Operation Red Dawn

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Operation Red Dawn
Part of the Iraq War
Samir, a 34-year-old Iraqi-American military interpreter who helped find Saddam and pull him from his hideaway in December 2003.
Date 13 December 2003
Location Ad-Dawr, Iraq
Result Successful operation; Capture and arrest of former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein

Support: (alleged)
Patriotic Union of Kurdistan

Iraq Saddam Hussein and personal bodyguards
Commanders and leaders

United States Maj. Gen. Raymond Odierno
United States Col. James Hickey

United States Steve Russell
Iraq Saddam Hussein (POW)
Units involved

4th Infantry Division

  • 1st Brigade Combat Team

Task Force 121

600 3
Casualties and losses
1 3 captured

Operation Red Dawn was an American military operation conducted on 13 December 2003 in the town of ad-Dawr, Iraq, near Tikrit, that led to the capture of Iraqi president Saddam Hussein. The operation was named after the 1984 film Red Dawn.[1] The mission was assigned to the 1st Brigade Combat Team of the 4th Infantry Division, commanded by Maj. Gen. Raymond Odierno and led by Col. James Hickey of the 4th Infantry Division, with joint operations Task Force 121—an elite and covert joint special operations team.

They searched two sites, "Wolverine 1" and "Wolverine 2," outside the town of ad-Dawr, but did not find Hussein. A continued search between the two sites found Hussein hiding in a "spider hole" at 20:30hrs local Iraqi time. Hussein did not resist capture.[2]


Hussein disappeared from public view soon after the 2003 invasion of Iraq. The American military labelled him "High Value Target Number One" (HVT1) and began one of the largest manhunts in history.[3]

Intelligence from detained former members of the Ba'ath Party, supported by signals intelligence from the ISA, finally pinpointed Hussein at a remote farm compound south of Tikrit.[4]


Operation Red Dawn was launched after gaining actionable intelligence identifying two likely locations of Saddam's whereabouts code-named Wolverine 1 and Wolverine 2, near the town of ad-Dawr. C squadron Delta Force, ISA operators under Task Force 121 and the First Brigade Combat team of the 4th ID, conducted the operation.[5] The operation was named after the 1984 film of the same name starring Patrick Swayze. The site names of "Wolverine 1" and "Wolverine 2" are also a reference to the American insurgent group in the movie, the Wolverines. The Forces involved in the operation consisted of approximately 600 soldiers including cavalry, artillery, aviation, engineer and special operations forces.

The forces cleared the two objectives but initially did not find the target. Then, as the operators were finishing and the helicopters called in to extract them, one assaulter kicked a piece of flooring to one side, exposing a spider hole; he prepared to throw a fragmentation grenade into it - in case it led to an insurgent tunnel system, when suddenly Hussein appeared. The Delta operator struck him with the stock of his M4 Carbine and disarmed him of a Glock 18C.[6]

Hussein surrendered and offered no real resistance; he was exfiltrated by a MH-6 Little Bird from the 160th SOAR and was taken into custody at Baghdad International Airport. Along with the Glock, an AK-47 and $750,000 in US bank notes was recovered from the spider hole.[7]

Two other individuals were also detained. There were no casualties in the operation.[citation needed]



Jalal Talabani told the Islamic Republic News Agency, "With the arrest of Saddam the financial resources feeding terrorists have been destroyed, and his arrest will put an end to terrorist acts in Iraq."[8] Ahmed Chalabi, of the Iraqi Governing Council, said a group, led by Kosrat Rasul Ali, of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan helped U.S. forces find his hide-out.[9]


 Iran: Vice President Mohammad-Ali Abtahi said, "Iranians have suffered a lot because of him and mass graves in Iraq prove the crimes he has committed against the Iraqi people."[10]

 Israel: Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said, "It's a great day for the democratic world, for the fighters of freedom and justice and for those who fight against terror."[11]

 Jordan: The government said it hoped that a page has been turned and that the Iraqi people would be able to assume their responsibilities as soon as possible and build their future according to their will.[12]

 Kuwait: Prime Minister Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah said that Hussein "was a great threat to his neighbors, and was the reason behind the unstable conditions in the whole region while he was ruling Iraq."[12]

 Saudi Arabia: Prince Bandar bin Sultan, Saudi Ambassador to the United States, stated that ""Saddam Hussein was a menace to the Arab world, and his reign of terror will be remembered for its brutality, aggression and oppression."[11]

 Syria: Syrian Information Minister Ahmad al-Hassan said "Syria's position on Iraq was not based on the fate of individuals. We want an Iraq that preserves its territorial integrity, its unity and its sovereignty."[10]

 United Kingdom: Prime Minister Tony Blair, President Bush's strongest Iraq War ally, said "Saddam has gone from power, he won't be coming back. That Iraqi people now know and it is they who will decide his fate."[10]

 United Nations: Kofi Annan, Secretary-General of the United Nations, said the capture "offers an opportunity to give fresh impetus to the search for peace and stability in Iraq, on the basis of an inclusive and fully transparent process."[11] Former U.N. chief weapons inspector Hans Blix said of Iraq's nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons programs, Hussein "ought to know quite a lot and be able to tell the story and we all want to get to the bottom of the barrel."[10]

