 5 April, 2nd BCT of the 101st assumed responsibility for the Karbala area. 3rd BCT of 3rd ID moved north to prepare for the attack on TITANS.183
Figure 179. 3rd BCT's move from Karbala to Objective TITANS
With the attack looming, the 3rd BCT made several changes in its task organization. Earlier on 4 April, Colonel Allyn sent the 1-10 FA and TF 1-15 IN to reinforce 2nd BCT's attack on SAINTS. The 1-10 FA's 155mm howitzers were arrayed in firing positions in the southern portion of Objective SAINTS to support the effort to isolate Baghdad from any remaining Iraqi forces that might be lurking along Highway 8. The infantry helped to secure the ground. With SAINTS secured, the division reassigned both battalions back to Allyn late in the afternoon on 5 April. For the first time since the early fighting around An Nasiriyah, Allyn's entire BCT would be back together again--ready for its attack into Baghdad.184
Receiving the Order
Just after dawn on the morning of 6 April, Lieutenant Colonel John Harding (commander, 1-10 FA) and Lieutenant Colonel John Charlton (commander, TF 1-15 IN) met with Colonel Allyn at a road junction on Highway 1 in SAINTS.185 They were there to get the final order for the brigade's attack to seize Objective TITANS. Harding and his battalion had come from supporting Perkins' brigade. Just gathering the brigade proved problematic because they were so spread out. In the end, Allyn got in touch with Harding via FBCB2. As Allyn put it, FBCB2 "saved them."186 There was electricity in the air. According to Harding, "It was a great feeling for us to be together again. We were as pumped up as we could be! There was no apprehension at all about attacking Baghdad. It was all clicking like clockwork by then."187 Standing in a
Figure 180. The 3rd BCT Objectives in TITANS
small group next to the road, the officers quickly copied the maneuver graphics onto their maps and completed their final coordination. To facilitate controlling the battle, Allyn's staff divided TITANS into numerous smaller objectives.
In garrison, Hammer is not stationed at Fort Stewart with the rest of the 3rd ID. Its home is 200 miles away at Fort Benning, Georgia. Fort Benning is the home of the Infantry School, and Hammer is the only tactical brigade on post. The brigade was exceptionally close-knit, in part because of its geographic isolation from the remainder of the 3rd ID, but also because of what its soldiers had gone through together over the past year.
In 2002, the 3rd BCT completed a grueling train-up and then a six-month deployment to Kuwait. It returned home for less than three months and then, in January 2003, deployed again to confront Iraq in this war. The soldiers had trained at the NTC together, deployed together, trained in Kuwait for six months, came home for awhile, and then returned for another round of rigorous training in the desert of Kuwait. Emotionally taut, desert-hardened, and cohesive, 3rd BCT crossed the border ready and willing. However, since crossing the border and seizing Tallil Air Base in the opening days of the war, the brigade had not fought as a single integrated unit. One or more of the maneuver task forces or supporting battalions had always been detached and fighting under the command of other combat teams.
Lieutenant Colonel Sanderson's TF 2-69 AR had been detached from the 3rd BCT immediately after the fight at Tallil Air Base and sent to the 1st BCT. They fought a ferocious battle at Al Kifl with the Raiders.188 Even Hammer's direct-support artillery battalion had been sent away several times, eventually supporting all of 3rd ID's maneuver brigades. But now, this vital mission provided the impetus to reunite the men and women of the Hammer Brigade. They were elated with the prospect; it was their turn to step up to the plate.
