Tuesday, November 23, 2004
In Falluja, Young Marines Saw the Savagery of an Urban War. (Via LGF)
For a correspondent who has covered a half dozen armed conflicts, including the war in Iraq since its start in March 2003, the fighting seen while traveling with a frontline unit in Falluja was a qualitatively different experience, a leap into a different kind of battle.
From the first rockets vaulting out of the city as the marines moved in, the noise and feel of the battle seemed altogether extraordinary; at other times, hardly real at all. The intimacy of combat, this plunge into urban warfare, was new to this generation of American soldiers, but it is a kind of fighting they will probably see again: a grinding struggle to root out guerrillas entrenched in a city, on streets marked in a language few American soldiers could comprehend.
The price for the Americans so far: 51 dead and 425 wounded, a number that may yet increase but that already exceeds the toll from any battle in the Iraq war.
The 150 marines with whom I traveled, Bravo Company of the First Battalion, Eighth Marines, had it as tough as any unit in the fight. They moved through the city almost entirely on foot, into the heart of the resistance, rarely protected by tanks or troop carriers, working their way through Falluja’s narrow streets with 75-pound packs on their backs.
In eight days of fighting, Bravo Company took 36 casualties, including 6 dead, meaning that the unit’s men had about a one-in-four chance of being wounded or killed in little more than a week.