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Graphic - Center for Army Lessons Learned

On Point

The United States Army in Operation Iraqi Freedom

Chapter 6

Regime Collapse

In this Chapter:

"There are no American infidels in Baghdad. Never!"
Iraqi Information Minister
Mohammed Saeed al Sahhaf,
"Baghdad Bob"

"I got on Fox News and said, "I know where he is, tell him to stay there for 15 minutes and I will come get him" because we were right outside the Ministry of Information."
Lieutenant Colonel Eric Schwartz,
commander, TF 1-64, 2nd BCT,
presidential palace, Baghdad

Summary of Events

As CFLCC prepared for the assault on Baghdad, the air component focused on close air support in and around Baghdad, Mosul, and Tikrit and supporting SOF units operating in the west. CFACC continued to attack strategic targets as well. CFACC also struck a number of time-sensitive targets of opportunity developed from a number of intelligence sources. Close air support in heavily defended urban environments continued whenever and wherever coalition ground forces were in contact with the enemy. Coalition airmen delivered responsive and highly accurate close air support turning the tide of battle in ground tactical engagements on more than one occasion in the final assault on Baghdad.1

Maritime operations continued to facilitate the safe arrival of ships carrying large volumes of humanitarian supplies from the United Kingdom, Australia, the United States, and Spain. The coalition completed clearing mines from the southern waterways leading to Umm Qasr, allowing UK and Australian Navy clearance teams to start clearing northern waterways leading to Basra. By mid-April these efforts were well under way. The scale of the problem included not only clearing mines, but coalition maritime units also had to clear 36 derelict vessels between Um Qasr and Az Zuabyr.1

Elements of the I MEF and V Corps completed closing the cordon around Baghdad, cutting the major routes in and out of the city. In the south, the 1st (UK) Armoured Division secured all of the southern oil fields and soon moved north to link up with elements of the 1st Marine Division in the vicinity of Al-Amara. By 10 April, coalition forces had defeated organized resistance in Baghdad. As the fighting in Baghdad tapered off, Marine and Army units headed north toward Tikrit and Mosul. JSOFT-North troops entered Kirkuk and other towns in northern Iraq.

On 4 April, both Lieutenant General Wallace and Lieutenant General Conway, commanding I MEF, could view their situation with satisfaction. V Corps and I MEF had successfully kept at bay the paramilitary that had attacked their supply convoys and threatened the LOCs. Moreover, they had nearly encircled Baghdad. The marines in I MEF crossed the Euphrates at An Nasiriyah and fought their way up the valley between the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers, then approached the city from the southeast. V Corps' five simultaneous attacks had taken the corps through the Karbala Gap and Al Hillah to Objectives SAINTS and LIONS--isolating Baghdad from the south and west.

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Figure 184. Regime collapse sequence of events

With V Corps holding an arc around Baghdad from the south around to the west and northwest and the marines approaching from the southeast, only the northern half of the circle remained open. Although JSOTF-West, composed of SOF and rangers, did not close in on Baghdad, they denied any Iraqi maneuver in the desert to the west. In the north, 4th ID's absence precluded closing the circle. 3rd ID's 3rd BCT, attacking into Objective TITANS, denied Highway 1. Simply put, only Highway 2 coming south from Kirkuk remained open. Farther to the north, JSOTF-North and its 173rd Airborne Brigade fixed the bulk of Iraqi divisions on the Green Line and raised the ante by supporting Peshmerga attacks to the south. The Americans and Peshmerga threatened the two major northern cities, Irbil and Kirkuk, and the Iraqi conventional forces began to melt away under the pressure.

Equally important, from V Corps' vantage point, the "five simultaneous attacks" had flushed the Republican Guard from their hiding sites. On the move, elements of the Adnan, Hammurabi, and Nebuchadnezzar divisions, mixed with some regular units, proved to be juicy targets for coalition airmen and artillerymen. Moreover, the Iraqis appear to have misread the five simultaneous attacks--they were apparently unsure of the coalition's true direction of attack and when the main assault would actually start. As a result, they assumed a more southerly defensive posture. Thus, the Iraqi reaction, while vigorous, ultimately came too late to stiffen the Medina Division when V Corps struck. Additionally, expecting the main effort from between the two rivers, they oriented in the wrong direction. Over the next few days, V Corps and 3rd ID tested the Iraqis, conducting a series of attacks to tighten the isolation of Baghdad, link up with the marines, and enter the heart of the governmental district with its lavish palaces and other sites that marked Saddam's seat of power.

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Figure 185. Attack to Baghdad

The Plan for Baghdad

The CFLCC plan for reducing Baghdad was necessarily vague. As late as D-day, Lieutenant General McKiernan could not predict what the battlefield would look like when V Corps and I MEF reached the city. Planners, from CENTCOM down to the maneuver divisions, struggled to paint a picture of the city after an unknown period of fighting during the approach from Kuwait. Because of this uncertainty, V Corps planners, led by Major E.J. Degen, built flexibility into their plan. Establishing a cordon postured the soldiers and marines to react in any one of a number of ways, depending on how events unfolded. Never intended as a hermetic seal, the ring of forward operating bases would isolate the city from relieving forces and contain the defenders inside. From these operating bases, the soldiers and marines could attack into Baghdad to seize critical targets, destroy Iraqi forces, and eventually clear the city, if required.

Cordoning the city would reduce the regime's options and allow the coalition to develop the situation. Moreover, it would allow the corps and MEF to build combat power by closing their units up to the cordon, moving logistics forward, refitting after the expected fight with the Republican Guard divisions, and finish clearing the LOCs and rear area.All of these actions would set the stage for the final phase of the campaign--seizing Baghdad and removing the regime.

Of course, none of the senior commanders--Lieutenant Generals McKiernan, Wallace, or Conway--wanted to slacken the pressure on Saddam Hussein, the Ba'athist regime, or the defending forces. While the corps and MEF consolidated around the city, both planned to execute a steady stream of limited-objective raids, air strikes, psychological and information operations, and ground attacks on key targets in the city. These targets were chosen with great care to degrade the regime's actual--and perceived--control over the capital city and the country of Iraq, based on Major Rago's analysis and planning. By the time V Corps entered to the heart of Baghdad on 5 April, all major systems within the city had been dissected, studied, and targeted. Every building and section of the city were mapped and numbered. Everyone working in and around the city, on the ground or in the air, used the common graphics and systems data for targeting, thus maximizing lethality while minimizing collateral damage and fratricide. What started as an internal V Corps'planning concept for urban warfare permeated across joint, coalition, and interagency realms to make the total force more efficient and lethal.

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Figure 186. Map: Key locations and objectives in downtown Baghdad

Actions Elsewhere

As the corps' and the world's eyes focused on Baghdad, the campaign continued elsewhere in Iraq. The 82nd Airborne Division concluded its fight in As Samawah and looked north to Ad Diwaniyah. The 101st Airborne Division cleared An Najaf and Al Kifl, destroying the Fedayeen defenders while protecting the sensitive Shiite religious and cultural sites in the town. Additionally, the 101st prepared for what would be a "hornets' nest" in Al Hillah. Farther south, the British continued their efforts to subdue Basra, and in Kuwait, the 4th ID arrived and began to receive its well-traveled equipment. The first squadron of the 2nd ACR (L) was fully integrated into the theater and under the command and control of the 82nd Airborne Division to assist in securing the LOCs. With forces in contact from Baghdad to Basra, across both river valleys, and from the borders of Iran and Turkey to the Green Line and beyond, CFLCC waged the nonlinear fight presaged in the Army's FM 3-0 and replicated in the contemporary operating environment.

Seeing the Elephant--The Human Dimension of Combat
"Seeing the Elephant" was a Civil War expression for the trauma of a soldier's first combat experience. As the soldiers and marines approached Baghdad, they too had "seen the elephant."

The fight moving north had been radically different from the force-on-force armored battle the soldiers had expected. The march north was to have been relatively easy, with some fighting against the bound-to-capitulate regular army units, but mostly cheering Shiite Iraqis in welcome parties.

But close combat with Iraqi and foreign fighters closing in from all sides in fanatical--and suicidal-- waves had given the soldiers pause. Any veteran understands that combat is living on the edge and, in some ways, living to the utmost. Pumped full of adrenaline, soldiers experience time distortion and live in an almost surreal condition of alertness, with senses heightened to the point nearly of exaggeration. Accordingly, any joy is felt with hypersensitivity, as is any sad event. Wild jubilation morphs to incredible despair from one moment to the next.

In the fall of Baghdad, soldiers and marines would experience both extremes. The fight to the city left the soldiers and leaders at every level wondering about the carnage they could expect in the Iraqi capital. Not only could they expect the same ferocious paramilitary attacks in Baghdad; those forces would be stiffened by the highly trained SRG fighting on its own turf and for its very survival. With almost 15,000 of these elite soldiers, chosen for their loyalty to Saddam and favored with personal privilege, the best equipment, and the best training, Baghdad could be a truly ugly and painful fight.

Logistics and Communications Status

As combat troops fought their way into Baghdad, combat service support soldiers were busier than ever. At this point, the LOC supporting V Corps extended across a greater distance than the historic Red Ball Express, and fuel demands exceeded the highest requirement the Red Ball Express had to meet. Ammunition, food, and water also had to be brought all the way from the heart of Kuwait. The logisticians managed to keep up with the demand for critical supplies of war, but just barely. While no unit ever ran completely out of these supplies, several came close.

Yet even with this monumental success in fuel, ammunition, water, and food, the system failed to provide repair parts. Parts often made their way from the United States across a massive air and sea bridge to the supply depots in Kuwait--where they sat due to ground transportation shortages and the lack of an effective distribution system. Warehouses filled up with requisitioned repair parts, only to stay on shelves and in bins, while exhausted truckers hauled higher-priority supplies forward.

Despite the dearth of parts, the combat units sustained the drive north on the skill, experience, planning, preparation, sweat, and energy of their maintenance soldiers. Literally every brigade and battalion commander in the corps proudly bragged that he had "the best mechanics in the Army." They beamed with tales of soldiers performing miracles in repairing broken equipment, recovering abandoned and damaged vehicles, and in some cases fabricating parts out of almost nothing.3 Yet however creative and successful the soldiers were, literally every maneuver battalion commander in 3rd ID asserted that he could not have continued offensive operations for another two weeks without some spare parts. For example, as late as 14 May, almost 45 days after combat started, one unit had only received 19 spare parts through the formal supply system. Others still had not received any.4 The 1-10 FA kept its Paladin howitzers on the move by cannibalizing a Kuwaiti M109 howitzer the Iraqis had captured years prior and that 3rd ID subsequently took back.5 No one had anything good to say about parts delivery, from the privates at the front to the generals at CFLCC.

While the repair parts system struggled to catch up, the signal community fared marginally better. During the march up-country, the units almost immediately outpaced the signalers' ability to provide widespread coverage. Even within brigades and battalions, the operating distances thwarted the ground-based line-of-sight radios. The Mobile Subscriber Equipment (MSE) that is the Army's primary means of providing high-bandwidth support to tactical units never had a chance of keeping up with the fast-paced advance. For the most part, the corps executed the advance on to Baghdad with a few tactical satellite radios and the widely distributed satellite-based BFT system. Indeed, Colonel Terry Wolff, the commander of 2nd ACR (L), was nonchalant about spreading one squadron across 200 kilometers of roads without any direct radio communications because the BFT provided him excellent situation awareness. If worse came to worse, Wolff knew he could always launch a helicopter to serve as a radio relay if he needed to talk to his troops directly.6

The pause at RAMS and the slower pace of advance from there north enabled the communicators to catch up. Once on site, they quickly built the networks and coverage the forces needed to conduct operations in and around the city. Although the communication systems were not mature in any sense, few commanders complained of communications problems in and around Baghdad in those final days of the fight.

Rolling Transition and Sensitive Site Exploitation

The coalition was doing far more than just slashing through the countryside. In areas already under control, a combination of special operations and regular forces rapidly transitioned to stability operations and support operations. In the myriad of towns and villages along the Euphrates River Valley, the local population experienced its first taste of relative freedom in almost 30 years. Rebuilding a functioning, representative local government and providing basic life support services--water, food, and power--was a hard task, made more difficult by instability in the north and the remnants of the fanatical Saddam Fedayeen spread throughout the region. Earning the wary Iraqis' trust and cooperation remains a slow, painstaking effort.

While some soldiers worked to help get the Iraqis back on their feet, others searched for weapons of mass destruction at sites identified throughout the region. The 75th Exploitation Task Force (XTF), built on the 75th Artillery Regiment, eventually searched more than 600 sites. Each site had an assigned priority based on the possible threat it posed to coalition forces and the surrounding civilians. The list was long and the work was slow and demanding. Although there were several reports of possible banned weapons, by the end of major combat operations, the 75th had not discovered any weapons of mass destruction.

Actions at Baghdad

Intelligence officers at all echelons continued to have great difficulty accurately describing the threat in the city. In the months leading up to the war, V Corps, CFLCC, and CENTCOM intelligence leaders and analysts spent the bulk of their energy trying to characterize what the Baghdad fight might look like. In October 2002, intelligence officers from the national level, CENTCOM, CFLCC, I MEF, and V Corps met and developed a common estimate of the enemy situation that they had separately continued to update.

Prior to D-day, intelligence officers estimated that no more that 9-12 company equivalents of the Republican Guard would successfully retreat into the city. They expected these units to be disorganized. According to the estimates, these remnants would report to the SRG, who were expected to stand and fight in the city. There was some reason to believe the Iraqis had developed a sophisticated and potentially effective city-defense strategy that would leverage all of the advantages of a prepared defense in an urban environment. Captured documents revealed a detailed plan to divide Baghdad into sectors and defend it in a manner reminiscent of the First Battle of Grozny. The international airport and the palace complex area in the heart of the city would be the most heavily defended sites in Baghdad. All intelligence reporting supported these assessments, indicating that the defense would crystallize around these two critical facilities. Prewar intelligence estimates noted the presence of paramilitary forces in large numbers but were vague on how these forces might operate. The march up-country effectively answered that question, painting the picture of the potentially dangerous and difficult fight to come.7

As the battle progressed, the coalition defeated but did not destroy the Republican Guard. The slew of vehicles and equipment left abandoned sparked a variety of theories about the Republican Guard's actual condition. These ranged from the view that the Iraqis would conduct a stalwart infantry-based defense of the city with the missing Republican Guard soldiers as the bedrock to the notion of a defense by disorganized remnants. Imagery and other reports inexplicably showed almost no preparations within the city. There were numerous small fighting positions but none of the deliberate defenses that common sense and Iraqi doctrine indicated. Intelligence and field reports painted a picture of mixed units thrown haphazardly into the fray with little command and control. Intelligence officers could no longer speak with assurance about which unit was where, let alone in what strength. Some units fought, some died in place under the rain of coalition fires, and some abandoned their equipment and just walked away. But were they going home or going to ground to add to the unconventional defense of the city? It was unclear whether Baghdad was a trap, a clever ruse, or a hollow shell. When 3rd ID seized and cleared the airport, one of the two sites everyone agreed would be heavily defended, the troops answered part of the question. Baghdad looked difficult, but it did not look like Grozny. Taking the airport made the armored raids--the "Thunder Runs"--feasible in the mind of the senior commanders and their staffs.8

Although Major General Blount and the 3rd ID settled into Objectives SAINTS and LIONS, they had not entirely reduced Objective TITANS. In accordance with the original plan, the division continued to set its part of the cordon. Although the rest of V Corps and I MEF continued to advance rapidly, they would not be players in the immediate actions at Baghdad. But neither Wallace nor Blount believed they needed to wait on securing TITANS or for the rest of the corps to get started. The 3rd ID would conduct raids and attacks to maintain the heat on the regime and to retain the initiative against the defending Iraqis and foreign fighters.

