Fish and Chips

(The First Battle of Fallujah)

Marines abhor urban warfare more than any other form of combat.  Urban settings negate the advantages of overwhelming firepower, limit the maneuvering ability of troops, and reduce fields of observation and fires. The presence of innocent civilians, the ability of enemy forces to dress themselves as civilians and infiltrate civilian populations makes urban warfare even more complex.  It is an environment within which a few well-armed insurgents are able to impede the advance of military forces while inflicting heavy casualties at little cost to themselves —particularly if they are of the mindset that death in Jihad guarantees access to Shangri-La. The urban environment offers cover and concealment of insurgents, movement through underground infrastructures, and the placement of well-concealed booby traps and snipers.

Iraq-FallujahThe city of Fallujah —one of the most religious and culturally traditional areas of Iraq, had mostly profited under the regime of Saddam Hussein.  Most of the city’s residents favored the Ba’ath party; they were Sunnis; some were employed by Saddam’s intelligence apparatus.  Generally, however, most residents had little sympathy for Saddam in the aftermath of the collapse of his government —until they realized that the Sunni regime of some 5-million people no longer controlled the 20-millions of the Iraqi Shi’ite majority.

Following the collapse of the Ba’ath party in 2003, local residents elected a town council headed by Taha Hamed, who was able to keep the city from falling into the hands of criminal gangs.  Nominally, Hamed and his council were pro-American, and their election somewhat erroneously signaled to the Americans that the city was unlikely to fall into the hands of insurgents.  Accordingly, few US troops were assigned to Fallujah early in 2003.  On 23 April, however, elements of the 82ndAirborne entered the city, and of these, approximately 150 troops of Company C, 1stBattalion, 325thAirborne Infantry set up their headquarters in the al-Qa’id primary school.  Five days later, a crowd of around 200 citizens gathered outside the school after curfew demanding that the Americans vacate the building so that it could resume its function as a school.

The company commander was not inclined to vacate the building, however.  Tactically, it was in a good place from which to direct military operations.  The people were adamant, however, and the demands of the people became somewhat heated. The population of the crowd was building, so the American unit deployed smoke cannisters as a means of discouraging or disbursing the crowd.  At some point, Iraqi gunmen fired on US troops from within the protesting crowd.  The American soldiers returned fire, killing 17 people and wounding more than 70.  There were no US casualties.

On 30 April, another protest group gathered at the former Ba’ath party headquarters complaining about the shootings at the al-Qa’id school.  Gunfire also erupted from within this group of protesters, and members of the US 3rdArmored Cavalry Regiment returned fire; three more civilians died.  In both of these instances, US forces insisted that they had not fired upon the crowd of civilians; they had returned fire.  There’s a difference.

In any case, 82nd Airborne units were pulled out of Fallujah and replaced by elements of the 3rd Cavalry and Company B, 2nd Battalion, 502nd Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division.  On 4 June, while on a “presence” patrol, members of B Company were hit by RPGs as they were mounting their vehicles to return to their base of operations.  Six soldiers were injured, one man was killed.  3/Cavalry requested additional forces to help them quell a growing resistance to an American presence by city residents.  Relations with local citizens was not improved when 3/Cavalry began confiscating motorcycles, asserting that such vehicles were being used in hit and run attacks on coalition forces.

On 30 June, a large explosion in a mosque killed local Sheikh Laith Khalil and eight others. The local population claimed that the Americans had fired a missile at the mosque, but the truth is that this explosion came from an accidental detonation by insurgents while constructing a bomb.

By this time, the citizens of Fallujah were openly anti-American, which was further demonstrated by a 12 February 2004 attack on a convoy that included General John Abizaid (then Commander of US forces in the Middle East), and Major General Charles Swannack (Commander, 82nd Airborne Division).

On 23 February, insurgents created a false emergency on the outskirts of the city, a ploy to divert local police away from the city center. What then occurred was a simultaneous attack on three police stations, the mayor’s office, and a civil defense base. After murdering seventeen police officers, the insurgents released 87 prisoners.

During this period, 82nd Airborne units were conducting limited operations inside the city to destroy road barriers that could hide IEDs; they supervised searches of homes and schools, and this led to exchanges of lethal gunfire with local residents.

In March, I Marine Expeditionary Force (I MEF) assumed coalition authority over the al-Anbar Province. It was at this time when insurgent forces began to seize portions of the city; attacks upon coalition forces increased dramatically.  I MEF commander Lieutenant General James Conway (later serving as Commandant of the Marine Corps) decided to withdraw all US forces from within the city. Occasional operations continued, however, in the form of combat patrols in the outer limits of the city.

On 27 March, a covert American surveillance team was compromised and had to fight its way out of an insurgent-inspired envelopment.  On 31 March, a massive roadside bomb  killed five US personnel who were attempting to clear a main supply route (MSR) of IEDs.

Four days later, Iraqi insurgents ambushed a convoy containing four American contractors from Blackwater USA.  Without notifying the Marine command of their itinerary, these four contractors were escorting a “harsh environment food stores” delivery and decided to take a shortcut through Fallujah —which, at the time, was Iraq’s most dangerous city.  They were driving two Mitsubishi Pajero sport utility vehicles on the main thoroughfare, designated Highway 10.  They apparently anticipated that it would only take them 20 minutes to clear the city center and be on their way.

These were capable men: one a former SEAL, another, who spoke several languages, previously served with the 82nd Airborne Division, the third man had won the Bronze Star medal in Afghanistan, and the fourth contractor had served as both an Army Ranger and a paratrooper.  As the vehicles passed through the midtown area, no Iraqi police officer flagged them down or attempt to turn them back.  Moments later, insurgents ran into the street and sprayed both vehicles with automatic rifle fire.  Neither vehicle had armor plating; three of the men were killed instantly.  A fourth was badly wounded.  They never had a chance.

The assassins jumped into vehicles and sped off.  Shortly afterwards, a crowd of men and boys approached the dead men who were still sitting inside their utility vehicles.  The lone survivor staggered out of his vehicle and collapsed on the ground. The nearby Iraqi men began to kick and stomp on his body.  Others stabbed him with knives.