At 0508 on 6 April, TF 2-69 AR crossed the line of departure at Objective PEACH to begin a 110-kilometer attack to the northwest and north. The last 60 kilometers of that attack would be conducted under heavy fire from defending Iraqi forces.189 The 3rd BCT moved from its assembly area west of the Euphrates, crossed the river, and continued east into Objective SAINTS, where it picked up the soldiers of TF 1-15 IN. The BCT, whole again, then turned northwest toward Objective MONTGOMERY, held by Apache Troop, 3-7 CAV. Delta Troop, 10th Cavalry, the BCT's organic reconnaissance troop, led the brigade toward MONTGOMERY, the farthest point north under V Corps' control.190 As Lieutenant Colonel Harding described it, "Past that point, it was all Indian country."191
Figure 181. The 3rd BCT scheme of maneuver through Objective TITANS
TF 2-69 Armor, the brigade's main effort, followed on the heels of Delta Troop. Team Assassin, A/2-69 AR, led the task force, followed by Team Hard Rock, C/1-15 IN. The task force's combat trains followed, nestled closely behind the combat vehicles for protection. Then came Colonel Allyn's assault command post, in an M113 and three Bradleys, trailed by elements of B/317th Engineers, and the tank-pure C/2-69 AR.192 Harding's howitzers came next, followed by TF 1-30 IN. TF 1-15 IN's combat-scarred vehicles joined the rear of the massive column as it passed.193 Colonel Allyn rode in his HMMWV rather than the armored vehicle he normally used because his M113 had broken down and could not be fixed because of a lack of repair parts. Rather than take a replacement vehicle from one of his subordinates, the BCT commander chose to risk the ride in the light, unarmored HMMWV--a decision that nearly cost him his life.
As TF 2-69 AR passed through the checkpoint manned by Apache Troop, 3-7 CAV at Objective MONTGOMERY, Captain Lyle advised Colonel Allyn that there had been firefights around the checkpoint all night and that he should expect enemy contact as soon as he cleared the checkpoint.194 Several officers remembered Lyle saying, "Once you get 300 meters up that road, you're going to make contact."195 The cavalryman knew what he was talking about. By that time in the war, the troopers almost always did. The HMMWVs of the brigade's reconnaissance troop pulled over and let Sanderson's tanks take the lead.
Objective SMITH, the first of many road junctions 3rd BCT had to seize, encompassed a small cluster of buildings and homes where the highway made an "S" turn to the east and then back north. At 0850, TF 2-69 AR's vanguard came under small-arms and RPG fire upon entering the objective. They returned fire and the engagement rapidly escalated, with the Iraqis responding with mortars and artillery. The task force also engaged and destroyed at least one T-72 tank and several other armored vehicles firing from reveted positions within the objective. The engagement settled into what became a familiar pattern. As each company team approached the objective, it encountered heavy small-arms and RPG fire from multiple directions. A 10-hour, nonstop running fight ensued. Allyn, still traveling close behind TF 2-69 AR, called for artillery fires from the 1-10 FA. At the same time, he targeted the Iraqi armor with CAS from A-10 Warthogs.196
Although it continued to fire in support of TF 2-69 AR, Lieutenant Colonel Harding's 1-10 FA came under heavy attack also. Soon after the artillerymen fired their first mission, the Iraqis fired on them with small arms and RPGs. Some of the Iraqi gunners launched their RPGs from behind buildings. The enemy gunners aimed high in the air so as to arc up and over before coming down into the artillery firing positions. Despite incoming fire, the 1-10's howitzers continued to pound away at the enemy in Objective SMITH.197
The 3rd BCT fought through SMITH, not stopping to clear it, so they could maintain their momentum. Subsequently, as each unit passed through, there was intermittent contact with individual Iraqi military vehicles, `technicals', and small groups of Iraqis fighting on foot. Objective SMITH remained troublesome for several hours. The fire from the area around the overpass waxed and waned, but it didn't cease completely until TF 1-30 IN cleared the Iraqis out of the adjacent areas.
TF 2-69 AR continued north to Objective CUSTER, a sharp right turn at the canal that marked the brigade's northern boundary. The task force commander, Lieutenant Colonel J.R. Sanderson, described the 40-kilometer route from SMITH to CUSTER as "a constant gauntlet of fire." 198 It had already been a rough day. As the Task Force passed through objective SAINTS that morning, an RPG struck a 317th EN M113, killing Private Gregory Huxley and wounding two other soldiers, the first casualties of the day.199 Later, Huxley's comrades would create an informal memorial to their fallen friend, but for now, the attack continued without pause.
At 1136 on the 6th, Captain Stu James' company team destroyed a company-size unit of Iraqi mechanized combat vehicles and a battalion of artillery along the canal. James' troops cleared the canal of several BMPs, T-62 tanks, and 18 BM-21 rocket launchers.200 They then observed a bizarre sight as they made the turn on the canal road. Standing almost in the middle of the road, several Iraqi officers were busy stripping off their uniforms to reveal civilian clothes underneath. In full uniform or not, they were armed combatants who made no offer of surrender. The company shot and killed the Iraqis before they could complete their change of clothing.201 Lieutenant Colonel Sanderson determined that he would not allow his attack to bog down by fighting every single Iraqi he encountered. His mission required him to move rapidly to the north of the city and to seal it off, not to have a long, drawn-out fight in the built-up area. Accordingly, he pushed the task force to keep moving. If he received fire from a sniper on a roof, he used artillery fire or CAS and moved on.