Thunder Runs

Given the ambiguity surrounding Baghdad, the division's first order of business was to probe, or raid, the city, just to see what would happen. Literally sticking his hand into what everyone expected to be a "hornets' nest," Blount ordered Colonel Perkins' 2nd BCT to conduct a thunder run into the city. While the thunder run on 5 April turned into a stiff fight for the Rogues of TF 1-64 AR, their success suggested that Baghdad would be defended energetically, but that the enemy no longer could mount effective resistance. Interestingly, the Hunter UAV showed the Iraqis setting obstacles behind the Rogues, apparently trying to set up kill zones if the Americans departed along the same route. The obstacles proved irrelevant since the Rogues continued on to the airport rather than retrace their route.9

Taking less than a day to assess the reaction, Wallace and Blount struck again. This time, rather than a simple one-battalion raid, the division ordered a full brigade into the heart of Baghdad. On 7 April, Colonel Perkins' 2nd Brigade Spartans launched a second thunder run, ending up in downtown Baghdad--the absolute heart of Saddam's regime--to demonstrate to the Iraqis and the world the Americans' freedom to move about the city. On that day Perkins made the single decision that arguably shortened the siege by weeks, if not months--he chose to stay downtown. Equally important, McKiernan, Wallace, and Blount trusted his judgment and underwrote the risks that he took. While the fighting continued in earnest for another few days and insurgents fight on today, the second thunder run broke the regime's back, and any remaining political or military leaders of rank disappeared in a flash of self-preservation.

Toppling the Statue--Army PSYOP Supports I MEF

We woke up that morning [of 9 April] in the Iraqi Special Forces training compound on the outskirts of southern Baghdad. Attached to 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment (of I MEF), who were conducting a clearing operation on the southern approach to Baghdad, [we were] moving with their TAC at the time. We were kept in a centralized location while moving so that we could be flexed to where we might be needed. We were not sure what we were going to hit, but we were expecting a lot of resistance. The infantry unit was to be clearing door to door, while we would be broadcasting civilian noninterference messages and occasional surrender appeals when pockets of enemy forces were located. The infantry unit started its operation but was encountering no resistance at all. After a few hours of going door to door, kicking doors and entering, looking for enemy concentrations and weapons caches but finding none, they modified their plan and formed up into a column and started a general movement toward Al-Firdos (paradise) Square in [eastern] Baghdad, where the Palestine Hotel and statue [of Saddam Hussein] were located. The entire movement went a lot faster than anyone had anticipated....

Crowds of Iraqi citizens started coming out and cheering the American convoy. We started to do some PSYOP broadcasts about bringing about a free Iraq, but knowing that we were to continue some clearing operations; we were telling them to stay away from our military vehicles for their own safety. We eventually dismounted from our vehicle and continued to inform the civilians to stay back from the military vehicles. The Iraqi civilians were very receptive to us, and [we] continued to engage them with our interpreter.

As we approached the street leading into the Al-Firdos Square, we could tell that there was a very large crowd of civilians starting to form up. It looked like the infantry unit up there could use some support, so we moved our [tactical PSYOP team] TPT vehicle forward and started to run around seeing what they needed us to do to facilitate their mission.... There was a large media circus at this location (I guess the Palestine Hotel was a media center at the time), almost as many reporters as there were Iraqis, as the hotel was right adjacent to the Al-Firdos Square.

The Marine Corps colonel in the area saw the Saddam statue as a target of opportunity and decided that the statue must come down. Since we were right there, we chimed in with some loudspeaker support to let the Iraqis know what it was we were attempting to do. The reporters were completely surrounding the vehicle, and we started having to ask the reporters to move out of the way, but they would not move. We were getting frustrated, but we were also laughing about it. We dismounted the vehicle again and just started pushing the people out of the way. They were starting to really inhibit our ability to conduct our mission. The tanks . . . formed up into a perimeter around the square, with the statue in the middle.

An M88 recovery vehicle approached the statue and continued to drive up the steps right next to the statue in an attempt to bring it down. The people had already tied a noose around the neck of the statue with some rope. They were trying to just tug on it and bring it down and were hitting it with sledgehammers; it was clearly getting crazy in the square. We were no longer in crowd control, as there was just no controlling this crowd at this time. We decided to just ride along with the crowd, and we started just kind of celebrating with the Iraqi people. We actually had to have our interpreter record an ad-hoc broadcast message, informing the Iraqi people that if they did not stand back from the statue, American forces would not bring the statue down. We were afraid that some civilians would get hurt if they were too close or in the wrong spot.

All of this activity was going on within just a few blocks of where other marines were battling with snipers in a building across from the Palestine Hotel. The local Iraqi people just did not care for their well being at this point; they just wanted to see the statue come down...We looked over and now there was an American flag draped over the face of the statue. God bless them, but we were thinking from PSYOP school that this was just bad news. We didn't want to look like an occupation force, and some of the Iraqis were saying, `No, we want an Iraqi flag!' So I said `No problem, somebody get me an Iraqi flag.' I am not sure where it came from, but one of the Iraqis brought us the old Iraqi flag without the writing on it (added by Saddam). We got that as fast as we could and started running that up to the statue. At this time, the marines had put a chain from the boom of the recovery vehicle around the neck of the statue, and they just ran the [Iraqi] flag up the statue. It was real quick thinking on Staff Sergeant

Plesich's part to get that Iraqi flag up there quick. But by the time the Iraqi flag got put on the statue, there had already been a lot of photos taken with the marine covering the statue with the American flag.

Figure 187. Photos of toppling the Saddam statue

Somehow along the way, somebody had gotten the idea to put a bunch of Iraqi kids onto the wrecker that was to pull the statue down. While the wrecker was pulling the statue down, there were Iraqi children crawling all over it. Finally they brought the statue down, but we expected this big statue to come crashing down, to shatter or whatever, but it just slowly bent over and slid off the mounting pipes. Once the statue was on the ground, it was attacked by Iraqis with the sledgehammers and broken apart. The head of the statue was dragged through the streets, with people hitting the face with their shoes and spitting on it. After the statue was down, we started to receive a lot of intelligence on where Ba'ath Party personnel were staying and just generally got a lot of real good intelligence for use in later direct-action missions. All this information was developed with and through the human exploitation teams, which had assigned interpreters.10

Caring for the Fallen

Support soldiers seldom receive accolades for what they do. They made OIF possible and they deserve better. Of all the difficult and thankless jobs the Army asks support troops to do, none is more difficult or less visible than the task of the 54th QM Company. The only active- duty mortuary affairs company in the Army, the 54th deployed 176 soldiers to Kuwait to care for the remains of America's fallen.

Figure 188. 54th Quartermaster Company caring for a fallen soldier's remains

These soldiers collect and process the remains of their colleagues for return to the United States. The 54th's troops approach their task with the knowledge that they are the last people who will ever see the person whose remains they are preparing for return to their families. The mission is difficult. According to their commander, "You can't see what we have [seen] and not hurt." But the 54th's view is exemplified in a painting done by one of their soldiers. The painting portrays a fallen soldier lying adjacent to his M-16, with an angel gazing down on him. The artist inscribed the painting, "Think not only upon their passing; remember the glory of their spirit."11

Transition to Peace Operations (10 April-1 May 2003)

"The game is over...I hope for a peaceful life for all Iraqis."
Mohammed al-Douri,
Iraq's Ambassador to the United Nations

"When it really comes down to it, [information operations] is really about changing a person's mind set."
Colonel Patrick Simon,
chief of Information Operations

The collapse of the regime made it necessary for V Corps to shift from combat operations to stability operations and support operations. Accordingly, the information operations (IO) effort shifted from supporting combat operations and undermining the regime to restoring order and helping to reestablish civil control. It now became important to ensure stability in Baghdad by restoring public order and assisting in the "return to normalcy." With organized, conventional resistance effectively crushed, V Corps transitioned to patrolling the streets to provide presence; assisting other government agencies and special forces in their missions; and assessing, securing, and repairing the public utilities and infrastructure.12 V Corps moved rapidly to restore internal security. Looters, opportunists, and regime die-hards all threatened to gain control of the cities in the power vacuum left in the aftermath of the Ba'ath regime's collapse. To counter this, V Corps seized the radio station at Abu Ghurayb to provide a means to disseminate messages to the people of Baghdad. Unfortunately, the station was too damaged to broadcast, so PSYOP teams resorted to mobile transmitting equipment instead.13

V Corps' information operations planners, under the direction of Lieutenant Colonel Chuck Eassa, moved an advance party to the corps TAC in Baghdad on 22 April to establish a forward presence in the city. The rest of the IO cell closed on Baghdad on 28 April. In conjunction with national and international agencies, V Corps and the entire CFLCC began the hard work of transitioning from combat operations to nation building, reconstruction, and restoration of a functioning, independent Iraqi civil government. This shift marked the start of the long process of rebuilding Iraq and restoring civil government to the country and continues as of this writing.14


Figure 189. Bomb-damaged bridge, Baghdad

The sound of the proverbial door slamming as the Iraqi regime fled Baghdad or went into hiding was also the sound of victory: the soldiers of V Corps, in conjunction with the sister services and allies, achieved the first half of the coalition's strategic objective--regime removal. The second half, building a stable, democratic, prosperous, nonthreatening Iraq, is part of ongoing operations as On Point went to publication, and is properly the subject of a different study.

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Thunder Run of 5 April

The generals called them raids or armed reconnaissance. The media described them either as attacks or raids. The troops called them "thunder runs," from Army Vietnam-era jargon used to describe the daily combat missions designed to assure the security of supply routes. Mounted combined arms units from company to brigade size executed thunder runs. The name proved to be entirely appropriate as the troops breached minefields and obstacles and fought through ambushes almost every foot of the way. More important, 3rd ID's thunder runs ultimately proved decisive in bringing down the regime.

As the situation developed during the last week of March, Major General Blount confirmed his belief in "piling on" to keep the pressure on the Iraqis. Arguably, Blount inspired Lieutenant General Wallace to mount the five simultaneous attacks that set the conditions for the corps to reach Baghdad's suburbs. Now set in Objectives LIONS and SAINTS, Blount, always aggressive, wanted to learn the nature of the defenses in Baghdad and to develop the situation in accordance with his corps commander's intent. Just as important, he had troops available.

Accordingly, with Wallace's approval, he ordered an armed reconnaissance into Baghdad. Blount assigned the mission to Colonel David Perkins of the 2nd BCT, who subsequently ordered Lieutenant Colonel "Rick" Schwartz and the troops of TF 1-64 AR to conduct what the task force's history described as "a show of force"--driving up Highway 8 into central Baghdad and then looping back southwest to Baghdad International Airport.

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Figure 190. The 5 April thunder run route

Lieutenant Colonel Schwartz assumed command of 1-64 AR, Rogue, at Fort Stewart, Georgia, on 17 July 2002. Schwartz, who commanded a company in 1-64 AR during DESERT STORM, was no stranger to the battalion or to the desert. Immediately upon assuming command, he and his unit task-organized in preparation for a deployment to Kuwait as part of Operation DESERT SPRING. Schwartz gave up his B Company, receiving in return C/3- 15 IN, D/10th Engineers, an Air Force tactical control party, a counterintelligence team, and a liaison party from a marine air and naval gunfire liaison company. He and his task force deployed in September, with his lead party arriving on 11 September 2002. The soldiers of Rogue immediately began hard training. The tempo increased throughout the period leading to Operation IRAQI FREEDOM.15

Figure 191. Colonel David Perkins, commander, 2nd BCT, 3rd ID

When Colonel Perkins ordered Schwartz and his outfit into Baghdad, they had been at war for two weeks and in the field for more than six months. The task force soldiers knew each other and could organize rapidly. The task force comprised nearly 100 tracked vehicles and as many wheeled vehicles, was practiced, and had developed drills for nearly every contingency.

Scheme of Maneuver--Armor, Only Armor

In doing his mission analysis, Lieutenant Colonel Schwartz elected to leave all his wheeled support vehicles behind because of their lack of armament. The mission required a raid, by definition a short-duration operation done for explicit purposes. In this case, Perkins aimed to demonstrate the Americans' freedom of action and to gauge enemy reaction. Accordingly Schwartz concluded that the mission did not require his vulnerable combat trains. Specifically, the mission required TF 1-64 AR to "conduct a movement to contact north along Highway 8 to determine the enemy's disposition, strength, and will to fight."16 The raid required Rogue to conduct a mounted attack north into Baghdad and then continue on Highway 8 as it looped to the southwest toward the airport. Then they would link up with 1st Brigade at the airport.17 The axis of the attack was just about 20 kilometers long and required going under several overpasses and through the city. The task force's main combat power consisted of several hundred soldiers aboard 29 tanks, 14 Bradleys, and other combat vehicles, including M113s.18

TF 1-64 AR was not new to thunder runs; it had already conducted two smaller runs on its advance on Baghdad. However, both of those had essentially been short-duration attacks to destroy mostly unoccupied combat vehicles that had been bypassed. Rogue conducted what they called thunder runs I and II after crossing the Euphrates River at Objective PEACH to clear up resistance and enemy equipment on Highways 1 and 8, well south of Baghdad. During each of those missions, they encountered limited enemy resistance from dismounted infantry and paramilitary forces, some of whom used civilians to shield themselves.

Despite the relative ease of their earlier thunder runs, no one expected a thunder run into Baghdad to be easy. Captain Dave Hibner, commanding D/10th Engineers, recalled that he was called to receive a fragmentary order at 2200 on 4 April. According, Hibner and the other officers of the task force were surprised, and some were shocked, to hear that they were going to Baghdad that soon and all alone. Lieutenant Colonel Schwartz reassured them, noting that "somebody at headquarters has done the analysis, they are not going to send us in to fail, and tomorrow we are going to attack into Baghdad."19 Reassured or not, Schwartz and his officers had their orders and they prepared accordingly. Colonel Perkins elected to accompany the task force to assure support and to provide on-scene command and control. This would enable Schwartz to concentrate on his tasks of running the direct firefight and leading his task force.

