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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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  • Ellis

    the beginning back in march of 04 was no cordon we fought like hell. i was with 1/5 alpha, weapons, machine guns. i was hit apr 9 in the shoulder with an rpg (maybe the 8th depending on the date here or there) first surgery at fob st. mar woke up in germany. didnt want to leave but wasnt given a choice. doc champion and doc cuanka (spell check) i thank you every day that im still here. cpl. wafford RIP i pray for your family often. its a burden to be here when so many better marines didnt come home, but one i carry with pride to have stood shoulder to shoulder with the finest men on earth

  • Spartan1

    Kilo Company 3/1: Semper Fi.

  • Anthony Donato

    Semper Fidelis, Marines! can’t wait till i hit 18!

  • HET Guy

    I was the HET guy with Charlie 1/3. The night of Nov. the 8th, 2004 has given new meaning to the 4th of July and the Star Spangled Banner. The battle over the next two months gave new meaning to the word ‘sacrifice’, and January 26th gave way to unimaginable sorrow. I had been reassigned to Ramadi 12 days prior to that, I will never forget. Doc House patched my head after I got zinged with an API round. Sgt Finke was my friend. I remember seeing Lt.’s Schumney and Fuller in the chow hall at Camp Fallujah after a propane cell exploded and burned Lt. Fuller’s hands, arms, and face. Lt. Schumney was carrying his tray. I just remember that moment, vividly, it wasn’t a ‘hey, I’ll get your tray buddy’ moment, it was a ‘I’ve had your back for two months in this mess and I’m not stopping now’ moment. I can’t believe they’re gone. Surely Valhalla holds a special place for that brotherhood. Semper Fi, may we never know war like that again.

  • Cpl. A Moser-Canos

    To my USMC brothers and sisters, and to those who have fallen, in the states and overseas…

    Precious Blood

    Too many flags upon the green,
    Where fallen heroes lay.
    Too many names mark the graves,
    Some names we cannot say.

    They did not wish to give their lives,
    As the winds of war blew free.
    But they did give – and a precious gift,
    Their life for our liberty.

    Almighty father, please bless these souls,
    Give them heaven’s eternal rest.
    With guns in hand and heads held high,
    They gave their very best!

    May never another flag be flown,
    Nor another name be read.
    May we always remember our fallen friends,
    And the precious blood they shed!

  • Wade McCormick

    I remember it as if it were just a second ago. I was there from March 04 to Oct 04 w/ 2/1 Golf. I remember my lost friends. I can remember looking at a team leader of 1/2 India and him saying that they would go into that city. I looked at him and laughed. I told him I’ve seen the in’s and outs of that city, and you ain’t getting in there, and if you do, I want that Muj flag posted up in front of TCP 1.” Needless to say they got their chance at the city too.
    I remember digging holes in medical waste next to the Falluja Hospital at the George Washington and Brocklin Bridges. I can remember being able to look at the Circle of Death from my position. I can remember seeing my LT’s face when we got blew up from a roadside IED. Cpl. Matula was a friend of mine, and I remember seeing him parish in front of my eyes. Franks will be missed too.
    I can remember a little kid running down the street with grenades in hands to resupply his daddy, and life was taken. White Phosperous was shot into the air by enemy mortars and landing on our bunkers which one of my Doc’s inhaled. I remember the radio blowing up over enemy Technicals in the area.
    I remeber the Clover Leaf. Traveling with your heads pretty much tucked in between your legs.
    I remember shooting people with a dawn cell phone in their hand cause they were forward observing for mortar fire.
    We got shot at every single day by either bullet, or rocket, or mortar,or IED.
    But I know I’ll never forget my fellow Marines. My heart goes out to all families of Marines fallin or still here suffering the anguish of that shity place. I know, I’ve been there. And to those who know me, HOTMIKE Out.

  • chad drumbarger

    the Battle for Fallujah,
    Semper Fi

  • Paul Cook

    As a veteran of the conflict in Beirut serving with 3rdBn,8th Marines and then 1stBn,8thMarines I am extremely proud of the Marines who fought in this operation. Urban combat is extreme and strategically difficult. Those young Marines had to get bare knuckled face to face with the insurgent combatants in order to accomplish the mission. Thank God for the grunts who serve on the line. Once a grunt always a grunt. Semper Fidelis

  • Don Begley

    As a Vietnam Veteran who served with HMH-463, my heart goes out to the grunts who do magnificent things. My dad was a WWII Navy vet who helped land the Marines all over the pacific and I grew up listening to his stories about how unbelievable battles the Marines fought and always won. As a Marine helicopter aircrewman ferrying Marines to various places, these grunts always captured my own heart too. Thanks for your service and sacrifices. – I now see what my Dad saw. Semper Fi my brothers!