Figure 182. Informal memorial to Private Gregory Huxley
(note hole under "I" where the round penetrated the vehicle)
Sanderson led from the front near the head of the lengthy column. In fact, Sanderson followed Captain James' tank, and James followed the lead tank platoon. Sanderson, along with his battalion fire support officer, Captain Andy MacLean, and his air liaison officer, were in place to coordinate supporting fires for James. Sanderson's fire support team called for artillery on the left side of the road and used low-flying CAS aircraft to engage Iraqi forces directly to the front. Sanderson's air liaison officer passed him in flight reports from the CAS aircraft describing the enemy resistance along the road. Reports from A-10, F-15 and F-16 pilots kept him informed on what to expect next. Sanderson said, "It was always comforting to see the A-10s coming in. The field artillery support was spot-on. You couldn't have asked for a better artillery barrage."202 This approach was in accordance with Colonel Allyn's mantra. According to Lieutenant Colonel Harding, that was "Prep with steel, lead with lead, count the dead."203
At 1308, the 3rd Infantry Division's ADC-M, Brigadier General Austin, discussed the 3rd BCT's progress with Colonel Allyn. Clearly, Saddam had turned Baghdad into an "armed camp." Iraqi troops fought the brigade at every bend or corner in the road with air defense artillery, artillery, tanks, BMPs, and anything else of military value. There were so many huge secondary explosions from the destroyed Iraqi vehicles, and they were so close to the road, that Sanderson wondered whether the brigade's wheeled vehicles would get through. Large chunks of debris from exploding Iraqi tanks and BMPs rained down and often blocked the road. Many
Figure 183. The 3rd BCT disposition on Objective TITANS, 6 April 2003
HMMWVs were driving with flat tires because of all the sharp metal fragments.204 Balancing the risk, Allyn pressed on.
By 1530, the 3rd BCT seized Objective PATTON, the north/south intersection of Highway 1 where it crossed over the canal. Sanderson assigned Captain Carter Price and his company team responsibility for PATTON. Most of the task force field trains stopped within Price's protective perimeter until they were summoned to refuel and resupply the task force later in the day.
With Captain Price established on PATTON, TF 2-69 AR moved far to the south, seizing Objective MONTY--the main highway bridge over the Tigris River in Objective TITANS-- and began to clear the areas around it. This was their most critical objective. Captain James' Team Assassin secured the bridge and several buildings around the approaches. Soon afterward, another company team attacked north from PATTON and seized Objective ROMMEL, a bridge where a canal intersected the Tigris River. For the moment, this completed the TF 2-69 AR's plan for seizing crossing sites on the Tigris.205
Things were fairly quiet until about 1830, when dismounted Iraqi infantry attacked the TF 2-69 AR combat trains near Objective MONTY. Colonel Allyn was in his HMMWV parked on the grounds of the Iraqi Petroleum Institute near three 2,500-gallon fuel tankers and one heavily loaded ammunition truck. The attackers poured fire into these tempting targets and at Allyn's vulnerable HMMWV. Quick return fire from Lieutenant Colonel Harding's Bradley and TF 2-69 AR eliminated the threat but not before they hit the ammunition truck. The truck
A Task Force Commander on Battle Command
To Sanderson, the keys to success included using doctrine both in how his task force fought and how it planned operations. To him, effectively using the military decision making process proved important. Specifically, Sanderson tried to issue clear guidance and then demanded that his subordinates first gave him a "confirmation brief" that read back to him "task and purpose" for missions he assigned. Moreover, he required company commanders to "back brief" how they intended to fight their units, including fire distribution and maneuver. This approach supported what Sanderson called the Panthers' rules of combat: "One, see the enemy before he sees you. Two (accounting for what happens if rule one is broken), make contact with the smallest amount of combat power forward. Three, fire distribution and control." Sanderson's task force applied these rules in preparation and execution.
