Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Marines Battle

Operation Matador is the name of the current battle going on in western Iraq, near the Syrian border. That it is near the Syrian border is significant.

Here is how Adventures of Chester sums things up:
On Sunday, RCT-2, comprised of 2nd Bn, 2nd Marines (2/2), 3rd Bn, 2nd Marines (3/2), and 3rd Bn, 25th Marines (3/25), began Operation Matador. These are all indicated by the blue boxes with crossed rifles and ovals, which means they are infantry units with significant mechanized portions. I went ahead and showed 3/25 as a full battalion in the image, but I believe that possibly only one company of 3/25 participated in the assault and that it was attached to 3/2 for the attack.

He also includes a detailed map to get a better idea how elaborate of an operation this is. Then in today's post, he clarifies some issues:
Third, I've figured out that the map, as I stated it would, has mistakes. There were probably two river crossing sites, since the most recent news stories detail a crossing near New Ubaydi, and a crossing near Ubaydi. They also detail crossing from the south to the north, and receiving fire from the south side of the river during the crossing. The crossing plotted is from east to west. Also, I've received an email from an Alert Reader who points out that, yes, in fact 2/2 is deployed right now -- to 29 Palms. So there may only be two battalions participating in the fight, 3/2 and 3/25, or the third may have not been named yet. In any case, it's not 2/2. I'll have to investigate this later.

I don't think the map is any more detailed than those which usually appear in MSM outlets. Two graphics from USA Today and the NY Times from the Battle of Fallujah spring to mind. The difference is that I've used doctrinal symbols and terminology as much as possible. Reporters often mix up unit sizes, battalion vs company for example, or names, or ranks of officials. And they don't use doctrinal symbols. During these rapidly evolving situations, clarity is key though, that's why we have doctrinal symbols. Speaking of journalists, this brings me to . . .

Go here to read the rest.

For more info, there is also Fourth Rail:
The Marines are methodically pushing westward, conducting detailed searches in the towns along the Euphrates. The Marines are driving the insurgents and terrorists towards the blocking force of the Marines in the 2nd Battalion, 2nd Regiment in Qaim and the platoon(s) providing over watch along the ridge overlooking Rabit. Col. Bob Chase reports the local population is proving helpful; "We are getting a lot of information from the locals in the area and a very positive reception. They are giving up locations of where these people are hiding out, and each one drives another

Then from yesterday's Chicago Tribune (registration required but it is free so do it):
As they pushed from house to house in early fighting, trying to flush out the insurgents who had attacked their column with mortar fire, the Marines ran into sandbagged emplacements behind garden walls. Commanders said Marines also found a house where insurgents were crouching in the basement, firing rifles and
machine guns upward through holes at ankle height in the ground-floor walls, aiming at spots that the Marines' body armor did not cover.


Three Marine companies and supporting armored vehicles crossed to the north side of the Euphrates River early Monday, using rafts and a newly constructed pontoon bridge. From there they were expected to roll west toward the border, raiding isolated villages where insurgents are believed to cache weapons and fighters. The offensive, planned for weeks, is expected to stretch on for several days."

We're north of the river [and] we're moving everywhere we want to go," Davis said late Monday. "Resistance is predictably low, but I do not expect it to stay that way."

In recent weeks, intelligence suggested that insurgents were using the area to build car bombs that later would be used in attacks in Baghdad and other cities. More than 300 Iraqis have been killed in insurgent attacks in the past two weeks.

A senior military official in Washington told The Associated Press that the Marines were targeting followers of terrorist leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who has been linked to many of the most violent attacks on U.S. and Iraqi forces.

The offensive that began Sunday is described as one of the largest involving U.S. troops since the assault on Fallujah last fall. It involves more than 1,000 Marines and Army personnel, backed by helicopters and jet fighters.

With the Marines pressing the assault, new details emerged about the pitched battles that took place Sunday in Ubaydi, a town perched on the tip of a bend in the Euphrates, about 12 miles east of the Syrian border. As Army engineers worked to build the pontoon bridge, waiting Marines came under mortar fire from a town they had assumed was free of the enemy.

After calling in air strikes from prowling fighter jets and helicopter gunships, the Marines entered the town in armored personnel carriers and light armored vehicles. At times the fighting was door to door as Marines sifted through areas where resistance was stiffest.


Maj. Steve Lawson of the 3rd Battalion, 25th Marines said his troops had found a house on the north side of town where insurgents apparently lay in ambush. Holes low in the walls allowed insurgents hiding in the basement to fire up at the Marines as they entered.After retreating, Marines in Lawson's company called in artillery and heavy machine guns to rake the house. As sporadic fighting continued Monday morning, they brought in tanks and leveled it, Davis said.

