Battle of Baghdad (Operation Iraqi Freedom, 2003)

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The Battle of Baghdad (Operation Iraqi Freedom, 2003) began in late March 2003, as US warplanes continued hit targets in and around the Iraqi capital without opposition from the air. On March 24, the Iraqi Air Force commanders had received orders to disassemble and bury underground their entire fleet of MIG-23s, MIG-25s and Mirage fighters. On 28 March, a B1 Lancer bomber dropped two GBU31 bunker-buster bombs in the suburb of Mansur near downtown Baghdad with the aim of cutting of communications between Saddam Hussein and his generals, killing at least 8 civilians.[1] Another 62 civilians were reported killed during air attacks on Baghdad that day after the Shu’ale Market was hit by a laser-guided-bomb or anti-radar missile.[2]

Operation Iraqi Freedom

On March 19, 2003, after the coalition was set, but without a United Nations mandate, President George W. Bush gave the go ahead for Operation Iraqi Freedom, the US-led invasion of Iraq to commence. By April 2, US Army and Marine units were within 20 miles of Baghdad. The US Army's 3rd Infantry Division had mostly neutralized the Medina Republican Guard Division. Iraqi armor had been largely destroyed or abandoned in supporting US air-strikes. The US advance to the Iraqi capital had gone largely according to plan, and the Republican Guard Divisions were no match for the overwhelming US firepower. However the Special Republican Guard Division was still intact, and supporting Iraqi Army and Fedayeen units were in position around Baghdad to contest the US advance. An American Black Hawk helicopter was shot down on 2 April near Karbala by Iraqi forces, and 7 of the 11 soldiers on board were killed.

Air attacks

At the height of the battle, coalition warplanes were making bombing runs on Baghdad at the rate of 1,000 sorties a day, most of them aimed at the Republican Guard Divisions.

Royal Air Force Tornados from 9 and 617 Squadrons attacked the radar defence systems protecting Baghdad, but lost a Tornado on 22 March along with the pilot and navigator (Flight Lieutenant Kevin Main and Flight Lieutenant Dave Williams), shot down by an American Patriot missile as they returned to their airbase in Kuwait.

On 2 April, a US Army Black Hawk helicopter and a United States Navy F/A-18C Hornet were shot down near Karbala.

During the Battle for Saddam Hussein International Airport on 3 April, an Air Force F-15E fighter mistakenly attacked D Battery, 1st Battalion (39th Field Artillery), destroying a Humvee and killing Sergeant First Class Randy Rehn and Sergeants Donald Oaks and Todd Robins. Five other soldiers from the unit were wounded in the air attack.

On 8 April, an A-10 Warthog attack plane was shot down in the fighting around Jumhuriya Bridge by an Iraqi surface-to-air missile.

Ground attacks

The US Army's 3rd Infantry Division continued it's advance toward Baghdad, overunning the Medina Republican Guard Division in the process. The US Army advanced from the west toward the capital, and the 1st Marine Division crossed the Tigris at Numainya with about 14,000 Marines and prepared to attack the Nida Republican Guard Division.

On April 3, the 3rd Brigade of the 3rd Infantry Division captured Saddam International Airport. Two US soldiers were reported to have been killed by mortar fire early in the Battle of Saddam Hussein International Airport. That day, Sergeant First Class Wilbert Davis and US journalist Michael Kelly were also killed after coming under fire, during operations to secure the airport. Fighting continued for the next days before the 3rd Division could claim Baghdad airport secured. During the battle, Sergeant First Class Paul Ray Smith won posthumously the Medal of Honor.

On April 4, 2003, the 2nd Marine Tank Battalion had a stiff fight with the Republican Guard Al Nida Division and supporting Fedayeen dug in at At Tuwayhah on the outskirts of Baghdad. By the end of the day, the Al Nida was rendered "combat-ineffective", but three US Marines (First Lieutenant Brian McPhillips, Sergeant Duane Rios and Corporal Bernard Gooden) were killed in the fighting and a tank was lost. That day, the 5th Regimental Combat Team reported that two supporting Abrams tanks were destroyed battling the Fedayeen and Al Nida Division, the latter employing anti-aircraft guns in the ground role.

