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16

DAYS
TO
BAGH
DAD
V CORPS IN THE COMBAT PHASE
OF OPERATION IRAQI FREEDOM
SOME NOTES AND A SUMMARY
by DR. CHARLES KIRKPATRICK
V CORPS HISTORIAN
Germany, also came under V Corps command in Iraq
The V Corps mission by the time the corps captured Baghdad.

U.S. Army V Corps -- America’s “Victory Corps -- While other V Corps units were deploying to
headquartered in Heidelberg, Germany, delivered the Southwest Asia, the 1st Infantry Division completed a
main attack for U.S. Central Command and the brigade rotation in the NATO Kosovo Force and
Combined Forces Land Component Command deployed units to Turkey to facilitate movement of the
during Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003. Fighting on 4th Infantry Division through Turkish base areas and
the right flank of V Corps during the war were the into northern Iraq. Eventually, when it became clear
Marines of I Marine Expeditionary Force. that the 4th Infantry Division would enter battle through
southern Iraq, the 1st Infantry Division units in Turkey
The 1st Armored Division, then a permanently returned to Germany and prepared for movement to
maps by V CORPS IMAGING booklet design by V CORPS PUBLIC AFFAIRS visit v corps on the web at: WWW.VCORPS.ARMY.MIL assigned V Corps unit based in Wiesbaden, Iraq.
SGT AMY ABBOTT

GRAPHIC BY MICHAEL BEATON, V CORPS IMAGING


Meanwhile, V Corps’ 69th Air Defense Artillery Brigade the Highway 1 bridge over the Euphrates that 3rd
and one of its battalions deployed units to Israel and Infantry Division had seized.
northern Iraq to guard against the possibility of Iraqi
Scud missile attack on those countries. At that point, the corps was poised outside the key
terrain of the Karbala Gap which, when taken, would
Summary of the operation give access to Baghdad. On the night of March 23, the
11th Aviation conducted a deep attack into the Gap to
Between March 19 and May 1, Victory Corps destroy artillery and armor of the 14th Mechanized
conducted the longest and fastest armored assault in Brigade of the Medina Division. By the next morning,
the history of warfare, thrusting from the Kuwaiti operations maps showed V Corps elements had
border to the center of Baghdad, a straight-line moved 220 miles in three days, but further major
distance of 540 kilometers, in only 16 days of fighting. attacks and all flying were halted March 24 by a three-
Along the way, V Corps units encountered virtually day sandstorm that limited visibility to less than 100
every conceivable style of conventional battle. Fighting meters. Minor offensive operations continued to retain
ranged from meeting engagements with heavy forces the initiative, but Wallace took advantage of the pause
of the Iraqi army and Republican Guard, to sharp to consolidate the 3rd Infantry Division around
guerrilla-like encounters with non-uniformed Objective Rams near An Najaf and prepare it for
paramilitary groups, and involved the leading further attacks as soon as the weather lifted. Seeking
combat elements of the corps and other units of every to improve his logistics stance, Wallace ordered the
type. corps to accumulate five days of supplies, and
replenishment convoys from the 3rd Corps Support MARCH 31, 2003: Detail of the “five simultaneous battles.”
Reacting calmly to changing circumstances in Iraq, Command moved painfully forward in the appalling
Soldiers displayed remarkable adaptability by finding weather over lengthening lines of communication
new tactics, techniques, and procedures to cope stretching back to Kuwait.
security mission allowed V Corps to immediately
successfully with the style of battle Saddam
It was during that period that one of the most extend its operational reach into the Karbala Gap.
Hussein’s forces offered, and then surprising the
enemy by their use of armor in urban warfare. important operational decisions was reached. Early
on March 26, CFLCC Commander Gen. David At the end of the storm, V Corps rapidly continued the
However heavy the fighting, Victory Corps Soldiers
McKiernan released the 82nd Airborne Division (-) to V attack, making five simultaneous, related assaults
tempered the violence of their attacks where
Corps control. Wallace immediately tasked the that set the conditions for the eventual entry into
necessary and never lost sight of their purpose of
division with securing the main supply route, which Baghdad. Early on the morning of March 31, the 3rd
liberating Iraq from a tyrannical government. Combat
had been under sporadic but more or less continuous attacked toward the Euphrates River to seize a bridge
Soldiers turned in an instant from fighting to offering
between Al Hillah and Karbala and pushed its 3rd
humanitarian aid when that was called for. As Lt. Gen. MARCH 20, 2003: V Corps Commander Lt. Gen. William Wallace attacks by fanatic Fedayeen Saddam, irregular forces
Squadron, 7th Cavalry, into the Karbala Gap, while
William S. Wallace, the corps commander, put it, (right), corps chief of staff Brig. Gen. Daniel Hahn (left) and assistant that emerged from towns V Corps had bypassed to
repositioning its other two brigades to attack through
Soldiers quickly “found a way to strike a balance chief of staff Col. David Brown study developments as combat begins. harass logistics convoys moving north. Having the
82nd to secure the logistics routes meant V Corps the gap and toward Baghdad. At the same time, the
between giving out Band-Aids and kicking down
could send the 101st Airborne Division forward to 101st conducted a demonstration from Objective
doors.” From beginning to end, V Corps’ Operation
the remainder of Iraq and begin rebuilding the country clear towns held by the 3rd Infantry Division and, in Jenkins toward Al Hillah and conducted an armed
Cobra II was a bravura performance.
and creating democratic institutions. turn, prepare the 3rd for further attacks into the reconnaissance to the west while the 82nd attacked
Karbala Gap. Assigning the 82nd to the logistics into As Samawah. Those five actions began at 0300
While fighting in demanding and difficult terrain and
Detailed progress of the battle and soon obliged the Iraqis to react by moving the
under terrible weather conditions, including one of the
Republican Guard into what the V Corps staff believed
worst sandstorms in recent memory, V Corps and its MARCH 25, 2003: Soldiers from the 3rd Infantry Division under were its final defensive positions in front of Baghdad.
units defeated the 11th Infantry Division of the Iraqi The war began the morning of March 21 when U.S. V Corps command take up firing positions along a road during an
Regular Army; crushed the Medina Republican Guard Central Command’s two corps -- V Corps to the west enemy approach on their position in southern Iraq. Wallace’s intent had been an attack to retain the
Division, the Hammurabi Republican Guard Division, and I Marine Expeditionary Force to the east -- initiative and prevent Iraqi defenses from
and elements of the Adnan Republican Guard crossed the line of departure. The designated main

