Fix Bayonets! by Mustang
(The First Battle of Fallujah)
Marines abhor urban warfare more than any other form of combat. Urban settings negate the advantages of overwhelming firepower, limit the maneuvering ability of troops, and reduce fields of observation and fires. The presence of innocent civilians, the ability of enemy forces to dress themselves as civilians and infiltrate civilian populations makes urban warfare even more complex. It is an environment within which a few well-armed insurgents are able to impede the advance of military forces while inflicting heavy casualties at little cost to themselves —particularly if they are of the mindset that death in Jihad guarantees access to Shangri-La. The urban environment offers cover and concealment of insurgents, movement through underground infrastructures, and the placement of well-concealed booby traps and snipers.
The city of Fallujah —one of the most religious and culturally traditional areas of Iraq, had mostly profited under the regime of Saddam Hussein. Most of the city’s residents favored the Ba’ath party; they were Sunnis; some were employed by Saddam’s intelligence apparatus. Generally, however, most residents had little sympathy for Saddam in the aftermath of the collapse of his government —until they realized that the Sunni regime of some 5-million people no longer controlled the 20-millions of the Iraqi Shi’ite majority.
Following the collapse of the Ba’ath party in 2003, local residents elected a town council headed by Taha Hamed, who was able to keep the city from falling into the hands of criminal gangs. Nominally, Hamed and his council were pro-American, and their election somewhat erroneously signaled to the Americans that the city was unlikely to fall into the hands of insurgents. Accordingly, few US troops were assigned to Fallujah early in 2003. On 23 April, however, elements of the 82ndAirborne entered the city, and of these, approximately 150 troops of Company C, 1stBattalion, 325thAirborne Infantry set up their headquarters in the al-Qa’id primary school. Five days later, a crowd of around 200 citizens gathered outside the school after curfew demanding that the Americans vacate the building so that it could resume its function as a school.
The company commander was not inclined to vacate the building, however. Tactically, it was in a good place from which to direct military operations. The people were adamant, however, and the demands of the people became somewhat heated. The population of the crowd was building, so the American unit deployed smoke cannisters as a means of discouraging or disbursing the crowd. At some point, Iraqi gunmen fired on US troops from within the protesting crowd. The American soldiers returned fire, killing 17 people and wounding more than 70. There were no US casualties[…]