Mission Execution--Penetrating the City

With some uncertainty about how things might go, the task force staged at 0600 on 5 April for the first American incursion into Baghdad. The soldier who wrote the unit history for A Company (Wild Bunch) put it this way, "Truthfully, everyone's nerves were on edge for this mission."20 Since Schwartz ordered the Wild Bunch to lead, they could be forgiven for having a case of nerves that morning. Team C/1-64 AR (Rock) followed Wild Bunch, and Team C/3- 15 IN (Cobra) assumed the trail position. Captain Hibner left his mine-clearing line charge (MCLIC) and one engineer platoon behind but moved with his 1st Platoon tucked in with the Wild Bunch. Reflecting on Hibner's choice of his platoon, First Lieutenant Eric Canaday, 1st Platoon, D Company, 10th Engineers, recalled, "I think the reason [Hibner] did that was because I was a three-track platoon [1st Platoon lost a track to maintenance]....I had to pack my whole platoon into three vehicles. This gave me four or five shooters in the back of each track in addition to the .50-caliber machine gun and Mk-19 [40 mm automatic grenade launcher].... We had gotten extra SAWs [Squad Automatic Weapons] and 240s [7.62mm machine guns] from the other platoon and actually were able to put down a surprising amount of firepower."21 Although he apparently had not shared his reasons with Canaday, Hibner intended exactly that. At Najaf Hibner discovered that all those 240 machine guns and .50-caliber machine guns on the tracks gave the platoon a lot of firepower and the ability to fire on the second and third stories, something that the tanks and Bradleys could not do. According to Hibner, each track could engage six targets at once--better than the tanks and Bradleys could do.22

Festooned with weapons, the engineers provided the task force with welcome additional firepower. Everyone had learned at An Najaf that the engineer squads provided an impressive addition to the task force's firepower, particularly when focused on the second and third floors of buildings that the tanks and Bradleys had trouble reaching from close in. Scouts and mortars remained in the task force blocking positions to maintain secure positions to which the task force could return.23

The task force crossed the line of departure at 0630, moving in a staggered column along Highway 8. What followed proved to be riveting television, as much of America and the world accompanied Rogue, TF 1-64 AR, as they fought their way downtown. As seen over Colonel Perkins' shoulder or from behind his track commander, Captain John Ives, the brigade assistant S2, the fight was prolonged and often very intense. Perkins' young captain alternately fired his M2 .50-caliber machine gun and his M-16. At one point, in the midst of reloading his .50-caliber machine gun, the young captain turned in his hatch and saw an Iraqi defender a few meters away, raising his AK-47 to fire. Acting without thinking, Ives threw the empty ammunition can he had in his hands at the Iraqi, knocking him down. Perkins then grabbed his 9mm pistol and killed the man. These types of engagements punctuated the narrative from Greg Kelly of FOX News, aboard the brigade commander's M113 APC.24

Only minutes into the operation, Rogue began taking sporadic small-arms and RPG fire. Soon they encountered both paramilitary forces and beret-wearing uniformed SRG soldiers. As the task force proceeded into town, the intensity of the fight ratcheted up. Moreover, junctions with ramps on and off of Highway 8 complicated matters, as did civilians who continued to use the highway, sharing it with the Rogue and occasionally with the enemy. Determining which traffic was hostile and which was not required patience and courage throughout the run. Generally, if traffic was joining the highway, the troops fired warning shots, causing drivers to turn around abruptly. But traffic passing on the opposite side of the highway had to be assessed and trail units advised. Avoiding harm to civilians who had no idea that the Americans had arrived in Baghdad proved impossible. Captain Hibner recalls that one family suffered due to secondary explosions caused when the task force destroyed a technical vehicle. The explosions injured several children and their father. At one point, a Bradley blocked a ramp and an Iraqi vehicle promptly struck it. This forced a trailing car to a halt. In this second car, the soldiers found the Iraqi colonel who served as the chief of logistics for the Baghdad district.25 The troops brought him along for the rest of the ride.26

Only 20 minutes into the thunder run, Rogue fought hard against Iraqi regulars and paramilitary forces firing from every "niche and cranny."27 To add to their difficulties, Staff Sergeant Diaz's tank, C12, took either an RPG or recoilless rifle hit in the right rear. Diaz, his crew, and others fought the resulting fire, hoping to save the tank.

Close Contact on Thunder Run I
[TF 1-64 AR] had moved 6 kilometers when a recoilless rifle disabled one of the tanks.... It hit into the tank's engine compartment and it started it on fire....The dismounted enemy converged on the disabled tank...Two members of the tank crew got on board the First Sergeant's M113 and were shot while boarding. One was shot through his eye and the other soldier was shot in the shoulder.... At one point, Wild Bunch reported over 250 dismounts attacking them.
Captain David Hibner,
commander, D/10th EN

According to Lieutenant Colonel Eric "Rick" Schwartz,"Cobra got hit hard and in an area that made the whole task force vulnerable at a key overpass, where we had taken a lot of fire. I had to decide if we should go to ground and provide security and give Cobra the opportunity to recover that tank or do we abandon the tank and keep going."28 Schwartz halted the task force. During the halt, paramilitary and military forces began to arrive in trucks and buses, in no particular order and in no formation. The task force chewed them up with "a steady stream of coax, main gun, and 25 `mike-mike'(Bradley cannon)."29

Those fighting the fire and attempting to recover C12 became prime targets for the now- aroused opposition. At one point, the team commander reported that he was in contact with 250 Iraqi dismounts. Paramilitary forces descended on the burning tank. Schwartz recalled that this enemy "knew every dirty trick in the book and used it."30 Despite the intensity of the Iraqi attack, soldiers fought the fire with some success. It appeared several times that they had the fire under control. The crew even managed to hook a tow bar to C12 to recover it, but the fire flared up again. Finally, after 20 minutes of fighting the fire and the enemy, Diaz and his soldiers had to abandon the tank. But even this choice caused difficulty as the crew scrambled to recover sensitive items from the doomed tank under enemy fire. The Iraqis wounded two of Diaz's crewmen as they departed the scene as passengers in the company first sergeant's M113.31

Figure 192. TF 1-64 AR conducting casualty air MEDEVAC, 5 April 2003

One hour into the 2 hour and 20-minute operation, the thunder run became an exercise in running a gauntlet. Moving slowly and fighting in several directions, the task force suffered another blow when the Iraqis fatally wounded Staff Sergeant Stevon Booker. Booker, a tank commander, was up high in his cupola firing on Iraqi dismounted infantry and Fedayeen with his M-4 carbine when he was hit. Nearly simultaneously, the Iraqis hit a Bradley attached to Wild Bunch with an RPG, disabling it and blowing the driver out of his hatch. Wild Bunch halted to deal with the disabled Bradley and to evacuate Booker and the injured Bradley driver. A tank platoon maneuvered to protect the evacuation of the wounded and of the disabled Bradley. Within minutes, the Wild Bunch had loaded the wounded and moved on.32

Mission Completion--Linking Up at LIONS

As Rogue closed on the airport, the Iraqis tried once more to trap the task force on the road. They emplaced several slabs of concrete that produced a barrier across the highway some 3 feet tall and 2 feet thick. Covered by suppressive fire, the lead platoon leader rammed the barrier with his 70-ton M1 tank, went airborne, and broke it up enough for the rest of the task force to drive through. Surmounting this last hurdle, Rogue made contact with friendly troops at Baghdad International Airport. Even this happy moment was not without incident. As it approached the airport, the lead platoon reported tanks to its front. When the company commander asked the tank commander to amplify the report by passing range data, he reported 2,000 meters. The commander looked at his BFT and noted a blue icon at 2,000 meters. Scanning, the lead platoon confirmed that it had friendly forces in sight. The task force made radio contact and began passing through friendly lines.33

At the airport, MEDEVAC awaited those who required it. The task force passed through the perimeter and took some time to rest and refit. Refit included repairing damage, sweeping away hundreds of brass cartridges and links, and putting out fires on one Bradley and one tank. One soldier recalled that the brass casings in his track from expended rounds were ankle high. The task force evacuated the wounded and Staff Sergeant Booker's body. Lieutenant Colonel Schwartz described the scene at the airport, "[TF 2-7 IN] did a fantastic job receiving us. . . . There was a very different tone in the air. There was a tremendous feeling of loss; there was a feeling of mission success, which was a great feeling. There was everyone looking at their vehicles and wondering how we were able to survive. Bradleys had gotten hit with multiple RPGs and kept rolling...I don't think any of us had a dry eye."34

Are You Okay?
We linked up with 1st Brigade on the airfield [following Thunder Run I]. We went for a 4-hour break.... You would have thought there would have been a lot of high-fives, but there were a lot of soldiers in shock. There were a lot of soldiers crying; they were just emotionally spent.

"I was emotionally spent. One of my tank commanders had been killed. I had a soldier shot in the eye, shot in the forehead, shot in the shoulder, shot in the back, shot in the face.... I just needed time for myself, and one of the other battalion commanders from 1st Brigade came over and didn't say a single word. He asked me, "Are you okay?" And I said, "I don't know." He looked at me and then turned around and walked away, and that was the best thing he could have done.

"We regrouped after about 4 hours and left the airfield and went back to business. I was okay; everyone was okay. Let me take that back--we were better, but we weren't okay. We were never okay. I talked to the company commanders; I talked with the [doctors]...I had to be with everyone I could be with for my own personal well being and for theirs, to let them know what they did was right and it was justifiable and everything I asked them to do.... We regrouped and refocused and attacked two days later into Baghdad.

Lieutenant Colonel Eric "Rick" Schwartz
commander, 1-64 AR
interview, 18 May 2003.

Emotionally spent, TF 1-64 AR moved to the south of the city, reoccupying the blocking position it left that morning. The following morning, A Company held a memorial service for Staff Sergeant Booker, noting in its unit summary that he died "helping his crew, his platoon, helping his company team. He saw the need to be up there, exposed to fire, engaging the enemy to protect his crew. He didn't need to be asked, he just did it."35

Back to Top

Thunder Run of 7 April

Task: Attack to Seize Objective DIANE (Baghdad City Center)

Purpose: To demonstrate American resolve and facilitate the fall of the Iraqi regime.
Fragmentary Order to A/1-64 AR
6 April, 2003.

"They fled. The American louts fled. Indeed, concerning the fighting waged by the heroes of the Arab Socialist Ba'ath Party yesterday, one amazing thing really is the cowardice of the American soldiers. We had not anticipated this."
Iraqi Information Minister
Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf,
"Baghdad Bob"

Colonel David Perkins, commander of the 2nd BCT, 3rd ID returned dissatisfied with the overall results of his 5 April thunder run through downtown Baghdad. The attack proved that it could be done--that Baghdad's defenses could be penetrated at will. The soldiers fought magnificently and were a credit to their training and leadership. Although Perkins was satisfied with the tactical performance of his troops, he was not sure the message they were sending was the right one. He was disturbed with the information and perception implications of the raid. Perkins was also provoked by the Iraqi information minister, Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf, "Baghdad Bob's" barefaced lies to the world, declaring that not only were there no American forces in Baghdad, but that the Iraqis had repulsed the attack and inflicted massive casualties. Aside from the insult to the fighting spirit and abilities of his soldiers, Perkins appreciated the power of the information battle. Baghdad Bob's lies had an effect on the Iraqis' defensive effort--their morale and fighting zeal. More than just pandering to the Iraqi civilian population, the Iraqi military leadership actually believed that the Americans were dying in droves far south of Baghdad. Even the captured Iraqi colonel, arguably someone who should have known the true military situation, expressed shock at finding Abrams tanks and Bradley Fighting Vehicles in his capital. Not understanding how far and how fast the coalition had moved only emboldened the defenders in the city. Allowing these lies to stand would only worsen the eventual fight for Baghdad.36

Perkins' chain of command, Major General Blount, Lieutenant General Wallace, and Lieutenant General McKiernan, on the other hand, were pleased with the first thunder run's success. While it was a significant and ferocious engagement, the Iraqi response to the 2nd BCT Spartans was not the sophisticated, integrated urban defense that they feared. Moreover, the attack had clearly taken the Iraqis by surprise, confirming that the coalition firmly held the initiative.

Going Downtown: A Study in Battle Command

On the night of 5 April, wanting to maintain the pressure, Wallace and Blount decided to conduct a second attack. "Blount and I talked that night and decided we would do another thunder run. `Buff' and I agreed they would go two intersections [major highway interchanges--this one eventually designated as Objective MOE] into town and turn and come back out. So I went to bed thinking that is what they would do."37 With the success and experience from their first thunder run, there was no question that Colonel Perkins' Spartans would conduct the attack.

On 6 April, Blount directed Perkins to conduct a limited-objective attack back into Baghdad on 7 April.38 Both officers fully understood Wallace `s intent--his purpose, in ordering the raid. The core of any Army order is the purpose and commander's intent. Since no plan ever goes as written, if the subordinate commander understands why he is conducting a mission, he can adapt to the inevitable fog and friction of battle or take advantage of opportunity. In this case, Wallace's, as well as McKiernan's, ultimate purpose was to render the regime "irrelevant," causing it to collapse and thus free Iraq from the dictatorship.39 In understanding this, the 3rd ID and 2nd BCT commanders knew they had the freedom and authority to adjust the mission as the situation developed.

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Figure 193. The 7 April thunder run route

Colonel Perkins had in mind the possibility of going even farther into Baghdad than his orders specified. He wanted a plan that gave his commanders options should the conditions warrant.40 If conditions were just right, Perkins wanted to go downtown, possibly remain overnight, or even permanently. Although provoked by the Iraqi propaganda, Perkins did not become reckless. Also with the first thunder run still fresh in his memory, he did not want to have to keep repeating these missions. In his mind, it would be easier to stay downtown than to conduct these thunder runs over and over again.41

Going Downtown
I first knew they were going all the way in when I watched the blue icons turn and head downtown. [Major General] Blount and I talked and he told me that [Colonel] Perkins was going downtown. Later I was watching Dave Perkins walking around in the palace on CNN. He called Blount to ask what kind of calling card we should leave downtown. We decided on a HEAT [tank] round through the front door.