Emphatic about how he led his task force, Sanderson also had strong views on leadership from above. TF 2-69 AR worked for two brigade commanders who had "completely different styles," but both were "crystal clear and articulate" in issuing their guidance and orders. As he put it, "this war was run on commander's intent." Further, he found, as did other soldiers, that the presence of two- and three-star generals forward on the battlefield was a "strong plus."
|Lieutenant Colonel J.R. Sanderson, interview by Lieutenant Colonel David Manning|
caught fire and ammunition began to cook off. Despite the drivers' and other soldiers' best efforts, the fire quickly spread from the ammunition truck to a fuel tanker. Both vehicles were completely destroyed and several soldiers were wounded, along with a member of the support platoon, who received mortal injuries while defending his vehicle. Despite the best efforts of the battalion medics, the support platoon soldier died while being evacuated.
At about this time at Objective PATTON, Captain Price came under attack by dismounted Iraqi forces moving through buildings near the crossing site on the canal. Knowing that the tank-pure Charlie Company lacked supporting infantry, Sanderson and a small group,
Mortars Under Attack:
|TF 2-7 IN unit history|
including Captain Rapaport with infantry from Hard Rock, moved quickly to the north to assist the tankers.206 At nearly the same time, the Iraqis counterattacked against US positions at both ends of the Tigris River bridge at Objective MONTY. The attackers initially consisted of dismounted infantry, but they were quickly joined by several T-72 tanks and BMPs. Captain James' Assassins defended vigorously as the fight for MONTY built in intensity. Thus began a 60-hour ordeal for Stu James and his soldiers. Throughout the fight at MONTY Sanderson applied every means he had to destroy persistent counterattacks, including 40 or 50 CAS missions during that first night.207
The Assassins defeated this first counterattack, and at 1912, the brigade reported to 3rd ID headquarters that the situation was under control at all locations, at least for the moment.208 Sanderson conferred with Allyn and requested another maneuver company to secure Objective BRADLEY, the southernmost objective in TITANS. Colonel Allyn agreed and reassigned A/1- 15 IN to TF 2-69 AR.
At sunset on 6 April, Allyn's BCT had forces arrayed across the breadth of TITANS. TF 1-15 IN, which had rejoined the brigade that day, oriented to the south and controlled the route into the objective area. TF 1-30 IN was clearing the last Iraqi die-hards out of the urban area around SMITH, while D/10 CAV occupied Objective CUSTER in the northwest. TF 2-69 AR had company teams on Objectives PATTON, ROMMEL, MONTY, and BRADLEY.209
The first day's fight to isolate the city in the 3rd ID's zone was complete. The 3rd BCT had fought through elements of the SRG, the Hammurabi Republican Guard Division, and possibly the corps artillery belonging to the Republican Guard. Taking TITANS set the stage for further American attacks into the city, but the Iraqis had not given up. In the coming days the division mounted attacks into the center of the city from the south. Two days after Colonel Allyn's troops seized TITANS, the 1st Marine Division entered Baghdad from the east. On 9 April marines and soldiers linked up in downtown Baghdad.
- Anthony H. Cordesman, The Iraq War: Strategy, Tactics, and Military Lessons (Washington DC: The Center for Strategic and International Studies, 2003), 85-104. Re: declaration of air supremacy see 104.
- Lieutenant General David McKiernan, commander, CFLCC, interview by Colonel Gregory Fontenot, US Army, Retired, 8 December 2003.
- Major E. J. Degen, Major Kevin Marcus, and Major Lou Rago, notes taken when they accompanied Lieutenant General Wallace to Jalibah.
- McKiernan, 8 December 2003.
- Colonel William Grimsley, commander, 1st Brigade, 3rd ID, interview by Lieutenant Colonel David Manning, undated.
- Lieutenant General William Wallace, commander, V Corps, summary transcription of interview by Colonel French Maclean, US Army, 15 April 2003.
- Memorandum for Record, TF 2-70 AR, Operation IRAQI FREEDOM Timeline, 22 May 2003.
- "V Corps Commander's Operations Assessment," 7 April 2003.
- "Operation IRAQI FREEDOM--By the Numbers," CENTAF-PSAB, KSA, Commander's Action Group, 9th Air Force, Shaw Air Force Base, SC, 30 April 2003.