    I salute all the marines out there RIP all my fallen brothers.

    Semper Fi

  • hmattice

    I can say an still will I remember the spring and the fall 2004, the eyes over the city day and night -lest just say baharia. Semper Fi Marines

  • SavasBeatie

    Richard Lowry’s New Dawn: The Battles for Fallujah is the first comprehensive history of two major U.S. combat operations in Fallujah in 2004. This ancient city in Al Anbar province forty miles west of Baghdad was the scene for both Operation Vigilant Resolve and Operation Phantom Fury.
    Lowry spent years researching and writing his new campaign history. In addition to archival research, New Dawn is based upon the personal recollections of nearly 200 soldiers and Marines who participated in the battles for Fallujah, from the commanding generals who planned the operations to the privates who kicked in the doors.

    The result is a gripping, page-turning narrative of individual sacrifice and valor that also documents the battles for future military historians. You can read more about the book on the author’s website here
    The following link is for the newly released book trailer for New Dawn: The Battles for Fallujah. Please check it out, and feel free to embed the trailer on your site: .

  • Steel Rain

    I was with 1/12 attached to the 31st MEU….It was an honor to be apart of this battle and to stand side byside and fight with such courageous individuals! We loved seding artillery rounds down range and hoped they help!

  • Kenny

    Spring 2004 was much more than just a siege. Vigilante Resolve was not just a cordon mission. Many Marines fought and died taking that city; house by house,block by block, day by day before “backing off” under the orders of politicians. Not a single Marine in 1/5 wanted to leave that city. We only wish we would have been allowed to finish the job. If it were our way, there never would have been a Phantom Fury. ~Semper Fi~

  • ahmed “interpreter sammy”

    I never thought I’d actually find a forum that is dedicated to “phantom fury operation” , but I was about to cry when I found this one, I was in the first fallujah battle , I was assinged with 3/4 marines as an interpreter , and I was also assigned with 1/8 marines as an interpreter with C company but I can only remember my plt leader’s name , it was “carporol Shomyster” (I hope the spelling is correct) .

    despite been an Iraqi , but i thought that battle was important to get rid of those who supported saddam , so I do feel honored to take part in that operation and I remember the ” marilboro man” he was with C company as will.

    been attached to marines ,made me feel like one of them , I even trying to get to the states to join the marine corp, and if I , by any chance couldn’t do it, the marine corp would be living in my heart forever.

  • david taptto

    3/1 thundering third… the bull with the big balls baby! love you brothers! LIMA WARRIORS! Semper Fidelis brothers…

  • SSgt Bush

    I went from fighting in An Nasariyah 03 to Al Fallujah in 04. I was there in Fallujah from March 2004 to October 2004. I was in 2/1 and I was the Air Officer’s(Darkstar) RO. I remember all the Marines that we lost out there as well as all the wounded that recieved Purple Hearts but continued to stay and fight. I remember being a LCpl getting promoted to Cpl in Camp Baharia which was mortared nearly everyday. I also remember sitting inside the city of Fallujah for about a month in Sept. 2004, for a mission that was supposed to only last about 2 weeks. I also lost a friend Cpl Matula R.I.P. God Bless his wife and child he left behind.

  • Bull

    -March 2004 was more than just a cordon… Vigilant Resolve

  • Tanner

    I am a Future Marine looking to signup in 9 months so Marines kick ass! SEMPER FI

  • Brian

    I am an active duty Senior Chief Hospital Corpsman and was with the 31st MEU in Phantom Fury. I have never been more proud of anything in my life. What we did there was no less than inspirational. I have never been the same since, but I wouldn’t trade this life altering experience for anything. I have a lifelong bond with my Marines and the will never forget my heroes that gave everything for their country. I have never forgotten the blood on my hands nor the cries for help, but I will also never forget the bravery and courage the Marines of 1/3, 1/8, 3/1, 3/5 and 31st MEU displayed day in and day out. I am honored to have been a part of this. God bless the Marines and the Sailors who serve along side them. ERRRRR!

  • Gysgt Tomasino

    To my Fallen brother Ssgt Russell God bless you. Semper fi YAT YAS

  • Ckare

    Mom of one of the Marines of 3/1. Thirty three of their fine Marines did not come home from Fallujah; those who did bear the scars on the outside as well as inside. I never thought I would be ‘happy’ that my son was wounded but the injuries were not life threatening and he did, indeed, come home; sparing me entree into the club no one wants to join, the Gold Star Mothers. Prayers to all who serve and their families who love and miss them.

