Mary Gibbons' MilestonesKeep going to reach the next milestone!
Milestone 38 - Individuals
Although the U.S. Marines had received a generally warm welcome by Iraqis up to this point in the campaign, it was nothing compared to the reception they began to receive in Baghdad on April 9. Crowds of civilians came out to cheer on the Marines as they drove by, most often with a chant of, “Good, good” accompanied by a thumbs up.
Milestone 39 - Individuals
Elements of the 1st Marine Division secured key buildings in downtown Baghdad on April 9. Among these were the Palestine Hotel, Sheraton Hotel, Baghdad Hotel and the Embassies of Japan, Germany, Vatican City, Indonesia and Poland (which housed the US interests’ section). Members of the press, who had been restricted to the Palestine Hotel by the Regime, poured out to record the moment.
Milestone 42 - Individuals
Murals of Saddam Hussein were on nearly every street corner in Baghdad. However, the local Iraqis had defaced most of these prior to the arrival of the Marines.
Milestone 44 - Individuals
After the collapse of Iraqi authority in northern cities of Mosul and Kirkuk, Kurdish forces filled the resulting power vacuum, followed by U.S. forces over succeeding days, including Marines from the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit Special Operations Capable.
Milestone 45 - Individuals
Some of the most high-profile stories of the campaign were about American prisoners of war, especially the rescue of Army Private First Class Jessica Lynch. Lynch was captured on March 22, early in the fighting around An Nasiriyah, and was then rescued by elements of Task Force Tarawa on the night April 1-2.
Milestone 46 - Individuals
On April 13, in the city of Samarra, based on a tip from an Iraqi policeman, elements of 3d Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion took a calculated risk to storm a house pinpointed by the informer to free 7 grateful soldiers: 2 pilots and 5 members of Jessica Lynch’s unit, who had also been captured in An Nasiriya on March 22.
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Milestone 10 - Individuals
On the night of March 19 – 20, U.S. Air Force aircraft conducted air strikes against Iraqi early warning radars and command-and-control capabilities as Marine forces were ordered to staging areas.
Milestone 11 - Individuals
Iraq retaliated on March 20 by firing surface-to-surface missiles against Coalition troops in Kuwait. That night marked the beginning of the U.S. ground combat operations with the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force supporting the Army’s 5th Corps. Regimental Combat Team 5 (RCT 5) was the leading Marine unit.
Milestone 12 - Individuals
A Marine Captain described the roll into combat as, “Awakening at 0100 on 20 March 2003 to don MOPP (Mission Oriented Protective Posture) suits, comfort became the first, if unofficial, casualty of this newborn war. Over the course of the next 12 hours, the brevity code “Lightning, lightning, lightning” would ring out at least 3 or 4 times. Scrambling into MOPP-4 became altogether too familiar. Every Marine is well versed in “sucking it up,” enduring conditions that would floor the average civilian. Day one of the war was serving up an appropriate warm-up – some time to mentally dig in for the upcoming suffer fest. Ironically, MOPP-4 does confer one advantage: At that point, the discomfort meter is already pegged. Simmering inside my NBC mask and protective gloves, I knew I was at the maximum; “All-clear” would bring the luxurious pleasure of wearing only the MOPP suit, flack, and associated combat gear. That is, of course, until we were being shot at…”
Milestone 13 - Individuals
On March 20, 1st Marine Expeditionary Force released the execute order and tanks attached to Regimental Combat Team 5 crossed the border into Iraq in the dark, about nine hours ahead of the scheduled time. The night attack was a much more complicated evolution, especially for a large, reinforced formation that went into combat as a team for the first time. When his troops crossed the border, General James N. Mattis’ official comment was, “Tally-ho!”
Milestone 14 - Individuals
Ultimately, some 4,000 ground personnel from 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing crossed into Iraq with the assault echelons to set up 15 small air bases and support points in Iraq. The concept may have not been new, but the scale was, much like the speed and flexibility of execution.
Milestone 15 - Individuals
U.S. Marines captured the Rumaila oil fields on March 21, a key Central Command objective. Meanwhile, Marines and British forces secured the port of Umm Qasr before moving on the city of Basrah, the most important British objective.
