Phantom Fury

(The Second Battle of Fallujah)

crossed rifles 001In April 2004, Fallujah was defended by about 1,500 Iraqi insurgents with around five-hundred of these being “hardcore” guerrilla fighters and the others “part-time” employees.  By November, these numbers doubled and included virtually every insurgent group in Iraq: al-Qaeda, Islamic Army of Iraq, Ansar al-Sunna, Army of Mohammed, Army of Mujahedeen, and the Secret Army of Iraq. None of the names of these groups is important because Islamists change their names as frequently as a mother changes her baby’s diapers.  One thing that does stand out, however, is that the leadership of these groups (wisely, albeit cowardly) removed themselves from Fallujah before the beginning of the Second Battle of Fallujah.

Coalition checkpoints were established to prevent anyone from entering the city, and to intercept insurgents attempting to flee.  In the run-up to the commencement of combat operations, detailed imagery was obtained and used to prepare detailed maps of the city.  Iraqi interpreters augmented American combat units.  Fallujah the battlefield was prepped by sustained airstrikes and artillery fires.  Intelligence suggested that the city’s insurgents were vulnerable to direct attack. The total of coalition forces included 6,500 Marines, 1,500 US soldiers, 2,500 US Navy support personnel, 850 British forces, and around 2,000 Iraqi security forces.

American combat forces were organized into two Regimental Combat Teams.  RCT-1 was composed of the 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines, elements of Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 4 and Navy Mobile Construction Battalion 23, and elements of the US 7th Cavalry.  RCT-7 consisted of the 1st Battalion, 8th Marines, 1st Battalion, 3rd Marines, 1st Battalion, 12th Marines, 2nd Battalion, 2nd US Infantry, 2nd Battalion, 12th Cavalry, and 1st Battalion, 6th US Field Artillery.  Supporting elements included Iraqi security forces, coalition aircraft, and Special Operations Command snipers.  The 1st Battalion, Black Watch Regiment planned to support US troops along with D Squadron of the SAS, but British political concerns in the UK halted any involvement by British forces in the actual assault.

Ground operations began on the night of 7 November 2004.  Navy SEAL and Marine Reconnaissance sniper teams provided reconnaissance and target marking along the city perimeter.  A diversionary assault from the west and south began with the 36th Iraqi Commando Battalion (with US Army Special Forces advisors), the 1st Battalion, 9th US Infantry, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, and Company A, 2nd Battalion, 72nd Tank Battalion, elements of the 3rd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion (Reinforced), and Combat Service Support Battalion 1. Their mission was to capture the Fallujah General Hospital, Blackwater Bridge, the ING building, and villages opposite the Euphrates River in South Fallujah.  This diversionary unit, under command of the US Army III Corps, would then move to the western approaches and secure Kas Sukr Bridge.

Fallujah 10Nov04
Phantom Fury Assault Plan Global Security Org

After Seabees from the I MEF Engineer Group disabled electrical power at two substations, RCT-1 and RCT-7 launched an attack along the northern edge of the city.  They were joined by the 2nd Battalion, 7/CAV and 2nd Battalion, 2nd US Infantry (Mechanized).  Two follow-on battalions were tasked with clearing buildings, which is an arduous task.  The Army’s 2nd Brigade, augmented by the 2nd Recon Battalion and one company from 1st Battalion, 5th Marines, was ordered to infiltrate the city and destroy upon contact any fleeing enemy forces. The 1st Battalion, Black Watch patrolled the main highway to the east of the city.

Regimental Combat Teams were augmented by three 7-man SEAL sniper teams and one platoon from the 1st Recon Battalion, which provided advance reconnaissance.  Air support was provided by a detachment from Joint Terminal Aircraft Control (JTAC), USAF F-15, F-16, A-10, B-52, and AC-130 gunships.  Predator unmanned aerial vehicles assisted in gaining intelligence on suspected enemy strongholds.

After airstrikes and the employment of an intense artillery barrage, six coalition battalions began their assault in the early morning hours of 8 November.  The Marine assault was followed by Seabees, who began clearing the streets of bombing debris.  By nightfall on 9 November, Marines had reached Highway 10 in the city center.

