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Mission 33 - Detail
Fallujah Vigilant Resolve

Fallujah, Iraq. April 5, 2004: The First Marine Expeditionary Force faces an onslaught of attacks during a month-long siege in the deadly city of Fallujah.

"It will be deliberate and precise and be overwhelming ... We will kill them or we will capture them."
- Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmett

Four American civilian contractors, traveling in two SUVs, come under fire from small arms and RPGs on a main road in Fallujah. The vehicles are engulfed in flames and the men are trapped when the attackers move in and drag them out of the cars. A crowd cheers as the men are thrown to the ground and doused with gasoline, then lit on fire. The charred remains are targeted again. The insurgents kick, stomp, and dance upon the bodies in triumphant jubilation. A man takes an iron bar to one of the corpses, beating it with both passion and savagery. Hundreds of Fallujans have flooded into the streets and as the size of the crowd swells, so too does the mob’s impudence.

One contractor is tied with a yellow rope to the bumper of a car. As he is dragged down the main street, young men run alongside the vehicle, wanting to be as much a part of the mayhem as possible. All the while the spectators triumphantly chant, "We sacrifice our blood and souls for Islam." Some of the contractors’ bodies are dismembered and, in a final act of desecration, the rebels hang random remains from electrical poles. Two of the four American corpses are hung from a green iron bridge, their blackened, lifeless bodies swaying far above the Euphrates River. "Fallujah," a homemade sign reads below, "is the cemetery for Americans."

President Bush vows to pacify the city while military officials guarantee a response. "It will be deliberate and precise and be overwhelming ... We will kill them or we will capture them," promises Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmett. Five days after the killings, the plan is put into effect. Operation Vigilant Resolve begins with the arrival of 2,000 troops from the First Marine Expeditionary Force. They dig trenches around the city, block all incoming traffic, and set a nighttime curfew, commencing what will be the longest and bloodiest battle of the war.

The crusade against the Marines is unpredictable and unforgiving. Grenades are tossed out the windows of homes at passing soldiers. A helicopter is shot down with an RPG. The insurgents turn mosques into bunkers. A personnel carrier is ambushed. Snipers and IEDs lurk anywhere and everywhere, sparking battles that rage for hours on end as the days turn into weeks for the soldiers. More than 450 Iraqis will die in the first three days alone. 300 more will die before the month’s end. Operation Vigilant Resolve isn’t just a mission. It’s a war within a war.


Fallujah Vigilant Resolve

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