Wednesday, May 22, 2019

"Our warfighters towered in maturity and guts"

It was called "Operation Dawn - al Fajr." D-Day was November 7, 2004, 1900 hours (7 pm Baghdad time). The fighting that followed was to be among the fiercest urban warfare battles fought in American history. This story conveys a few thoughts of those who fought there.

Fallujah is about 30-35 miles west of Baghdad, in Anbar province, Iraq's largest. Baghdad fell rapidly to the US invasion force, April 14, 2003. Fallujah was one of those urban centers that would not give in. Forces hostile to the Coalition proved to be a thorn in the side for the Coalition forces and, as it turned out, a very tough enemy.

The city was a dense urban center, about 300,000 people living in a 20 km (12 mi) square area.

This photo shows one section, the northwest Jolan district. An average block was 100 x200 meters. There were about 1,000 of these city blocks. The layout was random, resident, business and industrial areas all mixed together.

The US divided the city into six north-south zones of attack. This graph shows the major attack elements, left to right:
  • The first two (3-1 "Thundering Third" and 3-5 "Consumate Professionals") were Marines from the 1st  Maine Division (MARDIV), "The Guadalcanal Division." 
  • The 2-7 "Grey Wolf" were  Soldiers from the 1st Cavalry Division, "The First Team." 
  • The 1-8 "Beirut Battalion" and 1-3 "Lava Dogs were Marines from the 2nd "Tarawa Division" and 3rd MARDIV "Fighting Third" Division respectively. 
  • The 2-2 "Ramrods" were Soldiers from the 1st Infantry Division "Big Red One." The force with Iraqi troops included was about 12,000.
The plan was to fight all the way through the city to the south. They did that, with intense air support, from November 7 - November 16, 2004, the date the military said it had secured Fallujah. As is always the case, fighting continued in certain sections.

The US lost about 81 Marines and Soldiers with about 600 wounded.

With that as brief background, let's get on to hearing the thoughts of a few who fought in Fallujah during this period.

"This is all going to come down to that young man, that 19, 20 year old corporal, lance corporal whether he's a soldier or a marine, leading his particular fire team or his squad through the city, house by house, block by block, room by room." 
Major Francis Piccoli, USMC

"There are only two kinds of people that understand Marines: Marines and the enemy. Everyone else has a second opinion."
Lt. Colonel Willy Buhl, USMC, commander 3-1 Marines

"The only thing that can drive a man to accomplish the task at hand and keep going day in and day out is espirit de corps. Today it's as strong as it was on Tarawa, Iwo Jima, Okinawa; the list goes on and on. As long as we have our espirit de corps we'll always win the tough battles." 
Sgt. Michael Farrell, C/1-3 Marines

"After 12 hours of air strikes, our U.S. Army cavalry task force was the first unit to enter the city. Our M1 tanks and Bradley Fighting Vehicles engaged every enemy strong point we came across. Moving deliberately and violently, it took until 10 a.m. the next day to get two miles into the city. Our three companies of armor killed many insurgents that first day, and weakened numerous defensive points in preparation for the Marines' attack."
From a letter from a West Point graduate, told by Michael Erwin

“Despite their youth, the marines seemed to tower over their peers outside the military in maturity and guts. Many of Bravo Company's best marines, its most proficient killers, were 19 and 20 years old; some directed their comrades in maneuvers and assaults. Bravo Company's three lieutenants, each responsible for the lives of about 50 men, were 23 and 24 years old. They are a strangely anonymous bunch. The men who fight America's wars seem invariably to come from little towns and medium-size cities far away from the nation's arteries along the coast. Line up a group of marines and ask them where they are from, and they will give you a list of places like Pearland, Tex.; Lodi, Ohio; Osawatomie, Kan.”
Dexter Filkins, New York Times embedded reporter
who traveled through Fallujah with B/1-8 Marines

“I will tell you that until the Marines get a chance and the soldiers get a chance to go through, house to house, and clear these houses, that the city is not 100 percent clear. It's a percentage of being clear, but at this time, the only way to do that, in my estimation, for this city, which is the largest cache of weapons and IEDs and explosives that I think we have in any city in Iraq, which we clear up every day -- it is not 100 percent clear, but it is 100 percent having been secured at this time.

