David E. KellyJun 28, 2023
First Fights in Fallujah
Marines During Operation Vigilant Resolve, in Iraq, April 2004
In March 2004, the unprovoked ambush killing and desecration of the bodies of American civilian security contractors in Fallujah, Iraq, caused the National Command Authorities in Washington, DC. to demand that the newly arrived Marine Expeditionary Force there take action against the perpetrators and other insurgent forces. Planned Stability and Support Operations were cast aside as insurgent fighters dared the Marines to enter Fallujah.
Marine infantrymen, tankers, helicopter crews, and amphibious vehicle drivers all pitched into high-intensity battles and firefights during the first fights of Fallujah in April 2004. Across the board cooperation and innovation marked these fighting Marines in combined arms fights that no one expected. Marines fought in the streets, conducted house-to-house searches, cleared buildings of enemy, and used tank main guns in direct support of urban environment operations. Helicopter crews supported operations on the ground with rockets and machine-gun fire, and Amtrac Marines transported forces to face enemy RPG and machine-gun fire. Marines from infantry squad members to a battalion commander were interviewed by Marine Corps field historians within days or weeks of the events at nearby combat outposts and camps.
David E. Kelly's book First Fights in Fallujah: Marines During Operation Vigilant Resolve, in Iraq, April 2004 (Casemate, 2023) combines these interview notes and the words of the men themselves to create a unique narrative of Marines in this combat. Casualties only stiffened the will of the Marines to crush the enemy. A late April political plan called for the withdrawal of Marine forces from the city, and Marines at every level, though frustrated, understood the need to allow this attempted solution to play itself out.