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Mission 29 - Details
Fallujah: Operation al-Fajr (Dawn)

Fallujah, Iraq. November 2004: US and Iraqi forces descend on Fallujah, killing 1,200 enemy fighters and pacifying the restive city long infested with insurgents and home to some of the most evil atrocities in the Iraqi War. The area must be quelled and kept under control as the Iraqi national elections scheduled for the end of January are fast approaching.

Operation Phantom Fury - renamed Operation al-Fajr (Dawn) - is the inevitable follow-up to Operation Vigilant Resolve - a military crackdown in Fallujah last April designed to pacify rebellious residents and terrorists. After four US civilian contractors were murdered and their bodies publicly mutilated in Fallujah last March, 700 Marines spend three weeks fighting bloody battles in the shadows of the Sunni stronghold. But political negotiations, not military success, bring an end to the campaign, and the Marines pull out of Fallujah, leaving the city in the hands of the Iraqi Fallujah Brigade.

The city quickly deteriorates and slips back into insurgent control. It also becomes a haven for terrorist groups orchestrating kidnappings, beheadings, assassinations, and car bombing throughout Iraq. Many of these groups are affiliated with al-Qaeda linked militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. By mid-October, the US and the interim Iraqi government demand the people of Fallujah turn over Zarqawi or face an all out military assault. Residents ignore the ultimatum, and Interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi warns the "window is closing" for Fallujah to avert military action. Innocent civilians and more logical rebels flee the city in throngs. For roughly three thousand insurgents who choose to fight for Fallujah, they will be overwhelmingly outnumbered and outmaneuvered.

After a heavy bombing campaign of precision strikes used to "soften" the city and destroy enemy safehouses in the area, the ground assault begins. On the night of November 7, 2004, Marines thunder through the darkness from the west and quickly seize the two central bridges that lead into Fallujah. Iraqi Special Forces explode onto the scene to annex the city's main hospital, and, working as a parallel force, the First Infantry Division and the First Cavalry overrun the railroad stations to the north. The invasion runs west to east by the Marines and Iraqi forces and north to south by the US Army. The troops breach Fallujah with a perfect storm of manpower, weaponry, and intelligence, and there is more to come.

Four Marine companies and two Army battalions slam down on Fallujah from the north. The US Marines put an immediate chokehold on the Jolan District, cutting it off from the rest of Fallujah, while Army units storm into Askari. Within three days of the initial assault, soldiers have infiltrated the center of Fallujah. The city is crawling with Marines and Army troops.

Coalition soldiers break into each and every dwelling in the city using dynamic entry tactics. They use explosives like C-4 to decimate outside walls and entryways. Fragmentation grenades blow apart rooms. Soldiers are scaling walls and bridging houses with ladders as they are cleared. Platoons report running out of shotgun shells after blowing open door after door after door.

Signs as primitive as a brick dangling from a cord announce a residence is an insurgent safe house. Marines collect anything of value - intelligence or weaponry - and then drain jugs of drinking water and light stockpiles of food on fire. The idea is that if any insurgents survive the onslaught by using underground tunnels or the sewer system, they will return to nothing - no weapons, no food, and no water.

The dwellings in Fallujah offer the US military on the ground frightening insight into the enemy and their strategies. Troops unearth hostage slaughterhouses. They find a sophisticated IED factory and a chemical weapons laboratory with the manuals, materials, and chemicals needed to build explosives and prepare poisons. Troops recover an incalculable number of mortar systems, RPGs, rifles, and components of surface-to-air missile systems. US forces even find a mobile bomb-making lab inside a holy site - a mosque.

The insurgents' weaponry may not rival the sophistication of the Marine and Army arsenal, but the enemy seems to have an endless reserve. Marine officials judge that by the number of confiscated weapons in Fallujah, the guerillas have enough firepower to wage war from every corner of Iraq, and it would seem the insurgents operating in the festering Sunni city would like nothing more than the opportunity to do just that.


Fallujah: Operation al-Fajr (Dawn)

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