Mail from Iraq

This is a discussion on Mail from Iraq within the Law Enforcement, Military & Homeland Security Discussion forums, part of the Related Topics category; Lt. Col. Dave Bellon, USMC, has been sending e-mails to his parents from Iraq - the latest: Nov, 19, 2004 Dear Dad - Just came ...

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    Mail from Iraq

    Lt. Col. Dave Bellon, USMC, has been sending e-mails to his parents from
    Iraq - the latest:

    Nov, 19, 2004

    Dear Dad -

    Just came out of the city and I honestly do not know where to start. I am
    afraid that whatever I send you will not do sufficient honor to the men who
    fought and took Fallujah.

    Shortly before the attack, Task Force Fallujah was built. It consisted of
    Regimental Combat Team 1 built around 1st Marine Regiment and Regimental
    Combat Team 7 built around 7th Marine Regiment. Each Regiment consisted of
    two Marine Rifle Battalions reinforced and one Army mechanized infantry

    Regimental Combat Team 1 (RCT-1) consisted of 3rd Light Armored
    Reconnaissance Battalion (3rd LAR), 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines (3/5); 3rd
    Battalion, 1st Marines (3/1)and 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry (2/7). RCT-7 was
    slightly less weighted but still a formidable force. Cutting a swath around
    the city was an Army Brigade known as Blackjack. The Marine RCT\'s were to
    assault the city while Blackjack kept the enemy off of the backs of the
    assault force.

    The night prior to the actual invasion, we all moved out into the desert
    just north of the city. It was something to see. You could just feel the
    intensity in the Marines and Soldiers. It was all business. As the day
    cleared, the Task Force began striking targets and moving into final attack
    positions. As the invasion force commenced its movement into attack
    positions, 3rd LAR led off RCT-1\'s offensive with an attack up a peninsula
    formed by the Euphrates River on the west side of the city. Their mission
    was to secure the Fallujah Hospital and the two bridges leading out of the
    city. They executed there tasks like clockwork and smashed the enemy
    resistance holding the bridges. Simultaneous to all of this, Blackjack
    sealed the escape routes to the south of the city. As invasion day dawned,
    the net was around the city and the Marines and Soldiers knew that the enemy
    that failed to escape was now sealed.

    3/5 began the actual attack on the city by taking an apartment complex on
    the northwest corner of the city. It was key terrain as the elevated
    positions allowed the command to look down into the attack lanes. The
    Marines took the apartments quickly and moved to the rooftops and began
    engaging enemy that were trying to move into their fighting positions. The
    scene on the rooftop was surreal. Machine gun teams were running boxes of
    ammo up 8 flights of stairs in full body armor and carrying up machine guns
    while snipers engaged enemy shooters. The whole time the enemy was firing
    mortars and rockets at the apartments. Honest to God, I don\'t think I saw a
    single Marine even distracted by the enemy fire. Their squad leaders, and
    platoon commanders had them prepared and they were executing their assigned

    As mentioned, 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry joined the Regiment just prior to
    the fight. In fact, they started showing up for planning a couple of weeks
    in advance. There is always a professional rivalry between the Army and the
    Marine Corps but it was obvious from the outset that these guys were the
    real deal. They had fought in Najaf and were eager to fight with the
    Regiment in Fallujah. They are exceptionally well led and supremely

    2/7 became our wedge. In short, they worked with 3rd Battalion, 1st
    Marines. We were limited in the amount of prep fires that we were allowed
    to fire on the city prior to the invasion. This was a point of some
    consternation to the forces actually taking the city. Our compensation was
    to turn to 2/7 and ask them to slash into the city and create as much
    turbulence as possible for 3/1 to follow. Because of the political reality,
    the Marine Corps was also under pressure to \"get it done quickly.\" For this
    reason, 2/7 and 3/1 became the penetration force into the city.

    Immediately following 3/5\'s attack on the apartment buildings, 3/1 took the
    train station on the north end of the city. While the engineers blew a
    breach through the train trestle, the Cavalry soldiers poured through with
    their tanks and Bradley\'s and chewed an opening in the enemy defense. 3/1
    followed them through until they reached a phase line deep into the northern
    half of the city. The Marine infantry along with a few tanks then turned to
    the right and attacked the heart of the enemy defense. The fighting was
    tough as the enemy had the area dialed in with mortars. 3/5 then attacked
    into the northwest corner of the city. This fight continued as both Marine
    rifle battalions clawed their way into the city on different axis.

    There is an image burned into my brain that I hope I never forget. We came
    up behind 3/5 one day as the lead squads were working down the Byzantine
    streets of the Jolan area. An assault team of two Marines ran out from
    behind cover and put a rocket into a wall of an enemy strongpoint. Before
    the smoke cleared the squad behind them was up and moving through the hole
    and clearing the house. Just down the block another squad was doing the
    same thing. The house was cleared quickly and the Marines were running down
    the street to the next contact. Even in the midst of that mayhem, it was an
    awesome site.

    The fighting has been incredibly close inside the city. The enemy is
    willing to die and is literally waiting until they see the whites of the
    eyes of the Marines before they open up. Just two days ago, as a firefight
    raged in close quarters, one of the interpreters yelled for the enemy in the
    house to surrender. The enemy yelled back that it was better to die and go
    to heaven than to surrender to infidels. This exchange is a graphic window
    into the world that the Marines and Soldiers have been fighting in these
    last 10 days.