SGT IGOR PAUSTOVSKI


consolidating in front of the corps. The effect,
Division; defeated the Baghdad Republican Guard effort of the coalition, V Corps launched its attack however, was serendipitous. The Iraqi commander
Division; and annihilated many thousands of irregular across the frontier berms that morning, leading with evidently believed the series of attacks constituted a
and paramilitary forces. Numbers of enemy the 3rd Infantry Division, followed by the 101st main effort from west to east across the Euphrates to
casualties can only be estimated, but certainly were in Airborne Division. The opening maneuver was a gain Highway 8 and allow a turn northward into
the tens of thousands. strike toward Tallil, where the airfield and Euphrates Baghdad. Thus the effect of the attacks was to draw
River crossing sites were captured. Continuing the out and decisively engage the major formations
Entering Baghdad, V Corps decisively defeated the advance March 22-23, the divisions moved forward in standing between V Corps and the Iraqi capital. Major
Iraqi armed forces and toppled the regime of Saddam heavy fighting toward An Najaf, securing Objective Iraqi troop movements in response to the corps
Hussein. Upon the end of major unit operations, V Raiders near Al Hillah the afternoon of March 23. In maneuver set up operational fires, which in turn set
Corps formed Coalition Joint Task Force-7, based in that phase of operations, the boundary between V up decisive maneuver over the next two days. In
Baghdad, and continued military operations to pacify Corps and I MEF shifted to allow the Marines to use essence, the Iraqi forces all began moving, in
SPC DANIEL T. DARK
U.S. ARMY PHOTO
GRAPHIC BY MICHAEL BEATON, V CORPS IMAGING
U.S. ARMY PHOTO
MARCH 21, 2003: Soldiers of V Corps' 22nd Signal Brigade gather in APRIL 15, 2003: Soldiers from V Corps’ 30th Medical Brigade
the dark Kuwaiti desert for a pre-combat briefing. work with Iraqi civilians to deliver medical supplies to Baghdad
APRIL 26, 2003: A raft filled with 3rd Infantry Division Soldiers approaches Children’s Hospital.
Objective Peach, near Baghdad.
daylight, in the wrong direction and became trapped
by V Corps divisions and exposed to daylight attack by
the U.S. Air Force. Moreover, their lines of Detail of principal objectives around Baghdad, and dates siezed. APRIL 18, 2003: Soldiers of V Corps’ 38th Engineer Company
communication to the south were severed, preventing APRIL 26, 2003: A convoy carrying the V Corps command post enters Baghdad. construct a bridge near the Tigris River.
reinforcement of Iraqi forces in contact with other V