A young boy ran up carrying a can of gasoline, doused the SUVs and set them ablaze.  Egged on by the older men, mere boys dragged the dead men’s smoldering bodies onto the pavement and beat their remains with their shoes to demonstrate that Americans were scum under the soles of their feet.  The insurgent led mob then attached two of the bodies to a car and dragged them through the streets.  Hundreds of men cheered.  Eventually, the bodies were hung over a bridge.

This macabre show lasted for the rest of the day.  At dusk, the remains of three bodies were dumped in a cart pulled by a gray donkey for a final triumphal parade down Highway 10.  Men and boys followed the cart shouting anti-American phrases.  It was all captured on tape.  The video would become great propaganda material for later on.

This incident was widely covered by the press and caused widespread indignation in the United States; the anger seemed to get worse with each passing hour.  But in Fallujah, the people proudly greeted news photographers. Graphic footage was sold to the networks.  The next day’s headlines were nothing short of stunning: young men smiling and waving, while behind them dangled the charred corpses of American civilians.

To the Marines, this easily-avoided incident was a tragedy.  The names of these four civilians would be added to a list that already contained dozens of names of men who were killed in the past year in or around Fallujah.  But there was nothing the Marines could do or should do.  To react to this event emotionally would play right into the hands of the insurgents; the idea was to win the war, not create a larger one.

The Marines did have a plan, however.  It involved moving back into Fallujah over the next several months, on foot, retaking Fallujah district by district and bringing with them sufficient Iraqi forces to maintain control over these districts.  One problem, though, was that the Iraqi forces had disassociated themselves from the coalition effort.  There would be no reason for the Marines to march into Fallujah if there was no one to turn liberated districts over to.  I MEF believed that the Marines could coax the Iraqis back into a full partnership.  It would take time, but that was the plan.

Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez [1], U. S. Army commanded the Coalition Joint Task Force; Sanchez was General Conway’s boss.  Sanchez wanted swift, visible retaliation for the Blackwater lynching.  He wanted Conway to blow the bridge.  That couldn’t work because Conway needed the bridge to run resupply convoys.  In fact, every one of Sanchez’ notions ran counter-intuitive to the long-term efforts of not creating a larger retalitory war for the four Blackwater murders.  Sanchez complained to his confidantes that he felt the Marines were timid.

In the view of Marine commander, the only sensible strategy was to regain control of Fallujah gradually, leaving Iraqis —not Marines— in charge of the city and its several districts.  But Sanchez was adamant.  The Blackwater murders amounted to political symbolism. Sanchez was getting his way; President George W. Bush was furious about the Blackwater assassinations.  It was a stinging rebuke —a challenge to America.  It was a matter of national pride.  Ambassador Paul Bremer went on television promising overwhelming retribution. General John Abizaid, General Sanchez, and Ambassador Bremer were of one mind; they recommended to the President that Fallujah be seized immediately.  George Bush’s answer wasn’t long in coming: his order to CENTCOM was “go get those responsible,” no waiting, no delay.

The last time the Marines had fought street by street was in the Battle for Hue City during the Viet Nam War.  The fight had lasted a month.  Within that month, entire blocks of houses had been leveled. More than six hundred Americans died; more than 3,700 were wounded.  Civilian deaths exceeded six-thousand.  So, the Marines knew about urban warfare —they knew more about it than anyone in Washington, and they knew more about it than General Sanchez or Paul Bremer. Nevertheless, the Marines had their orders.

Fallujah Raid
Urban Warfare — the toughest of all combat. Photo obtained from the public domain

On 3 April, Marines were ordered to conduct offensive operations against Fallujah [2].  It was not what the Marine commanders wanted; they preferred surgical strikes and carefully organized raids against suspect insurgents.  Nevertheless, in accordance with Joint Task Force directives, Marines launched a major assault in an attempt to pacify Fallujah on 4 April. Two-thousand troops surrounded the city; aerial strikes destroyed four homes thought to be enemy bases of operation. All roads leading out from the city were blocked; a local radio station was seized, and leaflets were dropped inside the city warning residents to remain in their homes.

Marine planners estimated as many as 24 hardcore guerrilla factions were operating inside the city. Their armaments included RPGs, mortars, anti-aircraft weapons, and machineguns.  One-third of the city’s population streamed out of the city in an attempt to avoid the bloodshed.

As it happened, events in Fallujah set off widespread fighting throughout central Iraq and the lower Euphrates, perpetrated by Muqtada al-Sadr and his Mahdi Army.  Simultaneously, a Sunni rebellion broke out in Ramadi.  All foreigners became targets of opportunity; some were captured and held for ransom, others were killed out of hand.  Elements of Iraqi police and the civil defense corps either turned against coalition forces or simply abandoned their posts.

Marines tightened their hold over Fallujah, but the rebels held on.  Air strikes frequently targeted insurgent positions; gunships attacked targets with Gatling guns and howitzers.  Marine Corps snipers became the core element of Conway’s strategy. Insurgent leaders were never sure that they weren’t being observed through the scope of a .50 Caliber Rifle. The work of snipers was supported by the Tactical Psychological Operations Detachment, who lured terrorist insurgents into the open, where an introduction to Ala was almost a certainty.  After three days of fighting, the Marines had gained control over a quarter of the city, but along with the destruction of guerrilla elements, civilian casualties increased as well.

Suddenly, on 9 April, Ambassador Paul Bremer announced that US forces would observe a ceasefire in order to facilitate negotiations between coalition forces, the Iraqi governing council, various insurgent groups, and city spokespersons.  The ceasefire did permit the provision of humanitarian aid to city residents, but by this time, six-hundred Iraqis had been killed, and many of these were non-combatants.  Iraqi insurgents continued to hold the city.

On 13 April, Marines were attacked by a group that had taken over a mosque.  An airstrike destroyed the mosque, and of course the locals were outraged.  Two days later, an F-16 dropped a 2,000-pound bomb over the northern district of Fallujah; the airstrike prompted negotiators to devise a plan to reintroduce joint US/Iraqi patrols in the city.  Negotiations fell apart, however, and the city remained a major center for opposition to the US-appointed Iraqi Interim government.  There was also a shift in the nature of Iraqi forces operating inside the city: the secular, nationalist, and ex-Ba’athist groups had lost their influence and these assets were absorbed by local warlords, men with ties to organized crime, or by adherents to Wahhabism.