Milestone 16 - Individuals
Since the Bridge spanning the Euphrates River at An Nasiriya was a vital link in the main supply route for coalition forces moving north in Iraq, it became a main objective for Task Force Tarawa, along with a smaller bridge crossing the nearby Saddam Canal. On March 23, the road between the two bridges became known as “Ambush Alley,” due to the intense enemy fire experienced by the Marines as they traversed the four kilometers of cityscape.
Milestone 17 - Individuals
Iraqi soldiers often ditched their uniforms and fled the fight as few conventional Iraqi forces were willing to confront the 1st Marine Division and 3rd Marine Air Wing team.
Milestone 18 - Individuals
The “Mother of all Sandstorms” began on the evening of March 24 and persisted for 48 hours. As the storm raged, troop movement up Highway 1 was slowed to a snail’s pace and there were many vehicle accidents due to reduced visibility. For 12 hours, the storm pelted everything with rocks and grit, reduced visibility to less than 10 meters and even impaired breathing.
Milestone 19 - Individuals
Although the winds had abated along Highway 1, the sun rose on March 26 with an eerie orange glow, which came to be called the “Orange Crush.” Under the Orange Crush, the 1st Marine Division worked to clear mud from equipment. Mud-smeared maps hung over dirt covered radios, manned by unshaven, red-eyed Marines sipping a mud-slurry of coffee from filthy canteen cups.
Milestone 1 - Individuals
Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF), the military campaign in Afghanistan, set the stage for Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF). There was no straight line from initial success in Afghanistan in the Winter of 2001-2002 to a war in Iraq in 2003 to remove the dictator Saddam Hussein from power. However, OEF was in many ways the starting point for OIF.
Milestone 20 - Individuals
The lessons learned in An Nasiriyah resulted in the tactics used for the remainder of the fight to Al Kut. To counter the urban ambushes used by the paramilitary forces, any area that fit the template for an ambush was attacked with a robust force of armor, mechanized infantry or light armored vehicles. Once this area was secured, the attacking infantry would remain in position as a guard force, allowing the remainder of the Regimental Combat Team to quickly pass through unimpeded.
Milestone 21 - Individuals
The 1st Regimental Combat Team continued to use strongpoint tactics to clear Highway 7 on March 26 and began to refer to their progress as the “100-mile running gunfight.”
Milestone 22 - Individuals
On March 27, the 1st Marine Division continued to advance up Routes 1 and 7 toward Baghdad.
Milestone 23 - Individuals
Also on March 27, Marines advanced on the Hantush cloverleaf intersection of Highway 1 and Highway 27 with Cobra escorts. AH-1W Cobra attack helicopters provided both Close Air Support and intelligence on enemy threats up the road.
Milestone 24 - Individuals
An operational pause began on March 27 to consolidate supply lines and address threats by irregular Iraqi formations on the ground. Simultaneously, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing’s unimpeded air offensive continued, rendering many Iraqi units combat ineffective.
Milestone 25 - Individuals
The 1st Marine Division planned to fix the Baghdad Division in Al Kut, while bypassing them to the west in order to maintain momentum to Baghdad.
Milestone 26 - Individuals
On April 1, 1st Marine Division resumed progress toward Baghdad and 1st Force Service Support Group performed herculean feats of resupply with the cooperation of Marine Logistics Command.
Milestone 27 - Individuals
On April 2, U.S. Marine Corps Regimental Combat Team 5 seized two crossings over the Tigris River, putting it astride a major route that ran between Baghdad and the city of Al Kut. This is also where the British had suffered a disastrous defeat against the Turks in 1916 during World War I.
Milestone 28 - Individuals
The Iraqi conventional resistance in the south had melted away in the face of the advance. The Fedayeen paramilitary threat that replaced the conventional defense was surprisingly vigorous but ineffective. The Iraqis did not make good use of their significant number of tanks and artillery systems and had not launched the much-anticipated barrage of surface-to-air missiles. However, Baghdad was expected to be a different story as it was the Regime’s strategic center of gravity and critical to Saddam’s survival.