U.S. ARMY PHOTO

CPL THOMAS BRAY


Corps units. It was the tipping point of the campaign, formations continued with great ferocity, but little
and only 48 hours later V Corps units began taking coordination and no success. Baghdad International
Saddam Hussein’s capital city. Airport was siezed, followed on April 6-7 by the
incursion of the 2nd Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division into
By April 3-4, the encirclement of Baghdad was well Baghdad itself. Successful armed reconnaissance
under way and regular Iraqi forces appeared to be on into the city by heavy forces convinced commanders
the verge of collapse. V Corps noted little movement the division could return to the city to stay. Thus on
by Iraqi units and remarked on the enemy’s inability to April 7, attacks by the 3rd seized the presidential
coordinate anything larger than platoon-level palace and government buildings and established a
counterattacks. At the same time the corps staff permanent presence in the heart of Baghdad. By that
observed great numbers of Republican Guard point, the heaviest fighting was over and V Corps
soldiers deserting their positions. On the other hand, began to transition to the tasks of establishing
attacks by Fedayeen Saddam and other irregular security and normalcy for the Iraqi people.

In June 2003, just two months after V Corps led the 130,000 troops from 36 coun-
way to the capture of Baghdad, Coalition Joint Task tries, CJTF-7's mission was APRIL 18, 2003: Soldiers and M1A1 tanks from V Corps’ 1st Battalion, 63rd Armor patrol MAY 19, 2003: Soldiers of V Corps’ 527th Military
Force-7 was formed to replace its predecessor, the to conduct offensive opera- Kirkuk, Iraq. Police Company detain suspects in a Baghdad raid.
Coalition Forces Land Component Command. tions against anti-Iraqi

SPC DANIEL T. DARK


PFC BRANDON R. AIRD
V Corps Commander Lt. Gen. William Wallace forces to secure the nation
assumed command of CJTF-7 until Lt. Gen. and pave the way for the
Ricardo Sanchez became the corps establishment of a demo-
commander a month later. cratic government, as well
as to organize and train the
The initial CJTF-7 staff was Iraqi armed forces to ultimately
comprised primarily of V take on the responsibility for their nation's security.
Corps Soldiers, who
served as the operational Eleven months later, on May 15, 2004, CJTF-7 was
command element for split into Multi-National Force - Iraq to manage
coalition forces in Iraq. strategic concerns and Multi-National Corps - Iraq
Composed of more than to oversee day-to-day operations.
COMBAT PHASE TIMELINE UNITS COMMANDED BY V CORPS DURING
THE COMBAT PHASE OF OPERATION IRAQI FREEDOM
(units permanently assigned to V Corps denoted with an asterisk * )

Leading
2002
September 27 UNIT HEADQUARTERS
U.S. forces begin deploying to Kuwait. V Corps Headquarters &
October15 - November 15 Headquarters Company* Heidelberg, Germany

the
V Corps forward command post into theater.
LEGEND
V Corps rear command post in place. V CORPS ATTACKS TO SIEZE BAGHDAD V Corps Special Troops
Battalion (Provisional)* Heidelberg, Germany