    I could go on and on about how the city was taken but one of the most
    amazing aspects to the fighting was that we saw virtually no civilians
    during the battle. Only after the fighting had passed did a few come out of
    their homes. They were provided food and water and most were evacuated out
    of the city. At least 90-95% of the people were gone from the city when we

    I will end with a couple of stories of individual heroism that you may not
    have heard yet. I was told about both of these incidents shortly after they
    occurred. No doubt some of the facts will change slightly but I am
    confident that the meat is correct.

    The first is a Marine from 3/5. His name is Corporal Yeager (Chuck Yeager\'s
    grandson). As the Marines cleared and apartment building, they got to the
    top floor and the point man kicked in the door. As he did so, an enemy
    grenade and a burst of gunfire came out. The explosion and enemy fire took
    off the point man\'s leg. He was then immediately shot in the arm as he lay
    in the doorway. Corporal Yeager tossed a grenade in the room and ran into
    the doorway and into the enemy fire in order to pull his buddy back to
    cover. As he was dragging the wounded Marine to cover, his own grenade came
    back through the doorway. Without pausing, he reached down and threw the
    grenade back through the door while he heaved his buddy to safety. The
    grenade went off inside the room and Cpl Yeager threw another in. He
    immediately entered the room following the second explosion. He gunned down
    three enemy all within three feet of where he stood and then let fly a third
    grenade as he backed out of the room to complete the evacuation of the
    wounded Marine. You have to understand that a grenade goes off within 5
    seconds of having the pin pulled. Marines usually let them \"cook off\" for a
    second or two before tossing them in. Therefore, this entire episode took
    place in less than 30 seconds.

    The second example comes from 3/1. Cpl Mitchell is a squad leader. He was
    wounded as his squad was clearing a house when some enemy threw pineapple
    grenades down on top of them. As he was getting triaged, the doctor told
    him that he had been shot through the arm. Cpl Mitchell told the doctor
    that he had actually been shot \"a couple of days ago\" and had given himself
    self aide on the wound. When the doctor got on him about not coming off the
    line, he firmly told the doctor that he was a squad leader and did not have
    time to get treated as his men were still fighting. There are a number of
    Marines who have been wounded multiple times but refuse to leave their
    fellow Marines.

    It is incredibly humbling to walk among such men. They fought as hard as
    any Marines in history and deserve to be remembered as such. The enemy they
    fought burrowed into houses and fired through mouse holes cut in walls,
    lured them into houses rigged with explosives and detonated the houses on
    pursuing Marines, and actually hid behind surrender flags only to engage the
    Marines with small arms fire once they perceived that the Marines had let
    their guard down. I know of several instances where near dead enemy rolled
    grenades out on Marines who were preparing to render them aid. It was a
    fight to the finish in every sense and the Marines delivered.

    I have called the enemy cowards many times in the past because they have
    never really held their ground and fought but these guys in the city did.
    We can call them many things but they were not cowards.

    My whole life I have read about the greatest generation and sat in wonder at
    their accomplishments. For the first time, as I watch these Marines and
    Soldiers, I am eager for the future as this is just the beginning for them.
    Perhaps the most amazing characteristic of all is that the morale of the men
    is sky high. They hurt for the wounded and the dead but they are eager to
    continue to attack. Further, not one of them would be comfortable with
    being called a hero even though they clearly are.

    By now the Marines and Soldiers have killed well over a thousand enemy.
    These were not peasants or rabble. They were reasonably well trained and
    entirely fanatical. Most of the enemy we have seen have chest rigs full of
    ammunition and are well armed are willing to fight to the death. The
    Marines and Soldiers are eager to close with them and the fighting at the
    end is inevitably close.

    I will write you more the next time I come in about what we have found
    inside the city. All I can say is that even with everything that I knew and
    expected from the last nine months, the brutality and fanaticism of the
    enemy surprised me. The beheadings were even more common place than we
    thought but so were torture and summary executions. Even though it is an
    exaggeration, it seems as though every block in the northern part of the
    city has a torture chamber or execution site. There are hundreds of tons of
    munitions and tens of thousands of weapons that our Regiment alone has
    recovered. The Marines and Soldiers of the Regiment have also found over
    400 IEDs already wired and ready to detonate. No doubt these numbers will
    grow in the days ahead.

    In closing, I want to share with you a vignette about when the Marines
    secured the Old Bridge (the one where the Americans were mutilated and hung
    on March 31) this week. After the Marines had done all the work and secured
    the bridge, we walked across to meet up with 3rd LAR on the other side. On
    the Fallujah side of the bridge where the Americans were hung there is some
    Arabic writing on the bridge. An interpreter translated it for me as we
    walked through. It read: \"Long Live the Mujahadeen. Fallujah is the
    Graveyard for Americans and the end of the Marine Corps.\"

    As I came back across the bridge there was a squad sitting in their Amtrac
    smoking and watching the show. The Marines had written their own message
    below the enemy\'s. It is not something that Mom would appreciate but it fit
    the moment to a T. Not far from the vehicle were two dead enemy laying
    where they died. The Marines were sick of watching the \"Dog and Pony show\"
    and wanted to get back to work.


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