“There would be certain pockets of resistance as the roads and the alleyways would not allow armored or mechanized vehicles. And in those city blocks it might have had alleys of three- feet wide, it was an individual fight, man to man; spider holes where guys would pop out of; after a Marine would go by it or a soldier would go by it, they'd pop out and attempt to shoot the Marine in the legs or in the back. So it became a very tenuous fight, that if you weren't streetwise -- and you got streetwise about an hour into this operation -- you'd find yourself as a casualty.”
 Colonel Mike Regner, USMC, operations officer I MEF

 “The fighting experienced in Fallujah was some of the most violent I have observed over my career in the US Marine Corps. We were up against determined adversaries who were well armed, and had prepared defensive fighting positions in complex urban terrain. The 1st Marine Regiment (RCT-1) advanced into the western half of Fallujah with the Thundering Third, 3d Bn., 5th Marines, and the 2d Bn, 7th Cavalry, armed with M1A2 tanks and Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicles. Fully supported with all the combined arms resonant in the Marine Air Ground Task Force to include USAF AC-130 Gunships, your Marines, Sailors and Soldiers aggressively attacked the enemy and maintained relentless pressure on him until he was reduced to operating in small isolated groups, hiding in homes.

“As I mentioned above, the fighting was extremely fierce. During our advance we uncovered enemy from many different neighboring Arab countries, large quantities of weapons and ordnance of every type, sensitive items such as passports of murdered hostages, torture rooms, propaganda studios, military skills training centers, etc. As we had long suspected, Fallujah proved to be a massive sanctuary and cache site for the enemies of peace. Indeed, the extent of the ordnance located in this city is such that the city continues to experience daily explosions, as our Explosive Ordnance Disposal teams destroy newly discovered explosives and munitions.” 
Lt. Colonel Willy Buhl, USMC, commander 3-1 Marines

“Everywhere I looked I saw barrel flashes from AK-47s. It all seemed unreal. I was scared, but I had a job to do.”
LCpl. Kaleb Welch, 3rd Platoon automatic weapon gunner

"We came to a clearing between my squad and the Al Tawfiq mosque then started taking small arms fire from the roof. I radioed in that we were taking fire and requested permission to engage. After I was asked to confirm, a rocket propelled grenade flew over my head and I said 'yes I'm sure.' We opened up with machinegun and small arms fire. The insurgents started coming off the rooftop and firing from the courtyard so I took one of our AT-4s and fired a shot in the middle. After that we didn't receive any fire from the mosque."
Cpl. Dave Willis, 3rd Squad leader

"The first left we made I saw four insurgents fire at us with their AK-47s before running into one of the buildings on the street. The next road we had to cross had a large opening that spanned a few hundred feet. I was the first one to run across and I could hear and feel rounds whizzing by. All I was thinking about was to take cover once I got across. That was the biggest adrenaline rush I ever had in my life."
LCpl. Michael Starr, a breachman with 3rd platoon

"The troops on the ground give us exact coordinates and requested support, and we will fire at those coordinates and hopefully destroy the enemy they are engaging. We destroyed an enemy command and control headquarters; we’ve killed enemy snipers, bunkers, mortar teams, enemy squads: just about anything we're called upon. There was a Marine platoon that was ambushed by about 70 insurgents. The enemy was dug in at a trench line, and the Marines were engaged pretty heavily. They called in support and we disengaged the enemy … later on Marines came up to our firing line and thanked my guys for saving the lives of the platoon.”
Captain Michael Burgoyne, A, 3-82 Field Artillery (FA)

Pfc. Christopher Adlesperger, USMC, 20, Albuquerque, N.M.
Killed at least 11 enemy insurgents in Fallujah with his M-16 and grenade launcher at close range
He protected two wounded squad members from attack and saved innumerable Marines.
He had been hit in the face by shrapnel, had bullet holes in the sleeve and collar of his uniform.
He refused to be evacuated until his best friend's body was recovered.
He was killed one month later in other action in Fallujah.
He received the Navy Cross posthumous for his valor.
It would come down to men like Adlesperger, and he exceeded the call of duty.
"Despite their youth, the marines seemed to tower over their peers
 outside the military in maturity and guts."

