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Fallujah – Looking Back at the Fury

Marines walk back to a collection point after finding weapons and ammunition in houses used by insurgents during a patrol

Marines assigned to Company B, 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, walk back to a collection point after finding weapons and ammunition in houses used by insurgents during a patrol in the city of Fallujah, Iraq, Nov. 17, 2004.

MARINES Magazine is proud to acknowledge the passing of five years since the Battle of Fallujah, arguably the fiercest combat Marines have seen since the Vietnam War. As time passes, more and more Marines only read or hear about this event as history. We are fortunate enough to still have active duty Marines who served in Iraq’s Al Anbar Province in 2004, and were able to share what they have to say about those fateful days.

As Marines, we take pride in knowing our history and the tales of the devil dogs who came before us. Mention Tripoli, Iwo Jima, or Chosin, to name a few, and the leathernecks in the room will be talking for hours about the events that helped shape the Corps. Look to more modern times, however, and the list of famous battles becomes much shorter. In two wars defined by improvised explosive devices, suicide bombers, and an enemy that operates in small, isolated groups, the major assaults that occurred in places like Belleau Wood have all but disappeared in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Marines  remain alert on a street corner during combat operations

Marines with 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, remain alert on a street corner during combat operations, fighting insurgents during a security and stabilization operation in Fallujah.

The notable exception was in the city of Fallujah, Iraq, in November 2004. Before the war, the city of 425,000 was home to both Iraqi Army units and militia of Saddam Hussein’s ruling party. Coalition forces didn’t cause any damage to the city during the initial invasion in 2003, but the lack of any policing force led to widespread looting, including weapons caches left behind by the previous military forces. Occasional protests and riots marked the first year of the United States occupation in the city.

In early March 2004, the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division transferred authority of Al Anbar province to I Marine Expeditionary Force. The Marines soon had their hands full when insurgents in Fallujah ambushed a convoy later that month, capturing four American contractors employed by Blackwater USA. The captives were beaten, set on fire, and then hung from a bridge over the Euphrates River. In response, Marines surrounded the city and tried to find the responsible insurgents, backing off at the request of the provisional government. A cease fire was declared in May, and the Marines stayed out of the city for the next six months.

The break in fighting gave insurgents in Fallujah a chance to build up. Coalition patrols that came close to the perimeter of the city were met with enemy fire. In early November, the Iraq interim government declared a state of emergency, and Iyad Allawi, the prime minister, agreed that something needed to be done to “clean Fallujah from the terrorists.” Operation Phantom Fury began Nov. 8, 2004, with American, Iraqi, and British forces entering the city. Regimental Combat Team 1 and Regimental Combat Team 7, the Marine units involved in the assault, entered from the north and proceeded to fight through the streets. By Nov. 16, most of the major resistance was suppressed, but Marines continued to find isolated cells until Dec. 23.

A Marine uses a breaching tool to prop up his helmet up above a wall

A Marine uses a breaching tool to prop up his helmet up above a wall in order to draw insurgent fire so that a rifleman can identify these targets and eliminate them during a security and stabilization operation conducted Nov. 9, 2004, as part of Operation Al Fajr.

The Battle of Fallujah was a victory for the coalition, but it came at a heavy price. Altogether, 95 Americans lost
their lives, and 560 were wounded. About 1,350 insurgents lost their lives
in the city, and coalition forces captured an additional 1,500 men.

Fallujah served as a decisive strike against the Iraqi insurgency, but also showcased the Marine core values of honor, courage, and commitment. At least eight Navy Crosses were awarded for the battle, more than any other single action in Iraq or Afghanistan. One of the recipients, Sgt. Rafael Peralta, was considered for the Medal of Honor. A picture of another recipient, 1st Sgt. Bradley Kasal, being carried out of a house has become one of the most iconic pictures of the current wars.

Operation Phantom Fury also marked a change in strategy for the American military. One of the biggest issues the U.S. was facing in Iraq was the number of civilian casualties. In an effort to limit the number of accidental deaths, the Iraqi and American governments made several announcements about the attacks before coalition forces entered the city. The element of surprise was lost, but thousands of Fallujah’s residents left the city to avoid being caught in the crossfire, exactly what the coalition hoped for. Not only did this limit the number of civilian casualties, it allowed the Marines to concentrate on clearing rooms and fighting insurgents. This approach carried over into later assaults in Iraq and Afghanistan to great effect.

