It has been over 17 years since the First Battle of Fallujah. In Spring of 2004, Marines led an assault to secure the city, and it was some of the most intense fighting in Iraq. Watch how the Marines executed this operation below!
Code named Operation Vigilant Resolve, this mission is often times overshadowed by the Second Battle of Fallujah. However, this engagement was plenty farce on its own right. Vigilant Resolve was the result of a domino effect. It began with soldiers of the 82nd Airborne Division occupying a school for their base of operation. That drew the ire of civilians who wanted the school to be reopened for students. Subsequently, a protest happened and tempers flared. The soldiers received small arms fire and returned hostilities. As a result, 17 protestors were killed, and over 70 civilians were wounded. The city was in uproar. Furthermore, this continued to turn public opinion of American forces in the region.
Fallujah torn to pieces
To make matters worse, the insurgents had also infiltrated the police and several insider attacks occurred. The city began to descend into chaos as bomb after bomb detonated throughout the area. Insurgents relentlessly, and indiscriminately, used assassinations, ambushes and IEDs.
The breaking point was the execution of several American contractors who had been compromised on mission. Their bodies were burned, hung from a bridge and the footage shocked the world.
The immediate response was to clear the city as aggressively as possible. Military historians have criticized top leaders for playing into the hands of insurgents by disregarding collateral damage to homes and businesses. Many of the on-scene Marine commanders, including Jim Mattis, cautioned against an over reaction. Additionally, they advised targeted, intelligence driven raids. However, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, and top brass wanted the city “pacified.”
Thus, Operation Vigilant Resolve took form. US forces used combined arms to destroy many enemy strong holds. Infantry Marines fought house to house, and cleared street to street. It was the largest urban battle since Hue City.
Though a tactical victory, several hundred civilians died. It also showed that funding local militias “failed terribly.”
Furthermore, historians believe Marines should have been allowed to push further and “finish the job.” Stating this failure to seize initiative, led to the second, more costly battle.
Did you serve in the region? Sound off in the comments below!