On the night of 11 November, elements of RCT-7 (1st Battalion, 8th Marines) were attacked and pinned down by small arms and automatic weapons fire in an ally. Two Marines fell seriously wounded. Sergeant Aubrey McDade led a machine gun squad.  At that instant located in the rear of advancing elements, McDade rushed to a forward position and directed machinegun fire at the attackers.  While under intense enemy fire, McDade rescued the wounded Marines, one at a time.  A third Marine was killed during the attack; his body was soon recovered by fellow Marines. In recognition of his courage under fire, McDade was awarded the Navy Cross Medal.

According to the official after-action report, fighting in Fallujah began to subside by 13 November, but First Sergeant Bradley Kasal might disagree with that assessment. Serving as the First Sergeant, Weapons Company, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines with RCT-1, Kasal was assisting the Combined anti-Armor Platoon as they provided overwatch for the third platoon when a large volume of fire erupted from within a structure to his immediate front.  Marines suddenly began exiting the house they were clearing.

Kasal rushed to the front and determined that several more Marines were pinned down inside the house by an unknown number of enemy insurgents.  He quickly augmented the squad forcing entry, encountered a shooter and eliminated him.  Kasal and another Marine then came under rifle fire from the second floor; both Marines were immobilized by serious wounds in their legs.  Kasal and the other Marine then became the focus of a grenade attack.  Kasal rolled on top of his fellow Marine and absorbed shrapnel with his own body.  A Navy Corpsman rushed forward to render aid but Kasal refused medical attention until his subordinates had first been attended to; Kasal continued directing the efforts of his Marines as the clearing operation continued.  In recognition of his extraordinary heroism, First Sergeant Kasal [1] was awarded the Navy Cross Medal.

Fallujah 15NOV04
Picture from public domain Fallujah, 10 November 2004

Sergeant Rafael Peralta, 1st Battalion, 3rd Marines, was a scout team leader assigned to Company A who, on 15 November 2004, was involved in house-clearing operations.  Peralta led his team through three houses to ensure there were no insurgents were present.  As he entered the fourth home, he cleared two rooms on the ground floor.  Opening the third door, Peralta was hit multiple times by automatic rifle fire, leaving him severely wounded.  Peralta moved to the side of a hallway to allow his team to confront the insurgent.  The Iraqi insurgent then threw a hand grenade, which despite his wounds, Peralta pulled under his body.  The grenade detonated, killing him instantly.  Sergeant Peralta was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross medal in recognition of his selfless devotion to his fellow Marines.

By 16 November, I MEF described the lingering operation as “mopping up” pockets of resistance. Sporadic fighting continued through 23 December 2004.  The Second Battle of Fallujah was the bloodiest fight of the war, and the fiercest battle involving US troops since the Vietnam War.  Coalition forces suffered 107 killed, and 613 wounded during Operation Phantom Fury.  Of these, 95 Americans were killed, 560 wounded.  Estimates of enemy dead in this one battle range from 1,200 to over 2,000. Fifteen-hundred insurgents were captured and taken prisoner during the operation.  In the aftermath of the operation, coalition forces reported that 66 of the city’s 133 mosques [2] held significant amounts of small arms, machine guns, and explosive materials.

Sources:

  1. Camp, Dick. Operation Phantom Fury: The Assault and Capture of Fallujah, Iraq. Zenith Press, 2009
  2. West, Bing. No True Glory: A Frontline Account of the Battle for Fallujah, Bantam Books, 2005

Endnotes:

[1] Sergeant Major Bradly Kasal retired from the U. S. Marine Corps in 2018.  It was my honor to meet Sergeant Major Kasal at the Iwo Jima memorial dinner at Camp Pendleton, California in February 2017.

[2] This fact may go a long way to explain why most Americans are unable to trust the word or motivations of Moslems.

Published by

Mustang

US Marine (Retired), historian, writer.