Lieutenant General William Wallace,
commander, V Corps,
interview, 7 August 2003

Perkins had another clear rationale for going--and possibly even staying--downtown. It would hasten the regime's collapse and meet Wallace's intent by demonstrating unequivocally that the Americans were there to stay, revealing the regime's utter inability to defend its capital, and unmasking "Baghdad Bob's" blatant propaganda. Moreover, such a bold strike at the regime would boost the American morale. He had seen the Iraqis' tactics and felt that 2nd BCT could handle them. Finally, after thinking through the coming fight, Perkins worked out four conditions that he believed would make it possible to go downtown and stay:

  • The 2nd BCT successfully fighting its way into Baghdad
  • Seizing defensible, important, and symbolic terrain in Baghdad
  • Opening and maintaining a LOC into Baghdad
  • Resupplying sufficiently to remain overnight42

Intelligence reports indicated that after 2nd BCT's initial attack into the city, enemy forces had begun to establish roadblocks at major intersections, reseed minefields, and build other obstacles to block movement into the city. In fact, the division watched with the Hunter UAV as the Iraqi defenders laid a hasty minefield across Highway 8 behind the task force, attempting to seal them in during the first thunder run.43

This sparked a discussion in the Spartans' command post because of the minefield's potential impact on the mission. The discussion served to give Perkins a sense of the magnitude of risk he would assume if and when he sensed the opportunity to go into Baghdad--getting out might be harder than getting in.44

As events unfolded, Perkins assessed the fight and decided to turn east into the center of the city. While the reporting is not fully clear on the sequence of events for this decision, Lieutenant General Wallace noted that the first time he was aware of the change in plan was when he watched the blue icons on his BFT turn right off Highway 8. Major General Blount called Wallace and reported that Perkins had assessed the level of resistance and thought he could make it to the center of the city. Rather than question the deviation, Wallace had no thought other than to underwrite the decision. Having already weighted the 3rd ID with every asset the corps had available, to include the corps' only UAV, he was confident the Spartans could accomplish his mission and intent.45

Figure 194. Surface-laid hasty minefield in Baghdad

Once the Spartans made it downtown, Wallace and Blount spoke on the radio again. Blount told him that Perkins believed he had defensible terrain and he could hold his positions and stay downtown. Wallace asked Blount a series of questions focusing on if and how the division could keep the LOC open. Casualty evacuation and resupply were key issues. In a classic example of commanders at each echelon understanding intent and purpose, his questions paralleled Perkins' original criteria for staying. The three commanders all intuitively understood the opportunities--and risks--and reached similar conclusions. The exchanges between Colonel Perkins, Major General Blount, and Lieutenant General Wallace illustrate the delicate balance between executing orders as given versus following intent and exercising initiative.46

Scheme of Maneuver

"Our armed forces, according to their tactics, are leaving the way open [to]...the capital, especially the commandos, are getting ready to wipe them out."
Iraqi Information Minister
Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf,
"Baghdad Bob"

The scheme of maneuver called for Task Force 1-64 AR to lead the brigade from Objective SAINTS. Once downtown Perkins planned for TF 1-64 AR, Rogue, to seize the Tomb of the Unknowns and the adjoining park and zoo, designated Objective DIANE. TF 4-64 AR, Tuskers, would follow to seize two of Saddam Hussein's palaces along the Tigris River, designated Objectives WOODY WEST and WOODY EAST. Task force 3-15 IN, China, would take trail with the dual tasks of securing Objective SAINTS and the LOC, Highway 8. TF 3-15 IN designated the three major cloverleaf intersections along the highway from south to north as Objectives CURLEY, LARRY, and MOE.47

Maintaining momentum was critical. Colonel Perkins and the soldiers of the brigade had already learned that the Iraqis would swarm and mass fires on any stationary force. Given this, he intended to keep the brigade moving. The lead units would identify and engage targets as they came upon them, passing them off to trailing units as the column moved past. TF 3-15 IN would drop companies at objectives CURLY, LARRY, and MOE to secure them as the brigade moved on. Perkins' troops also planned to prepare obstacles to reduce their vulnerability to attacks from side streets and ramps.48

Going Downtown

"They are sick in their minds. They say they brought 65 tanks into [the] center of [the] city. I say to you this talk is not true. This is part of their sick mind."
Iraqi Information Minister
Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf,
"Baghdad Bob"

We were told we needed to download all of our bags, all fuel, all ammo [off the bustle racks and outside of the vehicles]--everything--because we were going into Baghdad. TF 1-64 AR had learned that you need to take all that stuff off in a MOUT fight. They would shoot RPGs and catch the bustle racks on fire.
Comment by unspecified company commander
Interview, 31 May 2003.
TF 4-64 AR,

Once again Alpha Company, 1-64 AR, Wild Bunch, led the attack as the brigade started north on Highway 8 at 0538.49 Wild Bunch covered the task force's attached engineer company, Delta Company, 10th EN, along with the task force scouts, as they breached the hastily laid minefield about a kilometer north of the brigade's starting position at Objective SAINTS. In approximately 15 minutes, the engineers created a breach lane. The brigade started to roll through at 0600.50

Figure 195. Soldiers clearing hasty minefield

Wild Bunch made contact 11 minutes later as the Iraqis opened fire with the familiar combination of small arms, RPGs, and mortars. A two-RPG volley struck one tank, C12, disabling it. Not wanting to stop the column and unable to restart the tank due to an additional hydraulic leak, Wild Bunch passed the tank off to TF 4-64 AR and the crew to TF 3-15 IN for recovery back to Objective SAINTS. The tank was evacuated back to CURLEY, where the brigade disabled the tank to prevent is use or exploitation by the enemy.51

At 0641, the brigade reported bypassing several hasty obstacles constructed out of overturned 18-wheel trucks and construction equipment, covered by defenders in bunkers and spider holes. The Iraqis conducted uncoordinated local fights that did not take advantage of the urban terrain. Their failure to build complex obstacles despite months of preparation time, lack of integrated combined arms tactics, and absence of integrated artillery--all indicated that the Spartans, despite contrary evidence in the form of the minefield, had surprised the defenders. Another possible explanation is that the regime hoped to wage an entirely unconventional defense. In any case, their efforts proved unsuccessful in defending Baghdad. That day the brigade did not concern itself with theory on why the Iraqis did what they did-- it fought on. As it moved forward, the brigade came across and killed a number of Iraqis trying to recover the M1 tank disabled during the 5 April attack.52

The fight up Highway 8 was intense, with the column of tanks and Bradleys firing a continuous stream of machine gun, 25mm chain gun, and 120mm main tank rounds at the defenders who swarmed from the surrounding buildings and ubiquitous spider holes and bunkers along the road. The fighting developed into a 1- meter to 100-meter fight as gunners engaged technicals and bunkers at a hundred meters or so, while other crewmen fired down over the sides of their vehicles as the enemy rushed up close. Never stopping, the brigade fought through the enemy defenses that included BMPs hiding in alleyways attempting to get keyhole shots on the passing column.53

Figure 196. "Thunder Run," 7 April 2003

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Figure 197. TF 1-64 AR movement into downtown Baghdad, 7 April 2003

Small-arms and RPG fire slowly decreased in intensity and finally stopped, for the moment at least, as TF 1-64 AR made the turn east at Objective MOE and headed toward the heart of Baghdad. Troops attacking toward Objective DIANE marveled as they passed under the notorious crossed swords they had seen on television so many times.54
The mission was to bypass and not get into a pitched battle.
Lieutenant Colonel Phillip DeCamp
commander, TF 4-64 AR,
commenting on Thunder Run II

Wild Bunch crossed to the eastern side of the park and monument complex that constituted DIANE. They established a blocking position at a key intersection adjacent to the Al Rasheed Hotel and across from the Tomb of the Unknowns, sealing the center from the north and northeast. C/1-64 AR moved into a blocking position at the western edge of the parade complex and VIP stand, sealing the center from the west and northwest. The remainder of Rogue followed, setting up mortars, command posts, aid stations, and a resupply point in the fields and open areas of the park.55

Figure 198. The 2nd Brigade, 3rd ID at VIP parade field, Baghdad, 7 April 2003

The lull did not last. Once in position, Rogue fought a continuous defense against poorly coordinated but persistent Iraqi counterattacks by groups of 10-20 soldiers and paramilitaries. Iraqis on foot attacked from within the zoo perimeter to the immediate north, using ammunition and weapons cached all through the area. Other fighters pressed Rogue from the surrounding buildings and side streets, leading to numerous close-quarter fights in and around the buildings surrounding the park. The soldiers employed their superior armor, artillery, and mortar teams to defeat the attackers, frequently calling the indirect fires in "danger-close."56

Tanks at the Mall
Within 4 hours, Colonel Perkins' 2nd BCT penetrated the Baghdad defenses a second time and planted its flag in downtown Baghdad.

To give a sense of perspective, the 21-kilometer attack into Baghdad was equivalent to an attack on Washington, DC from the intersection of I-495 and I-95 in Springfield, Virginia, to the Mall in downtown Washington, DC; seizing the area from the Capitol to the White House to the Lincoln Memorial to the Jefferson Memorial. The 2nd Brigade parked tanks on the Iraqi equivalent of the Lincoln Memorial, aiming down the Memorial Bridge toward Arlington Cemetery.

The Americans were in downtown Baghdad, and they planned to stay.

Following directly behind Rogue, the Tuskers of TF 4-64 AR made first contact on Highway 8 at 0636. Facing a similar, if slightly less intense, fight as Rogue, the Tuskers made the turn at Objective MOE at 0700. Despite slackened resistance, the task force reported killing 20 Iraqi dismounted troops, a BRDM reconnaissance vehicle, and a BMP. A/4-64 AR, Assassin, reached Objective WOODY WEST at 0720, clearing the palace complex by 0756. While Assassin cleared its objective, C/4-64 AR, Cyclone, established a blocking position at the July 14th Monument, a key intersection overlooking the July 14th Bridge across the Tigris River. The bridge connected to the university district, where there was an expected nest of Iraqi defenders. Although the Tuskers described opposition as sporadic and less than expected, they captured 25 prisoners and killed 47 dismounted troops. They also destroyed 2 BMPs, 1 BRDM, 12 artillery pieces, 19 antitank weapons, 29 technical vehicles, and 19 air defense weapons.57

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Figure 199. The 2nd BCT disposition in downtown Baghdad, 7 April 2003

TOC Strike

During the thunder run the Iraqis struck back hard at perhaps the best target they could have selected. At 0700 on 7 April, as the task forces penetrated the center of Baghdad, the Iraqis scored a direct hit with either a rocket or missile on the 2nd Brigade's tactical operations center (TOC). The devastating strike killed three soldiers and two embedded reporters, wounded 17 others, and destroyed or damaged 22 vehicles. The TOC had been coordinating and integrating the field artillery and CAS support for Colonel Perkins, enabling him to focus these efforts. The attack knocked the TOC off the air.58

The TOC was located in an abandoned Iraqi military compound surrounded by 10-foot- high walls. All of the support vehicles were on line approximately 15-20 feet from the tent that housed the operations center. Just before 0700 witnesses heard the whine of what sounded like a low-flying jet aircraft. What they heard was actually an incoming projectile, not an aircraft.59

Figure 200. The 2nd Brigade, 3rd ID TOC burning after Iraqi strike, with empty red rice bags strewn around the impact area

The rocket or missile struck within a few feet of the tent and even closer to the lined-up vehicles, producing a crater 10 feet deep and 8 feet in diameter. The explosion rocked the area, knocked all the power out, and sent a fireball through the TOC. The explosion knocked several soldiers off their feet, including Sergeant First Class Stanley Griffin, who was inside the TOC monitoring the radio nets. The blast also set vehicles and tents ablaze.

Figure 201. The 2nd Brigade, 3rd ID TOC on fire from strike

After the initial shock, the officers and soldiers immediately began recovery operations-- both to rescue injured soldiers and to get back into operation. Accountability of soldiers proved difficult as the troops aided the wounded or looked for friends, fought fires, or wandered about dazed. The explosion and fires produced strange and disconcerting effects among the survivors. According to First Sergeant Rodric Dalton, the brigade's Headquarters and Headquarters Company first sergeant, "It seemed as if we were in slow-motion."60 Despite moving slowly, the company soldiers accounted for everyone within 17 minutes. Sergeant First Class Griffin recounted his own search for one of his troops, "I couldn't find [name omitted]. I walked the entire perimeter at least three times. The heat was unbearable, and there were a lot of secondary explosions coming from the burning vehicles. Then we found his remains in the front seat of his vehicle."61 Griffin went on to say, "The soldiers were the bravest I had ever seen. They would just run in and out of the fire looking for buddies and equipment. We didn't have time to grieve; we had to get the radios back up and running, get the casualties MEDEVACed out of the area, and set up a secure perimeter. Sergeant Scott set up the casualty collection point. I thought that was very professional of him to do so."62

Figure 202. Destroyed HMMWV and brigade plans truck, 2nd Brigade, 3rd ID TOC

As the soldiers triaged the wounded, Captain William Glaser, the Headquarters and Headquarters Company commander, identified still-serviceable equipment. Meanwhile, the brigade executive officer, Lieutenant Colonel Eric Wesley, reestablished the command post approximately 300 meters to the south. In a battle drill never practiced before, soldiers cannibalized the remaining equipment in and around the destroyed headquarters and carried it to Wesley, who got it back into the fight.63 Despite the carnage, the survivors managed to get into operation within 1 hour, albeit at a reduced capacity.64

The Decision to Stay

The strike couldn't have happened at a worse time. By the time the TOC resumed operations, it was approaching time for Colonel Perkins to decide whether his forces would stay

2nd BCT Recovering from the Strike
Captain William Glaser, commander of HHC/2 BCT, 3rd ID, was working in the brigade TOC outside Baghdad on 7 April when all hell broke loose. An Iraqi rocket or missile landed dead center on the TOC. It couldn't have happened at a worse time. The BCT had launched the Battle for Baghdad that morning, and it was approaching time for Colonel Perkins, the BCT commander, to decide whether his forces would stay in Baghdad or withdraw.

A few seconds earlier, Glaser had been working on the TOC battle board when he heard what sounded like a low-flying jet airplane. Then there was a huge explosion, and the next thing he knew he was crawling out from under the collapsed tent. Getting on his feet, Glaser saw that his soldiers had already established a casualty collection point and were performing buddy aid on casualties. He then set out to see where his first sergeant was setting up the ambulance exchange point.

As he moved to the front of the building that housed the TOC, Glaser saw Lieutenant Colonel Wesley, the brigade executive officer. Wesley's calm demeanor had an enormously calming effect on Glaser. "I don't even know what he said. It probably doesn't matter. All I remember is that he was calm and clearly in control of himself and the situation, and that infected me and bled down to everyone...He was the senior guy there, and he was creating control out of chaos. . . I knew then that we'd get through this."

As he continued around the building, Captain Glaser saw one of his soldiers, generator mechanic Private First Class Camp, a poster-quality example of a soldier--large, strong, and very tough, who volunteered for the Army immediately following the attacks on the World Trade Center on 9/11-- walking toward the back of the building, wearing only one boot and his uniform pants, with shrapnel in his back and covered in blood. A female soldier was trying to get him to go to the ambulance exchange point. Camp refused her pleas, repeating, "I have to go pull security" as he trudged to the perimeter. He didn't have a weapon. Like his boot and uniform top, it had been blown away by the blast. Glaser then told Camp to go to the casualty collection point, but Camp repeated, in a daze, "Sir, I have to pull security." So Glaser asked, "Private First Class Camp, do you know who I am?"

"Of course," said Camp, "you're the CO," responding as if that were a ridiculous question. "Good," said Glaser. "As your commander, I order you to listen to this lady and do what she says." At that, Camp moved out to the ambulance point. He was evacuated to the hospital and returned to duty three days later.

Continuing around to the front of the building, Glaser saw his first sergeant, steady as a rock, directing soldiers. "The [ambulance point] is right over there," said Dalton, and Glaser saw that a sergeant was already guiding in medic personnel carriers that had responded as soon as they'd heard the impact. Glaser then noticed that fires were everywhere. The warehouse they'd occupied had held hundreds of thousands of small red rice bags, and the explosion had blasted and ignited thousands of them. They were on vehicles everywhere.

Since casualty evacuation was taken care of, Glaser took charge of the firefighting effort. He saw two vehicles with burning bags all over them. Specialist Hamlin, the driver for the operations sergeant major's vehicle, struggled unsuccessfully to put out the blaze on his HMMWV. Since they were only 20 meters from the main blaze, Glaser told Hamlin to drive the vehicle out to a safer location to put the fires out. Seeing no other soldiers around, Glaser jumped into the other vehicle. "I'll never forget," he says, "sitting in a burning vehicle, with burning plastic dripping on my arms, and staring at the yellow glow-plug light that read `Wait.'"

Captain Glaser moved the vehicle, put out the fires on it, and then returned to the building to retrieve the stretcher that was on his HMMWV. He ran the stretcher to the casualty collection point, where Specialist Gates took it and ran into the burning building to look for any additional casualties. Once he saw that the combat lifesavers had done everything that could be done, and the only activity was the legal officer getting cots to use as additional stretchers, Glaser stood up on a stack of pallets and issued instructions for casualty evacuation.