The Navy Cross

Editor's note: To all university teachers and sports coaches --- your students and team members are not "kids." They are adults.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

COP Keating Afghan: Enemy hammer falls, 2009

When you go through this story, you will wonder how our forces coped with the enemy, and how they managed to get out alive, and you will applaud their valor. You'll also learn something of what our forces endured in the days of heavy fighting in Afghanistan, some of which they endure to this day. You may finish by wondering what our forces were doing at Combat Outpost Keating in Afghanistan.

The 3rd Brigade Combat Team (BNCT) of the 10th Mountain Division deployed to the mountainous and high threat region of the Afghanistan border with Pakistan in February 2006, along with US Marines and Afghan National Army (ANA forces). This was the 10th Mountain's first deployment to this area. 

Special Forces had operated in these desolate areas, but US conventional forces had not. This was a bold move into what was a thoroughfare for insurgent supply and drug runs and force movements in and out of Pakistan. This graphic shows the major infiltration routes into northeastern Afghanistan.

Colonel “Mick” Nicholson commanded the 10th Mountain Division’s 3rd BCT “Spartans” at the time. He positioned two US battalions in adjacent northeast provinces of Afghanistan. They were the 1-32 Infantry (750 men) and 1-35 Cavalry (500 men). These units were dispersed in company and platoon size detachments along the rivers and in a few remote mountain valleys.

The 10th Mountain launched Operation “Mountain Lion” focused on the Korengal Valley in Kunar Province, known as "The Valley of Death." 

The operation was part of an effort to set up American forward operating bases in the northeast, a region that had not seen many US or ANA forces. The extremely rough terrain made travel up here very difficult. On a map, this is a fairly compact neighborhood, and a nasty neighborhood as well.

 “Operation Mountain Lion” enabled the US to set up a base in Kamdesh, Nuristan in August 2006. It was called Combat Outpost (COP) Kamdesh after the nearby town. The northeast Nurestan Province a very tough neighborhood.
The Kamdesh base name was changed to COP Keating in honor of Captain Benjamin Keating (left), USA, A/3-71st Cav, Task Force Spartan, killed at Forward Operating Base (FOB Naray) on November 26, 2006. There was an Observation Post (OP) on a hill above Keating. It was named OP Fritsche. It was named after SSgt. William Fritsche (right), USA, 1-91st Cav, 173rd Airborne Brigade. He was killed on July 29, 2007. 

On July 20, 2006, CH-47 Chinooks airlifted the entire C/3-71 Cav and one platoon from A/3-71 Cav into a cornfield near Kamdesh and constructed COP Keating. Once done, A/3-71 remained behind to man the COP. COP Keating and OP Fritsche were set up at about the same time. 

COP Keating was surrounded on three sides by mountains and inhabited by American forces not enthusiastically welcomed by the locals. Many have described the COP as sitting in a “fishbowl.” High ground overlooked the road to the base, making traffic vulnerable to ambush virtually at any time. Most supplies were brought in by helicopter which in turn were vulnerable to hostile fire from the high ground.

Fritsche was a platoon-sized OP about 2.2 kms or 1.3 miles straight-line distance from COP Keating. However, they were not in line-of-sight of each other. The OP was at a much higher elevation but was still vulnerable to higher elevations nearby.
The OP observed insurgent activity on the ground below, provided indirect fire support to COP Keating using its own 120 mm mortars, and provided logistics support to the COP.
The original intent was to use Keating as a place where military and civilian provincial reconstruction teams (PRT) could help the locals. The idea was to emphasize the counter-insurgency (COIN) mission up here as a way to combat insurgency. There was always a tug between mission: COIN or counter-terrorism. COIN was hoped to
win hearts and minds of the population, while counter-terrorism was designed to hunt down and destroy terrorists-insurgents.