- Lieutenant Colonel J.R. Sanderson, commander, TF 2-69 AR, interview by Lieutenant Colonel David Manning, 12 May 2003. "A2C2, [Army] Airspace Command and Control, is broke across the American Army. It is especially critical when you are firing artillery, MLRS. Those are things most people will catch. If you are doing a MLRS strike on something, okay, somebody will clear the A2C2. If you are down to cannon artillery and you are doing call for fire for fire support, nobody will catch that and they won't clear the airspace. And God help you if you are firing mortars because the mortar is obviously going to go above the hard deck and it really is "big sky, little bullet" theory and you could knock something out of the way."
- "Battle of Debecka Ridge Summary Brief," Colonel Michael Beasock, TRADOC Systems Manager for Close Combat Missiles, US Army Infantry School, Fort Benning, GA, undated.
- Sergeant First Class Frank R. Antenori, US Army Special Forces, email to Lieutenant Colonel Arthur Durante, US Army, Retired, 22 August 2003.
- "Battle of Debecka Ridge Summary Brief."
- Captain Shane Celeen, commander, C/2-70 AR, interview by Captain Michael Mathews, 22 July 2003.
- Iraqi actions took place in such a convoluted command and control environment that it is hard to discern patterns of operation. The Republican Guard, regular army, and militias were controlled separately. Understanding Iraqi actions also is complicated by their efforts to shield and deceive coalition forces. Sometimes forces on the scene reacted to an attack and were joined almost serendipitously by militias. When coalition intelligence detected a unit or detected movement, they attempted to determine what the enemy intended. Sometimes intelligence estimated intentions correctly. The point is that merely detecting movement or the presence of a unit does not offer information as to intent. Finally, as of the time On Point went to press, very little actual information on Iraqi intentions and actions was available. The Joint Center for Operational Analysis at Joint Forces Command is doing some work on this matter, which ultimately may help clarify what the Iraqis believed was happening and what they were doing about it.
- Field Manual 100-5-1/Marine Corps Reference Publication 5-2A, Organizational Terms and Symbols, HQ Department of the Army/United States Marine Corps, Washington, DC, 30 September 1997, 1-66.
- V CORPS FRAGO 149M, "Limited Attacks," to OPORD 0303-343 (Cobra II), Headquarters, V Corps, Camp VIRGINIA, Kuwait, 300700ZMAR03.
- 2nd BCT, 3rd ID, "History of Operation IRAQI FREEDOM or How to Own a Country in 30 days or Less." The unit history states that Objective MURRAY was in Habbaniyah, but it is actually in the town of Al Hidiyah about halfway between Karbala and Al Hillah on the main route between the cities.
- Ibid. See also "3-7 CAV Unit "History; and "3-7 CAV Command Briefing" by Lieutenant Colonel Terry Ferrell, 25 May 2003.
- "Historical Account," 1-9 FA, Operation IRAQI FREEDOM, undated, 5.
- "Battle summary, 6th Squadron, 6th Cavalry, Operation IRAQI FREEDOM," 9 June 2003.
- "Unit history, 10th Engineer Battalion," 1 May 2003.
- Perkins confirmed this via telephone with Colonel Gregory Fontenot US Army, Retired, 6 February 2004.
- 10th Engineer Battalion. Memorandum for Record, Subject: Historical Record Keeping, 1 May 2003, 4.
- 3rd ID Consolidated Division History, 37.
- 1-9 FA, 5.
- TF 4-64 AR, "Tusker History, Operation Iraqi Freedom (19 Mar 03 12 April 03)," undated, 22-23. Interestingly the 3rd ID assessment report for the 31st reports the capture of a brigadier general. This report made its way to CFLCC. It is possible someone else, possibly SOF, might have captured a brigadier general commanding the 23rd Brigade, but the Tuskers don't appear to have made that claim. Whether a brigadier was captured or not, the Tuskers did capture soldiers assigned to the 23rd Brigade of the Nebuchadnezzar Division, and that is the notable intelligence garnered here.
- "3rd ID OIF Historical Document," undated, 8.
- TF 4-64 AR, 22-23.
- 2nd BCT, 3rd IDSee also TF 4-64 AR and 3rd ID "OIF Historical Document, 27 April 2003," 8.
- "3rd ID Comments on OIF and its Role in that War ," 8.