Milestone 29 - Individuals
One strategy in dealing with the Baghdad urban area involved cordoning the city and conducting raids into the urban center. However, the 1st Marine Division preferred a more conventional penetration strategy of attacking rapidly to cut off the city by establishing the Baghdad outer cordon, concurrently assaulting the urban terrain to hunt down and destroy the last defending elements of the Regime.
Milestone 2 - Individuals
Southern Iraq was guarded by the Iraqi Army’s 3rd Corps, comprised of three divisions: the 51st Mechanized, near Basra; the 6th Armored, north of Basra; and the 11th Infantry, strung along the Euphrates River east of Nasiriyah. Together, this force included more than 30,000 men and 300 tanks. It had faced the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force before, in 1991, and likely remembered its brutal whipping.
Milestone 30 - Individuals
On April 3, U.S. Army troops moved on Saddam International Airport, key terrain outside Baghdad.
Milestone 31 - Individuals
The U.S. Army conducted a large scale “Thunder Run,” armored raid into Baghdad on April 5.
Milestone 32 - Individuals
South of Highway 6 was an isolated peninsula formed by a bend in the Tigris River. The Regime had long used this peninsula, near the town of Salman Pak, to conduct a variety of terrorist training activities in an isolated setting. On April 5, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing F/A-18 Hornets were directed by Forward Air Controllers (FACs) from 3rd Battalion 7th Marines to drop Joint Direct Attack Munitions and make multiple passes with rockets, which gave, “a very comfortable feeling that we had destroyed everything that moved.”
Milestone 33 - Individuals
Most of Basrah, Iraq’s “second city,” was in British hands by April 6.
Milestone 34 - Individuals
Abandoned Iraqi surface-to-air missiles were found throughout the battlespace. The poor condition of most of these weapons made them unusable.
Milestone 35 - Individuals
After punching through the city’s outer defenses, the 1st Marine Division attempted to seize the two existing bridges over the Diyala River, using them to support an attack to fix the remaining eastern Baghdad defenders to the southeast. The main effort then shifted to an attempt to cross the Diyala River at a point north of the city where attacks continued into Baghdad from the northeast.
Milestone 36 - Individuals
On April 7, the U.S. Army conducted a second “Thunder Run” armored raid into western Baghdad.
Milestone 37 - Individuals
U. S. Marines from Regimental Combat Team 1 crossed the Diyala River in Armored Amphibious Vehicles (AAVs) on April 7 and executed a historic amphibious assault, 600 km from the sea, into the heart of Baghdad.
Milestone 3 - Individuals
The planned start to the Iraq campaign included three fronts: the U. S. Army’s 5th Corps from the southwest, the 1stMarine Expeditionary Force from the southeast, and the U.S. Army’s 4th Infantry Division from the north, through Turkey. However, after the Turks balked at allowing U.S. forces to enter Iraq from its territory, it was planned that all forces would flow through Kuwait and enter Iraq from the south.
Milestone 40 - Individuals
On April 9, a statue of Saddam Hussein is pulled down in Firdos Square in Baghdad. Additionally, a U.S. Flag that was at the scene was quickly replaced by an Iraqi Flag, demonstrating the Marines’ commitment to restoring freedom to Iraq.
Milestone 41 - Individuals
Regimental Combat Team 5 engaged in heavy fighting at Al Azimilyah Palace and Abu Hanifah Mosque in Baghdad on April 10.
Milestone 43 - Individuals
As of April 10, Baghdad was divided into Areas of Responsibility for all four of the Division’s regiments. The 11th Marines Artillery Regiment also operated the Civil-Military Affairs Center.
Milestone 47 - Individuals
Task Force Tripoli, made up of 1st Marine Division units and named for the Marine Corps’ 1805 exploits against the pirates of the Mediterranean Barbary Coast, took control of Tikrit, Saddam Hussein’s hometown, on April 13 - 14.
Milestone 48 - Individuals
With the U.S. Army relieving 1st Marine Expeditionary Force in eastern Baghdad, Marines were redeployed to the southern third of Iraq on April 20. Their new mission now focused on security, humanitarian assistance and reconstruction. The focus of effort was deploying 7 infantry battalions from 1st Marine Division in 7 governates or districts.
