Battle of Debecka Pass
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|Battle of Debecka Pass|
|Part of 2003 Invasion of Iraq|
| United States
|26 U.S. Special Forces Operators
3 Air Force Combat Controllers
2 Military Intelligence Operators
about 80 Kurdish fighters
|A motorized company (about 100 soldiers)|
|Casualties and losses|
|U.S.: None confirmed
Peshmerga: 17 soldiers and civilians killed (friendly fire)
|2 T-55 tanks, 8 armoured personnel carriers, 4 troop trucks, unknown number of soldiers killed, 20 captured|
The Battle of Debecka Pass (Dibagah, Dibege, دیبهگه) on 6–7 April 2003, sometimes known as the Battle of Debecka Ridge or Debecka Crossroads, or otherwise referred to as the Alamo of the Iraq War, was a successful operation launched by U.S. Special Forces to secure a major crossroads near the village of Debecka (Dibege, دیبهگه in Kurdish), between Mosul and Kirkuk in northern Iraq. It was notable for its use of the Raytheon/Lockheed-Martin Javelin anti-tank missile. The weapon demonstrated how lethal and crucial technology can be in determining the outcome of a battle. The light unarmored SOF and Peshmerga (KDP) force faced a mechanized force of Iraqi infantry and tanks. The numerically inferior US and KPD force was able to defeat the Iraqi mechanized infantry & tank force with combined air-to-ground strikes, superior maneuvering, and the use of the Javelin missiles.
On 6 April 2003, 26 United States Army Special Forces were given the task to capture a strategically important junction between Mosul and Kirkuk, near the village of Debecka (Dibege, دیبهگه in Kurdish). Were it captured, it would sever Highway 2 and impede Iraqi movement in the north, as well as provide a springboard to eventually drive on and capture the important Kirkuk oil fields.
On the eighteenth day of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, the US Special Forces moved in for the attack. The battle began with an aerial bombardment from B-52 bombers. The US Special Forces troops linked up with the Peshmerga resistance, and reached the base of the ridge.
Peshmerga troops then proceeded to clear a minefield before them. Iraqi troops attacked and stopped the coalition force from destroying a large dirt berm. The coalition force made their way over the top of the ridgeline, and engaged the Iraqis in bunkers, capturing about twenty Iraqi soldiers. Coalition troops then returned and destroyed the berm, as they would need an avenue of escape should withdrawal from the area prove necessary.
Coalition troops then mounted a small hill known as Press Hill, obscuring an approach to the crossroads from the south. They were faced with an Iraqi mechanized company with hundreds of troops, and a four-and-a-half-hour battle began. Early into the battle two Iraqi armored personnel carriers (APCs) were destroyed along with two occupied Iraqi troop trucks by Javelin anti-tank missiles. Soon after two more Iraqi APCs were destroyed along with another Iraqi transport truck, again by Javelin anti-tank missiles. The attacking Iraqis halted the offensive and laid down fire from defensive trenches. As the battle wore on, the Iraqi attack became less and less organized.
Later, three Iraqi trucks approached the coalition company with headlights flashing. This was likely an attempt to fool Special Forces operators into believing that it might be a surrender. However, it was merely a ploy to initiate the final attack. A phalanx of three Iraqi armored personnel carriers and three troop trucks, supported by four T-55 tanks, moved forward to attack the coalition lines. Coalition troops maneuvered up the ridge to their final position in order to suppress the offensive. Aggressive action by ground forces stopped the Iraqi advance and helped secure a tactical coalition victory.
An embedded BBC news crew filmed an air-to-ground fratricide event on 6 April in conjunction to this combat operation. The event took place near Dibagar. A combined Army Special Forces element supporting a Kurdish (KDF) infantry team controlled a Navy F-14 of VF-32. The BBC correspondent stated that the aircrew asked for a 9-line Close Air Support (CAS) brief, but was told there was no time and provided a visual only target talk on. The aircrew said they saw a road, an intersection, and some vehicles. The JTAC cleared the attack, but the F-14 was visual with the KDP/SPECOPS troop and imbedded BBC news crew and dropped a GBU-16 (1000LB) Laser Guided Bomb; killing approximately 19 and wounding approximately 46. Among the casualties were senior KDP representatives and a translator who had arrived on the battlefield to observe the operation. The whole incident was filmed by BBC correspondents. It was the biggest blue-on-blue loss of life during OIF-I.
- Lowery, Nathan (Winter 2005), "The Battle for Debecka Crossroads", Tip of the Spear, pp. 79–85
- Shanker, Thom (22 September 2003), "How Green Berets Beat the Odds at an Iraq Alamo", New York Times, pp. A7
- BBC, Sunday, 6 April, 2003: 'Friendly fire' hits Kurdish convoy
2. Lowery, Nathan S., "The Battle for Debecka Crossroads", Tip of the Spear, Winter 2005
- Roughneck Nine-One by Sgt.1st Class Frank Antenori and Hans Halberstradt, St.Martins Press New York, Copyright 2006
- The Battle of Debecka Pass: Roughnecks at War by John D. Gresham, Defense Media Network, 12 April 2010
- Special Operations Troops Recount Iraq Missions by Gerry J. Gilmore, American Forces Press Service, 5 February 2004
- The Battle of Debecka Pass Iraq, Raytheon Company website, Special Interest Stories