08 November 2014

Remembering Fallujah 10 Years Later

In this iconic photo taken during Operation Phantom Fury in Fallujah, Iraq on November 13, 2004, then-First Sergeant Bradley Kasal is carried out of a house by LCpl Chris Marquez and LCpl Dane Shaffer. In the house, Kasal sustained seven gunshot wounds and over 43 pieces of hot fragmentation from a grenade while using his body to shield an injured fellow Marine. Although he is estimated to have lost approximately 60 percent of his blood at this point, he is still holding his M9 pistol and KA-Bar fighting knife. Kasal was later awarded the Navy Cross for his actions. Photo: Lucien Read.

Marine Corps Times:

It has been a decade since Marines fought for their lives — and their brothers-in-arms — in Iraq's bloodiest battles, which would spark a turning point in the eight-year war.

Nearly 100 Americans, mostly Marines, would die in the battles of Fallujah during some of the toughest fights in the campaign. Fallujah secured its place in Marine Corps heritage, alongside battles fought during the same era, like that in Sangin, Afghanistan, as well as those of past wars, like Iwo Jima and Tarawa.

On Sept. 14, 2004, Maj. Gen. Larry Nicholson, then a colonel, was medevaced from the city that had become an al-Qaida stronghold after he was wounded in a rocket attack the day after taking command of 1st Marine Regiment. Back stateside, Nicholson recovered at Bethesda Naval Hospital in Maryland, as Operation Al-Fajr, a door-to-door fight in Fallujah, kicked off on Nov. 7.

Within months, Nicholson was back in Iraq, seeing the last moments of the operation and how the city would change for years to come.

"I think Fallujah will always be remembered as that gritty, hard fought, room by room, house-by-house battle where our Marines and soldiers prevailed," Nicholson told Marine Corps Times. "It will always be synonymous with an urban fight where small unit leaders won the fight."

It was Marines and soldiers fighting block-by-block, street-by-street, kicking in doors during the most intense urban warfare the Corps waged since the battle of Hue City in Vietnam in 1968.

"After the city was cleared, it really began the awakening. Giving that city back to the Iraqi people was critically important. It facilitated elections in Fallujah, and also in Ramadi and all over Anbar province.

"When we came back with the 5th Marine Regiment in 2006, we started to see a lot of dramatic change in terms of Iraqis taking responsibility for their own security. We started to see Iraqi tribal leaders turning against al-Qaida.

"That really hit full throttle in late 2007. The Sons of Iraq was exploding all over Anbar, all over Iraq. By 2009, it was relatively quiet, and we left and turned Fallujah over to the armed forces of Iraq. None of that would have been possible without taking Fallujah away from the enemy."

From Fallujah: The commander US Marines followed without question at the Christian Science Monitor, then-Capt. Gil Juarez recalls telling his men after the deployment,

"Life now is about not taking a step back. You’ve been through a tremendous event, part of our history now ... but life is hard, and that doesn’t get you much. The world may not know or care to know what happened here. That’s tough, especially for young guys that have been through that.”

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