  • S. J. Seely

    I was with Weapons Company 1/3, CAAT II, Regulators, I remember the entire time from going in until we left the city and had to go to HIT for the elections. I will always remember this time for it made most of us men and made us understand what life really meant……Semper Fi everyone that served in Fallujah, Nov 04

  • SSgt Chavez

    As a Heavy Equipment Operator it was a new experience operating a D9 Dozer thru the streets of Fallauah. If you were with 1/8 you saw me building up your positions. Getting smacked around by RPG’s was not fun, but as Marines we got the job done.

  • nine times nine

    Somewhere there’s a US Marine, and he can’t sleep a wink at night.
    Thinking ’bout his buddies, that lost their lives in the fight.
    But don’t cry them no tears, they don’t need your sympathy.
    They were US Marines, and that’s all they had to be.

    Rah brothers. Rest In Peace.

    1/3 81′s

  • Michael Elder

    I was with 2nd Plt B Co 1/3 during the Battle of Fallujah. We lost a total of 51 from our BN, 10 from our company, and 2 from my Plt. It was a humbling experience to be apart of and I learned so much about life during that deployment. All of our fallen will live forever in our thoughts and in our hearts. RIP warriors!
    Sgt Elder

  • Mew

    Remembering CPL Brad Arms. He gave his all in Fallujah.

    Many thanks to the Marines that posted here. Thank you for being Marines, and for your service.
    You are loved and appreciated.

  • Miguel Valle

    I lead numerous convoys in support of 3rd LAR during “Operation Phantom Fury” On Nov 8th one of those convoys was hit by an IED. I still remember the explosion, concussion, and the smell of burnt metal and rubber. We lost (2) Marines that day and if it wasn’t for our corpsman, god bless him, it would have been (3) KIA’s. I quickly realized that that would be a long night…. SEMPER FI to all who did battle in Fallujah.

  • Rolando

    I was part of the clean up with 2MEF, 2MHG assigned to the ISF. The city was still a disaster in March 05, every street you went down in Fallujah the bullet holes and charred you of what the Marines befor us went through. Semper Fi Marines, may we never foget.

  • Jeff

    I was with 1/8 during “Phantom Fury”. We all lost alot of good friends, or as I should say Brothers. My only hope is that when I take the ride is that they are at the end of it, and I will be able to see them again. All I know is that they will always be in my mind and in my heart. To all the families of the Marines that were lost is that they died with honor and we all mourn with their loss.

  • PFC Moore

    Most of my combat instructors at MCT at camp gieger were with 1/8 Marines. They would always say we were going to nice duty stations but when they enlisted they got a trip to The Battle of Falluja.

  • Young

    I was attached to 3/1 India Co. during Operation Phantom Fury. My company of AAV’s (2nd AAV BN, D. Co.) mechanized 3/1 during the assault. I remember when we arrived at Camp Fallujah in Sep. 04, we basically patrolled route Mobile and route Michigan and setup OP’s around the city. Our command told us that Fallujah was off limits until the impending assault on the city. We were licking our lips with the idea of pushing through that city and clearing out those punks. About a week before we hit the city we conducted several fake assaults from the south to make them believe we would come from that direction. We would maneuver tanks and AAV’s about 800 meters from the edge of the city and fire at them as they fired back. That would continue on for about an hour and then we would leave and return back to Camp.

    Finally we got word that we were actually going in this time. We staged North of the city, just outside of the train station after dark. We set up our AAV’s in a defensive position and the grunts dug in. No one slept that night. We all watched as kids on fourth of July as Jets and artillery bombed the hell out that city all night. I remember see the flashes and bombs hitting, literally for hours on end. I couldn’t believe the amount of ordinance we dropped on them.

    Just before dawn they had an AAV micklic (probably not correct spelling) blow a huge gap in the railroad tracks. We drove through that gap and all got online, east to west. About that point the sun was breaking on the horizon. It was surprisingly quiet at first, at least the first block. I had such bad nerves I didn’t eat a thing and chain smoked about a carton of cigarettes that night. Most of the days seem a blur now. I can only remember certain aspects of the battle. Everyday blurred into each other. A funny story, I remember on Nov. 10th everyone kept saying happy birthday over the Net. I didn’t get it at first thinking, how ironic that it’s several people’s birthday today.

    The things that stand out most to me is how dam brave the grunts of 3/1 were. I stayed in my AAV the majority of time, peppering the buildings with 50. cal and 40 mike mike. The grunts are the true hero’s. They cleared house to house, street to street. They fought courageously and with such fortitude.

    Enough rambling!!!!! I salute my brothers who along side of me. Honor the Fallen hero’s and never forget what those brave men did. RIP SSgt. Slay, Lcpl Canning, Lcpl Torrence, and all other brothers who paid the price so my kids can have a future and peaceful life. Semper Chesty!!!!