On 27 April, guerillas attacked a Marine position, forcing the Marines to call for air support.  On the next day, air elements from the USS George Washington began flying sorties over Fallujah.  Thirteen laser-guided bombs were dropped on suspected insurgent positions.

On 1 May 2004, General Conway announced a decision to turn over any remaining operations to the newly formed Fallujah Brigade, a Sunni security force formed, trained, and armed by the CIA.  Within four months, the Fallujah Brigade, armed with weapons paid for by the American taxpayer, joined the Iraqi insurgency.  The treasonous behavior of the Fallujah Brigade led to the Second Battle of Fallujah.

Sources:

  1. West, Bing. No True Glory: A Frontline Account of the Battle for Fallujah. Bantam Books, 2005
  2. Foulk, Vincent L. The Battle for Fallujah: Occupation, Resistance, and Stalemate in the War in Iraq. McFarland & Company, 2007

Endnotes:

[1] If there was ever a case to be made against affirmative action, General Sanchez could be it.  Not only should we question his competence, we should also question his leadership ability, particularly as it relates to accepting responsibility for the debacle at Abu Ghraib and his failure to demonstrate moral courage by standing up to an equally incompetent Paul Bremer.  This is not nitpicking; American lives were lost because of this man’s failure as an American general officer.  His post-retirement criticism of the media and political leadership is nothing if not pure cheek.

[2] Given the size of the Fallujah in terms of its area, urban structure, and its population (est. 300,000), there was no way that coalition forces could avoid a very bloody confrontation with Islamist zealots.  Ultimately, however, it would be the task of small units to implement multiple assaults in this urban setting.  This kind of warfare demands the collective efforts of infantry squads and supporting arms.  Their task involved isolating the objective, suppressing enemy threats, advancing the assault element, conducting the assault, clearing buildings, and consolidating/reorganizing the assault force. It isn’t simply a matter of clearing enemy-held buildings: military personnel anticipated fanatical resistance by insurgents, but it also involved encountering booby-traps and improvised explosive devices where they would inflict the most damage and impede any progress of an assault.  Urban warfare is the most psychologically demanding form of combat.

[3] The title of this post refers to a British colloquialism for urban warfare, meaning to Fight In Someone’s House and Creating Havoc In People’s Streets.

 

An Age of Patriotism

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William Ward Burrows I

William Ward Burrows (16 Jan 1758 – 6 March 1805) was born in Charleston, South Carolina.  He served with distinction in the Revolutionary War with the South Carolina state militia.  After the war, he moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to practice law.  On the day following an act of Congress to establish a permanent United States Marine Corps (11 July 1798), President John Adams appointed Burrows Major Commandant.  During his tenure as Commandant, the manpower strength of the Marine Corps never exceeded 881 officers, noncommissioned officers, privates, and musicians.  Note that by tradition, Samuel Nicholas was the first officer to serve as Commandant of Continental Marines, but Burrows was the first appointed Commandant of the U. S. Marine Corps.  In history, Burrows is regarded as the Second Commandant of the Marine Corps.

After the United States won its independence from Great Britain, America no longer benefitted from the protection of the British Navy.  America was suddenly facing the arduous and expensive task of protecting its own seacoast and merchant fleet.  Few American ships were available to take on this task, and few were even capable of such a mission.  The Kingdom of France was a crucial ally of the United States during the Revolutionary War, had loaned the Continental Congress large sums of money, and in 1778, signed an agreement with the United States for an alliance against Great Britain.  In 1792, Louis XVI was overthrown during the French Revolution and the French monarchy was abolished.

In 1794, the United States forged an agreement with Great Britain in the Jay Treaty, which was ratified in the following year.  The Jay Treaty resolved several issues between the US and Great Britain that had lingered since the end of the revolution.  The Jay Treaty encouraged bilateral trade and expanded trade between the two nations, the effects of which stimulated America’s fledgling economy.  Between 1794 and 1801, the value of American exports tripled.  Not every American supported the Jay Treaty, however. Jeffersonian Democrat-Republicans were pro-French and fought an alliance with Great Britain at every turn.

France and Great Britain were at war, but the United States declared neutrality.  As US legislation was being formulated for a trade deal with the British, Congress refused to continue making payments on the debt owed to France from the Revolutionary War.  The United States argued that their obligation was to the King of France.  Since there was no longer a king in France, the United States no longer had an obligation to pay this debt.

France was not pleased. Initially, the French government authorized privateers to seize American ships trading with Great Britain, taking the ships to France as prizes of war, and sold for compensation.  Next, the French refused to receive the United States Ambassador to France, Charles C. Pinckney.  The effect of this was the complete severance of diplomatic relations between the United States and France.  President John Adams delivered his annual message to Congress, reporting to them that France refused to negotiate a settlement.  Adams warned Congress: the time had come “to place our country in a suitable posture of defense.”  The so-called XYZ Affair (French agents demanding bribes before engaging in substantive negotiations with US diplomats) incensed members of Congress and the general population.

It was in this setting that the Navy and Marine Corps had their humble beginnings.  The Navy had few ships, and the Marines had few troops.  Still, six or so months in advance of hostilities with France, the War Department began recruiting and enlisting able seamen to serve as Marines aboard frigates that had been authorized by Congress to meet the French threat.  These initial units were small detachments assigned to ships of the U. S. Navy; ships that were still under construction.

During Major Burrows first several months, his principal concern was supplying men to serve with sea-going Marine Detachments.  At this time, Headquarters Marine Corps was situated at a camp near Philadelphia until the national capital in Washington was ready to receive the government in 1800.  Burrows sent a Marine guard detail to the Washington Navy Yard in March to protect government property.  Burrows and his staff relocated to Washington in late July, settling into what today is called the Marine Barracks, 8th& I Streets.

Burrows was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel on 1 May 1800.  The Quasi-War with France continued until September when the two countries finally settled their differences —and once these matters were resolved, Congress had no further interest in maintaining a naval establishment. Congressional attitudes embarrassed Burrows because he was trying to establish a war-ready Marine Corps on a peace time budget.  The Barbary Wars broke out soon after the end of the Quasi-War.  Adams lost the Presidency in 1801, and Thomas Jefferson, who was no friend of the Navy or Marine Corps, was inaugurated as President.  In spite of Jefferson’s lack of interest, Burrows continued his struggle to man the much needed ship’s detachments gearing up for duty in the Mediterranean.

