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Iraq War: Second Battle of Fallujah

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Iraq War: Second Battle of Fallujah

US soldiers prepare to enter and clear a building during fighting in Fallujah, Iraq.

Photograph Courtesy of the US Army

Conflict & Dates:

The Second Battle of Fallujah was fought November 7 to 16, 2004, during the Iraq War (2003-2011).

Armies & Commanders:

US-led Coalition

  • Lieutenant General John F. Sattler
  • Major General Richard F. Natonski
  • approx. 15,000 men

Insurgents

  • Abdullah al-Janabi
  • Omar Hussein Hadid
  • approx. 4,000-5,000 men

Second Battle of Fallujah Overview:

Following escalating insurgent activity and Operation Vigilant Resolve (First Battle of Fallujah) in spring 2004, US-led Coalition Forces turned fighting in Fallujah over to the Iraqi Fallujah Brigade. Led by Muhammed Latif, a former Baathist general, this unit ultimately collapsed leaving the city in the hands of the insurgents. This, along with the belief that insurgent leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was operating in Fallujah, led to the planning of Operation Al-Fajr (Dawn)/Phantom Fury with the goal of retaking the city. It was believed that between 4,000-5,000 insurgents were in Fallujah.

Located approximately forty miles west of Baghdad, Fallujah was effectively surrounded by US forces by October 14. Establishing checkpoints, they sought to ensure that no insurgents were able to escape the city. Civilians were encouraged to leave to prevent being caught in the coming battle and an estimated 70-90% of the city's 300,000 citizens departed. During this time, it was clear that an assault on the city was imminent and the insurgents prepared a variety of defenses and strong points. The attack on the city was assigned to the I Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF).

With the city cordoned off, efforts were made to suggest that the Coalition attack would come from the south and southeast as had occurred in April. Instead, I MEF intended to assault the city from the north across its entire breadth. On November 6, Regimental Combat Team 1, consisting of the 3rd Battalion/1st Marines, 3rd Battalion/5th Marines, and the US Army's 2nd Battalion/7th Cavalry, moved into position to assault the western half of Fallujah from the north.

They were joined by Regimental Combat Team 7, made up of the 1st Battalion/8th Marines, 1st Battalion/3th Marines, and the US Army's 2nd Battalion/2nd Infantry which would attack the eastern part of the city. These units were joined by Iraqi troops as well. With Fallujah sealed, operations began on at 7:00 PM on November 7, when Task Force Wolfpack moved to take objectives on the west bank of the Euphrates River opposite Fallujah. While Iraqi commandoes captured Fallujah General Hospital, Marines secured the two bridges over the river to cut off any enemy retreat from the city.

A similar blocking mission was undertaken by the British Black Watch Regiment south and east of Fallujah. The next evening, RCT-1 and RCT-7, backed by air and artillery strikes commenced their attack into the city. Using Army armor to disrupt the insurgent's defenses, the Marines were able to effectively attack enemy positions, including the main train station. Though engaged in fierce urban combat, Coalition troops were able to reach Highway 10, which bisected the city, by the evening of November 9. The eastern end of the road was secured the next day, opening a direct supply line to Baghdad.

Despite heavy fighting, Coalition forces controlled approximately 70% by the end of November 10. Pressing across Highway 10, RCT-1 moved through the Resala, Nazal and Jebail neighborhoods while the RCT-7 assaulted an industrial area in the southeast. By November 13, US officials claimed that most of the city was under Coalition control. The heavy fighting continued for the next several days as Coalition forces moved house-to-house eliminating insurgent resistance. During this process thousands of weapons were found stored in houses, mosques, and tunnels which connected buildings around the city.

The process of clearing the city was slowed by booby-traps and improvised explosive devices. As a result, in most cases, soldiers only entered buildings after tanks had rammed a hole in a wall or specialists had blasted a door open. On November 16, US officials announced that Fallujah had been cleared, but that there were still sporadic episodes of insurgent activity.

Aftermath:

The fighting in Fallujah cost US forces 51 killed and 425 seriously wounded, while Iraqi forces lost 8 killed and 43 wounded. Insurgent losses are estimated at between 1,200 to 1,350 killed. Though Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi was not captured during the operation, the victory severely damaged the momentum the insurgency had gained by holding the city. Residents were allowed to return in December and slowly began rebuilding the badly damaged city.

Having suffered badly in Fallujah, the insurgents began to avoid open battles and the number of attacks again began to rise. By 2006 they controlled much of Al-Anbar province, necessitating another sweep through Fallujah in September and lasting until January 2007. In fall 2007, the city was turned over to the Iraqi Provincial Authority.

Selected Sources

 

 

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