He told everyone where the ambulance exchange point was located and how to get there, and within minutes the soldiers evacuated the casualties and the burning building was clear of personnel. As soldiers were leaving, the fires set off secondary explosions from ammunition stored on burning vehicles. Then three soldiers from the TF 4-64 AR's unit maintenance collection point arrived on an M88, asking how they could help. Captain Glaser told them that he had the personnel issues under control, but he needed help to save the undamaged vehicles trapped inside the flames. A couple of minutes later, Glaser saw an M88 crash though the building's wall, creating an exit. The 2nd BCT soldiers then rushed in and saved their remaining vehicles. Soon after, Lieutenant Colonel Wesley came up on the net, reported what had happened, and reestablished TOC operations to support the battle.

Compiled from an interview with Captain William Glaser,
18 May 2003

or withdraw. He had three alternatives: pull out of Baghdad; run a resupply convoy into the city while TF 3-15 IN continued the fight to clear the LOC; or withdraw the leading task forces. Perkins believed that TF 3-15 IN only needed a couple of more hours to succeed in its mission. So, ignoring those three choices, he decided on a fourth option: he pushed the decision point back--bought time--by ordering the task forces in Baghdad to turn their tank engines off for the next 2 hours, only starting them to charge their batteries. This bought the TF 3-15 IN more time to clear up the LOC.65

Figure 203. Impact point, 2nd Brigade, 3rd ID TOC

Figure 204. The 2nd Brigade, 3rd ID reestablishing the TOC

Securing the LOC

Despite the strike on the TOC, Perkins had achieved two of his three criteria for staying. However, reaching criterion 3--opening Highway 8 into Baghdad--would be not be easy. When the TOC returned to the air sometime around 0900, TF 3-15 had not yet opened the LOC. Moreover, the tanks downtown burned fuel--whether moving or standing still--at a rate of 56 gallons per hour. They had been burning fuel for more than 3 hours. Perkins reckoned that he had 4 hours from crossing the line of departure before he would be "bingo" on fuel, the point where he had to turn around or risk not being able to make it all the way back if he was not refueled. Even with shutting down the tank engines, the clock was still ticking. With downtown reasonably well in hand, Perkins focused on supporting TF 3-15's fight on the critical LOC.66
Field-expedient Surgery
When Sergeant Scott returned from the forward surgical team, I asked "Is Corporal Brown [Colonel Perkins' driver injured in the strike on the 2nd BCT TOC] going to make it?"

He responded, "Sir, I don't know but they are still working on him. When we got there, nobody could give him an IV because of his burns. I tried, the medics tried, and even the doctors could not find a vein. Then this special forces medic laying on a stretcher with an AK-47 round though his leg and waiting for a MEDEVAC, started screaming at us to bring Brown over to him. We carried Brown to the wounded medic, who pulled out a knife, cut down into Brown's leg, pulled out a vein, stuck the catheter into his vein, and then tied it off."

As soon as he was done with the vein, the field surgeons carried Brown into the operating room and the special forces medic was MEDEVACed to the rear. Corporal Brown was eventually evacuated to the USS Mercy hospital ship, where he died 36 hours later.

Captain William Glaser,
commander, HHC, 2nd Brigade, 3rd ID

Task Organization

On the evening before the attack, the 2nd BCT ordered TF 3-15 IN to detach all but one platoon of B/3-15 IN. The brigade assigned Captain Ronny Johnson's resulting understrength company the mission to secure Objective SAINTS while the rest of the BCT attacked into Baghdad. Protecting the brigade's operating base at SAINTS was critical to its ability to continue the fight downtown. Moreover, a secure SAINTS would serve as a safe haven to which it could return if things went badly.

Losing B/3-15 IN left Lieutenant Colonel Twitty short of combat power. He retained only four mechanized infantry rifle platoons and three tank platoons from his cross-attached tank company. But with three objectives to secure, he needed three company-size forces. Using available resources, Twitty created three company teams. He built Team Gator, one tank and two infantry platoons, around A/3-15 IN, commanded by Captain Joshua Wright. Team Rage, built around the headquarters of Twitty's attached tank company, B/4-64 AR, consisted of one infantry and two tank platoons commanded by Captain Dan Hubbard.67

Twitty conjured up a third team-- Team Zan specifically for this mission. The battalion had three battle captains in the S3 Operations section. Captain Harry "Zan" Hornbuckle, the senior captain, assumed command of the ad hoc team. Hornbuckle, a graduate of the Infantry School's Captains' Career Course, also served as an instructor in the Ranger Training Brigade (RTB) for two years. Lieutenant Colonel Twitty had confidence in Hornbuckle.68 Twitty formed Team Zan with the remaining infantry platoon (four Bradleys) from B/3-15 IN, the battalion's heavy mortar platoon led by First Lieutenant Josh Woodruff, with its four mortar tracks and an M557 fire direction center track, and a reinforced engineer platoon with four M113 APCs and two M9 ACEs. Twitty also assigned the battalion fire support officer, Captain William Brodany, to the team. This not only gave Hornbuckle a fire support coordinator, it added another Bradley, with its deadly 25mm cannon, to the team's firepower. Hornbuckle also brought with him the "extra" Bradley that Twitty had drawn back in Kuwait.69

In addition to these units, Captain Hornbuckle had the medics of the battalion's main aid station and the command sergeant major with him, along with several members of the maintenance section, including Staff Sergeant Joe Todd, who would man a heavy machine gun to great effect during the battle. Command Sergeant Major Robert Gallagher routinely traveled in one of the battalion's M88 recovery vehicles and positioned himself at what he perceived would be the most critical point during any operation. Gallagher believed that Zan would be at this fight's critical point.70 Along with Gallagher, two M577 command and control vehicles from the task force TOC joined the team.71 The battalion's embedded journalists, one fewer after reporter David Bloom's untimely death, rounded out the team.72 Dennis Steele, a photographer from ARMY Magazine, along with an ABC cameraman, took dramatic photographs and video of the fighting at CURLEY. These images would bring home to America the fierceness of this battle. Hornbuckle and the other company commanders had only 6 short hours, in the dark, to organize their teams, issue orders, refuel and rearm for the attack. Only their experience with the battalion and the hard realistic training they had gone through together made this possible. Lieutenant Colonel Twitty retained one squad of the scout platoon, the engineer company headquarters, an air liaison team from the Air Force with an enlisted tactical air controller, a PSYOP team, and a human intelligence team under his control. The rest of the scout platoon stayed back with Bravo Company at SAINTS.73

Click here for higher resolution image (590KB)
Figure 205. TF 3-15 IN disposition along the LOC, 7 April 2003

Receiving the Order

Portions of TF 3-15 IN arrived at SAINTS late on the afternoon of 6 April, after being relieved from the mission to secure the east side of the Euphrates River crossing at PEACH. That afternoon the rest of the task force attacked south on the east bank of the Euphrates to destroy remaining enemy forces south of the crossing. Lieutenant Colonel Twitty had not yet reached SAINTS when Colonel Perkins called a huddle to issue the operations order for the next morning's attack into Baghdad. Twitty sent his operations officer, Major Roger Shuck, in his place. Once he reached SAINTS and met with Shuck, Lieutenant Colonel Twitty developed his concept for the operation including organizing Zan. Twitty then used an empty, bombed- out building without a roof to plan and issue the attack order. Soldiers pulled a tarp over the top of a room in the building and used ponchos to prevent light from leaking out of the smashed windows. At midnight, Twitty issued the order for an attack at 0600. He then had his commanders talk through a simple rehearsal, moving yellow "sticky" notes around on a rough sketch of the objectives to show they understood his scheme of maneuver and intent. Lieutenant Colonel Twitty described issuing the order as a very dramatic and tense moment for all those present. They were exhausted and they expected a hard fight. Twitty commented, "I looked into the eyes of everyone in that bombed-out building, and for the first time, I saw real fear. After the battles in the city on 5 April by our sister task force, we knew this would be bad."74

Twitty developed a concept of operation similar to Perkins' scheme. He planned to secure his objectives from south to north in order. Gator, his mechanized infantry company team, led the task force, followed by Rage, his tank company team, and Zan. Zan would secure Objective CURLEY as the remainder of the task force continued on. Rage would secure Objective LARRY, and Gator would secure the northernmost objective, MOE. Twitty intended to position himself on Objective LARRY to ensure he remained in radio range with all of his units. At 0620 on 7 April, Twitty's task force crossed the line of departure following the Tuskers.75


As 2nd BCT moved north, the enemy called up reinforcements. Enemy resistance seemed to slacken for a bit as the Tuskers moved north but intensified as TF 3-15 IN approached, apparently as word spread that the Americans had returned. Lieutenant Colonel Twitty sensed conditions had changed from those the task force had encountered earlier in the campaign. Twitty felt that up to this point in the campaign the enemy had shown a "certain softness" or unwillingness to fight to the death. On 7 April he sensed a grim determination in the opposition.76

Although the enemy's attitude may have changed, the pattern of resistance remained similar to the way the enemy fought at As Samawah and north. As they had done previously, the enemy used small fighting positions along the highway. They also used ramps and overpasses to their advantage, both for cover and to attain the advantage of high ground. Side streets and ramps afforded them access to the flanks of advancing US units as well. Finally, the enemy reinforced the fighting without apparent close coordination, but in greater and growing numbers. After the first thunder run, the brigade knew very well that the enemy would use the overpasses; accordingly, the artillery fire plan included firing airbursts over the overpasses. Twitty found that the fighting against opposition literally on the edge of the road made using artillery and CAS difficult. Nearly all of the missions called were danger-close--that is, so close to the friendly troops that they were likely to produce both friendly and enemy casualties. That did not stop the 3rd ID troops from calling danger close missions. They called plenty of them.77

One of the principles of military operations in urban terrain is that an attacking force requires significant engineer support, both to assure mobility by clearing obstacles and also to develop obstacles to protect the flanks of the advancing forces. TF 3-15 IN applied the principle with success during the fighting at all three objectives. Twitty's troops used armored combat earthmovers (ACEs) to knock down light poles and move wrecks to generate obstacles across streets and roads coming into the three intersections at LARRY, MOE, and CURLEY. The task force's engineering efforts paid off as the enemy continued to use a combination of dismounted and mounted attacks by both combat vehicles and "technical" trucks and attacks by suicide bombers attempting to detonate vehicles inside the Americans' perimeters.78 The obstacles stymied the Iraqis and their foreign fighters and proved critical during the decisive fight at Objective CURLEY.

Objective CURLEY

As soon as Team Zan arrived at Objective CURLEY, Captain Hornbuckle organized a hasty defense around the complex road intersection and overpass. Oriented north on Highway 8, he placed the Mortar platoon with two tracks facing north and two facing south back down the highway. Hornbuckle assigned the engineer platoon responsibility for the east side of the cloverleaf intersection and the mechanized infantry platoon responsibility for the west side. The infantry platoon first had to attack to clear enemy troops from trenches and fighting positions they had built in the area Hornbuckle assigned them to defend. From the outset, Hornbuckle and Gallagher had to use everyone who had accompanied Team Zan to clear the perimeter and defend it. Staff troops and communicators assigned to the task force headquarters company ably pitched in.79

After the fact, Lieutenant Colonel Twitty described Team Zan's opponents at CURLEY as "Syrian Jihadists" who came to Iraq to fight against Americans. According to Twitty, they showed no evidence of thorough or professional training, but they fought with determination. Many of the Syrian fighters occupied a large building on the northwest corner of the interchange. According to Twitty, the troops at CURLEY claimed the intensity of fire from the building made the whole structure look as if it were "twinkling and blinking."81

Shimmering in the Sun
Two days after the fighting, Private First Class David Turner, a mechanic in Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 3-15 IN, passed CURLEY. He described the streets and ground as "shimmering in the sun like gold from all the expended brass lying on the ground."
TF 3-15 IN Unit History

Although Zan troopers cleared the Iraqi and Syrian defenders out several times, the enemy reoccupied the shallow trenches around the periphery of the cloverleaf because Zan had two few troops to defend the entire perimeter against the onslaught of dismounted attacks. Team Zan literally fought a 360-degree fight. Growing bolder, small groups of attackers edged closer and closer to the position from all directions, and although the direct-lay missions against the large building helped, heavy fire continued to come from there.82 The Syrians and Iraqis fought with a fierce, even fanatical, determination, pressing home their attacks. One of the mechanized infantry troops killed a woman who attacked his part of the perimeter.83

Figure 206. Mortar platoon vehicles of TF 3-15 IN on Objective CURLEY, 7 April 2003

The Pros from Dover--
Special Forces on CURLEY
As Zan prepared to depart Objective SAINTS, a small SF detachment arrived and approached the sergeant major about joining the unit as it moved north. Two SF vehicles, modified pickup trucks mounting machine guns on pedestals, merged into the convoy. The SF troops asked that they be allowed to make first contact with the local Iraqis on Objective CURLEY. They argued that if they could talk to the older men in the area, "the men with beards," perhaps Zan could avoid a confrontation.

Captain Hornbuckle and Command Sergeant Major Gallagher could hardly believe what they were hearing. The SF soldiers obviously had a different idea of what the situation on CURLEY would be when Zan got there than everyone in TF 3-15 IN had. All along, this had been planned as a high- intensity combat operation. By the time Zan arrived at the crossroads, TF 1-64 AR, TF 4-64 AR, and two company teams of TF 3-15 IN had all passed through, and each of them had traded heavy fire with the Iraqi and Syrian defenders. There definitely would not be an opportunity for peaceful negotiations this day, regardless of what the SF sergeant thought.

As expected, Zan met heavy enemy fire as it occupied CURLEY. The SF soldiers saw right away that there was not going to be an opportunity for discussions. The SF troopers, who were prepared to speak with the Iraqis showing only a minimum of arms and ammunition, quickly donned their full battle gear and prepared for the fight. Gallagher said that he watched them as they calmly put on their equipment and gathered their ammunition and weapons. He described them as being "Like the pros from Dover, come to settle this thing and get in a round of golf later."

The SF troopers gathered up a couple of infantrymen and charged into a building near the intersection. Command Sergeant Major Gallagher heard a flurry of shots and later saw the infantry soldiers dragging two of the Special Forces guys out of the building with wounds to their legs. The remainder of the SF team fought with Zan throughout the day.

Command Sergeant Major Robert Gallagher,
command sergeant major, TF 3-15 IN,
19 May 200380

As the battle entered its fourth hour, Lieutenant Colonel Twitty radioed Hornbuckle to ask, "Zan, just tell me. Do you need extra help?"84 Hornbuckle said no, but after months of working together, Twitty could hear the stress in his voice. Twitty sensed that Hornbuckle needed help so he sought a second opinion from Command Sergeant Major Gallagher. Gallagher, tagged as "Black Hawk Bob" by the embedded media team because he had fought and been seriously wounded in the fighting in Mogadishu in 1993, got wounded again at CURLEY. When the task force commander contacted him, Gallagher was standing next to his M88 recovery vehicle with his leg bandaged, firing his M-4 carbine at Iraqi and Syrian attackers. Gallagher answered without hesitation "We need help, and we need it now."85

Lieutenant Colonel Twitty accepted Gallagher's view and asked Colonel Perkins for the release of one mechanized infantry platoon from his Bravo Company, still occupying the blocking position near Objective SAINTS. Captain Johnson, commanding B/3-15 IN, joined the discussion with a counterproposal. He recommended that he come forward with his entire company.86 Within moments, Perkins considered and accepted that plan. Apparently, Perkins sought help from the division, and Major General Blount assigned 3-7 CAV to secure Objective SAINTS, freeing Johnson to concentrate on repelling the counterattacks on the LOC.87

Figure 207. Command Sergeant Major Robert Gallagher, 3rd Battalion, 15th Infantry, engaging Iraqis while being treated for a leg wound.

