Battle of Rumaila
|Battle of Rumaila|
|Part of the Gulf War (aftermath)|
Armored vehicles captured in the Euphrates Valley of Iraq presented to the United States Army Infantry School by the 24th Infantry Division (Mechanized) in 1991
|Commanders and leaders|
|24th Infantry Division
101st Airborne Division
|Iraqi Republican Guard 1st Hammurabi Armored Division|
|Casualties and losses|
|Likely 700 or more killed
187 armored vehicles
33 artillery pieces
8 BM-21 Grad multiple rocket launchers
The Battle of Rumaila, also known as the Battle of the Causeway or the Battle of the Junkyard, was a controversial engagement that took place on March 2, 1991, near the Rumaila oil field in the Euphrates Valley of southern Iraq, when the U.S. Army forces, mostly the 24th Infantry Division under Lt. Gen. Barry McCaffrey and air elements of the 101st Airborne Division, engaged and nearly annihilated a large column of withdrawing Iraqi Republican Guard armored forces during the immediate aftermath of the Gulf War.
Iraqi Republican Guard forces were engaged within the Hammar Marshes of the Tigris–Euphrates river system in Iraq while attempting to reach and cross the Lake Hammar causeway and escape northward toward Baghdad. Most of the five-mile-long Iraqi caravan of several hundred vehicles was first boxed into a kill zone and then in the course of the next five hours systematically devastated by the U.S. 24th Infantry Division, including its armored forces, by AH-64 Apache attack helicopters, and five artillery battalions. Helicopters of the 101st Airborne Division (from the 101st Aviation Regiment and the 12th Combat Aviation Brigade) also joined in for the attack and were credited with destroying 14 armored personnel carriers, eight BM-21 Grad multiple rocket launchers, four enemy helicopters, 56 trucks and two SA-6 radars and seriously damaging a bridge across the Euphrates. The attack continued until the trapped vehicles were all destroyed, including at least 39 T-72 tanks and 52 other armored vehicles from the elite 1st Armored Division "Hammurabi", resulting in the destruction of one of its brigades.
McCaffrey reported the elimination of 187 armored vehicles, 43 artillery pieces, and over 400 trucks. The battle was one-sided and Iraqi attempts to return fire proved to be almost completely ineffective, as during the engagement only one U.S. soldier was injured and two U.S. armored vehicles were lost (an M2 Bradley infantry fighting vehicle damaged by enemy fire and an M1 Abrams tank set on fire by a nearby explosion of an Iraqi truck). A bus with women and children was also reportedly destroyed, which later troubled many U.S. soldiers. Surviving Iraqi soldiers were either taken prisoner, fled on foot or swam to safety.
The all-out attack on the Iraqi column, sparked by Iraqis opening fire on an U.S. patrol which had wandered into their path of retreat, took place two days after the war had been officially halted by a unilateral U.S. ceasefire and just as the Iraqi government and Coalition forces were scheduled to begin formal peace talks the next morning. These circumstances provoked a heated debate over whether McCaffrey was justified in his decision to destroy the column, and why had the 24th Division moved during the ceasefire into the path of the withdrawing Iraqis in the first place. U.S. Lt. Gen. Ronald H. Griffith said to investigative journalist Seymour Hersh, "It was just a bunch of tanks in a train [transported by trailer truck], and he Barry McCaffrey made it a battle. He made it a battle when it was never one." However, McCaffrey was exonerated by an Army inquiry, and an inquiry by the U.S. Congress also did not find any fault in the incident.
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