Attack
DEPLOYMENTS AFTER CAPTURE OF BAGHDAD
2003 3rd Infantry Division (Mechanized) Fort Stewart, Ga.
January 3 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) Fort Campbell, Ky.
ARFOR-T (elements of 1st Infantry Division) in
place in Turkey. 82nd Airborne Division (-) Fort Bragg, N.C.
February 18
V Corps and 3rd Corps Support Command main 4th Infantry Division (Mechanized) Fort Hood, Texas
command posts to Kuwait. 69th Air Defense
Artillery Brigade deploys to Israel and Turkey. 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment Fort Carson, Colo.
March 8
President Bush announces Operation Iraqi 2nd Cavalry Regiment (Light) Fort Polk, La.
Freedom.
173rd Airborne Brigade Vicenza, Italy
March 20-21
Attack across Iraqi border by 3rd Infantry Division 3rd Corps Support Command* Wiesbaden, Germany
reaches Tallil (Objective Firebird) and Euphrates
GRAPHICS BY MICHAEL BEATON, V CORPS IMAGING

River crossing sites (Objective Clay). V Corps Artillery* Schwetzingen, Germany


March 22 -23
Attack continues toward Objective Rams at An 41st Field Artillery Brigade* Babenhausen, Germany
Najaf. 101st Airborne Division enters the fight.
V Corps tactical command post sets up at 214th Field Artillery Brigade Fort Sill, Okla.
Objective Rams. Iraqi irregular forces begin attacks
17th Field Artillery Brigade Fort Sill, Okla.
on main logistics lines. 11th Aviation Regiment
deep attack near Karbala. 11th Aviation Regiment (Attack)* Illesheim, Germany
March 24 - 27 As Samawah
“Mother of All Sandstorms.” 82nd Airborne Division to Baghdad 12th Aviation Brigade* Giebelstadt, Germany
released to V Corps, supported by elements of 2nd
Armored Cavalry Regiment, and committed to Kuwait to 18th Military Police Brigade* Mannheim, Germany
main supply route security. Objectives Jenkins and As Samawah
Floyd, across the river, seized. 18th Personnel Group Fort Bragg, N.C.
March 28 - 30 April 3
3rd Infantry Division turns over fights at As 3rd Infantry Division seizes Objective Saints and 22nd Signal Brigade* Darmstadt, Germany
Samawah and An Najaf to 82nd and 101st Airborne Objective Lions on outskirts of Baghdad. 30th Medical Brigade* Heidelberg, Germany
Divisions and repositions to attack toward April 5 - 7 April 20
Baghdad. 3rd Infantry Division conducts armored reconnais- 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment marches into 31st Air Defense Artillery Brigade Fort Bliss, Texas
March 31 sance into Baghdad. V Corps seized Objective western zone, securing province all the way to
V Corps launches five simultaneous attacks in the Titans, completing outer cordon of Baghdad. Presi- Syrian and Jordanian borders. Construction of 130th Engineer Brigade* Hanau, Germany
vicinity of Objective Murray, near Al Hillah. Attack of dential palace and government buildings captured. Logistical Support Area Anaconda in Balad begins.
3rd Infantry Division toward Objective Peach opens April 7 - 19 April 21 - 24 205th Military Intelligence Brigade* Wiesbaden, Germany
the way to Baghdad. V Corps units “mop up” scattered Iraqi forces. 4th 3rd Infantry Division relieved in Baghdad sector first
April 1 - 2 Infantry Division, with the 173rd Airborne Brigade, by Marines and then by V Corps’ 1st Armored 4th Air Support Operations Group, USAF* Heidelberg, Germany
3rd Infantry Division attacks Objective Chargers to marches to its zone around Taji, Balad, Kirkuk, Division. The 1st Armored Division, a permanently assigned V Corps unit
seize Karbala Gap and isolate town of Karbala, Tikrit, and Samarra. V Corps separate brigades April 28 based in Wiesbaden, Germany, came under V Corps command by
crosses Euphrates river in the direction of Baghdad occupy Balad. 101st Airborne Division marches V Corps main command post fully operational in the time V Corps captured Baghdad.
and seizes Objective Peach. north to assume responsibility for Mosul sector. Baghdad.