Battle of Nasiriyah

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Battle of Nasiriyah
Part of the 2003 Invasion of Iraq
A USMC Assault Amphibious Vehicle destroyed at Nasiriyah, Iraq, in a maintenance area. 11 April 2003.
Date23–29 March 2003
Result Coalition victory
Iraq Iraq  United States
Commanders and leaders
Iraq Ali Hassan al-Majid
Iraq Nuri Daud Mishal
(Iraq Army Third Corps commander)
Iraq Adil Abdullah Mahdi
(Ba'ath Party regional commander)
United States Richard Natonski
Units involved
Flag of the Iraqi Ground Forces.svg Iraqi 3rd Corps:
Flag of the Iraqi Ground Forces.svg 6th Armored Division
Flag of the Iraqi Ground Forces.svg 11th Infantry Division
Flag of the Iraqi Ground Forces.svg 51st Mechanised Division
United States Army 3rd Infantry Division
United States Marine Corps 1st Marine Division
United States Marine Corps 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade
U.S. Air Force
Casualties and losses
359–431 killed
300+ captured
1,000+ wounded[1]
32 killed
60 wounded
6 captured
15+ vehicles destroyed
8 AAVs destroyed

The Battle of Nasiriyah was fought between the US 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade and Iraqi forces from 23 March to 2 April 2003 during the US-led invasion of Iraq. Nasiriyah is a city which lies along the banks of the Euphrates River in Dhi Qar Province, about 225 mi (362 km) southeast of Baghdad. Its population is made up almost entirely of Shiite Muslims. On the night of 24–25 March, the bulk of the Marines of Regimental Combat Team 1 passed through the city over the bridges and attacked north towards Baghdad. However fighting continued in the city until 1 April when Iraqi resistance in the city was defeated.

The battle[edit]


On the morning of 23 March, a US Army supply convoy from the 507th Maintenance Company had mistakenly veered off Highway 8 and then turned toward the city into enemy-held territory. The US vehicles ran into an ambush, drawing enemy fire from every direction. Eleven American soldiers were killed and several were taken prisoner. However, a few soldiers managed to escape the ambush and form a screen around their wounded. They were soon rescued by a company from the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade (Task Force Tarawa) under the command of Major William Peeples.[2]

The original plan was for Task Force Tarawa to take and hold the two bridges inside Nasiriyah, creating a corridor for the RCT1 and 6th Engineer Support Battalion from Battle Creek, MI to pass north through the city along Route 7.[2]

Nasiriyah was the headquarters of the Iraqi Army's 3rd Corps, composed of the 11th Infantry Division (ID), 51st Mechanized Infantry Division, and 6th Armored Division—all at around 50 percent strength. The 51st operated in the south covering the oilfields, and the 6th was north near Al Amarah, which left three brigade-sized elements of the 11th ID to guard the An Nasiriyah area.[2]

U.S. Army convoy ambushed[edit]

At around 06:00 on the morning of 23 March, an 18-vehicle convoy of 31 soldiers of the United States Army's 507th Maintenance Company and two soldiers of the 3rd Forward Support Battalion of the 3rd Infantry Division[3] missed a turn onto Highway 8 and mistakenly continued along Highway 7 into the city. The convoy was led by Captain Troy King, a supply officer with little combat training.[4] Iraqi technical vehicles began shadowing the convoy as it passed an Iraqi checkpoint near the Euphrates River.[5] After passing the Al-Quds headquarters on the northern outskirts of the city, King realized that he was lost and the convoy began turning around to retrace its steps through the city.

As the convoy turned left on to Highway 16. At about 07:00 it began to receive sporadic small arms fire, the source and direction of which could not be determined. The ambush was unlikely to have been set up in advance, because the Iraqis did not know which course the convoy would take. In the resulting chaos, the 507th became divided into three smaller groups as it attempted to move south, out of Nasiriyah.[3] The first element of the convoy (known in the official U.S. Army report as Group 1) made it through unscathed, and continued south to meet up with the Marines. Group 2 also made it through the kill zone, although their vehicles were badly damaged and had to be abandoned. Group 3 encountered road barriers and was defeated.