  • Sabio Lozano

    I was with 3/5 RCT 7 when Operation Phantum Fury began. I only lasted 4 days before being hit, but I wanted to stay. Im so proud of not just my Marines who fought with heart and pride, but of all who did the same. SEMPER FI

  • Chris 11th MEU

    I was in Najaf at the time of this battle and remember, following every report out of there. Only Marines can win a battle like that. I am sorry we had to go back and finish what we should have been allowed to finish in the Spring that year. The best of us paid the ultimate price. I will honor their memories and sacrifice for as long as I live.

    Semper Fi Marines

  • mike

    My son was in that battle. He said it was very intense. I believe he went 36 hrs. without sleeping. I believe the enemy was using the local mosque as a “cover”.

  • Woody

    God Bless those who fought there, especially the Marines of Gunsmoke, 2/1. The memories remain vivid. A special thanks to the controllers–you know who you are–pilots in combat boots, hard hats and body armor that leveled enemy position after enemy position. I personally conducted urban renewal in Fallujah 105 times to protect my boys. Wished I could have hit them with a few more.

  • SSgt Howe

    This story amazes me as I read through it. I was there from fall of 06-spring of 07 with 1/24. We arrived and started fighting immediately, losing 22 of our brothers in the BN, 5 from my company. However, through all of the hell that everyone commenting above and we went through we will all know that what we did was not for nothing. Just as an update and small token of a lighter note, shortly after we left in April of 07′ the fine residents of Fallujah constructed a restaraunt in the downtown area near Henry and Fran *i believe that is the location.* Now I am not sure if they have both original recipe AND extra crispy, but the sign does have the name KFC on it. :)

    S/F Marines!

  • Jonathan

    My platoon of AAVs mechanized 1/8 during the November invasion. I spent most of my time with A Co, and to this day, that month or so of intense fighting as well as bonding with those who fought beside me is my fondest memory of the Marine Corps. It was exhilarating to so decisively defeat the enemy, and to those families who tragically lost loved ones, I wish you could have seen how brave, fierce and honorable your young warriors were. To this day, the Battalion I’ve been the proudest to have served with is 1st Bn 8th Marines. God bless you all.

  • Doc from 3/5

    I’m proud to have been there with my marines in shuhada and even though it was only in one section of the city, I know we made a difference. I’ll never forget them or the impact we made.

  • TexMar1

    I was in the first Battle of Falluja and it was intense then also. I lost a friend from my home town in the same place I was at in April- May 04. The Train station area in the House of Hell. Semper Fi Marines and God Bless!!

  • SSgt Byron L

    I lost a great young Marine I recruited out of Rss Pasadena during the Battle. He was Lcpl Victor Lu. Great Marine and the restof our service members that paid the ultimate price God bless you and thank you for defending our country. Semper Fi

  • I. J. Barksdale

    As a veteran of “Phantom Fury”, thanks for posting this article.
    I lost several friends there, including 2 fellow Hospital Corpsmen and my friend Sgt. Rafael Peralta.
    This article is a sobering reminder of the sacrifices others have made and that the fight still continues.
    RIP & Semper Fi.

  • Jason

    I was at Al Asad during the battle of Fallujah. I remember the casevac choppers flying continuously during this siege. I am glad I was able to support my Marine brothers in the fight.

  • Garrett

    I was with 2/1 when we relieved the 82nd airborne in March of 2004, I was also on the first Marine patrol to enter the city of Falluja in response to an Airforce humvee being ambushed just inside the city, when we arrived the humvee was burned to the ground in a pile of smoldering ashes, with 4 rims perfectly placed right where they were on the vehicle, we then were ambushed ourselves with rpg’s and small arms fire about 5 minutes after arriving at the site, I can remember the look on the faces of the people around as we stood our ground and fought off the attackers, as if it suprised them that we didnt run away. This would be my first combat experience, and the beginning to what was, a long and painful year in the city of Falluja

  • Paul

    I should have been there. I am so sorry. If I could go back in time and change what happend I would. I can only thank the brave Marines that fought this battle.

  • Chuck Becker

    Navy veteran here saying, “God bless the USMC”. Or, as we used to say, “Thank God they’re (USMC) on our side.”

  • Lou Famiano

    “Siege” Marines of Khe Sanh, Vietnam salute the “Brothers” in the Battle for Fallujah. Semper Fi

  • Robert

    There is nothing stronger than the bond of brotherhood forged in the fire of combat…

    My prayers and heart go out to all of my Marine Brothers who were effected by this event and y God bless The USA, The Marines and all of our families…

  • hussam

    i hope god with this heroes
    am hussam from iraq

  • Emory Cook

    The loyalty and bravery of the Marines is so inspiring. God bless our servicemen and women—come home safely!