Although a captain, Johnson was a more experienced soldier than most captains. He served nine years as an enlisted soldier and NCO, reaching staff sergeant before going to Officer Candidate School. Johnson understood the situation since he had been listening to the radio and to the torrent of fire to his north. Doing his own contingency planning, Johnson had moved one of his two platoons from the southern part of SAINTS up to a position closer to him on the northern perimeter. After settling it with Perkins, Twitty told Johnson to "Get to CURLEY ASAP."88

Johnson wasted no time. He issued a quick order and moved out in 15 minutes. B/3-15 IN roared into CURLEY with every weapon firing, arriving just in time. As one man put it, "There was not a soldier on CURLEY that did not think he was going to die that day."89 According to one of the embedded reporters present at the fight, by the time Johnson's company arrived, the medics had armed themselves to defend their patients; those wounded still able to fire a weapon had picked up arms; the chaplain considered picking up a weapon to help defend the wounded. "It was the most amazing thing. Captain Johnson got to Objective CURLEY within 15 minutes. The first squad leader out of his track was shot."90 Although Johnson initially arrived with two rifle platoons, brigade ordered him to send one back south to help sort out the mess at the brigade TOC.91

About the same time as Johnson moved north, Lieutenant Colonel Twitty ordered Captain Aaron Polsgrove to come forward with the rearm-refuel convoy. Although originally lined up near 2nd Brigade's TOC, Polsgrove moved away after the strike and joined the combat trains command post and three "gun trucks" from the scout platoon at the northern edge of SAINTS. Polsgrove asked for an escort, but the task force had none to give so Polsgrove moved out with the three armed scout vehicles and a .50-caliber on the battalion maintenance sergeant's M113. Along the way, the defenders ambushed the supply column, killing the scout platoon sergeant and blowing his body completely from his vehicle. The column returned fire and moved on, losing one more soldier, the battalion motor sergeant, to the enemy.92 Reaching CURLEY did not end their agony. Polsgrove "coiled" the supply trucks up in a tight circle like a wagon train in a western movie and immediately began issuing ammunition to the troops at CURLEY. The mortar platoon literally ran back and forth between the trucks and mortars with three rounds per load and fired them as soon as they got back to their guns. In the middle of this, one of the Iraqis or Syrians hit an ammunition truck with an RPG. The resulting fire spread rapidly, engulfing four more trucks.93

Blount reinforced the fight, reassigning TF 2-7 IN from 1st BCT to 2nd BCT at 1016 to help keep Highway 8 open.94 TF 2-7 IN, the Cottonbailers, led by Lieutenant Colonel Scott Rutter, moved quickly but did not arrive with their main body until 1600. Rutter sent his operations officer, Major Rod Coffey, ahead of the main force to coordinate the relief in place at Objective CURLEY. Coffey moved out with just his Bradley and a communications HMMWV. Coffey and his party arrived at CURLEY and were immediately welcomed by enemy small- arms and RPG fire from all directions. Coffey rapidly coordinated the relief with the TF 3-15 IN executive officer, Major Denton Knapp, and returned to his Bradley so he could add it to the fight. En route to his Bradley, Coffey was severely injured when an RPG struck his communications HMMWV. Coffey refused medical care and manned his Bradley, getting the crew and dismounts into the fight on CURLEY. Coffey's crew supported Team Zan by laying heavy suppressive fire on enemy positions to the north of CURLEY. During the ensuing fight, a member of Coffey's crew, Specialist Nicholas Cochrane, killed three enemy fighters with four well-aimed shots from his M-16 while they were attempting to close on the position by way of an overpass. Rutter, having received numerous reports from Coffey and his gunner, Sergeant Kenneth Stephens, knew what the situation was like on CURLEY and moved his task force up as quickly as he could. Their arrival at CURLEY tipped the scales.95

Rutter's troops relieved Team Zan and, with the advantage of greater numbers, carried the fight to the Iraqis. Eventually assuming responsibility for the road, Rutter sent units attacking south and east, with tremendous success over the next two days.96 He expanded the perimeter to gain more defensible terrain and improved the fields of fire by knocking down walls. Rutter did this to prevent enemy from gaining any positional advantage on his forces. While expanding the perimeter and clearing enemy fortifications, TF 2-7 IN tragically lost Staff Sergeant Lincoln Hollinsaid of Bravo Company, 11th Engineer Battalion, to RPG fire. Just three days earlier Hollinsaid replaced Sergeant First Class Paul R. Smith as the platoon sergeant when Smith was killed at Baghdad International Airport. With the perimeter expanded and secured, the LOC into downtown Baghdad would remain tenable. On 9 April, after the battle, some locals asked permission to give the Iraqi dead a proper burial. The Iraqis took away the bodies of the few dead fighters who were wearing army uniforms, but refused to have anything to do with the masses of dead Syrians, expressing their disgust and hatred of them to anyone who would listen.97

Command Sergeant Major Robert Gallagher
In 1993, Command Sergeant Major Gallagher was part of Task Force Ranger (75th Ranger Regiment), which attempted to capture Somali warlords in Mogadishu. During the fierce fighting on 3-4 October, he was severely wounded. Ten years later, in Iraq, the reporters traveling with his unit, TF 3-15 IN, jokingly nicknamed him "Black Hawk Bob." The name stuck. The sergeant major cultivated a hearty, gruff, and profane persona with his troops, and they affectionately called him by his nickname, although never to his face.

Gallagher stated that his philosophy and method of operation was to "go as far forward as I can and not undermine the command authority of the unit. If there's something I can do to help the companies, I'll do it." He decided that he was not happy with the traditional role of a command sergeant major--staying in the rear to assist coordinating logistics and support--the traditional "beans and bullets" approach. He felt that the officers and sergeants assigned that mission could make it work; he could be of more help elsewhere.

If he was going to circulate around the battlefield, he needed more protection than the HMMWV authorized by the unit's table of organization. He adopted an M88 heavy recovery vehicle, soon his signature vehicle. He also kept the main aid station (MAST) close to him whenever he moved. This ensured that the MAST was near the fighting but had security. The MAST guided on the M88, which, in turn, protected the medics with its heavy machine gun.

Gallagher's years of experience with 75th Ranger Regiment served TF 3-15 IN well. He brought that elite force's training and combat techniques to his new unit. He instituted focused training when the soldiers reached Kuwait. In this, he and Lieutenant Colonel Twitty saw things eye-to- eye. In Kuwait, the unit had the resources and opportunity for this type of training. The soldiers completed an exhausting but confidence-building regimen. The support soldiers trained alongside the infantrymen, learning to clear trenches, destroy bunkers, and engage targets from any position. Drivers and assistant drivers went through ambush training using live ammunition. Even the fuel handlers attached to the task force completed a live-fire exercise. This paid huge dividends later. Gallagher extended his focus to the junior officers and mid-grade sergeants, training them out of the junior soldiers' sight to preserve their authority. "It was my assessment that the sergeants and officers in mechanized infantry units tend to want to centralize training. I wanted to de-centralize it, to push it down lower in the chain, make the junior leaders more responsible, and get them to buy into the training." The team came together; Gallagher's efforts paid off on CURLEY on 7 April.

Derived from interview with Command Sergeant Major Robert Gallagher,
19 May 2003.

Objective LARRY

As Captain Johnson and Bravo Company arrived to reinforce Team Zan at Objective CURLEY, the fighting reached high intensity at Objective LARRY, where Twitty positioned himself. Captain Dan Hubbard, commanding Team Rage, composed of two tank platoons and a mechanized infantry platoon, led the fight at LARRY. Hubbard had 19 armored vehicles, including his own tank and Lieutenant Colonel Twitty's Bradley.98 At LARRY, one tank platoon covered the northeast quadrant while another took the southeast quadrant. Hubbard's mechanized infantry platoon covered the entire west side of the objective. Enemy attacks began immediately, mainly from the south, but also from buildings to the northwest, from the crossover road to the west, and from a jumble of buildings to the southwest.99

Rage faced dismounted Republican Guard troops as well as some SRG, but suicide bombers and fighters in pickup trucks mounting heavy machine guns posed the main threat. The paramilitary troops attacked just as they did at As Samawah, Objectives JENKINS, FLOYD, and MURRAY. They attacked in waves using the ubiquitous Iraqi white and orange taxis, city buses, dump trucks, and in one case even a lumbering recreational vehicle. Lieutenant Colonel Twitty reported that it appeared that the defenders had loaded many of their vehicles with explosives. Often when a Bradley's 25mm cannon or a tank round struck them, they ignited with a tremendous secondary explosion.100 The Iraqi main effort, at least for the first several hours, came from the south. Generally the attacks took the form of vehicles filled with armed men that raced toward the intersection. The vehicles' occupants fired their weapons out the windows or from the beds of pickup trucks. The enemy literally raced to their deaths against the heavy weapons of Hubbard's tanks and Bradleys, apparently with no thought other than overwhelming the Americans with numbers.101

At one point, Lieutenant Colonel Twitty realized that, although he was able to block the main highway with fires, the small frontage road running along the west of the elevated portion of Highway 8 would allow an attacking vehicle to approach without being engaged until the last moment. He ordered the engineers to push up a berm of earth to block the frontage road. One ACE driver quickly accomplished this task.102
I owe my life to that ACE driver!
Lieutenant Colonel Stephen Twitty,
commander, 3-15 IN

Just 15 minutes later, an Iraqi car, full of explosives and driving at exceptionally high speed, approached the intersection from the south. Instead of continuing straight ahead to its destruction as most of the others had done, this vehicle suddenly veered off the main road, crossed through a gap in the guardrail, and jumped the on-ramp to the frontage road, landing within 100 meters of the battalion TOC. Unfortunately for the driver, he ran directly into the newly created berm, striking it at high speed about 75 meters from Twitty's command post. The force of the impact ejected the driver through the windshield, with his body landing approximately 50 meters from the command post. When a Bradley fired at the wrecked car with its 25mm cannon, it blew up with a huge explosion that rocked the heavily armored vehicles at the overpass.103

Lieutenant Colonel Twitty, positioned on top of the overpass in the center of the intersection, fought alongside his troops. Within 2 hours of his arrival at LARRY, he had to reload the 25mm ammunition he carried in his Bradley fighting vehicle. After burning through the 300 rounds in the ready-rack, the reload procedure for the gun can take up to 3 minutes, requiring both the gunner and track commander to drop into the turret, and typically results in skinned hands, torn nails, and more than a bit of blood in a peacetime environment. Although Twitty and his gunner probably tried to set a speed record for the task, it must have felt like hours. Reloaded, the gunner continued to engage targets on his own, while Twitty maintained contact with his company teams, cleared supporting fires, and kept Colonel Perkins updated. Twitty estimated that Hubbard's troops killed 50 to 80 enemy troops.104

Objective MOE

The enemy at Objective MOE proved different from those at CURLEY and LARRY. At Objective MOE, closer to downtown Baghdad, the opposition included a combination of mounted and dismounted regular army and Republican Guard forces. These troops attacked using T-72 tanks, BMP-1 armored personnel carriers, and large-caliber antiaircraft weapons employed in the direct-fire mode. Several hundred enemy troops lurked along the road in a trench and bunker complex built among the palms and brush. Others occupied prepared positions in adjacent buildings dominating the interchange.105

A/3-15 IN, Gator, commanded by Captain Josh Wright, led the task force's attack up Highway 8. Following the Tuskers of TF 4-64 AR through CURLEY and LARRY, the company killed an estimated 30 Iraqis firing from trenches and buildings on the way to Objective MOE. The objective proved a veritable hornets' nest of resistance, constantly reinforced by the enemy streaming in from the east and west. As soon as Gator arrived, Iraqis driving armed civilian vehicles and suicidal attackers driving trucks packed with explosives also attacked toward the cloverleaf. Iraqi infantry swarmed into the area and occupied positions behind some low walls near the objective and in the buildings dominating the cloverleaf. Gator came under intense 360-degree direct and indirect fire.106

Captain Wright concluded he needed to clear the objective before he tried to defend it. First the company swept the enemy from the immediate objective area. Then Wright sent First Lieutenant Daniel Van Kirk's tank platoon deeper into the city, north of MOE, where it destroyed several Iraqi strong points established in buildings, some air defense guns firing in the direct-fire mode, and multiple Iraqi armored vehicles.107

After Van Kirk returned, the company consolidated on Objective MOE. The engineer platoon, led by First Lieutenant Adam Hess and his platoon sergeant, Sergeant First Class Jerod Palmer, blocked approaches to MOE by cutting down light poles to form a modern version of the ancient abatis. They also used an ACE to push debris and burning cars into defensive berms. These efforts proved worthwhile when the obstacles helped break up a savage last-light attack that climaxed with the destruction of a car bomb just 60 meters from the perimeter.108

In 8 hours of sustained combat using direct fire and six "danger-close" mortar missions and 20 "danger-close" artillery missions, the Gators destroyed more than 60 Iraqi vehicles and killed as many as 200 enemy infantrymen. Like the rest of the task force and brigade, the company team was desperately short of ammunition. During the day's fight, Gators fired twice its basic load of ammunition and nearly ran out of fuel.109

Resupplying the Brigade

As TF 2-7 IN arrived at CURLEY, Captain Johnson raced north with the supply column. Lieutenant Colonel Twitty radioed Johnson not to stop at LARRY but to keep going to MOE so the northernmost task forces could be resupplied. Accordingly, Johnson and the precious trucks raced right through LARRY. From his vantage point on the overpass, Twitty saw them go through. "Drivers were hunched down low in the cabs, driving with their left hand and firing their M-16s out the window with their right."110 According to Twitty they were making good time. "I watched Ronny Johnson and the convoy roar past us on the way to Objective MOE. It was an incredible sight! Drivers and [track commanders] were firing as fast as they could, and they were flying! They must have been going 50 miles an hour when they passed me. I just cheered them on."111

Firing on all Cylinders-- Engineers at Objective MOE
On 7 April, as Spartan Brigade's Task Forces 1-64 AR and 4-64 AR sliced into Baghdad, TF 3-15 IN had the mission to secure their LOC. To do so, it developed three objectives--LARRY, CURLEY, and MOE--interchanges along Highway 8. By holding these objectives, TF 3-15 could keep the LOC open, which was critical because the Spartan Brigade attacked into the city without their logistics trains.

TF 3-15 IN's Gator would secure Objective MOE. To do so, Captain Josh Wright had two M2 platoons, an M1 platoon, and an engineer platoon led by First Lieutenant Adam Hess. Wright knew that his unit would be fighting a 360-degree battle against numerically superior forces. He gave his engineers a simple yet critical mission: delay enemy mounted and dismounted access to the objective to enable direct-fire systems to engage them, while leaving open one north-south lane for the LOC. Hess considered the situation. He knew that speed would be critical. As soon as the enemy forces realized where Gator was establishing its position, they would mass forces and attack. They would come fast and furious: tanks and BMPs, RPGs, suicide cars, buses, and trucks--all attacking in droves.