Lieutenant Colonel Burrows’ stewardship is credited with beginning many of the Marine Corps’ institutions, most notably the U. S. Marine Corps Band (now called the “President’s Own”). To create the band, Burrows relied heavily on personal contributions from his officers.  Burrows was also a disciplinarian, demanding high standards of professional conduct from his officers.  Due to ill health, which may be related to his relocation to Washington City, then an insect infested swamp, Burrows resigned his office on 6 March 1804.  He died a year later while still residing in Washington.  He was initially buried in the Presbyterian Cemetery in Georgetown, but on 12 May 1892, his remains were re-interred at the Arlington National Cemetery.

Part of Colonel Burrows’ legacy is his son, William Ward Burrows II (1795 – 1813), who served in the United States Navy from 1799 to his death in 1813.  Lieutenant Burrows distinguished himself at Tripoli while serving aboard the USS Constitution.  He died from wounds received during an engagement with HMS Boxer, while in command of the brig [1] USS Enterprise during the War of 1812 (derisively known at the time as Mr. Madison’s War).  Burrows was buried at Eastern Cemetery in Portland, Maine, next to the slain commander of HMS Boxer, Samuel Blyth.

In recognition of his courage under fire, Lieutenant Burrows was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal [2]:

Congressional Gold Medal
Congressional Gold Medal; See endnotes for attribution.

That the President of the United States be requested to present to the nearest male relative of lieutenant William Burrows, and to lieutenant Edward R. McCall of the brig Enterprise, a gold medal with suitable emblems and devices; and a silver medal with like emblems and devices to each of the commissioned officers of the aforesaid vessel, in testimony of the high sense entertained in the conflict with the British sloop Boxer, on the fourth of September, in the year one thousand eight hundred and thirteen. And the President is also requested to communicate to the nearest male relative of lieutenant Burrows the deep regret which Congress feel for the loss of that valuable officer, who died in the arms of victory, nobly contending for his country’s rights and fame.

Endnotes:

[1] A brig is a sailing vessel with two square-rigged masts.  They were fast and maneuverable and used as both warships and cargo vessels.  Brigs were among the first casualties of the age of steam because they required relatively large crews for their small size, and they were difficult to sail into the wind.  A war brig was outfitted with between ten and eighteen guns.

[2] Since the American Revolution, Congress has commissioned gold medals as its highest expression of national appreciation for distinguished achievements and contributions. Shown above is the gold medal issued to John Paul Jones, the only Continental Navy Officer to receive this award. I could not find a likeness of the medal issued to Lieutenant Burrows.  Credit for the image of the gold medal belongs to Jules Jaquemart, Loubat, J. F.  Medallic History of the United States of America, New Milford (1878).

Marine Security Guards

MSG Shield 001Marine Corps history reveals a lengthy relationship with the United States Department of State, beginning in 1805 at the Battle of Derna —the tale of this beginning is interesting.

When Thomas Jefferson was inaugurated President of the United States in March 1801, he inherited troubled relations with the Barbary States —otherwise known as the Ottoman Regencies of Algiers, Tunis, and Tripoli, as well as with independent Morocco.  The United States had diplomatic treaties with all four, but tensions were high and getting worse.  Mr. Jefferson was partially responsible for this anxiety long before he became President.

Regional American diplomats wanted the assurance of an American naval presence (which given Mr. Jefferson’s loathing for the Navy, arguing that it was too much of an expense), must have been an irritation.  These early diplomats regularly urged Jefferson to bolster a naval presence, if not in exact word, then certainly of similar pleadings as from Lisbon in 1793: “When we can appear in the ports of the various powers, or on the coast of Barbary with ships of such force as to convince those nations that we are able to protect our trade, and compel them if necessary to keep faith with us, then, and not before, we may probably secure a large share of the Mediterranean trade, which would largely and speedily compensate the United States for the cost of a maritime force amply sufficient to keep all those pirates in awe, and also make it their interest to keep faith.”

As noted above, Mr. Jefferson was well aware of the situation unfolding in the Mediterranean. In 1784, Congress appointed Jefferson, John Adams, and Benjamin Franklin as peace commissioners.  Their task was to negotiate treaties of amity and commerce with the principal states of Europe and the Mediterranean, including the establishment of relations with the Barbary States.  What these men learned was that European states had concluded treaties with the Barbary states, which involved agreements to pay them tribute, which in those days were called an annuity.  This was necessary because any merchant ship found operating in the Atlantic or the Mediterranean Sea without this protection placed itself on the mercy of state-sponsored marauders.  These raiders were also referred to as corsairs or pirates.  The peace commissioners reported this information to Congress and requested its guidance.

In December of that year, having learned that a small American brig had been seized by a Moroccan corsair in the Atlantic, Jefferson developed a no-nonsense approach to the problem.  He wrote, “Our trade to Portugal, Spain, and the Mediterranean is annihilated unless we do something decisive.  Tribute or war is the usual alternative of these pirates.  If we yield the former, it will require sums which our people will soon feel.  Why not begin a navy and then decide on war?  We cannot begin in a better cause nor against a weaker foe.”  At this time, Jefferson believed that going to war was more honorable, more effective, and less expensive than paying tribute.

In 1786, while serving as the United States’ first Ambassador to France, Mr. Jefferson and John Adams (then serving as the US Ambassador to Great Britain), met in London with Sidi Haji Abdul Rahman Adja, the Tripolitan ambassador to Great Britain. American flagged ships had already been captured by corsairs and their crews and passengers imprisoned and held for ransom.  The Americans wanted to negotiate a peace treaty that would spare their ships from pirate attacks.  Congress had been willing to appease the Barbary pirates, but only if they could gain peace at a reasonable price.