- 2nd BCT, 3rd ID, 8.
- 3rd ID "OIF Historical Document."
- Lieutenant General William Wallace, commander, V Corps, interview by Colonel Timothy Cherry, 14 May 2003.
- "OPORD 0303-343 (Cobra II Base Plan), Headquarters, V Corps, Camp VIRGINIA, Kuwait," 13 January 2003.
- Colonel Ben Hodges, commander, 1st Brigade, 101st Airborne Division, interview by Lieutenant Colonel William Connor, US Army, Retired, 23 May 2003.
- Captain James A. Page, "The Battle for An Najaf: 30 March 02 April 2003," undated, 5.
- Lieutenant General William Wallace, commander, V Corps (during OIF, interview by Colonel Gregory Fontenot, US Army, Retired, Lieutenant Colonel E. J. Degen, and Major David Tohn, 7 August 2003.
- Major General Dave Petraeus, commander, 101st Airborne Division, interview by Colonel Timothy Cherry, 21 May 2003.
- Captain James A. Page, 6. See also 101st Airborne Division decision brief on concept for isolation of An Najaf, undated, and information briefing titled "Aviation Operations in Operation IRAQI FREEDOM," undated.
- Lieutenant Colonel Marcus DeOliveira, commander, 1 327 IN, "1-327 IN command briefing," 24 May 2003. During urban operations training, the BCTP's Operations Group F demonstrated or discussed various mapping tools and recommended providing the means to print maps at the lowest level possible. All deployed Army divisions fielded one or more of these software tools and most bought "plotter printers" for at least their brigades. The 101st purchased plotters for every maneuver battalion.
- Lieutenant Colonel Christopher P. Hughes, commander, 2-327 IN, interview by Lieutenant Colonel William Connor, US Army, Retired, 23 May 2003.
- Ibid. See also email from Lieutenant Colonel Hughes to Gregory Fontenot 20 October 2003 and interview with Captain Thomas Ehrhart, commander, D 2-327 and Captain Alberto Garnica, commander, HHC 2-327 by Major Pete Kilner, 22 May 2003.
- Hughes. See also email Hughes to Fontenot.
- "101st Airborne Division After-Action Report," 30 April 2003.
- Captain James A. Page, 12; Hughes.
- "101st Airborne Division After-Action Report," 30 April 2003, Chapter 1, Brigade Combat Teams.
- Lieutenant Colonel Jeffrey Ingram, commander, 2-70 AR, interview by Lieutenant Colonel David Manning, 22 May 2003. Colleagues report that Ingram is absolutely calm.
- Ibid. 2-70 AR; and Lieutenant Colonel Henry "Bill" Bennett, commander, 1-320 FA, interview by Lieutenant Colonel William Pitts, 22 May 2003.
- Major John White, S3, 3 101 AV, interview by Major Jonathan Gass, 23 May 2003. White, who did not fly that mission, believes the reported battle damage assessment almost certainly includes some double counting. Lieutenant Colonel Jeff Ingram, commander of 2-70 AR, does not necessarily doubt the number of BDA but does believe that Lieutenant Colonel Bennett and his redlegs of 1-320 FA BN inflicted much of the damage.
- 2-70 AR. That same day C/1-41 IN arrived and joined the task force at 1500.
- There is currently no way to verify the accuracy of this assertion. Evidence available is entirely circumstantial. Specifically, subsequent attacks south from Objective SAINTS revealed that the enemy had oriented their defenses to the south toward Al Hillah. A map captured at Objective PEACH also suggests that the enemy believed the corps would attack north on the eastern bank of the Euphrates. There is no documentary evidence beyond the map and the orientation of the defenses upon which to make the case that the feint at Al Hillah produced the desired outcome.
- Personal notes of Lieutenant Colonel Steven Smith, commander, 2-101 AV, collected by Major Jonathan Gass.
- Lieutenant Colonel Scott Rutter, commander, TF 2-7 IN, interview by Lieutenant Colonel Arthur Durante, US Army, Retired, 15 May 2003.
- Major Michael A. Marti, S2, 2nd BCT, 82nd Airborne and Major Thomas J. Kardos, S3, 2nd BCT, 82nd Airborne, interviews by Major David Tohn, 17 May 2003.