Hess had 2nd Platoon, B/11th Engineers' ACE, dismounted sappers, and an M113 with a mounted .50-caliber machine gun. He couldn't carry barrier material, so he would have to use existing terrain.

After surviving "RPG Alley" along Highway 8, Gator arrived at MOE. The engineers went straight into action. Hess sent the ACE to the most dangerous avenue of approach to dig ditches and berms in roads, push down palm trees to create obstacles and clear fields of fire, and move destroyed vehicles to make more obstacles.

Meanwhile, the sappers, under Sergeant First Class Jerod Palmer, used cutting charges to fell light posts and create an aluminum abatis. Sergeant First Class Ford, a tank commander on the scene, recalling the sappers' actions, noted, "I saw these dismounts running out in front of us, into the firefight, and I said `Whoa, let's pull up and cover them.'" Blowing anything that would impede mobility--light posts, road signs--the sappers made demolition calculations on the fly. They set charges, dove behind tanks or their APC, waited for the blast, and then moved to their next target.

"Everyone was clicking on the same cylinder," said Hess. "They knew that they were fighting a flesh-to-steel battle when they were out there, so they were jumping. The .50-caliber machine gunner knew he had to lay great fire, and he did. The driver put the track in a place to protect the guys on the ground. The sappers had one guy doing calculations, another measuring the charge, another placing it, another doing the MDI [detonator]. Everyone did what needed to be done."

To the north, Sergeant Jason Millett drove his ACE out into the fray, pushing palm trees as he went. Soon, the Bradleys and tanks had destroyed enough attacking cars and trucks for Millett to use the wrecks to create obstacles. On two occasions, surviving attackers emerged from destroyed vehicles. Sergeant Millett engaged them with his 9mm, shooting out from his ACE's clamshell. At one point in the battle, Gator soldiers destroyed a bus packed with explosives when it was only 60 meters away from their perimeter. "Without the obstacles, it would have gotten us," said one Gator sergeant.

After 17 hours of continuous fighting, the enemy had seen enough. Gator had prevailed. But the fight was intense; at one point they were "black" on .50-caliber, 7.62mm coax, and small-arms ammunition. The tank platoon fired 12,000 rounds of 7.62mm in the first 10 hours of the fight. Gator suffered 11 wounded soldiers, but fortunately no soldiers died. After the fighting ended, Sergeant Millet used his ACE to dig a trench and bury the enemy dead that filled the fields around MOE.

Extracted from 2nd Platoon, A Company, 10th EN Unit History

The convoy reached Objective MOE, resupplied Gator, and continued on to the parade field at Objective DIANE to resupply the rest of the brigade. TF 1-64 AR and TF 4-64 AR rotated vehicles to the resupply point to refuel and rearm. The logistics crisis had passed. Perkins' troops met the criteria for staying downtown. Although two more days of sometimes heavy fighting in Baghdad remained, Perkins' second thunder run broke the back of conventional resistance and arguably of the regime.112

The Counterattack

I do believe this city is freakin' ours!
Captain Chris Carter,
commander, A/3-7 IN
Al Sijood Palace, Baghdad.

Sunrise on 8 April brought renewed counterattacks from east of the Tigris River. After intermittent probing throughout the night, the Iraqis moved small groups of soldiers and paramilitary fighters across the two Tigris River bridges to the northeast of the Spartans' position. TF 4-64 AR Tuskers took the brunt of the counterattack. The troops confronted their tormentors freshly supplied.

At approximately 0415, the enemy launched a dismounted counterattack on Objective WOODY EAST. Crossing via two bridges, they moved south along the river road near the palace that Captain Phillip Wolford's Assassins of A/4-64 AR occupied. At 0527 the task force fired mortars against a combination of troops and armed men in civilian clothes moving south. The Assassins then swept north to complete the destruction of the dismounts. Wolford, fighting in his stocking feet, having transitioned from dead asleep to attacking in short order, ordered his troops to "give both sides of the road an equal amount of love."113 The company reached the western side of the southernmost bridge at 0619 and engaged several RPG teams. Shortly thereafter, Assassin observed the Iraqis using buses and trucks to reinforce their position on the eastern shore of the bridge. Wolford's troops fought as many as a hundred paramilitaries. The fighting grew intense and close. The enemy attack built in intensity rather than diminished, and the Assassins took two casualties. After calling in artillery and mortar missions within 200 meters of his tank, Wolford recalled, "I had to move out of here cause I was getting my ass kicked."114 Pulling back a short distance from the bridge, Wolford brought in CAS that used JDAMS to destroy two buildings from which snipers had engaged the company. A-10s swept the riverbank of enemy infantry.115

While Assassin carried the fight at the southern bridge, the Cyclones of C/4-64 AR attacked north to seize the second, northern bridge. Killing numerous Iraqis, the soldiers seized control of the bridge with relative ease. Cyclone used plow tanks to position destroyed and wrecked technical vehicles astride the northern bridge and its approaches. With both bridges under control, the Spartans effectively sealed the downtown and blocked any further counterattacks from across the Tigris River.116

Later the troops discovered the attack had been made by a combination of uniformed Iraqis and a large group of men clad in jeans and polo shirts and wearing sunglasses, which seemed odd since the night had been dark, or as one of them put it, "dark as shit."117 The uniformed Iraqis wore green fatigues sporting Republican Guard red triangles. Some of the Republican Guard troops attacked in BMPs. The troops even sank boats in the Tigris that night that fired on them.118

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Figure 208. The Iraqi counterattack into downtown Baghdad, 8 April 2003

The 8 April Counterattack
On the morning of the 8th...we are just fighting guys on the banks of the river. There were shit-loads of guys firing from bunkers. As a matter of fact, some of these guys were waking up and stretching and yawning and were just getting hosed as they came out of their bunkers by Mk-19s [grenade launchers]. . . . The bridges had to be controlled.
Lieutenant Colonel Phillip DeCamp,
commander, TF 4-64 AR,
interview 31 May 2003
So, we backed up to the last spot where we had the small contact and we had enemy firing at us from atop the arches. My infantry fired at them with TOWs. The A-10s came in and I focused all their fires at this park [across the Tigris River]. When we moved back in, the enemy had reinforced with more guys. Two weeks after the fight, we pulled 24 dead bodies out of the bunkers. The bombs and the 30mm just caved in the bunkers.
Captain Phillip Wolford
commander, A/4-64 AR,
interview 31 May 2003

After a relatively quiet night, TF 3-15 IN fought hard the next day to defend its two remaining objectives along Highway 8. Although the Iraqis attacked with nearly the same ferocity as the day before, the task force had improved its defensive positions so the enemy achieved nothing. After the battle on the 8th, TF 3-15 IN repositioned around a large Ba'ath Party complex near as the Objective MOE, known locally as the "Aflak Building." TF 2-7 IN assumed the mission of protecting the LOC and continued to defend against sporadic attacks for the next two days.119
The Power of Tanks
The decision to leave an armored brigade in the center of Baghdad overnight seemed unthinkable one day and obvious the next. We must never underestimate the psychological impact of an American armored force holding the ground it takes...
V Corps after-action review briefing,
15 July 2003

With the LOC secured and the Spartans entrenched downtown, it remained for 3rd ID to link up the three brigades and complete the seizure of west Baghdad. On 9 April, 3rd BCT attacked south on Highway 1 and linked up with 2nd BCT downtown. The next day, 1st BCT completed clearing Highway 8 east from the airport to downtown and linked up with 2nd BCT. The 3rd ID divided the city into zones for its subordinates to occupy and continued to destroy symbols of the regime's power.120 On the eastern side of the Tigris River, the marines of the 1st Marine Division entered the city on 9 April and toppled the now famous statue of Saddam Hussein. With the marines now entering the city in force, the enemy threat to the V Corps' flank along the Tigris River was effectively eliminated. Along with 3rd BCT's attack south from TITANS, these were the last major combat actions to secure Baghdad.

Rather than the Grozny-like carnage and destruction predicted--and feared--Baghdad fell and the regime evaporated after only three days of hard fighting. Colonel Perkins' bold decision to stay downtown clearly drove the final nail into the regime's coffin. With soldiers and marines able to move at will throughout the city, the regime evaporated.

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The Final Fighting in Baghdad--3rd BCT In TITANS

While the media focused on Colonel Perkins' Spartan Brigade as it conducted its thunder runs, Colonel Allyn's Hammer Brigade fought perhaps the most intense urban battle in the entire campaign. Although the 3rd BCT's area of operations on the northern outskirts of the city seemed calm in the early evening of 7 April, the Iraqis mounted a major counterattack just after dark. Colonel Allyn later thought the Iraqis were attempting to break out of Baghdad--or at least to open Highway 1 as an escape route for other forces still within the city.121

When the Iraqis began shelling soldiers on Objectives ROMMEL and MONTY, 1-10 FA lashed back with counterfires. The competing explosions reverberated back and forth across the river. The objectives were close enough to each other that soldiers on one objective could see and hear the rounds landing on the other.122 The Iraqis followed up their barrage with a combined-arms attack at Objective MONTY, using tanks, BMPs, and dismounted Infantry.

Unfortunately for the Iraqis, C/1-15 IN, Hard Rock, at ROMMEL observed them as they moved southeastward along the opposite riverbank. Hard Rock's fire support team engaged with indirect fires and sent reports that alerted the men of A/2-69 AR on the bridge at Objective MONTY to the impending attack. Lieutenant Colonel Sanderson used both artillery and CAS effectively, due he believed, in large measure to the Army's fielding of the Bradley Fire Support Vehicle. The fire support team used an integrated laser to target the enemy precisely. Sanderson believed that greatly increased the artillery's lethality.123

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Figure 209. The Iraqi counterattack against 3rd BCT, 7-8 April 2003

Nonetheless, the Iraqis made a concerted effort to seize the bridge at MONTY, attacking throughout the night and into the early morning of 7 April. Several times during the night, airmen struck armored vehicles firing on the friendly positions from across the Tigris. As the pressure against the bridge mounted, 3rd BCT brought concentrated fires from CAS, field artillery, and TF 2-69 AR's heavy mortars to bear. Tankers and mechanized infantry added their efforts as well. But despite the damage they took, the Iraqis persisted in drawing closer and closer to the bridge. At one point the Iraqis moved a heavy construction crane into position, apparently to remove some of the destroyed vehicles blocking the bridge approaches. Hard Rock spotted the crane as it crawled past Objective ROMMEL on the far side of the river. Again, the fire support team called in artillery and destroyed it.124 At approximately 0600 on 7 April, the Iraqi attack reached its peak. According to observers, the enemy had "tons of stuff on the other side of the river."125 The soldiers identified an entire engineer bridge company with all its vehicles and equipment, in addition to the large Iraqi infantry force armed with RPGs, heavy machine guns, and mortars.

As a company-size enemy force closed in on his position at MONTY, Captain James sent a radio message that had not been heard in this war until then. He called for the supporting artillery to fire his final protective fires (FPF).126 Commanders in a defense designate a line just outside of their positions along which, if the defense gets desperate, all guns and other weapon systems available fire, theoretically creating an impenetrable wall of fire. Calling for an FPF is, in Army parlance, "a significant emotional event."

Captain James' fire support team had prepared for this eventuality. They had not only plotted their FPF but also adjusted live rounds until they were hitting precisely where James wanted the rounds placed. The 1-10 FA entered the firing data for James' FPF and other planned missions into the computers of their Paladin howitzers and waited for the call. When the order came to fire the final protective fires, 1-10 FA unleashed 30 minutes of continuous rapid fire, pounding the attacking Iraqis and placing a protective wall in front of the hard-pressed Assassins. In addition to the artillery FPF, the 3rd BCT also called in more CAS, smashing the final Iraqi assault just short of the bridge.127 Lieutenant Colonel Sanderson recalled that "the enemy was in a caldron there. The A-10s were at treetop level doing strafing runs against enemy columns."128 Artillery, air-delivered strikes and direct fires in combination stopped the enemy cold.

But the infantrymen and tankers were not the only soldiers in close combat. While repositioning to better support the brigade, A/1-10 FA did something few artillerymen ever do--they engaged and destroyed two T-72 tanks using direct fire from their howitzers. While moving, the artillerymen detected the tanks hidden under the trees across a canal. The artillerymen fired what they call a direct lay fire mission over "open sights." The huge 155mm projectiles smashed the tanks, and the battery moved on.129

Undeterred, despite the slaughter at MONTY, the Iraqis continued their efforts to recapture the bridges over the Tigris. Concerned that they might succeed, Colonel Allyn requested permission to blow the bridges to deny them to the Iraqis. This would free his forces from static defensive positions and allow them to continue to clear Objective TITANS on the west side of the river. Initially the division denied his request, but a strange situation developed. At the same time that Allyn requested permission to destroy the bridge, Iraqis strove to reach the bridge to do the same thing. In fact Iraqi sappers managed to place explosives on the eastern abutment and actually dropped part of it, but the bridge remained useable. Later, Allyn received permission to destroy the bridge. Airmen dropped the span neatly on the second try with a pair of precision-guided bombs.

Figure 210. Iraqi woman signaling to US soldiers

Silver Star Recommendation
Specialist Dwayne Turner
HHC/3-502nd, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault)
On 13 April 2003, during limited visibility hours, Specialist Dwayne Turner distinguished himself above the call of duty through gallantry in action during combat. Elements of Alpha Company and Specialist Turner's medical platoon moved south from Baghdad, Iraq, to clear the town of Al Mahmudiyah. During this operation, over 200 citizens gathered around US forces, cheering the fall of the Iraqi regime under Saddam Hussein.

Iraqi paramilitary forces used the celebration to hastily prepare an ambush against Specialist Turner and his fellow soldiers. The Iraqi enemy forces opened fire on members of Alpha Company, 3-502nd Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division in a compound with fragmentary grenades and a volley of a half-dozen AK-47 rifles. The initial grenade burst in the air caused multiple casualties and signaled the Iraqi enemy forces to fire with their AK-47 automatic rifles from various buildings.

After being shot multiple times from AK-47 direct fire to his arms and legs, Specialist Turner exposed himself to intense automatic fire to treat twenty-three wounded soldiers. Despite being critically wounded with a heavy loss of blood, Specialist Turner continued to provide lifesaving medical care under direct fire to two critically injured soldiers. Even with an increasing loss of his own blood, Specialist Turner remained vigilant and spirited in caring for one soldier who received multiple bullet wounds in the chest and legs. Undoubtedly, his spirited and conspicuous action and physical courage under heavy automatic fire saved the lives of at least three soldiers.

Without regard for his own welfare, Specialist Turner continued to stabilize many others for medical evacuation until he collapsed from loss of blood. His selflessness and willingness to place other soldiers' lives above his is in the greatest keeping of past and present soldiers of the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) and the United States Army.