7 thoughts on “Phantom Fury”

  1. Rhetorical question but what did we get for our sacrifices. I hope we’ve learned something about dealing with these savages. They have countless numbers to throw on the fire and when they get killed it’s actually a positive thing. Short of scorched Earth I don’t believe there is anything we could do to deter them.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The US Military represents and safeguards the American people and their Constitution. Our young men and women in uniform are a precious resource; they represent our nation’s future. We must not squander them; we must not squander our national treasury. So, whenever the nation decides to send our military into harm’s way, there ought to be a specified national interest in doing so, and we ought to go in big to win big. No pussy-footing around.

      What were our national interests in going into Iraq? What was a mission there? How did that mission fulfill our national interests? If we cannot answer these questions, then we had no business being in Iraq, to begin with. My take is that Bush and all his henchmen were damned incompetent. This led to an unacceptable level of war dead and seriously wounded. What did we (the people) get for our sacrifices? Not a damned thing. Have we learned anything from these encounters? Hell no … no more than we learned from the Vietnam war. Our presidents are idiots, and our diplomats are incompetent. Who owns this? The American people who at best can field only bad idiots and worse idiots for the presidency. Who owns this? The American voter who is so uninformed that he or she keeps voting for the most corrupt politicians for positions of national leadership.

      As for Islamists, screw them. Our policy ought to be pig-simple so even the camel jockeys will understand it. First, America intends to keep its noses and hands out of other people’s business. Second, if Moslem countries want to eat their young, fine. Go for it. We don’t care. But if any of those sons-of-bitches assaults s any American, any US property overseas (Embassies, consulates, navy ships, US bases of any kind), hijack any US airliner, then we’ll blow that entire region off the face of the earth. No questions, no arguments, no compromises. That would be MY policy.

      Liked by 2 people

    2. Agree of course. Our response to 9-11 should have been to nuke or otherwise totally destroy Mecca and Medina and make the areas unusable for thousands of years within a month or two of 9-11.
      I believe you’re familiar with my concept of a wheel of retribution in the oval office and an Iron Clad Constitutional amendment to use it in any event of a terrorist event in any civilized area. The amendment states that an islamist city of random choice (by the spin of the wheel) will be completely destroyed with 30 days of afore mentioned attack.
      Kill people in a hotel in Bali, gay bar in Florida, don’t friggen matter. In no time at all the entire middle east will be reduced to rocks, tents, and camels.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. All those prisoners …
    One can only speculate what would happen if the insurgents had captured that many coalition forces.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It may be time to re-think what we mean by the term “prisoners of war.” Heretofore, a POW was someone captured during war time who, by his uniform and appearance, was known to be an “enemy.” Beginning with Montesquieu, nations progressed from enslaving enemy prisoners to simply placing him into quarantine, removing him from battle, ensuring that he didn’t rejoin the fight after being paroled. Today, the enemy doesn’t wear a uniform; he is easily concealed within civilian (non-combat) communities. He’s a guerrilla fighter. In the modern day, we seem not to be looking deep enough into the problem because these non-uniformed guerrillas do not simply intend harm to our troops, they do horrific damage to civilian communities, as well. Should our laws regarding the treatment of POWs not also address these issues?

      What we taught the Islamists by sending them to GITMO was patience, which isn’t all that hard when you’re getting halal foods delivered to you three times a day, have a nice clean room to sleep in, and you have a prayer rug paid for by the US taxpayer. Once released, every one of those “high value” prisoners went back to the fight.

      Employing an army of military lawyers to forward areas, our military leadership began to question the morality of shooting an enemy —the effect of which takes an enemy permanently out of the fight— and even worse, questioning the decisions and actions of men who were operating in forward areas, erecting barriers to battlefield successes by constructing rules of engagement that leave critical decisions to “higher echelons of command.” It doesn’t make any sense to tie the hands of our own combat leaders, while giving a distinct advantage to the enemy, but that’s what has happened within the US Armed Forces. What is the moral position of sending our men into harm’s way, and then tying their hands to such an extent that they cannot deliver an overwhelmingly lethal victory on the battlefield? The long-term consequences of this are that no American will want to serve in a military organization that does not support them during combat missions —who seek to classify them as war criminals for doing what they’re paid to do: win battles.

      Capturing radical Islamic fighters and then treating them as valued guests in hotel-like accommodations accomplishes only one thing: it extends indefinitely the need for further war. The word for this is stupid.

      Liked by 1 person

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