Battle of Umm Qasr

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Battle of Umm Qasr
Part of 2003 Invasion of Iraq
M1abrams UmmQasr.JPG
U.S. Marine M1 Abrams tank fires its 120mm cannon at Iraqi forces during fighting near Umm Qasr, 23 March 2003
Date March 21–25, 2003
Location Umm Qasr, Iraq
Result Coalition victory
Belligerents
 Iraq United Kingdom United Kingdom
United States United States
Poland Poland
Commanders and leaders
Iraq Ali Ibrahim
Iraq Haitham Badran
Iraq Khalid Kasar
United Kingdom Jim Dutton[1]
Poland Roman Polko
Strength
Iraq Iraqi Armed Forces United Kingdom 3 Commando Brigade
United States 15th MEU
United States Navy SEALs
Poland JW GROM
Casualties and losses
30-40 killed
450 captured[2]
14 killed[3]

The Battle of Umm Qasr was the first military confrontation in the Iraq War. At the start of the war, one of the first objectives was the port of Umm Qasr. On March 21, 2003, as allied forces advanced across Southern Iraq, an amphibious landing force captured the new port area of Umm Qasr. The assault was spearheaded by Royal Marines of the British 3 Commando Brigade, augmented by U.S. Marines of the American 15th MEU and Polish JW GROM troops. Iraqi forces in the old town of Umm Qasr put up unexpectedly strong resistance, requiring several days' fighting before the area was cleared of defenders.[4] The port was finally declared safe and reopened on March 25, 2003.

Background[edit]

Umm Qasr consists of a densely inhabited town connected to a port, with a population of 43,000. the ports role grew during the Iran-Iraq war, following the 1991 uprising in Basra, Saddam Hussein decided to punish Basra by focusing development on Umm Qasr, by 2003, it had a modern port with a large dock and a channel that could dock ocean-going ships. It handled 3500 tones of UN-organized oil-for-food, humanitarian aid every day following the Gulf war.[5]

The task of capturing Umm Qasr was given to U.S. Marines from the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, who were under the command Brigadier Jim Dutton,[6]

There had been an intelligence report that Iraqi T-72 tanks from the Republican Guard's, Medina Division, had been seen cutting off Umm Qasr from the main roads Basra and Safwan, so the U.S. Marines detached an armored unit to the 15th MEU in the event that the intelligence proved correct.[7]

Battle[edit]

The initial assault was carried out on 21 March, by the 15th MEU and the British 26th Armored Engineer Squadron, the U.S. Marine convoy made up of 20 vehicles received Iraqi small arms and mortar fire, the lead company called in supporting fire from the Royal Artillery and its shells hit the mortar positions. The U.S. Marines withdrew from the area because they were too close to the target, after 3 or 4 hours, the 15th MEU, reinforced by two Abrams tanks continued their advanced to Umm Qasr.[8]

U.S. Marines entered the town and spread out towards the port. There was occasional small arms fire from Iraqi soldiers but no organized resistance and around 200 Iraqi soldiers surrendered. Later on that day, there was increased sniping from Iraqi troops and 1 Marine was killed.[9]

U.S. secretary of defense Donald Rumsfeld announced at a press conference in The Pentagon that the port of Umm Qasr was secured. On 22 March U.S Marines believing there was no further resistance in the town, moved on to the port area, clearing the railway lines and industrial areas.[10]

On the morning of 23 March, a U.S patrol near the town was fired on by Iraqi snipers. While returning fire they reported Iraqi forces moving into one of the warehouses in the industrial area. The patrol called in tanks which fired on the Iraqi positions. Intense machine-gun and RPG fire directed at the US Marines prevented them moving forward to identify their targets, so they called in air support. 2 RAF harriers responded, launching airstrikes on the Iraqi-occupied buildings. Machine gun fire died down, but the Marines came under increased sniper fire from the town. The fighting continued into the night but the Marines were unable to make any progress against the Iraqi forces.[11]

GROM commandos in the Umm Qasr port, 28 March 2003

Brigadier Dutton knew the 15th MEU needed more time but they were scheduled to join up with the I Marine Expeditionary Force within the next 2 days, so he decided to relieve the unit and that 42 Commando could take over. On the night of 24 March, M company, 42 Commando, patrolled through the town and port after receiving occasional rifle fire and cleared a Ba'ath Party headquarters in the center of the town, the following day another patrol cleared Iraqi defensive positions, finding that the Iraqi troops had left the town.[12]

Aftermath[edit]

Following the seizure of the town and port, the waterway was de-mined by a detachment from HM-14 and Naval Special Clearance Team ONE of the U.S. Navy and reopened, Umm Qasr played an important role in the shipment of humanitarian supplies to Iraqi civilians.[13]

Coalition minesweepers, including HMS Bangor and HMS Sandown (aided by divers), US Navy MH-53E helicopters, and trained dolphins and seals, located the approach to the port and cleared it of mines, allowing RFA Sir Galahad to dock after a couple of days. The first minesweeper HMS Brocklesby found 80 Manta mines laid out close to the shipping lane, they were destroyed in a controlled detonation.[14]

References[edit]

  1. ^ https://web.archive.org/web/20140820101422/http://britains-smallwars.com/gulf2/units.html. Archived from the original on August 20, 2014. Retrieved February 9, 2016.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  2. ^ "Wages of War -- Appendix 1. Survey of reported Iraqi combatant fatalities in the 2003 war - Commonwealth Institute of Cambridge". Comw.org. Retrieved 13 October 2014. 
  3. ^ https://web.archive.org/web/20070109185830/http://icasualties.org/oif/prdDetails.aspx?hndRef=3-2003. Archived from the original on January 9, 2007. Retrieved January 29, 2007.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  4. ^ "Fierce battle around port," The Guardian, 24 March 2003
  5. ^ Rossiter, Mike, Target Basra , Corgi, 2009 ISBN 0552157007 ISBN 978-0552157001 p.209 and p.210 and p218
  6. ^ Rossiter, Mike, Target Basra , Corgi, 2009 ISBN 0552157007 ISBN 978-0552157001, p.210
  7. ^ Rossiter, Mike, Target Basra , Corgi, 2009 ISBN 0552157007 ISBN 978-0552157001, p210
  8. ^ Rossiter, Mike, Target Basra , Corgi, 2009 ISBN 0552157007 ISBN 978-0552157001, p.211
  9. ^ Rossiter, Mike, Target Basra , Corgi, 2009 ISBN 0552157007 ISBN 978-0552157001 p.211
  10. ^ Rossiter, Mike, Target Basra , Corgi, 2009 ISBN 0552157007 ISBN 978-0552157001, p212
  11. ^ Rossiter, Mike, Target Basra , Corgi, 2009 ISBN 0552157007 ISBN 978-0552157001, p212-p213
  12. ^ Rossiter, Mike, Target Basra , Corgi, 2009 ISBN 0552157007 ISBN 978-0552157001, p219
  13. ^ "Iraq aid confined to south", The Guardian, 2 April 2003
  14. ^ Rossiter, Mike, Target Basra , Corgi, 2009 ISBN 0552157007 ISBN 978-0552157001, p230-p231

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 30°01′41″N 47°56′13″E / 30.0281°N 47.9369°E / 30.0281; 47.9369