Fallujah eventually returned to Iraqi control in September 2008 when the United States transferred authority of Al Anbar province to the Iraqi government. Today, the city is still rebuilding. The number of people living in the city is still considerably less than before the attacks. The positive mindset of the population is far more promising. Opposition to the “American occupation” gave way to a strong dislike of Al-Qaida tactics and policies, enough that several leaders in Fallujah reached out to the coalition to form an alliance. This decision effectively ended the insurgency, and has put the city’s worst days behind it.

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70 Responses

  1. Kenlavmarine says:

    I miss friends in fallujah

  2. Richard Mason says:

    Brian who?? Which unit were you with? I only ask be issue I’m looking p old friends. I was Alpha 1/3.

  3. Informasi Kredit Terbaik says:

    Ssgt Russell God bless you

  4. Dick Cheney says:

    War is Money

  5. Corey Webb says:

    I was with the 31st MEU during “Operation Phantom Fury”. I was Motor T and I will never forget the Marines that served with during that time. It has changed me for the rest of my life and still haunts me to this day. RIP to my fallen brothers you will never be forgotten

  6. David_Taptto says:

    i am sgt David Tapttos father and of course we are all proud of his bravery and thankful to “dawkee” (god) for answering our prayers of safe return.god bless the fallen in 3/1 thundering third LIMA the ultimate sacrafice.David 4/4 original amerrican 1/2 nez perce 1/2 kiowa even tho returning injured was willing to resign back up.All the brothers have much healing needed inside and out as I read o’donnells book “we were one” it was amazing the things they endured.I will never take anything for granted or complain for anything again .in honor of the fallen brothers who never returned.Thank god for the brave warriors and there familys who suffered and worried and prayed all the time for our heroes.aho (thanks)

  7. Jake says:

    I was a Combat Engineer attached to 3/1 Lima. All I can say is I never thought I would prep and use so many bangalore’s ever in my life. We sure put some pain in some bodies. If anyone wants to learn first hand experience from the mouth; read “We were one” by Patrick O’ donnell . He was embedded with us the entire push.

    RIP Hanks, Larson, Bryan, Wood, James, Arms, Figiroa, Slay

  8. Sean L. says:

    I was the lead Air Force dog handler assigned to 2/1 and 3/5. We arrived just as everyone was pulling out of Fallujah after the first assault. The thing I heard time and again from every Marine I spoke to was how bada** every other Marine was. Never did one Marine tell me what they did; they wanted to tell you what the Marine on their right and left did.

    I was fortunate to make friendships with many of the Marines from 2/1, 3/5, 2nd LAR and Army Psych Ops. Unfortunately, many did not return home. I will never forget what some of them did to ensure my safety and to ensure I returned home.

    I will never forget the message in the eyes of the young corpsman that looked at me during one of our firefights and then just as quickly as we made eye contact, how quickly he launched into action to rush to the aid of those injured.

    I will always remember the day I emptied my dog’s first aid kit to resupply a different corpsman during another very bad day. The day a LCpl asked to pet my dog at the end of a rough day outside the city and seeing him weep on my dog’s shoulder will always stay with me.

    The fact that at end of Day 1 of Phantom Fury, when I found out we had zero casualties during our assault of the Jolan district, I was overwhelmed with joy is a memory that will always ring inside me. As will the memory of those we lost during the days that followed.

    I was at the end of my 7 month deployment before we assaulted the city and the fact I left those city limits before my Marines will always haunt me as I feel I failed them. I will never forget Fallujah and what it did to me as a person, a husband, a father.

    I will never forget the sacrifices of those I so proudly served with. I am eligible to retire next year and during my retirement ceremony, I will not forget my brothers in arms as I cross out of the blue. I will ensure all my “chair force” co-workers know of the sacrifices by the Marines I came to know and I will never let anyone I meet in life forget what those men did to preserve their freedom.

    May the Lord our God be with the families of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for their pain can never be healed.