During the meeting with Rahman, Jefferson and Adams asked him why Moslems held such hostility toward the United States, a nation with which they had had no previous contacts. Jefferson later related the ambassador’s response to John Jay: the reason for Moslem enmity was that “It was written in their Koran that all nations that had not acknowledged their prophet were sinners; it was the right and duty of the faithful to plunder and enslave the infidel.”  Rahman assured them that every Mussulman [Moslem] who was slain in this warfare was sure to achieve paradise in the afterlife.  After the meeting, Jefferson purchased a Koran.  Should war with these Moslems be necessary, he wanted to find out what kind of religion these people believed in.

The Barbary challenge to American shipping sparked a great deal of debate in the United States over how to cope with the aggressive behaviors of the Barbary States. Jefferson’s early view guided him in future years.  In 1786, he doubted whether the American people would be willing to pay an annual tribute (bribe), and he wondered if it would not be better to simply offer these Barbary states an equal treaty.  Should they refuse,  the United States could go to war with them.

Mr. Jefferson believed that America needed to become a trading nation.  Jefferson wrote to James Monroe, “… this will require a protecting force on the sea.  Otherwise, the smallest powers in Europe, every one which possesses a single ship of the line, may dictate to us and enforce their demands by captures on our commerce. Some naval force then is necessary if we mean to be commercial.”  Jefferson added, “And if it be decided that their peace shall be bought it shall engage my most earnest endeavors.”

John Adams favored the same approach, which is to say that he believed paying bribes would be cheaper than convincing the American people that the United States needed a navy.  Congress did decide to pay the bribes, commissioning Thomas Barclay (to Morocco) and a merchant sea captain by the name of John Lamb (to Algiers) to effect treaties.  In Morocco, the American proposal was accepted with only minor changes. Jefferson, Adams, and the Congress were very pleased because the agreement only entailed a one-time payment.

The agreement with Morocco did not serve as a template for the other North African tribes.  Algiers was more dependent on the fruits of its pirating operations: captured goods, slaves, ransoms, and tribute —so they were less amenable to a peace treaty with the United States.

In the midst of these negotiations, Barclay and Lamb learned that two ships had been captured by Algerian corsairs: The Maria and the Dauphin.  Mr. Lamb was instructed to negotiate a ransom for the captives in Algiers and to broker a treaty to prevent further attacks on American shipping, although the amount of money sequestered for this purpose was much too small to suit the Algerians.  The Lamb mission failed.

Over the next several years —both as Secretary of State under George Washington and as President himself— Jefferson made further attempts to re-start negotiations with Algiers.  Every effort failed, and the only safety accorded to American shipping came from joining European convoys.  American ships even flew European flags, which of course was illegal (not to mention dishonorable).  Nevertheless, American ships benefitted from the protection offered by the Portuguese Navy for several years.  This ended in 1793 when it was time for Algiers and Portugal to renegotiate their treaty.  Within a few months, Algerian corsairs had seized eleven American ships, ten of these in the Atlantic; more than 100 crewman and passengers were taken captive.

After Jefferson’s tenure as Secretary of State, the United States finally did secure an agreement with Algiers in 1795.  An annual tribute was part of this treaty.  A year later, Algiers released their hostages, which included a few survivors of the Maria and Dauphin.  A treaty was concluded with Tripoli in 1796, Tunis in 1797, and it wasn’t long after that when the United States appointed emissaries to each Barbary state.

America’s consuls awaited the new administration of Thomas Jefferson, but their communiques over the previous months were nothing if not distressing.  Tensions with Tripoli were high because the ever-sensitive Pasha Yusuf Qaramanli believed that the Americans had slighted him.  He threatened war with the United States. Five months before Jefferson assumed office, in October 1800, Consul James Cathcart in Tripoli received an ominous message from the Pasha: “If you don’t give me a present, I will find a pretext to capture your defenseless merchantmen.”  Cathcart dutifully notified other consuls of the possibility of hostile actions.

When the Quasi-War with France [1] ended by the convention of 1800, newly inaugurated Jefferson could turn his attention to the Barbary coast.  The US Navy was a fledgling force at this time, but new ships were coming online from contracts awarded in 1793.  Thus, in early June 1801, a small squadron of three frigates [2] and a schooner [3] sailed for the Mediterranean under Commodore Richard Dale. Dale was ordered to protect American shipping if, upon arrival, he found that a state of war existed.  In that case, Dale was to “chastise their insolence by sinking, burning, or destroying their ships where they were found, blockade the harbor of any of the regencies that had declared war on the United States, and convoy merchantmen as best he was able. [4]”  Dale was also ordered to transmit to the rulers of Algiers and Tunis letters, gifts, and tribute payments so long as no state of war existed.

On 14 May 1801, the Pasha of Tripoli declared war on the United States.  The first assault came that very morning when the Pasha ordered the flagpole outside the consulate chopped down.  Commodore Dale arrived at Gibraltar on 1 July.  He was promptly informed that a state of war existed between Tripoli and the United States.  For a number of months, the American squadron played patty-cake with Tripolitan ships.  The only real action involved the schooner USS Enterprise in engagement with the Tripolitan ship Tripoli off the coast of Malta on 1 August.  Tripoli was soundly defeated in this encounter.  Given the speed of communications of the time, Jefferson wasn’t able to inform Congress of these actions until four months later.

Over the next three years, the Pasha’s obstinance forced the United States to devise a rotational schedule for its Mediterranean squadrons.  In 1802, corsairs from Tripoli successfully evaded American blockades to attack US merchantmen.  Nor did the blockade prevent trade among the Barbary states; it was only a minor inconvenience.   Other Barbary rulers sided with Tripoli and in late 1802, the United States was faced with the possibility of an expanding war with Tunis and Morocco.  Mr. Jefferson had other problems, too.  The challenge of Tripoli could not be ignored, but neither could he ignore America’s rising national debt.  Jefferson thus debated which would be less costly: tribute, or war?  Should the United States be practical, or principled?

EATON Wm 001
William Eaton

Secretary of State James Madison sent a note to Consul Cathcart suggesting that it was not necessary to confine himself to a single position: he might agree to pay the tribute, but neither should he exceed authorized dollar amounts; if engagements were necessary, Madison instructed, they should be kept small, if possible.  In time, Mr. Cathcart was no longer welcomed in Tripoli, Tunis, or Algiers.  Mr. William Eaton [5] had also been asked to leave Tunis.  Both men returned to the United States.  Tobias Lear assumed the duties of Consul General in Algiers in November 1803, replacing Richard O’Brien.  Lear also took over negotiations with the Pasha of Tripoli. Commodore Dale was replaced by Edward Preble.  When Preble arrived on station, he learned that Morocco was at war with the United States.