At least 15 of the 18 American transport vehicles in the convoy, ranging from Humvees to Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Trucks (HEMTTs), were destroyed by small-arms fire, RPGs, mortar rounds, and tank gunfire. Some of them swerved off the road or crashed while attempting to avoid incoming Iraqi fire. One truck was crushed by the traversing 105 mm gun barrel of a Type 69-QM tank.[6] At 07:30, King's three remaining vehicles made contact with the tanks of Major Bill Peeples' Alpha Company, 8th Tank Battalion on Highway 7, about 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) south of Nasiriyah.[7] On their approach to the city, one of Peeples' tankers noticed American vehicles in the road ahead. Peeples ordered his tanks forward to rescue as many soldiers as possible. They rolled up on ten survivors from Group 2 which had also managed to escape the ambush and set up a hasty perimeter about 5 km (3.1 mi) south of the city.

Iraqi Type 69QM tank destroyed near Nasiriyah hospital

In total, 11 soldiers from the 507th had been killed, while six others were captured, including Private First Class Jessica Lynch, Specialist Shoshana Johnson and Private First Class Lori Piestewa. Piestewa died of her wounds soon afterward. After a delay, the Marines of 1st Battalion, 2nd Marines (part of 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade), attacked Nasiriyah from the south, using amphibious assault vehicles (AAV's) and Cobra gunships. During this action, the Marines captured two bridges spanning the Euphrates River that were defended by Fedayeen and Ba'ath Party guerrilla soldiers. In heavy fighting, several Iraqi platoon-sized units, two ZSU-23-4 "Shilka" anti-aircraft weapons and several mortar and artillery positions were destroyed by a combined force of M1 Abrams tanks, Cobra helicopter gunships, and the artillery of 1st Battalion, 10th Marines.[8]

Ambush Alley[edit]

The bloodiest day of the operations for the Marines was 23 March, when 18 men of Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 2nd Marines, were killed and eight Amphibious Assault Vehicles were disabled in heavy fighting with Iraqi forces around the Saddam Canal.[9] The Marines were engaged by RPGs, mortar, and artillery fire, as well as four Iraqi tanks hidden behind a building.[10]

A friendly-fire incident occurred when two A-10s from the Pennsylvania Air National Guard strafed the amphibious assault vehicles of Charlie Company by mistake, killing at least one Marine, and possibly as many as 17 Marines, over the course of multiple passes.[11][12][13][14]

The A-10 strike was cleared by the battalion's forward air controller, who was with Bravo Company, bogged down on the eastern outskirts of the city. He did not have contact with Charlie Company and was unaware that Marines were so far north.[2][15] An investigation into the friendly-fire episode confirmed that friendly-fire was to blame, but "like most friendly-fire investigations, it was done... with no enthusiasm for determining what really happened, or who should be held accountable."[16] Videotapes from the A-10 planes went missing.[17] Despite the clear findings, the U.S. Central Command issued a press release which both minimized certainty and the role of friendly-fire.[18]

Two other Marines, from the 6th Engineer Support Battalion, Corporal Evans James[19] and Sgt. Bradley S. Korthaus[20] drowned while trying to cross the Saddam Canal under fire the following day. Sgt. Michael E. Bitz, from the Marine Air Control Group 28, died from hostile fire while tending to wounded Marines.[21]

RCT-1 pushes through Ambush Alley[edit]

The advance of Regimental Combat Team 1 (RCT-1) through Nasiriyah was delayed by fighting there. On the evening of 24 March, LAVs of the 2nd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion (2nd LAR, commanded by Lt. Col. Eddie Ray) pushed north of the Saddam Canal, leading RCT-1 through Ambush Alley.