  9. J. Cagle says:

    I was working as a civilian Contractor in Fallujah from 10 Sept ’04-22 April ’05 driving the water trucks and SST’s. In that span of time, I can’t tell you how many times a Marine saved my stupid civilian ass. It was the honor of my life time to do even that small a service for our Marines. Rather I was going to Baharia for water or waiting in the chow line I knew the Marines were watching out for us.
    I would like to thank all the Marines, Sea bee’s and ” Special Friends ” who watched over me then, and over our great Country still. I hope to be able to work with you again someday.

  10. Jake says:

    My brother in law was Weapons Co. 1/8 and my section leader was with Weapons 3/1, when I hit the fleet (2 months after the battle) these Marines were extremely influential on me as a young Marine. Hearing their stories and advice prepared me and my platoon in unbelievable ways and would ultimately, I believe, serve as a grounding base that would help us remain humble about any fighting we were in ourselves.

    To the many guys I know that participated in this, and all the ones I do not, thanks. You made Anbar an easier place when I got there.

  11. SGT Gonzo says:

    1/8 Bravo, Give’em one. I was there and I very proud of my junior guys and what they did for us unrelenting NCOs. No sleep for days no food for weeks no Ice water for months. Hot every day, worst looking sunset ive ever seen looked like the inside of a rotting peach, but sure glad i got to see every day i was there and hoped it still looks just as miserable tomorow.

  12. dalton says:

    God bless the usa, Semper fi

  13. Mehrdad says:

    I’m from Iran.I dream to join the Marine Corps and fight the bad guys in US. Marines dress but unfortunately I’m in Iran.
    I’ve seen many real videos and clips and documentaries about US Marines and I always want to have the honor of being one of the few,the proud,the Marines.
    I know you guys are great and as it said,no better friend,no worse enemy than the United States Marines.
    God bless you all and God bless USA.
    Semper Fi

  14. Sgt "Harley" Courtney 2nd Bn, 24th Marines 04-05 Al Mahmudiyah says:

    We were in Yusifiyiah in Nov 04 after one of our companies got hit. Crazy place.
    RIP SSGT M.B. Blazer – Dec04

  15. Wills says:

    Thank you for serving, I am in debt to your service. This proud American is grateful for your sacrifice. I can show my gratitude by treating others with dignity & respect, and appreciating the little things in life.

  16. Brandon Weatherford says:

    I served with 3rd Battalion 5th Marines 2nd platoon during the invasion. November 8th will life with me the rest of my life, and the Marines I served with Will always be my brothers. Never forget the Marines we lost their lives there are the only hero’s, the rest of us only did our jobs.
    Siemper Fi, and Get Some

  17. SSgt Ernesto Gutierrez USMC (Ret) says:

    I was in Blue Diamond during The fighting in Fallujah. I worked in the G3. My battalion was in charge of all the convoys that where comming and going out of the war zone. On Nov 10th on the Marine Corps birthday we lost a good Marine who I served with in Charlie Company during 96,SSgt Russell Slay. We found out who was killed during the attack and his name was on the list. Soon after we tried to go on patrol and get revenge but our idiot unit commander would not let us go on patrol. He was so affaired for his own life that he didnt leave the bomb shelter and would sleep in the office. I will never forget the time in Blue Diamond. YAT YAS

  18. Ed West says:

    I appreciate this article and I understand the vitriolic comments about No better service than giving your life for your brother, and all that stuff. My son was LCrpl Phillip West. He was 19 and with 3/1 India and he was killed sweeping a building on Nov 19 2004. With all due respect and support, there is something finer than dieing in battle, that is coming home to your dad and mom, we cry daily and I understand that many of you look at heroics, but we look at it as he was one of the unlucky. God Bless and I really do love each of you especially those that served with Phillip West, but it hurts real bad. It will be 6 years in November, He would be 25, maybe a father and us grand parents. His sister is now 19 Army Airborne and probably because he died in battle. If anyone knew Phillip please contact me. Ed West

  19. C-Los says:

    aahh yes the famous train station. was there two years after Phantom Fury. was there with reservists (1/24) who still thought Phantom Fury was going on. lost too many Marines all cuz of some stupid Captain. Semper Fi Till I Die.

  20. charlie says:

    Fox 2/1, operation vigilant resolve….semper fi