Bravo! The Project - A Documentary Film

Posts Tagged ‘Iraq War’

Guest Blogs,Marines

May 26, 2013

Cobb Hammond on the Second Battle of Fallujah

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On this Memorial Day, millions of Americans will honor the American service members who gave the final sacrifice in battle. Historically, we have remembered those who died in the great wars of the last century — World War I and World War II — or in the Korean and Vietnam conflicts. But we should also recognize that the others who died in our more recent wars, in Iraq and Afghanistan, perished in no less suffering and gave no less a sacrifice.

One of the pivotal, and arguably most bloody episodes of the Iraq War was the second battle for Fallujah in November 2004. Early that month U.S. Marines commenced Operation Phantom Fury, an effort to clear the city of insurgents who had taken strategic control of the city the previous February. Fallujah’s 300,000 inhabitants had mostly vacated the city, leaving as occupiers 3,000-plus well-prepared insurgents, identified primarily as Iraqi Shiites, Syrian and Libyan rebels and mujahedeen-jihadists.

Cobb Hammond

Most of the residential structures in Fallujah had enclosed courtyards in the back, with double-thick walls and rooftop balconies, making the task of clearing and control difficult and extremely hazardous for U.S. riflemen. In addition, many of the alleyways, side streets and boulevards were planted with mines, booby traps and other improvised explosive devices, and the insurgents had constructed a labyrinth of defensive tunnels that extended for blocks and gave them a tactical advantage.

Not of help to the U.S. forces was the willingness of many of the enemy to fight to the death.

The assault commenced officially on Nov. 7, 2004, as Marines attacked across the entire northern axis, working south by southeast.

The operation was led by Regimental Combat Team “1,” which consisted of two Marine infantry battalions, supported by a mechanized Army battalion. They were designated to assault the western half of Fallujah. The other forces were designated Regimental Combat Team “7,” made up of two Marine battalions and an Army infantry battalion, along with other army and even Iraqi Army units. These forces would attack due south, and then southeast. British units also were active outside the city, keeping infiltration into the city to a minimum.

Many of the tactics employed came by way of difficult experience 36 years earlier during another Marine-led assault at Hue City in Vietnam.

As coalition forces advanced, building by building, enemy forces would allow entry into many houses, only to detonate explosives as gunfire rained down from stairwells and up from “spider traps” cut into floorboards. In other cases, front and back doorways would be barricaded with first a steel, then a wooden door (heavily booby trapped); the forces who penetrated the building would be welcomed by a fusillade of fire.

One of the most intense fights during the 10-day battle occurred at the Muhammadi Mosque in central Fallujah, where Marines found an almost impregnable fortress manned by approximately 200 insurgents. Company B, 1st Battalion, 8th Marines, fighting house to house, battled for 16 hours to capture the mosque, during which time they were attacked by every conceivable weapon, including suicide bombers. After much grit and spilled blood they gained control of the mosque, where they found tons of stored weaponry and munitions, and stores of narcotics for use by the insurgents.

The farther south coalition forces went, the more resistance stiffened. Many of the enemy they encountered wore the uniform of the mercenary jihadists who had infiltrated Fallujah the prior year — after the formal war against the Iraqi government was declared over.

For several more days the U.S. coalition rooted out the insurgents, ending on Nov. 18, except for the minor mop-up operations that continued well into December.

The final tally on coalition force casualties was 95 killed and 600-plus wounded; 51 of the dead and more than 450 of the wounded were U.S. Marines. Many Marines were wounded more than once, returning to duty with their secondary wounds not counted in the official tally. The number of dead among the enemy was placed at 1,200 with an equal number captured, most of whom were wounded. Hundreds of others undoubtedly escaped and avoided capture.

The bravery of the U.S. forces cannot be questioned, as two of the Marines were awarded Navy Crosses for valor and many others received Silver or Bronze stars for heroism in action. One of the U.S. Army battalions was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation, for professionalism and performance in continuous combat — an honor, it should be noted, that is not given out easily.

On this weekend of solemn remembrance, let us take note of these men who gave their all, and sacrificed much.

Cobb H. Hammond writes on military history and is an investment broker with Carty & Company Investments. A different version of this blog post appeared in The Commercial Appeal newspaper in Memphis, TN on May 26, 2013.

Documentary Film,Film Screenings,Khe Sanh,Marines,Vietnam War

March 25, 2013

On the Fresno and Clovis Screenings of BRAVO!

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Last Wednesday and Thursday BRAVO! was screened to several hundred enthusiastic and earnest viewers in Fresno and Clovis, California.

On Wednesday the film was shown at the Fresno Veterans Affairs facility and on Thursday BRAVO! screened twice at the Clovis Veterans Memorial District’s state-of-the-art theater. The screenings went well and were attended by veterans old and new, active duty military personnel and folks interested in the history of Khe Sanh and the Vietnam War.

Lt. Colonel Ken Pipes, USMC Retired and commanding officer (Skipper) of Bravo Company during the siege of Khe Sanh, came up from Southern California with his wife Sharon to help us out with the screenings. Skipper Pipes graduated from Clovis High School and attended Fresno City College and then graduated from Fresno State before being commissioned as a second lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps. Before and after each screening, the Skipper graced us with his memories of Clovis and Fresno as well as Marines he knew from the area. The Skipper also waxed eloquent about the men of Bravo Company. We were also fortunate to meet some of Ken Pipes’ wonderful family.

Khe Sanh brother Alex Dominguez came up from the Los Angeles area and presented BRAVO! co-producer Ken Rodgers with a commemorative Marine Corps Silver Dollar and a beaded Vietnam Veteran wristband. Alex is a great supporter of the film and a good friend to Marines everywhere.

One of the best things about journeying around America introducing the film to audiences is the folks we meet, and we met some great people in Fresno and Clovis including martial arts expert Captain Ed Planas of the Joint Service Honors Command, and Mr. Miguel Saldana, a Marine veteran of the Iraq War and president of the Student Veterans Organization at Fresno State University and his compadre, Army Iraq War veteran Rolando Corral. Also attending were a contingent of about thirty active-duty Marines from Lemoore NAS who gave BRAVO! a standing ovation.

A big thanks to the Joint Service Honors Command, the Clovis Veterans Memorial District and their event specialist, Mr. Joel Diaz. Thanks too, to Fresno area Detachment #14 of the Marine Corps League, Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3225, American Legion Post 509, American Sheet Metal, the Fresno VA, Peak Broadcasting for the public service announcements, Kaweah Covenant Group and Mr. Leroy Combs of Ideas Unlimited Printing for the beautiful posters.

Khe Sanh brother Dave Harper was responsible for setting up these screenings and a big Marine OOORAH is in order for his yeoman’s efforts in bringing the screenings about, and for his generous hospitality. Dave’s vision and tenacious attention to detail led to these very successful screenings.

Next up, April 19 at 6:30 PM in the Kenworthy Performing Arts Center in Moscow, Idaho. Sponsored by the University of Idaho’s Operation Education. Thanks to Kim Barnes, Laura Pizzo, Ed McBride, Dan Button and Julie Titone for their support on this event.

In the mix for upcoming screenings, a May 18 screening in Sonora, California. May 18 is Armed Forces Day. Thanks to Khe Sanh brother and organizational dynamo Mike Preston for his efforts to bring this screening about.