But the COIN idea was not working not work. The area was too hostile. COP Keating was placed near where several river valley systems from Pakistan converged. Two rivers, the Landay-Sin and Darreh Ye Kushtoz, converged right where COP Keating was placed. You can empathize with the "fishbowl" feeling among the troops.

Seth Jones reviewed the book, The Outpost: An Untold Story of American Valor, written by Jake Tapper. Jones said:

“Soldiers from 3-71 Cavalry, 10th Mountain Division (Lt. Colonel Michael Howard, USA in command) constructed (COP Keating) in the summer of 2006. COP Keating has the feel of a U.S. Army fort in the American West in the 1800s — spartan, isolated and utterly exposed … From the beginning, some U.S. soldiers questioned the wisdom of building an outpost at the base of a mountain peak where insurgents could shoot down into it.”

An estimated 30 insurgents attacked COP Keating from three directions on August 9, 2006. The battle lasted two hours and was described as ferocious. Neighboring units could not quickly reinforce the camp. Apache attack helicopters were located at Jalalabad, about 90 miles to the southwest, more than a 30 minute flight. Chinooks were scarce and in high demand throughout this mountainous region. Air support was always hounded by bad weather. That said, it took air support to repel the attack, dropping 500 lb. bombs on the insurgents.

At that time, there were hundreds of soldiers there who returned fire with mortars and small arms. C.J. Chivers, reporting “Strategic Plans Spawned Bitter End for a Lonely Outpost” for the New York Times, commented:

“The outpost’s troops were charged with finding allies among local residents and connecting them to the central government in Kabul, stopping illegal cross-border movement and deterring the insurgency … There were so few troops that the outpost, like others of its kind, could barely defend its bunkers and patrol at the same time, much less disrupt a growing insurgency.

“But the outpost’s fate, chronicled in unusually detailed glimpses of a base over nearly three years, illustrates many of the frustrations of the allied effort: low troop levels, unreliable Afghan partners and an insurgency that has grown in skill, determination and its ability to menace … The area, near the border with Pakistan, was suspected of being an insurgent corridor.”

The insurgent approach to COP Keating for several years was to attack weekly. The attacks might last just a few minutes or go for an hour or so.

Convoys from nearby stations were frequently ambushed and the roads fell victim to heavy rains. Several instances of this occurred in 2007. On February 17, 2007, three convoy trucks were ambushed. The insurgents let the contract drivers live, though one was injured by shrapnel. The insurgents cut off the ears of the other driver. On April 29, 2007, insurgents posted letters in the mosques chastising anyone who was helping the American infidels, and listing those Afghans who worked at the COP as security guards.

The reality was COP Keating was indefensible and extremely difficult to resupply. Fighting between US forces and the Taliban became intense against Keating and other bases starting in 2008.
In the summer of 2009, General Stanley McChrystal, USA, the NATO commander in Afghanistan, felt it futile to spread small numbers of forces to so many remote outposts and ordered they be closed in favor of concentrating troops in more populated locations. A Ministry of the Interior map of August 2009 showed much of Keating's region under complete enemy control.

COP Keating and OP Fritsche were scheduled to be closed. However there were delays. The San Diego Union-Tribune noted an AP report by Richard Lardner that said:

“Keating’s closure was delayed after equipment and supplies needed to move the troops and their equipment were diverted to support operations in another area.”

The Military Times was a bit more specific, saying:

“The withdrawal was delayed when the assets required to move base supplies were diverted to support ‘intense brigade-level operations’ in Barge-e-Matal, also (in eastern) Nuristan Province.”

B/3-61st Cavalry relieved the 1-91st Cav troops in May 2009. Some Latvian troops were also there to work with the ANA and US force. These units experienced over 45 engagements with the enemy since assuming responsibility between then and October.