Fighting raged around the perimeter of Objective TITANS for the next two days. Colonel Allyn expected to link up with marines from the 1st Marine Division within 12 to 15 hours, but the marines had to do an assault crossing of a river to enter Baghdad and thus did not arrive until 9 April. This allowed the Iraqis east of the Tigris River to concentrate their attacks against the Hammer Brigade in Objective TITANS.130

On 8 April, the third day of the fight in TITANS, the 3rd BCT sent TF 1-15 IN attacking south toward Objective LIONS, still held by 1st BCT. During this attack, Iraqi air defense artillery severely damaged an A-10 Warthog. The pilot managed to guide his craft toward friendly forces and ejected near Objective PEACH, where US troops recovered him.131 V Corps spent the day consolidating positions and repelling minor counterattacks by disorganized Iraqi forces.

Early in the morning of 10 April, 3rd BCT made its last major attack. TF 2-69 AR attacked down the west side of the Tigris River along Highway 1 all the way to downtown Baghdad, linking up with Colonel Perkins' Spartans. Sanderson's attack, supported by an elaborate set of preparatory fires, rolled over weak and disorganized resistance.132 TF 1-30 IN followed in support of TF 2-69 AR and cleared out the last pockets of Iraqi resistance. With this attack V Corps completed its part of the attack to seize and control Baghdad.

The 3rd BCT forces occupied the area around what is known as the "mother of all mosques," a massive structure deep in the center of Baghdad. They discovered that the apartment complex across the street from the mosque was, in reality, an elaborate deception. Instead of real buildings, it was a false front that hid a large Iraqi ammunition dump. Apparently the Iraqis hoped to shield the ammunition by hiding it and further hoped that if the coalition found it, they would hesitate to attack the dump to avoid damaging the Mosque.133 It was not the only time the Americans discovered such a ruse, but it was one of the most elaborate. The corps spent much of the next two weeks policing up the large quantity of abandoned tanks, BMPs, and artillery pieces found on the outskirts of the city and looking for ammunition dumps.

Disheartened Republican Guard and Special Republican Guard soldiers and officers returned to their homes, defeated. The paramilitaries and international mercenaries melted into the city, waiting to assess how the Americans would proceed. Even more astounding than the rapid collapse of resistance, Baghdad remained standing. Most of the infrastructure--utilities, water, power, and sewage--remained in the condition left by the failed Ba'athist regime.

"Soldiers are our Credentials"

Taking Care of Soldiers: Sergeant First Class Susan A. Pasarcik
Sergeant First Class Susan Pasarcik, finance NCO and dispersing agent of Alpha Company, 101st Soldier Support Battalion, leads 12 soldiers who are responsible for seeing to it that troops are paid in the field. As a rule soldiers' pay is done electronically, but in the field soldiers may be paid "casual pay" that gives them pocket money to buy things at field "Post Exchange" facilities. Also, the Army needs money to pay its field contractors.

Pasarcik, a mother of a toddler and married to another soldier, operated throughout OIF taking care of her troops. She and her team arrived in Baghdad with money on 14 April and began paying troops practically upon arrival. Accountable for up to $5 million, she took her team wherever it was needed. Her efforts extended beyond paying troops and solving vendor problems. On a trip to Baghdad, a young Iraqi boy was wounded in a firefight. His father brought the boy to the Americans for help. A doctor on the scene asked Pasarcik if she could comfort the boy. She removed her helmet and flak vest because she believed they might be frightening to an injured 3-year-old. She held his hand tightly and gave him cookies from her ration packet and water.

Taking care of soldiers extends to every soldier. According to Pasarcik, "If there is a way to help you, we are going to help you--soldier, airman, marine, reservist, guardsman, we help them all." Sergeant First Class Susan Pasarcik (front left) with finance team members, leading a study session for an upcoming promotion board.

Figure 211. Sergeant First Class Susan Pasarcik (front left) with finance team members, leading a study session for an upcoming promotion board.

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  1. Anthony H. Cordesman, The Iraq War: Strategy, Tactics, and Military Lessons (Washington DC: The Center for Strategic and International Studies, 2003), 101-139.
  2. Cordesman, 133.
  3. Multiple interviews with 3rd ID brigade and battalion commanders, 8-25 May 2003. This note refers to impressions reached by the authors during the course of interviews and upon reviewing interviews of intelligence officers and maneuver commanders.
  4. Ibid.
  5. Lieutenant Colonel John Harding, commander, 1-10 FA, interview by Lieutenant Colonel William Pitts, 12 May 2003.
  6. Colonel Terry Wolff, commander, 2nd ACR (Light), interview by Major David Tohn, 14 May 2003.
  7. Colonel Steven Rotkoff, US Army, Retired, deputy C2, CFLCC (during OIF), email to Major David Tohn, 6 August 2003.
  8. Ibid.
  9. Lieutenant General William Wallace, commander, V Corps (during OIF, interview by Colonel Gregory Fontenot, US Army, Retired, Lieutenant Colonel EJ Degen, and Major David Tohn, 7 August 2003.
  10. Staff Sergeant Brian Plesich, team leader, Tactical Psychological Operations Team 1153, 305th Psychological Operations Company, interview by Lieutenant Colonel Dennis Cahill, 31 May 2003.
  11. Captain Brooks Brenkus, commander, 54th QM Co (Mortuary Affairs), interview by Chief Warrant Officer 3 Estell Watson, 2 June 2003.
  12. Major Robert Foley, OIF-SG, "OIF Study Group Operational Summary: Information Operations," 15 July 2003.
  13. Ibid.
  14. Ibid.
  15. Lieutenant Colonel Eric "Rick" Schwartz, commander, TF 1-64 AR, interview by Lieutenant Colonel Dave Manning, 18 May 2003.
  16. "Task Force 1-64 AR, Summary of Unit Actions from 20 March-11 April 2003, Operation IRAQI FREEDOM," 42.
  17. Thunder run is not an operational term. A raid is the proper term for the mission assigned to TF 1-64 AR, although to the troops in the task force the distinctions between a raid, a reconnaissance in force (also an acceptable term to describe the planned operation), and the term used in the unit order, "movement to contact," amount to splitting hairs. What is important is they were going downtown to test the Iraqi reaction. See FM 101-5-1/MCRP 5-2A, Operational Terms and Graphics.
  18. TF 1-64 AR.
  19. Captain Dave Hibner, commander, D Company, 10th Engineers, interview by Lieutenant Colonel James Knowlton, 14 May 2003; TF 1-64 officers, interview by Lieutenant Colonel Dave Manning, 18 May 2003.
  20. TF 1-64 AR.
  21. TF 1-64 AR officers interview.
  22. Hibner. Captain Dave Hibner and his twin brother, Captain Dan Hibner, both fought with 3rd ID in OIF as engineer company commanders.
  23. TF 1-64 AR officers interview, Hibner.
  24. Captain John Ives, assistant S2, 2nd Brigade, 3rd ID, interview by Major Daniel Corey, 18 May 2003.
  25. Hibner.
  26. Ibid. See also TF 1-64 AR, 43.
  27. TF 1-64 AR, 44.
  28. TF 1-64 AR officers interview.
  29. TF1-64 AR, 43.
  30. TF 1-64 AR officers interview.
  31. TF1-64 AR, 45; Hibner.
  32. Ibid.
  33. TF 1-64 AR officers interview.
  34. Ibid.
  35. TF1-64 AR, 45; Hibner.
  36. Colonel David Perkins, 2nd BCT, 3rd ID, "Command Briefing," 18 May 2003; and Colonel David Perkins, interview by Lieutenant Colonel Edric Kirkman, 18 May 2003. Colonel David Perkins, commander, 2nd BCT, 3rd ID; Colonel David Teeples, commander, 3rd ACR; and Colonel Arnie Bray, commander, 2nd Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division, interviews by General Frederick Franks, US Army, Retired, and Colonel Gregory Fontenot, US Army, Retired, 20 May 2003.
  37. Wallace.
  38. Perkins by Kirkman. See also Connor and Durante notes from the same briefing.
  39. Wallace. McKiernan believed that Baghdad constituted the center of gravity largely because this was the place from which the regime exercised control.
  40. Perkins, Teeples, and Bray.
  41. Ibid.
  42. Perkins.
  43. The landmines were surface-laid on the paved road, easily identifiable and breached with the engineer equipment
  44. Perkins.
  45. Wallace.
  46. Ibid.
  47. 2nd BCT, 3rd ID Command Briefing. There are a number of interviews that illuminate these events including Perkins, those of the TF commanders and several group interviews of officers and soldiers. The second thunder run is one of the few events the OIF-SG knew enough about on arrival in theater to focus questions. More important, Perkins' troops wanted very much to tell this story. See also 3-15 IN Operations 20 March-9 April 2003.
  48. Perkins. See also Perkins, Teeples, and Bray.
  49. Hibner.
  50. The unit histories and chronologies do not provide an exact timeline for the breach, but an analysis of multiple unit reports suggests the breach took approximately 15 minutes.
  51. TF 1-64 AR.
  52. 3rd ID Consolidated History.
  53. Ibid.
  54. TF 1-64 AR.
  55. Ibid.
  56. Ibid.
  57. "Tusker History: Operation IRAQI FREEDOM (19 March 03-12 April 03)."
  58. Lieutenant Colonel Eric Wesley, executive officer, 2nd BCT, 3rd Infantry Division, interview by Lieutenant Colonel William Connor, US Army, Retired, 18 May 2003. See also Captain William Glaser, commander, HHC/2nd BDE, 3rd ID, interview by Lieutenant Colonel David Tohn, 10 September 2003.
  59. Sergeant First Class Stanley Griffin, action operations sergeant major, 2nd BCT, 3rd ID, interview by Master Sergeant Matthew West, 19 May 2003. Captain Aaron S. Polsgrove, support platoon leader, "Support Platoon, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, TF 3-15 IN, Unit History," 16 April 2003.
  60. Ibid.
  61. Ibid.
  62. Ibid.
  63. Wesley.
  64. Captain William Glaser, commander, HHC, 2nd BCT, 3rd ID, interview by Major Peter Kilner, 18 May 2003.
  65. Perkins.
  66. Ibid.
  67. Twitty.
  68. Twitty. See also "Task Force 3-15 Infantry `Task Force China' Task Force History, Operation IRAQI FREEDOM, 20 March-1 May 2003," 5 May 2003.
  69. Twitty.
  70. Command Sergeant Major Robert Gallagher, command sergeant major, TF 3-15 IN, interview by Lieutenant Colonel Arthur Durante, US Army, Retired, 18 May 2003.
  71. Twitty.
  72. Embedded reporters were Craig White (NBC), Bob Lapp (NBC), Jake Kooser (NBC), Bernie Plunkett (NBC), Dennis Steele (ARMY Magazine), Adam Lusher (London Sunday Telegraph), and Bill Branigin (Washington Post). This information comes from TF 3-15 IN unit history, which lists the reporters on a chart showing units, key leaders, and staff. TF 3-15 IN accounted for everyone.
  73. Ibid. See also TF 3-15 IN.
  74. Twitty.
  75. Twitty. See also TF 3-15 IN, 15-21.
  76. Twitty.
  77. Twitty. For example, B/4-64 AR, attached to TF 3-15, fired five danger-close missions, including two 155 missions within 350 meters of his positions on LARRY. See TF 3-15 History, 17-18. See also Gallagher, re: direct lay fire missions by the battalion mortar platoon.
  78. TF 3-15 IN. See also Twitty.
  79. Ibid.,18. See also Twitty.
  80. Gallagher.
  81. Twitty.
  82. TF 3-15 IN.
  83. TF 3-15 IN. See also Captain Ronny Johnson, commander, B/3-15 IN, interview by Lieutenant Colonel Arthur Durante, US Army, Retired, 18 May 2003.
  84. TF 3-15 IN. Twitty. See also officers of 3-15 IN, interviews by Major Pete Kilner, 18 May 2003. The group interview contributes to understanding the conditions of the fight.
  85. Ibid.
  86. Twitty. See also Johnson.
  87. TF 3-15 IN. See also Johnson. According to Johnson, Twitty asked for a single rifle platoon, but Johnson recommended that Perkins release the whole company--that is to say, Johnson and his remaining two platoons. Perkins concurred.
  88. Twitty.
  89. Corporal Warren Hall, force protection detail, Medical Platoon, HHC, 3-15 IN, interview by Lieutenant Colonel Arthur Durante, US Army, Retired, 24 May 2003. See also Johnson.
  90. Twitty.
  91. Johnson.
  92. TF3-15 IN Support Platoon History.
  93. TF 3-15 IN. TF 3-15 Support Platoon History.
  94. 3rd ID Consolidated History.
  95. TF 2-7 IN, "Unit History of Operation IRAQI FREEDOM."
  96. Lieutenant Colonel Scott Rutter, commander, 2-7 IN, interview by Lieutenant Colonel Arthur Durante, US Army, Retired, 16 May 2003.
  97. Twitty.
  98. Ibid.
  99. Ibid.
  100. Ibid.
  101. Ibid.
  102. TF 3-15 IN.
  103. Twitty.
  104. Ibid.
  105. Ibid.
  106. Ibid. TF 3-15 IN, 16. See also Captain Josh Wright, A/3-15 IN, interview by Major Peter Kilner, undated. Wright reported efforts of his engineer platoon leader, First Lieutenant Adam Hess, to create countermobility barriers to prevent suicide attackers from reaching his positions.
  107. TF 3-15, 16.
  108. Ibid.
  109. Twitty. See also Wright. Captain Wright's company went "black" on ammo--Army jargon for almost out. Wright's tank platoon, for example, fired 12,000 7.62mm rounds in the 17 hours of the fight.
  110. Ibid.
  111. Ibid.
  112. Perkins.
  113. Tusker History.
  114. Ibid. See also 4-64 AR commanders, interview by Colonel Tim Cherry, 31 May 2003.
  115. Tusker History.
  116. Tusker History. See also 4-64 AR commanders interview.
  117. 4-64 AR commanders interview.
  118. Rutter.
  119. From the "3rd ID Consolidated Division History and After Action Review."
  120. From the 3rd BCT, 3rd ID, Unit History, Power Point presentation, undated.
  121. Lieutenant Colonel John Harding, commander, 1-10 FA, interview by Lieutenant Colonel Arthur Durante, US Army, Retired, 4 August 2003.
  122. Lieutenant Colonel Jeffery R. Sanderson, commander, 2-69 AR, email to Lieutenant Colonel Arthur Durante, US Army, Retired, 18 August 2003. Durante also spoke by telephone with Sanderson.
  123. Harding.
  124. Sanderson.
  125. Harding.
  126. Ibid.
  127. Sanderson.
  128. "Unit History, 3rd BCT, 3rd Infantry Division," Power Point presentation, undated.
  129. Sanderson.
  130. Harding.
  131. Ibid.
  132. Ibid.
  133. "Unit history, 11th Engineer Battalion," undated, 24-28; See also Lieutenant Colonel James Knowlton, OIF-SG, "OIFSG Operational Summary: Engineer," 15 July 2003.

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[ Contents ] [ Foreword ] [ Preface ] [ Acknowledgments ] [ Introduction ]
[ Ch 1 ] [ Ch 2 ] [ Ch 3 ] [ Photos ] [ Ch 4 ] [ Ch 5 ] [ Ch 6 ] [ Ch 7 ] [ Ch 8 ]
[ OIF-SG Team ] [ Order of Battle ] [ Glossary ] [ Bibliography ]

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