- Colonel Arnold Bray, commander, 2nd BCT, 82nd Airborne Division, interview by Colonel Gregory Fontenot, US Army, Retired, 5 November 2003. The OIF Study Group did not have the opportunity to interview as many of the 2nd BCT troops and leaders as we would have liked. Colonel Bray spent an afternoon with the authors with his records and journals and so is cited here often. Colonel Bray's patience and his copious records proved invaluable.
- Lieutenant Colonel Ed Rowe, executive officer, 2nd BCT, 82nd Airborne Division, interview by Lieutenant Colonel Arthur Durante, US Army, Retired, 17 May 2003.
- Marti and Kardos
- Specialist John Hutto, HHC, 1-325 AIR, interview by Lieutenant Colonel Arthur Durante, US Army, Retired, 17 May 2003.
- Mark Johnson, et. al: "In Southern Iraq, Low-Level Fighting Continues," Knight Ridder Newspapers, 2 April 2003, 2.
- Aamer Madhani, "Soldiers Cross Euphrates, Take Control of Bridges Around Samawah," Chicago Tribune, 4 April 2003.
- Tom Lasseter and Mark Johnson, "Soldiers in Southern Iraq Fighting to Secure Bridges, Towns," Knight Ridder Newspapers, 4 April 2003.
- Tom Lasseter and Mark Johnson.
- Major John Altman, S2, 1st BCT, 3rd ID, interview by Major Daniel Corey, 16 May 2003.
- 3rd ID Consolidated Division History.
- 2nd BCT, 3rd ID, 4-5.
- 3rd ID Consolidated Division History, 39. Colonel David Perkins, commander, 2nd BCT 3rd ID, interview by Lieutenant Colonel Edrick Kirkman, 19 May 2003.
- 2nd BCT, 3rd ID, 3.
- 3rd ID Consolidated Division History, 38.
- Lieutenant Colonel "Rock" Marcone, commander, 3-69 AR, interview by Colonel Gregory Fontenot, US Army, Retired and Lieutenant Colonel E. J. Degen 22 October 2003.
- Ibid. See also 3rd ID Consolidated Division History, 39.
- Teleengineering is the practice of sending "real-time" images via portable cameras and satellites of structural damage from the battlefield directly to structural experts operating from a sanctuary or safe location. This allows the combat engineer on the battlefield to obtain the advice of experts from many different engineering specialties.
- 3rd ID Consolidated Division History , 40. See also 54th Engineer Battalion Daily Summary and Unit History for Task Force 3-69 AR--Operation ENDURING FREEDOM and Operation IRAQI FREEDOM.
- Grimsley. See also Marcone.
- 3rd ID Consolidated Division History. These timelines are best estimates from unit histories. TF 1-64 AR reports arriving at 0100, TF 4-64 AR reports arriving at 0600, and TF 3-15 IN merely notes an all-night movement. It is not particularly clear whether the times that are cited were Zulu or local. Colonel David Perkins opined that these times seemed right in a phone call with Colonel Gregory Fontenot, US Army, Retired on 6 February 2004.
- 3rd ID Consolidated Division History, 38-39.
- Ibid. See also unit history TF 3-69 AR. The dismounted attack from the north cannot be authoritatively identified as the commando battalion, nor can the northern attack be reported as particularly threatening. None of the unit after-action summaries report the contacts in the north as particularly serious. The task force did, however identify the corpse of the Iraqi armored brigade commander and positively identified the 10th Armored Brigade. Marcone's troops captured an Iraqi order that suggested the Iraqis planned a two-brigade attack. It is therefore possible that what Marcone perceived as a second attempt from the east by 10th Armored Brigade in fact was an attack by a brigade of the Nebuchadnezzar that was in the area and previously identified. Marcone believed that the troops in the two mounted attacks came from the same brigade because he saw M113s captured from the Kuwaitis in both attacks. In the end, it did not matter to the Marcone's troops since they defeated all comers that morning.
- Colonel David Perkins, commander, 2nd BCT, 3rd ID, interview by Lieutenant Colonel E. J. Degen and Colonel Gregory Fontenot, US Army, Retired 22 October 2003.
- Ibid. See also 54th Engineers.
- Lieutenant General David McKiernan, commander, CFLCC, interview by Colonel Gregory Fontenot, US Army, Retired, 8 December 2003.