On October 3, 2009, the hammer fell on COP Keating and OP Fritsche.

The Taliban employed about 300 - 400 fighters and assaulted both locations from five points in the mountains. The men at Keating and Fritsche had only about 15 minutes warning. Only 53 soldiers from B/3-61st Cavalry and 20 Afghan National Army (ANA) troops occupied Keating. There were 19 B/3-61 troops and 10 ANA soldiers at Fritsche.

The Taliban timed their attacks to coincide roughly with the planned closure of both outposts. They  attacked COP Keating and OP Fritsche at about the same time. Fritsche was not able to provide Keating with fire support. Its men had to defend themselves from this separate attack. However, they managed to defeat the enemy attack and then provided indirect fire support to Keating following that.

The US soldiers fought fiercely and received close air support from USAF F-15E Strike Eagle, F-16 Viper, A-10 Warthog close air support (CAS) fighters, a B-1 Lancer bomber, an AC-130 gunship, and Army AH-64 Apache attack helicopters. Furthermore, Predator, Reaper, and Global Hawk surveillance aircraft helped out. 

Two Apache helicopters were hit, one had to return to base while the other was able to continue in the fight. Then a third Apache was hit and had to return to base as well.

After a weather delay, helicopters brought in a quick reaction force (QRF) and inserted it at Fritsche. It then proceeded downhill to Keating. After a tough trek downhill the QRF spotted the enemy firing from the slope, and called in A-10 Warthogs. Together they destroyed the enemy there.
The QRF reached Keating about 13 hours after the attacks began. Medevac helicopters were finally able to get in to extract the wounded. The last medevac aircraft left Keating about 16 hours after the attack started.

Nine US soldiers were killed in action including one who died from his wounds after the battle. Twenty three more were wounded though 20 were able to return to duty. One ANA soldier was killed with nine wounded. Keating was virtually destroyed.

SFC Jonathan Hill, a platoon first sergeant, asked rhetorically:

“Why did we make it through that day? It couldn’t have gone any worse. The only thing worse than what we went through is if somebody would have dropped a nuclear warhead and we were ground zero. What we went through and how we escaped death is beyond me.”

SFC Hill would receive the Silver Star for his valor in this attack.

Two soldiers in the battle received the Medal of Honor for their valor in this battle: Staff Sgt. Clinton Romesha (left), USA, and Staff Sgt. Ty Carter (right). The U.S. Army Joint Training Counter IED Operations Integration Center, (JTCOIC) produced a video re-creation of the attack against Keating and Fritsche, entitled, “Complex Attack on COP Keating." I thought this re-creation was extremely well done and commend it to you. I used it to assemble the summary of this attack just provided.

The US abandoned COB Keating two days after the battle. However, they were not able to take all their ammunition with them, so USAF aircraft bombed the site, three days after the battle.

Lt. General Guy Swan, USA lauded the soldiers of B/3-61st Cav for their actions. He wrote:

"[The soldiers] repelled an enemy force of 300 Anti-Afghan fighters, preserving their combat outpost and killing approximately 150 of the enemy fighters … The soldiers distinguished themselves with conspicuous gallantry, courage and bravery under the heavy enemy fire that surrounded them.”

However, several officers received non-judicial punishment for their failures to assure COP Keating was better secured. The reasons included:
  • The insurgents conducted several probing attacks prior to the main attack
  • The insurgents were able to pinpoint their targets
  • Intelligence had indicated an attack was coming but would not consist of very many insurgents even though the insurgents had shown a capability to mount large attacks
  • Artillery from other bases was slow to respond
  • Air support responded too slowly
  • A multitude of previous small attacks lulled the base
  • Improvements were not made to the base because the word was out it would be soon closing
That said, General Swan complained:

“[Intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance] assets that could have given the soldiers of COP Keating better situational awareness of their operational environment were reprioritized to support (COP) Barge-e-Matal as well as the search for a missing U.S. soldier in the south.”