In October 1803, the frigate USS Philadelphia ran aground near Tripoli.  Corsairs swept in to take advantage of the Philadelphia’s condition and her 307-man crew was imprisoned.  Philadelphia was re-floated and repaired, but before the Pasha could make use of her, a U. S. Navy team led by Lieutenant Stephen Decatur slipped into Tripoli harbor after dark and fired the ship.  Philadelphia was totally destroyed, but the crew remained captive.  When this news finally reached the United States, the American people were very unhappy with Mr. Jefferson; the loss of a U. S. Navy vessel had happened on his watch. Jefferson requested that Congress provide two additional frigates to deal with the Barbary problem.  Congress funded the President’s request.

In 1804, the former Consul to Tunis, William Eaton, returned to the Mediterranean Sea with the title Naval Agent to the Barbary States.  Mr. Eaton had been granted permission from President Jefferson to support the claims of Hamet Qaramanli (the rightful heir to the throne of Tripoli), who had been deposed of his title by his brother Yusuf.  Eaton sought out Hamet, who was then in exile in Egypt and made a proposal to reinstate him in exchange for a mutually agreeable treaty.  Hamet agreed to Eaton’s plan.

OBANNON PN 001
Presley Neville O’Bannon

Commodore Samuel Barron, now commanding the Mediterranean squadron, provided Eaton with naval support from the USS Nautilus, USS Hornet, and USS Argus.  The frigates were to provide offshore bombardment support. A detachment of seven (7) U. S. Marines under the command of First Lieutenant Presley Neville O’Bannon [6], USMC was detailed to assist Eaton in an overland campaign from Egypt to Tripoli.  With the help of Hamet, Eaton and O’Bannon recruited 400 Arab, Turkish, and Greek mercenaries.  Eaton appointed himself a general and Commander-in-Chief of the makeshift multinational force.  The campaign took the Marines and mercenaries 500 miles across the Libyan-North African desert.  During the 50-day march, Eaton and O’Bannon had to contend with strained relationships between Moslem and Greek Christian mercenaries.

On 26 April 1805, Eaton sent a letter to Mustafa Bey, the governor of Derne, asking for safe passage through the city and an opportunity to resupply his force.  Mustafa replied, “My head or yours.”  USS Argus transferred one its cannon ashore to assist Eaton in the attack on the fortification at Derne and then joined the other two ships in a general bombardment of Derne’s defensive batteries.

With ships directing offshore fire, Eaton divided his force into two assault groups.  Hamet would lead the Arabs southwest to cut the road to Tripoli and then turn to attack the weakly defended governor’s palace. Eaton, the Marines, and the remaining force would attack the harbor fortress.  The attack began near mid-afternoon. Lieutenant O’Bannon and his Marines, along with 50 Greek gunners and the Argus’ cannon, led the assault. The fighting was bloody, and Eaton was wounded during the assault.  Once the Marines had breached the walls of the shore battery, the defenders fled, leaving behind their loaded cannon.

Lieutenant O’Bannon raised the American flag over the battery.  It was the first time the United States Flag was raised over a foreign territory.  Unbeknownst to either Eaton or O’Bannon, this one event signaled the beginning of the Marine Corps’ long relationship with the United States Department of State. Marines were subsequently called upon to serve the interests of the State Department in 1845 (the secret mission of Archibald Gillespie), the siege of the Foreign Legation in Peking, China in 1901 (the Boxer Rebellion), and upon other occasions when the need for guards and couriers were needed at U. S. Embassies, consulates, and delegations, and as security for senior diplomatic officials in unsettled areas of the globe.

Today, the Marine Corps Embassy Security Group, headquartered at Quantico, Virginia, carries on this tradition.  Their motto is Vigilance, Discipline, Professionalism.  Marine Corps Security Guards, in their present form, have been in place since December 1948 as authorized by the Foreign Service Act of 1946.  The act authorized the Secretary of the Navy to assign Marines to serve with the U. S. State Department under the supervision of the senior diplomatic officer at embassies, legations, or consulates. This authorization continues today under Title 10, United States Code 5983.

Crossed Swords

End Notes:

[1] The Quasi-War was an undeclared conflict fought almost entirely at sea between the United States and France from 1798 to 1800 during the presidency of John Adams.  Following the French Revolution, the United States refused to continue paying its debt to France, which had supported it during its own revolution.  The United States claimed that the debt had been owed to a previous regime.  In addition, France was outraged that the United States was trading with Great Britain, with whom they were then at war.  The French reaction was to authorize privateers to attack American shipping.  The United States retaliated in kind.

[2] Frigates were ships with three masts and a single gun deck.  The number of guns would depend on the size of the ship.  Early American frigates were called “heavy frigates” because they were rated as 44-gun ships, but in actuality, these ships carried 56 to 60 24-pound long guns and 32-pounder or 42-pounder carronades on two decks.

[3] Schooner were rigged according to their size.  In the late 1700s and early 1800s, American schooners were two-mast vessels with fore and aft rigs with one or more squared topsails.  Armament consisted of 12 6-pound long guns, but in some cases, this was increased to 12 18-pound carronades.

[4] Commodore Dale had a total of four ships at his disposal.

[5] Sixteen-year-old William Eaton enlisted in the Continental Army in 1780 and served until 1783, achieving the rank of sergeant.  In 1790 he graduated from Dartmouth College and found work as a clerk in the Vermont legislature.  In 1792, Eaton was commissioned a captain in the Legion of the United States, retaining his commission until 1797 when he accepted an appointment to serve as United States Consul at Tunis.  Following the Second Barbary War, Eaton returned to his home in Brimfield, Massachusetts where he served one term in the state legislature.  Suffering from rheumatism and gout, and having taken to drink, Eaton died at his home on 1 June 1811, 47 years of age.