 United States: President George W. Bush said that "the former dictator of Iraq will face the justice he denied to millions. ... The capture of this man was crucial to the rise of a free Iraq. ... For the Baathist holdouts largely responsible for the current violence, there will be no return to the corrupt power and privilege they once held."[13] Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld stated Hussein caused "the death of an awful lot of Iraqi people and in the last analysis he seemed not terribly brave."[10]

Prisoner abuse charges[edit]

In December 2005, Iraqi lawyer, Khalil Dulaimi, Esq., repeated Saddam Hussein's complaints of having been beaten and tortured by U.S. Army soldiers, saying he, himself, had seen the bruises. The US denied having harmed him; the investigating Iraqi judge said that, until that week, Hussein had never claimed mistreatment, even when asked directly. His attorney, Khalil Dulaimi, who still regarded Saddam Hussein as President of Iraq, said he revealed the torture to him in a brief interview during the trial in Baghdad.

"The President was tortured severely by the American forces, and I saw bruise marks on his body; they are visible", Dulaimi told the Associated Press in a telephonic interview, adding, "They are still torturing him psychologically". He did not describe or say where Hussein's body was bruised, neither did he detail what he meant by psychological torture.

Counsellor Dulaimi said he complained with the court on Thursday, urging its investigation. The chief prosecutor, Jaafar al-Mousawi, said he had not seen a complaint, adding he would visit him, and his seven co-defendants, to review their health and "listen to their demands and supply them with everything they need".

In his trial, Saddam Hussein upset listeners when he said U.S. Army soldiers beat and tortured him, insisting "the marks are still there", but didn't reveal anything in court. Judge Raid Juhi, who investigated Hussein's crimes as Iraqi President, said officials repeatedly asked him if he had ever been beaten; he answered, "No." every time, Juhi said, adding that if any defendant had complained of beatings and torture, doctors would have investigated.

POW status[edit]

Saddam Hussein after capture.

A Pentagon spokesman said he was given prisoner of war status as he was the leader of the "old regime's military forces."

The spokesman, Major Michael Shavers, said Saddam, captured by US troops in December, was entitled to all the rights under the Geneva Conventions. The International Committee of the Red Cross had asked to visit the former Iraqi leader as soon as possible. The US spokesman did not give further details about Saddam Hussein's conditions of detention.

POW status for Saddam Hussein meant that the former Iraqi leader would be eligible to stand trial for war crimes.

Prisoners' rights under the Geneva Convention include:

  • Protection against violence, intimidation, insults and public curiosity,
  • Protection against pressure of any kind during interrogation,
  • Provision of valid identity documents,
  • Food rations and drinking water sufficient to keep prisoner in good health,
  • Adequate clothing and washing facilities, and
  • Adequate medical treatment.

There was controversy over TV pictures which showed Saddam Hussein undergoing a medical examination after his capture — footage regarded by some as a failure to protect him from public curiosity. A leading Vatican clergyman described the scenes as Saddam being "treated like a cow," and some sections of the Arab world were deeply offended by them. The US maintains that the pictures were shown to demonstrate to the Iraqi people that they no longer had anything to fear.

A senior British official said Hussein—who was being held at an undisclosed location and interrogated by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)—was still refusing to co-operate with his captors, but the former president's capture last month was yielding results "far greater than we expected," the official told reporters on condition of anonymity.

The US-UK-led coalition had used documents found with the ex-leader to mount operations against Saddam loyalists, the official said.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Red Dawn imitated art". USA Today. 17 December 2003. Retrieved 31 December 2015. 
  2. ^ Freeman, Colin (16 December 2003). "From lavish palaces to a hole in the ground". The Scotsman. Retrieved 19 May 2011. 
  3. ^ Younge, Gary (15 December 2003). "In a hole in the ground, luck runs out for High Value Target Number One". Guardian. Retrieved 30 December 2015. 
  4. ^ Neville, Leigh, Special Forces in the War on Terror (General Military), Osprey Publishing, 2015 ISBN 978-1472807908, p.195
  5. ^ Neville, Leigh, Special Forces in the War on Terror (General Military), Osprey Publishing, 2015 ISBN 978-1472807908, p.195-196
  6. ^ Neville, Leigh, Special Forces in the War on Terror (General Military), Osprey Publishing, 2015 ISBN 978-1472807908, p.196-197
  7. ^ Neville, Leigh, Special Forces in the War on Terror (General Military), Osprey Publishing, 2015 ISBN 978-1472807908, p.197
  8. ^ "Reaction: Saddam's capture coup for US, not end to unrest". New Zealand Herald. Reuters. 15 December 2003. Retrieved 30 December 2015. 
  9. ^ McGeough, Paul (22 December 2003). "We got him: Kurds say they caught Saddam". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 30 December 2015. 
  10. ^ a b c d e "World reaction in quotes". BBC. 15 December 2003. 
  11. ^ a b c "Leaders unite in cheering capture". CNN.com. 15 December 2003. Retrieved 31 December 2015. 
  12. ^ a b Faraj, Caroline (14 December 2003). "Middle East leaders welcome news". CNN.com. Retrieved 31 December 2015. 
  13. ^ "Transcript of Bush speech on Saddam's capture". CNN.com. 14 December 2003. Retrieved 31 December 2015. 

External links[edit]