COB Keating was closed and destroyed in October 2009.

Thursday, May 9, 2019

“Thunder Runs” and the drive into downtown Baghdad

“Conventional military wisdom has long held that tanks and urban combat or a bad mix”
Not so here


The planning for the US invasion of Iraq was stormy and filled with politics. I’ll go into some of it in a later edition.

Cutting through all that, the idea was to use heavy armor and Bradley fighting vehicles, rush into Baghdad, stay away from as much contact with Iraqi forces as possible, capture the capital, and move in infantry reinforcements to hold. In essence, this invasion was to be an armored “blitzkrieg” targeted at Baghdad and the oilfields for the purpose of deposing Saddam.

Unlike traditional operations, armor would go into the cities. 

The invasion was very complicated. It required interoperability, networking, wide information sharing, and integration among all the services as a means to obtain maximum force integration.

Estimates varied about how long it would take to get into Baghdad from the line of departure in Kuwait. Projections were from three weeks to less than 100 days or more.

The concerns were centered on logistics: getting sustainment supplies to keep up with the rapidly moving combat forces, and fuel, where it would be placed and when. It is fascinating to study how all this was done.

It is hard to say exactly when the invasion began. The USAF had been attacking Iraqi targets since the first war in 1991. These attacks were focused on containment. CIA Special Activities Division (SAD) Paramilitary forces entered Iraq in July 2002 to prepare for the later arrival of US military forces. 

The invasion known as "Operation Iraqi Freedom" was to start on March 21, 2003. However the CIA said on March 19 it knew where Saddam was located. As a result, President G.W. Bush ordered the invasion to begin on March 19.

Such a date change might not seem like a big thing. But is was a big thing for General Tommy Franks, USA, the force commander. His command and control system had to notify all the forces. This was crucial to maintain the synchronization of force movements. The forces were spread out and were preparing themselves for war to begin on March 21. Now they had to hurry up and get into position for a March 19 invasion.

All of that aside, the military invasion of Iraq began at
5:34 a.m. Baghdad time on March 20, 2003 which was 9:34 pm, March 19 EST.

The ground forces moved off the line of departure in Kuwait --- they had a long way to go, over 300 miles. There was cause to believe Saddam was mainly interested in defending Baghdad, putting his less accomplished forces south of the city.

The actions of the grounds forces throughout the march from Kuwait to Baghdad were absolutely remarkable. Commander’s at all levels had to make many tough decisions, and take many risks. As has so often happened, the troops on the ground with support from the air and a logistics effort that ran behind them as fast as it could got the job done. Valor was the word of the day, every day.

These forces surrounded Baghdad in barely two weeks time.

Once Baghdad was surrounded, the plan called for “Thunder Runs” into the city. A column of armored vehicles were to speed into the city on reconnaissance to assess how well defended the city was. They were then to go to Baghdad International Airport, stay a few hours to rest and get reorganized, and then thunder back to their starting point outside the city. The 3rd Infantry Division (ID) was tasked with two Thunder Runs.

The 2 Bde Spartans of the 3 ID, Colonel David Perkins (left) in command, got the nod. Perkins decided to use his 1st Battalion 64th Armor (1/64 Armor) “Desert Rogues,” Lt. Colonel Eric “Rick” Schwartz (right) in command. Perkins went along.

On April 5, 2003,  Alpha Company, 1/64 Armor  (A/1-64 Armor) “Wild Bunch” launched off from Objective Saints, its location outside the city, followed by C/1-64 “Cyclones.” The mission was to get to Objective Lions, the Baghdad International Airport held by the 1 Bde 3 ID “Raiders.”

The idea was to demonstrate a show of force and freedom of action. A total of 24 Abrams tanks and 12 Bradleys were used. The one-way trip was about 12 miles. The force would have to pass through three major intersections. They were called Objectives Curley, Larry and Moe named after the "Three Stooges," an American vaudeville and comedy team active from 1922 until 1970. Objective Larry was expected to be the toughest.

