Description The Second Battle of Fallujah—code-named Operation Al-Fajr and Operation Phantom Fury — was a joint American, Iraqi, and British offensive in November and December 2004, considered the highest point of conflict in Fallujah during the Iraq War. It was led by the U.S. Marine Corps against the Iraqi insurgency stronghold in the city of Fallujah and was authorized by the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Interim Government. The U.S. military called it "some of the heaviest urban combat U.S. Marines have been involved in since the Battle of Huế City in Vietnam in 1968."
This operation was the second major operation in Fallujah. Earlier, in April 2004, coalition forces fought the First Battle of Fallujah in order to capture or kill insurgent elements considered responsible for the deaths of a Blackwater Security team. When coalition forces fought into the center of the city, the Iraqi government requested that the city's control be transferred to an Iraqi-run local security force, which then began stockpiling weapons and building complex defenses across the city through mid-2004. The second battle was the bloodiest battle of the entire Iraq War, and is notable for being the first major engagement of the Iraq War fought solely against insurgents rather than the forces of the former Ba'athist Iraqi government, which was deposed in 2003.
Ground operations began on the night of November 7, 2004. Attacking from the west and south, the Iraqi 36th Commando Battalion with their U.S. Army Special Forces advisers and the U.S. Marine Corps Scout Platoon, 2nd Infantry Division's 2nd and 1st Platoon C CO 1–9 INF(MANCHU), 3rd Platoon Alpha Company 2/72nd Tank Battalion, and 3rd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, reinforced by Bravo Company from the Marine Corps Reserve's 1st Battalion, 23rd Regiment, and supported by Combat Service Support Company 113, from Combat Service Support Battalion 1, captured Fallujah General Hospital and villages opposite of the Euphrates River along Fallujah's western edge. Troops from the 1st Battalion, 3rd Marines fired 81mm mortars in an operation in south Fallujah. The same unit, operating under the command of the U.S. Army III Corps, then moved to the western approaches to the city and secured the Jurf Kas Sukr Bridge. These initial attacks, however, were a diversion intended to distract and confuse the insurgents holding the city.
After Navy Seabees from I MEF Engineer Group (MEG) interrupted and disabled electrical power at two substations located just northeast and northwest of the city, two Marine Regimental Combat Teams, the Regimental Combat Team 1 (RCT-1) and Regimental Combat Team 7 (RCT-7) launched an attack along the northern edge of the city. They were joined by two U.S. Army heavy battalion-sized units, the 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment, and 2nd Battalion, 2nd Infantry Regiment (Mechanized). These two battalions were followed by four infantry battalions who were tasked with clearing the remaining buildings. The Army's mechanized Second Brigade, First Cavalry Division, augmented by the Marine's Second Reconnaissance Battalion and, for a few days, the 1st Battalion, 5th Infantry Regiment, was tasked to surround the city. The British Army's 1st Battalion, The Black Watch, patrolled the main highways to the east. The RCT's were augmented by three 6-man SEAL Sniper Teams from Naval Special Warfare Task Group-Central and one Platoon from 1st Recon who provided advance reconnaissance and overwatch throughout the operation.
The six battalions of Army, Marine and Iraqi forces, moving under the cover of darkness, began the assault in the early hours of November 8, 2004 prepared by an intense artillery barrage and air attack. This was followed by an attack on the main train station that was then used as a staging point for follow-on forces. By that afternoon, under the protection of intense air cover, Marines entered the Hay Naib al-Dubat and al-Naziza districts. The Marines were followed in by the Navy Seabees of NMCB 4 and NMCB 23 who bulldozed the streets clear of debris from the bombardment that morning. The Seabees used Armored bulldozers to plow the streets while remaining safe and protected from enemy fire. Shortly after nightfall on November 9, 2004, Marines had reportedly reached Phase Line Fran at Highway 10 in the center of the city.
The 3rd Bn 5th Marines cleared the Northern Sector Highway - 10 city blocks of infiltrated pockets of resistance. Some units deemed combat ineffective handed clearing operations to Darkhorse Marines. They spearheaded the assault into the harshest area of the city known as the 'Jolan District.' The Battalion sustained 19 Marines killed in action, one died of wounds in 2012 and, 245 wounded during the operation.
While most of the fighting subsided by November 13, 2004, U.S. Marines continued to face determined isolated resistance from insurgents hidden throughout the city. By November 16, 2004, after nine days of fighting, the Marine command described the action as mopping up pockets of resistance. Sporadic fighting continued until December 23, 2004.
A four-picture series of photographs. Clockwise from the upper left: A Marine tries dragging a wounded Marine down a city street; a sailor runs over to help him; the rescuing Marine is shot; both Marines lie wounded on the street.
In this series of photographs a Marine and Corpsman from 1st Battalion 8th Marines attempt to recover a Marine wounded by a sniper; the sniper then shoots one of the would-be rescuers.
Despite its success, the battle was not without controversy. On November 16, 2004, NBC News aired footage that showed a U.S. Marine, with 3rd Battalion 1st Marines, killing a wounded Iraqi fighter. In this video, the Marine was heard claiming that the Iraqi was "playing possum". U.S. Navy investigators NCIS later determined that the Marine was acting in self-defense. The AP reported that military-age males attempting to flee the city were turned back by the U.S. military.
By late January 2005, news reports indicated U.S. combat units were leaving the area, and were assisting the local population in returning to the now heavily-damaged city.
The U.S. Army's 2nd Battalion, 2nd Infantry Regiment was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation for actions during the battle. Additionally, Operation Phantom Fury yielded two nominees for the Medal of Honor. Sergeant Rafael Peralta with 1st Battalion, 3rd Marines, one of the two, was eventually awarded the Navy Cross, the second-highest military valor award.
First Sergeant Bradley Kasal of 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines was also awarded the Navy Cross for his actions during the battle. Staff Sergeant David Bellavia of the Army's Task Force 2-2 Infantry was also nominated for the Medal of Honor, though awarded the Silver Star, for his actions during the battle.
Staff Sergeant Aubrey McDade with Bravo Co, 1st Battalion 8th Marines was also awarded the Navy Cross, the second-highest military valor award.
Corporal Dominic Esquibel with H&S Company, Scout Sniper Platoon, 1st Battalion 8th Marines was awarded the Navy Cross for his actions on November 25, 2004 in Fallujah. In a rare move, Cpl. Esquibel cited "personal reasons" and refused the award.
My Participation in This Battle or Operation
November / 2004
December / 2004
Last Updated: Mar 16, 2020
People You Remember Scout Reconnaissance Platoon Army Special Forces - Green Beret's Iraqi Special Forces