Meanwhile, the 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines (the "Thundering Third", commanded by Lt. Col. Craparotta) held open Ambush Alley as the rest of RCT-1 passed through Nasiriyah on the night of 24–25 March.[citation needed]

Partly as a result of RCT-1's delay, Colonel Joe Dowdy was later relieved of command of RCT-1.[22]


By 27 March, most Iraqi resistance in the city had been subdued and the focus of the battle shifted from full combat to cordon-and-search operations. Small groups of Fedayeen Saddam militia were hiding throughout the city and launched sporadic attacks on Marine patrols with small arms and RPGs. These attacks were uncoordinated and the resulting firefights were lop-sided, with large numbers of militiamen killed.[23]

On the morning of 27 March, two recon Marines found a sunken M1A1 tank at the bottom of the river. The tank had been missing since the night of 24–25 March. It had apparently plunged into the river when it drove through a gap where a sidewalk was under construction, causing the exposed reinforcing bar to crumble under the weight. The entire four-man crew died. Navy Seabee divers from Underwater Construction Team TWO, part of Task Force MIKE along with Marines from 1st Tank Battalion, spent two days retrieving the flooded tank and the bodies of the four crewmen that were found inside.[24][25]

According to a captain in the Republican Guard, morale among Republican Guard units was bolstered by the resistance offered by the regular army's 45th brigade in the city.[26]

Iraqi casualties were 359–431 dead. More than 300 were wounded and 1,000 captured. US losses were 32 dead, 60 wounded, and six captured.

Private First Class Lynch[edit]

Initial reporting of the battle emphasized the supposed heroism of Private First Class Jessica Lynch. On 3 April, The Washington Post ran a front-page story which read: "Lynch, a 19-year-old supply clerk, continued firing at the Iraqis even after she sustained multiple gunshot wounds and watched several other soldiers in her unit die around her". The Post quoted an unnamed official who said "She was fighting to the death [...] She did not want to be taken alive."[27]

This description soon was questioned. On 4 April, the Associated Press ran a story which stated that Lynch's father had heard from the doctors attending her, who said that "she had not been shot or stabbed during her ordeal." On 15 April, the Post ran a story questioning the accuracy of its own account from 3 April, saying "Lynch's story is far more complex and different than those initial reports [...] She was neither shot nor stabbed."[27]

On 24 April, Private Lynch testified before Congress. She called the earlier reports a "lie", and said that she had in fact never fired her weapon, because she was knocked unconscious when her vehicle crashed.[28] Jon Krakauer concludes that "most of the details of Lynch's ordeal were extravagantly embellished, and much of the rest was invented from whole cloth... and [were] fed to gullible reporters by anonymous military sources".[29] Krakauer concludes that Jim Wilkinson was likely part of a White House-led effort to fabricate Lynch's story.[30]

Participating units[edit]

U.S. military[edit]

British Army[edit]

Ba'athist Iraqi forces[edit]

  • Iraqi Army 11th Division[31]
    • 23rd Brigade
    • 45th Brigade
    • 47th Brigade
    • 21st Tank Regiment (elements)
    • Unidentified Commando battalion
  • Fedayeen Saddam paramilitary forces[31][32]
  • Al Quds Army[32]

In popular culture[edit]

