I haven't posted any Marine history lessons in a long time. As it's the 245 birthday of the world's finest fighting force, it's a good day to give another lesson.
This time it's part history lesson and part book review. As most of you know, I'm an avid reader and reading about Marines and Marine history are my favorite topics.
Book: "THE WARRIORS OF ANBAR: THE MARINES WHO CRUSHED AL QAEDA" (the greatest untold story of the Iraq War).
This book is about the warriors of 2/3 (2nd Batt, 3rd Marines, 3rd MARDIV), who deployed to Anbar Province and specifically to the Haditha Triad, aka The Triad. The AO including not only the city of Haditha, but also surrounding towns and villages, notably, Barwana, Haqlaniyah and Albu Hyatt. This area is located at the critical point along the Euphrates River corridor between the Syrian border and Iraq cities of Fallujah and Ramadi.
Ranked as one of the most vital locations for Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) because it was AQI’s base of operations and lifeline in the war in Iraq.
2nd Battalion, 3rd Marines, 2/3, conducted a relief in place of its sister battalion, 3/3 in late summer, 2006. At that time, AQI, eviscerated from blow after blow in key strongholds like Fallujah and Ramadi, fell back to the Triad, like a cornered, mortally wounded animal. AQI transformed the Triad into a theater for its last desperate gasps for survival when 2/3 arrived to take over the AO from 3/3.
AQI blended in among the residential areas and people, knowing the Marines would not hit back with overwhelming force, because they knew the Marines highest priority was the safety of the people.
2/3 was a blooded combat veteran heavy unit having been deployed to Afghanistan the previous year. However, the Triad would become their toughest and most brutal fight in modern warfare.
“ . . . their actions proved their resolve to the people of the Triad, winning their steadfast allegiance over any obedience coerced by AQI. When moments demanded caution in the face of potential harm or loss of innocent Iraqi life, they kept their trigger fingers straight. When moments demanded action, they struck swiftly and decisively. . . . they acted with utmost fidelity to mission, to the Iraqi people, and to each other, even in the darkest of hours – and each and every member of the battalion experienced some of the bleakest most horrifying of moments during this tour.”
At times it was heartbreaking to read this book. Those men of 2/3 took heavy losses, primarily due to IED’s, snipers, mortars, and hit and run tactics. They never faltered; they never slowed down; they showed incredible courage and resolve, even when the enemy activity grew, inflicting death and injury on these Marines and locals.
When 2/3 first arrived in this AO they found an odd, dark quasi-ghost town. Stores and schools were closed. Streets were often empty, and nothing really going on.
In 2005, 3/25 lost 48 personnel in the Triad, the largest number of lost by a Marine Battalion in the war in Iraq, in all the Global War on Terror, and since the 1983 Beirut bombing.
2/3 pushed on and gradually won over the civilian population in an incredible example of a COIN operation. The people saw how the Marines would do anything, even at the risk of death, to protect and care for them. When intel started trickling in, the Marines began hunting down the Al Qaeda terrorists and their leadership.
“When we got there, it was hell. There was no law and order. Al Qaeda ruled the place. The people lived in fear. When we left, the place was safer than most cities in the United States. The locals would run out and hug us on the streets. They’d bring food and invite us inside. They started calling us the Angels of Anbar.”
“One of the things I’m most proud of in my entire life was the transformation of Haditha. When we got there, there was no market. Nobody was out. Women couldn’t be seen in public without being accompanied by a man, and they had to wear all black and cover their face. At the end we couldn’t go twenty five feet down a street without someone pulling us into their store or house and feeding us. Women were free to be out alone, or in groups of other women, and they could dress however they liked. There was color and life. We brought life to a city of death.”
“The final days leading up to the official, April 3, 2007 turnover of the AO to 1/3, was met with colors and crying locals.”
“With the new faces of the 1/3 Marines, the locals realized that those of 2/3 would soon depart. Residents, notably the IP (Iraq Police) and mayor and his staff, swarmed members of 2/3, from the lowest ranks to SgtMaj Wilkinson and LtCol Donnellan, crying. They begged them to stay, not out of fear of loss of protection, but out of the spirit of friendship they’d built over the months of the Marines fighting and dying for their future. The population understood the immense sacrifices 2/3 had made on their behalf.”
“Twenty three members of the battalion died, and 177 sustained serious wounds.”
“History will record, 1/3 as the only Marine battalion to record not a single KIA in the Iraq War.”
I recommend this book.