[6] A United States Marine Corps Officer most remembered for being the first man to raise the American Flag on foreign soil on April 27, 1805, during the Barbary Wars.  O’Bannon was born in Fauquier County, Virginia and named for his cousin, who had served with distinction as an officer in the Revolutionary War.  After his service in the Barbary Wars, he continued to serve in the Marine Corps, being promoted to Captain, until March 6, 1807.  He resigned his commission and moved to Kentucky.  He later served in the Kentucky State Legislature.  He is often remembered today by the words in the Marine Corps Hymn, to wit: To the shores of Tripoli.  His Mameluke sword, which was presented to him by Hamet, has become the model of all Marine Corps officer swords since 1825.  The United States Navy has named three destroyers in his honor. O’Bannon passed away on 12 Sep 1850, aged 73 or 74.  Initially put to rest in the Dutch Tract Cemetery in North Pleasureville, Kentucky, his remains were later exhumed and reinterred in Frankfort Cemetery.

 

 

Happy New Year, Marines

Here for New Year is a Scots-language poem penned by Robert Burns in 1788, well-known in the English-speaking countries.  Burns is not the author of the first verse, as he admitted to having written it down as it was told to him by an elderly man.  Experts say that Burns most certainly wrote the rest of the poem, however. I reprint it here as I recall my Marine Corps friends and acquaintances, many of whom are still with us, some who are not.

 

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and auld lang syne?

CHORUS:
For auld lang syne, my jo,
for auld lang syne,
we’ll tak’ a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne

And surely ye’ll be your pint-stoup!
and surely I’ll be mine!
And we’ll tak’ a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

CHORUS

We twa hae run about the braes,
and pou’d the gowans fine;
But we’ve wander’d mony a weary fit,
sin’ auld lang syne.

CHORUS

We twa hae paidl’d in the burn,
frae morning sun till dine;
But seas between us braid hae roar’d
sin’ auld lang syne.

CHORUS

And there’s a hand, my trusty fiere!
and gie’s a hand o’ thine!
And we’ll tak’ a right gude-willie waught,
for auld lang syne.

CHORUS

As a post-script, James Watson printed a similar verse in 1711:

Should Old Acquaintance be forgot,
and never thought upon;
The flames of Love extinguished,
and fully past and gone:

Is thy sweet Heart now grown so cold,
that loving Breast of thine;
That thou canst never once reflect
On old long syne.

In any case, Happy New Year everyone.  May God bless you mightily with good health and happiness in the year ahead.

Semper Fidelis,

 

Merry Christmas, My Friend

By James M. Schmidt, USMC

Follow this link to the poem.  I attempted to reprint it in this post but encountered so many formatting issues that I just gave up on it.

Lance Corporal Jim Schmidt wrote this poem in 1986 while serving as a Battalion Counter-sniper at Marine Barracks, 8th & I Streets, Washington, D. C.  According to Schmidt’s own account, after he penned the poem he placed it on the door to the gymnasium.  At some point later, the battalion commander, Colonel D. J. Meyers borrowed it from its placement, made copies, and distributed them to each department at the barrack.  Then he dismissed the battalion early for Christmas liberty.

Initially, the poem was distributed anonymously.  However, after the poem was identified with Corporal Schmidt, it appeared in the Marine Corps Gazette and Leatherneck Magazine, giving it worldwide distribution.  Today, Jim Schmidt practices law in Los Angeles, California.  Once a Marine, always a Marine.

To all my readers, their loved-ones, and to my ever-decreasing number of active duty Marine Corps friends, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.  May God bless and keep all of you throughout the upcoming year.

Semper Fidelis,

Brigadier General McCawley

Enlisting in the Marines today is essentially as it has always been, normally achieved through a Marine Corps recruiter, being examined in various ways through record checks, medical tests, aptitude tests, and so forth.

Obtaining a Marine Corps commission, on the other hand, has changed over the years.  Today, an applicant is able to pursue several venues to obtain a commission, including NROTC program, graduating from the US Naval Academy, the Platoon Leaders Class, and Officer’s Candidate Class.  In the early days, obtaining a commission was more often than not a matter of your father’s political connections —noting that average people didn’t have political connections, so wealthy parents gave an applicant a “leg up” on the process. 

McCawley CL 001Charles Laurie McCawley was one of those “favored” individuals who achieved a commission in the United States Marine Corps in 1897 in a most unusual fashion.  McCawley was born in 1865, the son of Charles Grymes McCawley, in Massachusetts.  In 1881, Charles Laurie applied for and became the chief clerk of the Marine Corps, serving in that position until 1897.  His father served as Colonel Commandant of the U. S. Marine Corps from 1 November 1876 until 29 January 1891.

On the day following his father’s retirement, aged 26-years, Charles Laurie received an appointment to the rank of captain in the US Marine Corps while continuing to serve as Chief Clerk of the Marine Corps, a post that he held until 1897.

In the following year, Captain McCawley was transferred to the Navy Yard in Brooklyn, New York, where he served as Quartermaster, 1st Marine Battalion.  A few days later, the battalion was assigned to duty with the North Atlantic Squadron.  It embarked on 22 April 1898 aboard the USS Panther and proceeded to Key West, Florida in support of operations in Cuba.  Captain McCawley participated in battles with the Spanish Army and Cuban irregulars between 11-13 June 1898 near Camp McCalla (Guantanamo Bay).

Later embarked aboard USS Resolute, Captain McCawley participated in the bombardment of Manzanillo, Cuba, in preparation for an amphibious assault on 12 August.  The landing was cancelled, however, when President McKinley announced an armistice with Spain.

In the following month, McCawley was ordered back to Marine Corps headquarters where he was assigned to duty as Assistant Quartermaster of the Marine Corps.  McCawley was promoted to major on 3 March 1899.  In April, Major McCawley was ordered to duty in the Philippine Islands, where he arrived on 23 May—only to be transferred again to Mare Island, California where he was ordered to inspect public buildings at Mare Island and Puget Sound, Washington.

McCawley again reported to the Commandant of the Marine Corps for duty on 20 November 1899.  Upon his arrival back in Washington, McCawley was informed that he had received a brevet promotion to Major as a result of his gallant conduct during the Spanish-American War —apparently, it had taken several months for this correspondence to catch up with him.  Since he had already been promoted to major, the brevet promotion had no effect on his status, but it did later qualify him for the award of the Marine Corps Brevet Medal. 

