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Operation Iraqi Freedom - March 21
Day Two

The second full day of the war began with reports that the main elements of the 3rd Infantry Division were steadily headed northwest travelling fairly quickly and meeting little if any resistance. The I Marine Expeditionary Force was on the outskirts of Basra and had reportedly secured the oilfields outside Basra.

Two U.S. Marines died in combat on March 21 during operations performed as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom. The first, a Marine from the 1st Marine Division, died early that morning after leading his infantry platoon in a firefight to secure an oil pumping station in Southern Iraq. The Marine's platoon engaged a platoon of dismounted Iraqi infantry. The Marine was transported by helicopter to a surgical company in Kuwait. The second, a Marine from the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, died at approximately 4 p.m. while taking actions against enemy Iraqi forces near the port of Umm Qasr.

Skirmishes around Umm Qasr continued into Friday and early Saturday evening despite reports that the town had been secured by Coalition forces.

At approximately 6 p.m. on March 21, the elements of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, specifically the 5th Regimental Combat Team secured the gas oil separation plants (GOSPs), crude oil export facilities and oil wells in the Rumaylah Oil Fields. U.S. Marines from the 1st Marine Division, and U.K. Royal Marines combined their efforts to secure the critical Iraqi infrastructure.

Four GOSPs, a key pumping station at Az Zubayr, a manifold and metering station on the Al Faw peninsula, and the offshore crude oil export facilities had been secured and were critical nodes of the larger oil infrastructure in Southern Iraq. These key facilities gave the Iraqi people the ability to preserve 85 percent of the function of those fields.

The Mina al Bakr export facility was captured intact and in working order. The Khor al Amaya export facility was destroyed during the war between Iran and Iraq in the 1980s, and is currently non-operating. Both facilities are capable of handling 1.6 million barrels per day when operational. After their capture, all six major GOSPs were being evaluated in order to determine what work is needed to make the areas safe to begin pumping oil again to support the people of Iraq.

Six major GOSPs, covering an area approximately 50 kilometers in length, included seven oil wells that have been sabotaged and were on fire. Oil fire fighting crews were to move into the areas at a designated time to snuff out the fires.

Some of the deserted plants were improperly shut down by Iraqis, causing oil pumping from the well to overfill the pumping station's oil tanks. The oil was seeping around the area and posed a potential threat of explosion if the oil reaches the burning wells.

The 1st Marine Division and the UK's 7th Armoured Brigade engaged the 51st Mechanized Division outside Basra, a battle which raged for some hours. The engagement began with the Marines initiating 155mm artillery fire at 6:25 p.m. local time as multiple AH-1s began to stream ahead softening Iraqi forces. By late Friday afternoon Eastern Standard Time the 51st Mech had surrendered, marking the first time that the commander of an Iraqi division and his deputy had personnaly surrendered to the US. The roughly 8,000 soldiers that comprised the division were secured as enemey prisoners of war.

Although the oil infrastructure was confirmed to have been extensively booby-trapped, the installations were secured intact and US and British troops began clearing the demolition charges. The US V Corps secured bridges over the Euphrates in their rapid advance on Baghdad.

Elements of the 1st Tank Battalion and the 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines assaulted and later captured Safwan. Other marines were able to capture the Rumaila Oil Fields intact and capturing some 25 to 30 prisoners.

The New York Times reported that Task Force Tarawa and its 5,000 marines crossed into the Iraq at 2 p.m. local time and that elements of the 101st Airborne Division had also begun to enter Iraq.

After making a 100+ mile dash through southern Iraq the 3rd Brigade of the 3rd Infantry Division came under artillery fire late on March 21 near Nasiriya. Airstrikes from the naval and air force attack aircraft were called into attack the 11th Infantry Division which was located near the city. The 11th Infantry ultimately surrendered and 3rd ID forces captured the Talil airfield which is south of Nasiriyah.

While the 3rd Brigade was dealing with Iraq's 11th Infantry, the 1st Brigade seized an airfield at Jalibah sometime shortly after 12 p.m. on March 21. After securing the airfield the 1st Brigade turned the unit over to an unidentified Marine unit.

The air campaign of Operation IRAQI FREEDOM launched into high gear shortly before 1:00 p.m. EST, as hundreds of Coalition Force aircraft and cruise missiles targeted select regime leadership and military targets in Baghdad and other various cities.

For the first time in combat, only precision-guided munitions were used in an effort to minimize collateral damage while targeting a large number of military sites, according to defense officials. During Desert Storm, less than 10 percent of the munitions used were precision guided.

U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancers, B-2A Spirits, B-52H Stratofortresses, F-117 Nighthawkss, F-15E Strike Eagles and F-16 Fighting Falcons, plus Navy F/A-18 Hornets and F-14 Tomcat, Marine AV-8B Harrier and coalition Tornado GR-4, Harrier GR-7 and F/A-18 aircraft flew the strike missions.

Military command and control installations, structures and buildings were the targeted sites. Other cities with military sites targeted were the northern towns of Kirkuk, Mosul and Tikrit.

Sorties originated from as far away as Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., the Indian Ocean, and the United Kingdom, as well as being flown from 30 locations throughout the CENTCOM area of responsibility and five Navy aircraft carriers. The B-2s flew the longest missions, lasting approximately 34 hours round-trip.

Three U.S. ships and two British submarines that were part of the Coalition Forces Maritime Component launched Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles (TLAMs) during the previous night's military operations to disarm Iraq. The ships included the Aegis guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) in the Persian Gulf and two Los Angeles class submarines, USS Columbia (SSN 771) and USS Providence (SSN 719). The Royal Navy submarines which launched Tomahawks include the Trafalgar class HMS Turbulent and Swiftsure class HMS Splendid.

Reports from various news sources later, confirmed by CENTCOM, indicated that some 1,000 cruise missiles launched from both naval and air assets, over 3,000 precision-guided munitions, and over 700 aircraft were used on A-Day. The strikes on Baghdad were remarkable, as several dozen TLAMS and precesion munitions struck several targets in rapid succession laying waste to a variety of targets.

The RAF's new Storm Shadow missile was successfully used for the first time on operations.

British naval forces sank two Iraqi patrol boats during the night.

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Page last modified: 05-07-2011 02:25:31 Zulu