Milestone 49 - Individuals
On April 22, the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit Special Operations Capable, which had supported Task Force Tarawa, began redeploying to its ships and other units soon followed suit. The effort was part of a draw-down to reduce manning levels that are maintained throughout the summer.
Milestone 4 - Individuals
Within the U.S. Marine Corps’ zone were 20,600 Marines of the 1st Marine Division, from Camp Pendleton, California, consisting of Regimental Combat Team 7, built around the 7th Marine Regiment, furthest East. They would isolate Basra and destroy the Iraqi 51st Mechanized Infantry Division. Just to their west, another U.S. combat team, composed of the 5th Marine Regiment with reinforcements, would seize the Rumaila oil fields to prevent their destruction by Iraqi forces. At the same time, the 1stMarine Regimental Combat Team, along with Task Force Tarawa, a force of 6,000 men from the 2nd Marine Regiment from Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, would pass Rumaila to the west and secure bridges across the Euphrates.
Milestone 50 - Individuals
In the final analysis, Saddam’s regime and its threat could not be defeated except by fighting it. The two U.S. divisions that carried the brunt of the fighting, the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division and the 1st Marine Division, were not historically impressive in terms of numbers, but were more than equal to the task of liberating the Iraqi people. In the chaos, confusion and uncertainty of an ever-shifting and always dangerous battlefield, the young men and women who faced this enemy distinguished themselves for their presence of mind, steadfast commitment to each other and willingness to pay the price for the freedom of Iraq, a people they barely knew.
Milestone 51 - Individuals
No mere narrative can fully capture the efforts, risks and sacrifices of the men and women during Operation Iraqi Freedom, 81,125 of which were Marines with 1st Marine Expeditionary Force and Task Force Tarawa (drawn from 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force units). No words can capture the tears of family members as they sent their loved ones off, perhaps for the last time. Nothing will bring back our beloved comrades that made the ultimate sacrifice on the battlefield.
Milestone 5 - Individuals
The plan was for U.S. Marine aviation to take on its traditional missions, close air support, casualty evacuation and occasional resupply, but it was also intended to be a maneuver element in its own right. The 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing put together an exceptionally robust team that would peak at 435 aircraft and some 15,000 Marines and Sailors, making it the largest wing to deploy since Vietnam.
Milestone 6 - Individuals
The 1st Force Service Support Group, consisting of 10,500 Marines, was organized to create combat service support units that integrated the various logistics functions to meet a variety of needs for the supported 1st Marine Expeditionary Force ground or aviation units.
Milestone 7 - Individuals
On March 17, U.S. President George W. Bush issued an ultimatum, giving Saddam Hussein 48 hours to leave Iraq. In the wake of the President’s ultimatum, U.S. Central Command declared Iraqi Forces “hostile,”
Milestone 8 - Individuals
On the evening of March 17, Blue Diamond (1st Marine Division Headquarters) issued a FRAGO (Fragmentary Order) for all units of the 1st Marine Division to move from the Logistics Support Areas) to their Dispersal Areas. The following is an excerpt of this message to all Marines and Sailors of the Division from Major General James N. Mattis: “You are part of the world’s most feared and trusted force. Engage your brain before you engage your weapon. Share your courage with each other as we enter the uncertain terrain north of the Line of Departure. Keep faith in your comrades on your left and right and Marine Air overhead. Fight with a happy heart and a strong spirit. For the mission’s sake, our country’s sake, and the sake of the men who carried the Division’s colors in past battles – who fought for life and never lost their nerve – carry out your mission and keep your honor clean. Demonstrate to the world there is “No Better Friend, No Worse Enemy” than a United States Marine.”
Milestone 9 - Individuals
The plan for the first few days of war was carefully choreographed, as contrasted with the more general plans for the rest of the war. Even though the nature of Marine participation in the Baghdad fight was still up in the air, the Marine expectations as of early March was still that the force would pass through Al Kut to threaten Baghdad from the east.
Start - Individuals