Hugh read parts of an article in today's Washington Post that describes in detail the methods employed by some of the terrorists as they waited for the Marines:
Screaming "Allahu Akbar'' to the end, the foreign fighters lay on their backs in a narrow crawl space under a house and blasted their machine guns up through the concrete floor with bullets designed to penetrate tanks. They fired at U.S. Marines, driving back wave after wave as the Americans tried to retrieve a fallen comrade.

Through Sunday night and into Monday morning, the foreign fighters battled on, their screaming voices gradually fading to just one. In the end, it took five Marine assaults, grenades, a tank firing bunker-busting artillery rounds, 500-pound bombs unleashed by an F/A-18 attack plane and a point-blank attack by a rocket launcher to quell them.


"They came here to die," said Gunnery Sgt. Chuck Hurley, commander of the team from the 1st Platoon, Lima Company, of the Marines' 3rd Battalion, 25th Regiment, that battled the insurgents in the one-story house in Ubaydi, about 15 miles east of the Syrian border.

"They were willing to stay in place and die with no hope," Hurley said Tuesday. "All they wanted was to take us with them.''

And since Hurley is telling us this, the terrorists failed ... once again. Here's more:

The first Marine there found the gate in the high walls around the house open; the front door was locked.

"As soon as he kicks the door, the machine-gun fire cuts him down," said Hurley, a Dayton, Ohio, police officer serving in the Marine Reserves. The Marine survived, but a second fell as well, fatally wounded. From inside, a foreign fighter fired a rocket-propelled grenade at the door.

At some point, the screamed prayers began: "Allahu Akbar" -- "God is great."

Marines fell, unable to tell the source of the screams or the shots. They fired blindly, as machine-gun rounds cratered the walls and floors around them.

"Our rounds couldn't get through the walls," Hurley said.

Survivors crawled out of the house under fire, unable to take the fatally wounded Marine with them. In the back of the house, Marines spotted two men running out. They fired. The two -- whose thick curly hair, olive skin and delicate features indicated they were not Iraqis, Marines said -- died at the back door, still holding their weapons.

Thinking the barrage had come from the two men they had just killed, the Marines reentered the walled compound. Sgt. Dennis Woullard, a Marine reservist on the Biloxi, Miss., police force, dragged out the first fallen Marine.

Farther inside, other Marines searched the house. One reached for the door of a storage closet under a stairwell. "As soon as he touches the door, the machine gun fires and cuts him down," Hurley said.

The Marines retreated, unable to bring their wounded colleague with them. Another wave went in to try to retrieve him, not realizing he was already beyond help. Machine-gun fire drove them out.

The Marines began to suspect that the insurgents were firing from a bunker somewhere in the house, Hurley said. They called in a tank, as other armored vehicles ferried the wounded away for evacuation by helicopter.

The tank fired, one round hitting a propane tank inside the compound and engulfing part of the house in a ball of orange flame. Tank cannon fired seven rounds in all, some of them meant to destroy bunkers.

'Pure Evil'

The Marines went in a fourth time. Bullets, and one chanting voice, met them. "Nobody should have survived" the tank assault, Hurley later said in amazement.

"The whole scene, it was just pure evil inside the house," said Woullard, who came out of the first foray into the house with a frayed helmet and bruised temple from one machine-gun round and a pierced water bag on his back from another.

"I've never seen anything like this in my life," said Woullard, who fought at Nasiriyah in the first days of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. "It was an all-out ambush."

The insurgents' armor-piercing bullets were penetrating the house's interior and external walls and the outer walls of the compound, some smacking into walls across the street.

Hurley and other Marines, still under fire, were able to get to the body of the second fallen Marine through the holes that the tank had blown in the house but could not pull it past steel reinforcing bars that jutted from the collapsed walls.


At daylight Monday, a staff sergeant skilled in rocketry set up a launcher in the street across from the house. Fired from a dozen or so yards, the rockets collapsed the walls over the fighters' hiding place -- a crawl space behind the door under the stairwell.

When the Marines entered a final time, the daylight finally showed them where the bullets had come from: the floor beneath their feet. The insurgents had lain faceup on the ground below, with barely enough room to point their weapons upward, Marines said. They simply blasted through the floor.

The Marines found the last foreign fighters there, dead. There were at least two, and it was unclear whether they had bled to death overnight or been killed in the morning's rocket volley, Hurley and other Marines said.

Suspecting explosives might be in the crawl space, the Marines didn't try to count the bodies closely or retrieve them, they said. But they dropped a grenade into the crawl space, just to make sure.

The ambush at Ubaydi was a new tactic, carried out lethally, Marines said.

"No one's ever seen or heard of guys getting attacked from under a house," Hurley said Tuesday, as the exhausted young men under his command slept in other rooms of a house in Jarami. "And just the idea of a machine gun being able to fire through concrete, to get to us," Hurley said, without finishing his sentence.

Keep praying for our Marines and for their mission.

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