On April 5, the 2nd Brigade the Spartans launched the first of two Thunder Runs- probing missions of tanks and other armored vehicles into the capital. Two US soldiers (Staff Sergeant Robert Stever and Sergeant 1st Class John Marshall) were killed and another 36 from the 3rd Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment were wounded in the fighting to secure the Moe, Larry, and Curly objectives as part of the Thunder Runs.[3] Iraqi losses were heavy with reportedly 350-500 killed and wounded,[4] with the Republican Guard and Fedayeen employing anti-tank and anti-aircraft guns against the US columns of tanks and armored fighting vehicles fighting their way into the capital,[5] destroying two ammunition trucks, a fuel truck and a Humvee. During the operations, US tank columns from the 64th Armored Regiment and supporting infantry nearly ran out of fuel and ammunition and were almost overrun until reinforcements broke through the Republican Guard and Fedayeen forces and were able to secure Objective Curly.[6] Towards the end of the fighting, an Iraqi FROG-7 rocket or an Ababil-100 SSM missile exploded among the parked vehicles of the headquarters of 2nd Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division, killing another two soldiers (Private 1st Class Anthony Miller and Staff Sergeant Lincoln Hollinsaid and two embedded journalists (Julio Parrado and Christian Liebig), wounding 15 others and destroying 17 military vehicles in the process.[7]

On 8 April 2003, some 500 Iraqis mounted a fierce counterattack across the Jumhuriya Bridge forcing part of the US forces on the western side of Baghdad to initially retreat, but the Iraqis reportedly lost 50 killed in the fighting that included the use of A-10 Warthogs on the part of the US defenders.[8] An A-10 was shot down in fighting off the counterattack, hit by an Iraqi surface-to-air missile.[9][10]

The statue of Saddam Hussein at Firdos Square was toppled by members of the 2nd/70th, 1st Armored Division on April 9. A US flag was briefly draped over the statue's head, and then replaced by an Iraqi flag. The toppling of Saddam's statue was part of the US Psychological Operations (PSYOPs) promoted in great part by the US Mainstream media.[11]

Guerrilla warfare

On May 1, President Bush landed on the aircraft-carrier USS Abraham Lincoln in the co-pilot's seat of a Navy fighter jet. After landing, Bush changed out of his combat suit and stepped up to the podium, surrounded by reporters. Having marched US troops through Iraq and deposed of Saddam Hussein's Regime (and his statue), Bush claimed victory. "Major combat operations in Iraq have ended", Bush said, with a "Mission Accomplished" banner hanging over him. "In the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed."

However, a violent insurgency broke out in Iraq, with 54 US troops killed between May 1 and June 18.[12] At the time, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld dismissed the Iraqi Resistance as only "pockets of dead-enders".[13]

Rumsfield refused to recognize the threat: "I don't use the phase guerrilla war ... because there isn't one." But General John Abizaid described the situation in Iraq in July to reporters as "a classical guerrilla-type campaign against us ... It's war, however you describe it."'[14]'


  1. Smart bombs aimed at Saddam killed families
  2. US uses cluster bombs to spread death and destruction in Iraq
  3. Battle of Baghdad
  4. Battle of Baghdad
  5. "The Fedayeen and Syrians—and a few small units of Republican Guards—fought furiously, but even their recoilless rifles and antiaircraft artillery pieces had little effect on the ... Their technical vehicles were pulverized by tank and Bradley cannons." Thunder Run: The Armored Strike to Capture Baghdad, David Zucchino, Atlantic Books Ltd, 2015
  6. Battle of Baghdad
  7. Iraqi Missile Hits Army Base
  8. Iraqis Launch Counterattack In Baghdad; 50 Reported Killed
  9. "A-10 aircraft strafed boths sides of the main road leading to the bridge and one aircraft was lost to a shoulder-launched missile." Cradle of Conflict: Iraq and the Birth of Modern U.S. Military Power, Michael Knights, p.326, Naval Institute Press, 2005
  11. Reminder: Saddam Statue Was Toppled by Psy-Ops
  12. Test By Fire: The War Presidency of George W. Bush, R. Swansbrough, p. 148, Springer, 2008
  13. Rumsfeld blames Iraq problems on 'pockets of dead-enders'
  14. Test By Fire: The War Presidency of George W. Bush, R. Swansbrough, p. 148, Springer, 2008