There was some fighting, but on balance there was very little opposition.  The force made it to the airport suffering one KIA, several WIA, and at least one tank disabled. The force returned to Objective Saints. The job was completed in less than a day.

The next Thunder Run was scheduled for April 7, 2003, just two days after the first.
Having observed the situation and ease with which his force conducted the first run, Col. Perkins developed a yearning to go straight into downtown Baghdad instead of to Objective Lions, the airport. He did not like the idea of taking territory and then leaving it.

Lt. General William Wallace, the V Corps commander at the time, had a different perspective.

His plan was to rush to the airport with an armored force, remain at the airport for a few hours to prepare for the return, and then return. He intended to run raids in and out of the city from his five forward operating bases (FOBs) around the city. Wallace was firm with this plan.

The second run would have a larger force, two battalions of the 64th Armor Regiment: the 1/64 commanded again by Lt. Colonel Schwartz, and the 4-64, commanded by Lt. Colonel Phillip DeCamp. The 3-15 Infantry, Lt. Colonel Stephen Twitty in command, would follow and secure the supply route. Lt. Colonel Kenneth Gnatt commanded the 1/41 Field Artillery (FA). His FA forces would synchronize with the armor force movements and hit main highway overpasses just before the armor approached. The artillery would be high explosive air bursts designed to kill troops but leave the bridges and highways in tact.

Armored vehicles were to hold each of the three major intersections, wait for 3-15 infantry forces, and then move toward the airport.

Perkins’ force reached the second major intersection, Objective Larry, with little to no resistance.

Then Col. Perkins acted on his own. For the first run on April 5, the force turned to the west to the airport (red arrow). For the second run on April 7, Perkins was to do the same. Instead, Perkins told his armor forces to hang a right turn to the east and go into the city (blue arrow).

Perkins' force did that and took the presidential palace with barely a scratch. The arrival of this American force in Baghdad not only surprised General Wallace a bit, but it greatly surprised the Iraqis. They were not prepared. Their command and control system was unable to respond quickly enough to make a difference.

This put General Wallace in a pickle. Should the force stay or get out?

In an interview with PBS, Wallace said this about the second Thunder Run:

“(Major General Blount - shown here) came back to me and said, ‘Col. Perkins would like to conduct another Thunder Run, and he would like to go into downtown Baghdad…I suggested (to Blount) that he (take) a less aggressive tactic, that we go into the city again, but only as far as the second intersection (Objective Larry), which is the main intersection that, if you turn to the west you go to the Baghdad International Airport; if you turn to the east, you head down to the new presidential palace, downtown.

“My concern was that any formation that got into Baghdad, we were going to (have to) be able to supply them with ammunition, we were going to have to be able to supply them with fuel, and we were going to have to be able to get any casualties out because I knew we were not going to be able to do it by air.”

The generals and Col. Perkins discussed the issues for most of the day. Blount and Perkins said they should stay. Both said they could take care of the problems cited by General Wallace. General Wallace then agreed.

As a result, by April 7 US forces were in downtown Baghdad to stay. The regime had collapsed, everyone went home or into hiding. Within hours of seizing the palace and with television coverage of this spreading through Iraq, US forces ordered Iraqi forces within Baghdad to surrender, or the city would face a full-scale assault.

John Pike of called these runs a “coup d’etat.” The regime was in effect decapitated. There was no need for house to house fighting. The Iraqi government simply vanished. To everyone’s surprise there was no one to run the city. Buford would have to come up with a remedy. 

Wallace did have to confront the question of whether Perkins disobeyed orders. In this same interview, Wallace said:

“Now I don’t think he was disobeying orders; I think he was taking advantage of a situation that was presented to him on the battlefield, which is what we teach our young leaders to do.”

Lieutenant General Wallace was promoted to four stars and took command of the Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC), retiring in 2008.

Colonel Perkins rose to the rank of four stars and also commanded TRADOC, after which he retired in 2018.