  • The Battle of Nasiriyah is featured in the 2008 HBO miniseries Generation Kill, in episode 2, "The Cradle of Civilization".
  • The ambush of the 507th Maintenance Company was re-created at the beginning of the 2003 NBC television film Saving Jessica Lynch. The ongoing Battle of Nasiriyah is the backdrop for the rest of the events of the film.
  • Much of playwright and Iraq War veteran Sean Huze's play The Sandstorm draws on his experiences and those of his comrades during and immediately following their unit's (2nd LAR) involvement in the Battle of Nasiriyah.[33]
  • The Battle of Nasiriyah was cited as a major factor in a Marine's PTSD in episode 2 of the 2010 PBS series This Emotional Life.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Wages of War - Appendix 1. Survey and assessment of reported Iraqi combatant fatalities in the 2003 War". Archived from the original on 2 September 2009. Retrieved 5 April 2015.
  2. ^ a b c d Rohr, Karl. "Fighting Through the Fog of War". Marine Corps Gazette. Archived from the original on 1 December 2008. Retrieved 29 December 2008.
  3. ^ a b "Attack on the 507th Maintenance Company" (PDF). U.S. Army. Archived from the original (PDF) on 16 January 2009. Retrieved 1 January 2009.
  4. ^ Lowry, p. 88
  5. ^ Lowry, p. 131
  6. ^ Lowry, p. 139
  7. ^ Lowry, p. 143
  8. ^ Lowry, p. 146
  9. ^ Connell, R.; Lopez, R.J. (26 August 2003). "Deadly Day for Charlie Company". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on 31 December 2008. Retrieved 5 January 2009.
  10. ^ Wilson, Michael (24 March 2003). "A NATION AT WAR: WITH THE TROOPS | MARINE TASK FORCE TARAWA; Marines Meet Potent Enemy In Deadly Fight". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Archived from the original on 28 May 2015. Retrieved 17 September 2015.
  11. ^ Krakauer, Jon, Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman. Doubleday, New York (2009).
  12. ^ Connell, R.; Lopez, R.J. (26 August 2003). "Deadly Day for Charlie Company". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on 31 December 2008. Retrieved 5 January 2009.
  13. ^ David Morris (5 April 2004). "The hidden cost of war". Salon. Archived from the original on 12 April 2015. Retrieved 5 April 2015.
  14. ^ Krakauer, Jon. 2009. Where Men Win Glory, NY: Bloomsbury, p. 202.
  15. ^ Lowry, pp.198–199
  16. ^ Krakauer, Jon. 2009. Where Men Win Glory. NY: Bloomsbury, p. 203.
  17. ^ Krakauer, pp. 202-3
  18. ^ Krakauer, p. 203
  19. ^ " News Release: DOD IDENTIFIES MARINE CASUALTIES". Archived from the original on 30 November 2009. Retrieved 5 April 2015.
  20. ^ "Defense.Gov News Release: Dod Announces Change In Marine Casualty Status". Archived from the original on 30 November 2009. Retrieved 5 April 2015.
  21. ^ "Marine Sgt. Michael E. Bitz". Military Times. Archived from the original on 7 May 2016. Retrieved 5 July 2016.
  22. ^ Ricks, Thomas (5 April 2003). "Key Marine Commander Is Removed; No Explanation Given for Decision". Washington Post. Archived from the original on 16 March 2008. Retrieved 29 December 2008.
  23. ^ Lowry, pp. 354–355
  24. ^ Lowry, p. 256
  25. ^ Gilbert, Oscar E.: Marine Corps Tank Battles in the Middle East
  26. ^ Branigin, William (27 April 2003). "A Brief, Bitter War for Iraq's Military Officers" (PDF). Washington Post. pp. A25. Archived from the original (PDF) on 26 July 2011. Retrieved 5 January 2009.
  27. ^ a b "Jessica Lynch: Media Myth-Making in the Iraq War". Pew Research Center. 23 June 2003. Archived from the original on 9 November 2010. Retrieved 13 October 2010.
  28. ^ MacAskill, Ewen (25 April 2007). "Rambo image was based on lie, says US war hero Jessica Lynch". The Guardian. London. Archived from the original on 9 November 2010. Retrieved 13 October 2010.
  29. ^ Krakauer, Jon. 2009. Where Men Win Glory. NY: Doubleday, p. 180.
  30. ^ Krakauer, p. 181
  31. ^ a b Gregory Fontenot; E. J. Degen; David Tohn; United States Army. Operation Iraqi Freedom Study Group (2005). On Point: The United States Army in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Naval Institute Press. p. 139. ISBN 1-59114-279-2.
  32. ^ a b Lowry, p.43
  33. ^ Nichols, David C. (1 October 2004). "With Marines on Iraqi tour of duty". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on 10 November 2013. Retrieved 6 December 2016.


Further reading[edit]

Coordinates: 31°03′N 46°16′E / 31.050°N 46.267°E / 31.050; 46.267