From 1 July 1900, McCawley served primarily as an administrative/logistics officer at various locations: Office of the Quartermaster of the Marine Corps, Protocol Officer, US Army Office of Buildings and Grounds (for duty with the White House), and Assistant Quartermaster of the Marine Corps.  He was promoted to lieutenant colonel and in July, 1908 he became the Marine Corps Quartermaster.  He was promoted to colonel in 1913, and to Brigadier General in 1916.

In September 1918, as Quartermaster of the Marine Corps, Brigadier General McCawley accompanied the Commandant of the Marine Corps on an inspection tour of Marine Corps units in France.  President Woodrow Wilson awarded McCawley the Navy Distinguished Service Medal on Armistice Day, 1920.  Then, having reached the mandatory retirement age (64-years), McCawley was retired from active service on 24 August 1929. 

Brigadier General McCawley passed away at his home in Washington DC on 29 April 1935.

Navy DSMThe citation for the Navy Distinguished Service Medal reads as follows: 

The President of the United States of America takes pleasure in presenting the Navy Distinguished Service Medal to Brigadier General Charles Laurie McCawley, United States Marine Corps, for exceptionally meritorious service in a duty of great responsibility in the organization and administration of the Quartermaster’s Department of the Marine Corps during World War I. Through his energy and efficient management this Department was able successfully to meet the various emergencies and difficulties connected with the transportation, subsistence, housing and clothing of the personnel of the Marine Corps \throughout the period of the war [World War I].

 

The War Time Generations

EGA 2018No serviceman today will diminish the service, sacrifice, or achievements of our World War II heroes.  After all, they were our fathers, uncles, brothers, or maybe even our grandfathers. What they accomplished in Defending America, under the most difficult of circumstances between December 1941 through September 1945, should cause every one of us to stand in honor of their presence. They are entitled to our deepest respect.

And yet, to claim that one generation of American warrior is “greater” than any other is grossly inaccurate.  I have never heard a veteran of World War II proclaim themselves as such. The phrase, as one might expect, originated with a journalist by the name of Tom Brokaw who used that phrase in the title of his book.  It was later borrowed by Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks in several films recreating events in World War II.  Neither Brokaw, Spielberg, nor Hanks ever served their country in uniform —so I suspect they wouldn’t have any first-hand knowledge about combat, or what actually defines a “greatest” generation.

Tens of thousands of Americans served in the Korean War, and the Vietnam War.  Some of these men and women also lived during the Great Depression, experiencing tough times in the 1930s and 1940s.  It is certainly true that our Iraqi and Afghan war veterans grew up at a different time, but these men and women stepped up to serve; some gave all they had to give.  Most of our latest greatest volunteered for military service; all of them had to leave behind a loved one to worry about them over many months.  Do they not also count as among America’s greatest generation(s)?

In World War II, ten million Americans were conscripted into military service; another 3 million were volunteers.  Of these, 407,316 US servicemen gave up their lives.  An additional 671,846 received serious wounds.  In the Korean War, the United States drafted 1.5 million men, with a much smaller number volunteering to fight.  In total, 326,823 Americans served in Korea; of these, 33,651 Americans laid down their lives.  In Vietnam, 2.2 million Americans were forced to serve; only a quarter of these people actually served in Vietnam.  We lost 58,318 Americans in Vietnam; an additional  303,656 received combat wounds.

Do the Americans who served in the Korean and Vietnam wars deserve as much respect as those who served in World War II —particularly since neither of these conflicts received the popular support of the American people?

Of course, they do …

Yet, today, people who never once placed themselves in harm’s way will argue that the modern battlefield is far less demanding than those of earlier wars.  I suspect that our Iraqi and Afghan War veterans will disagree.  To begin with, while there does continue to be a draft registration, today’s military is an all-volunteer force.  These are America’s true warrior class citizens.  There is as much (or more) courage displayed on the battlefields of today as in our previous three conflicts.  What does stand out is that veterans of the Iraq and Afghan wars received fewer combat awards than those in previous eras.  There are several reasons for this, but none of them related to any lack of courage among our modern-day warriors.

Wooldridge 001For those who think that the Iraq and Afghan Wars were “long distance” engagements, think again.  Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates once said, “Our enemy generally use weapons at a distance from us, so there’s less hand-to-hand or in-close combat than there has been in previous years.”  Mr. Gates probably never met Corporal Clifford Wooldridge, United States Marine Corps.

On 17 June 2010, Cpl. Wooldridge was riding in a convoy when the vehicles came under heavy enemy fire from a group of Taliban fighters in Helmand Province [1], in Afghanistan.  The story of Wooldridge’s heroism is told in the following award presentation:

Navy Cross 001Navy Cross Citation:

The President of the United States of America takes pleasure in presenting the Navy Cross to Corporal Clifford M. Wooldridge, United States Marine Corps, for extraordinary heroism while serving as Vehicle Commander, Combined Anti-Armor Platoon White, Weapons Company, Third Battalion, Seventh Marines, Regimental Combat Team 2, FIRST Marine Division (Forward), I Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward) Afghanistan, on 18 June 2010 in support of Operation ENDURING FREEDOM.  When their mounted patrol came under intense enemy fire, Corporal Wooldridge and his squad dismounted and maneuvered on the suspected enemy location. Spotting a group of fifteen enemy fighters preparing an ambush, Corporal Wooldridge led one of his fire teams across open ground to flank the enemy, killing or wounding at least eight and forcing the rest to scatter. As he held security alone to cover his fire team’s withdrawal, he heard voices from behind an adjacent wall. Boldly rushing around the corner, he came face-to-face with two enemy fighters at close range, killing both of them with his M-249 Squad Automatic Weapon. As he crouched back behind the wall to reload, he saw the barrel of an enemy machine gun appear from around the wall. Without hesitation, he dropped his empty weapon and seized the machine gun barrel. He overwhelmed the enemy fighter in hand-to-hand combat, killing him with several blows to the head with the enemy’s own machine gun. His audacious and fearless actions thwarted the enemy attack on his platoon. By his bold and decisive leadership, undaunted courage under fire, and total dedication to duty, Corporal Wooldridge reflected great credit upon himself and upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and of the United States Naval Service.

Notes:

[1] Also known as “Marine-istan.”