Capture of Baghdad

When the shamal ended V Corp and the Marine Expeditionary Force resumed their two pronged drive toward Baghdad. Heavy resistance was expected, but did not materialize because air power had more than decimated Iraqi forces.

The V Corps spearheaded by the 3rd BCT drove through the Karbala Gap, which began on 1 April 2003. To do this the Hadithah dam and associated bridges had to be secured to prevent the Iraqis from flooding the gap, effectively restricting the movement of armored vehicles. Army Rangers were sent in the secure the dam, once taken, the dam was repeatedly assaulted by Iraqi units. Still fearing the Iraqis might use chemical weapons, V Corp moved quickly through the gap to overrun Iraqi positions and quell resistance. There was resistance at the Bridge at Karbala where Republican Guard units were located. However the 3rd BCT quickly crossed over, in spite of the bridge having been partly damaged by Iraqi demolitions. By 3 April advanced units of V Corp were nearing the outskirts of Baghdad.

The MEF feigned an attack straight north. Leading the Iraqis to believe that the main U.S. thrust would be from the south or through Al Kut. This created another massing of Iraqi units which was severely punished by Coalition air power. But the Marines swung south and east of Al Kut and then crossed to the east side of the Tigris river at An Numaniyah where they met significant resistance from Fedayeen fighters. By 3 April the Marines were over the Tigris and on the road to East Baghdad. After fighting its way north the MEF was preparing to enter Baghdad itself from the east on the 7th of April. However, the Bridges across the Diyalah River into Baghdad had been partially demolished by the Iraqis. The Marines sent infantry over the river to secure a bridgehead and then quickly repaired the bridges.

The first objective captured around Baghdad was the Saddam Hussein International Airport, which was renamed Baghdad International Airport. In an audacious move, Generals Franks and McKiernan decided not to conduct a siege, but to move audaciously against what remained of Baathist and Fedayeen resistance in Baghdad. This began with what became to be known as a Thunder Run. An armored column moved through Baghdad's streets taking everything the Fedayeen and Baathists could throw at them, with little damage, but wreaking havoc upon the Iraqi defenders. Then the unit returned to the outskirts of the city. This demonstrated U.S. capability, and the utter hopelessness of Baathist defensive tactics. On 6 April the last major escape route from Baghdad to Syria was closed off. On the 7th of April another Thunder Run was conducted, but this one stayed in the center of Baghdad, this time destroying hundreds of fanatical Fedayeen who assaulted the newly established position and its supply route.

When the Marines crossed into Baghdad, they linked up with V Corp and by 9 April it was evident that the regime of Saddam Hussein was at an end. However, there were still units of the Regular Iraqi Army situated along the border with Iran, at least the military maps showed these units to be in place. Investigation by Marine units revealed that the Iraqi formations no longer existed. They had melted into the local population. A force was also sent to Tikrit, Saddam's home town, which was quickly secured.

Although the Iraq war was quick and decisive for the coalition, the aftermath of the war would prove to be a more bitter struggle.

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