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Battle of Karbala
Part of 2003 Invasion of Iraq
DateMarch 31 – April 6, 2003
LocationKarbala, Iraq
Result American victory
Iraq Fedayeen Saddam
Syria Syrian mercenaries[1]
United States 3rd Infantry Division
United States 1st Armored Division
United States 101st Airborne
Commanders and leaders
Unknown David Petraeus
Casualties and losses
170-260 killed [2] 8 killed[1]
1 M1 Abrams tank disabled
1 M2A2 Bradley destroyed
1 UH-60 Black Hawk shot down

The Battle of Karbala took place during the 2003 invasion of Iraq as American troops fought to clear the city of Iraqi forces. The city had been bypassed during the advance on Baghdad, leaving American units to clear it in two days of street fighting against Iraqi irregular forces.

Bypassing the city

Lead elements of the U.S. 3rd Infantry Division had reached the Karbala area on March 31. After fighting through Republican Guard forces southeast of the city,[2] these forces bypassed the city and attacked through the Karbala Gap towards Baghdad. The task of clearing the city was left to the 101st Airborne Division, supported by the 2nd Battalion, 70th Armored Regiment with Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 41st Infantry Regiment, 1st Armored Division.[citation needed] On April 2, a U.S. Army UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter was shot down by small arms fire near Karbala, killing 7 soldiers. Four other soldiers onboard were wounded.

Capturing Karbala

The 101st planned to use helicopter-borne forces to seize three landing zones on the outskirts of the city (codenamed Sparrow, Finch and Robin) and then use an armored force of M1 Abrams tanks and M2 Bradley fighting vehicles to link up with these forces.[1]

At 11:00 a.m. on April 5, the 101st Airborne began its push to clear Karbala when airstrikes hit several targets around the city. This was followed by a helicopter assault in which 23 UH-60 Blackhawk and 5 CH-47 Chinook helicopters ferried three battalions of infantry from the 502nd Infantry Regiment to their designated landing zones.[citation needed] 3rd Battalion, 502nd Infantry at LZ Sparrow met heavy but disorganized resistance as they moved into the city. To the south, 2/502 at LZ Robin was also moving street by street, and discovered several arms caches hidden in schools. They also discovered a suspected terrorist training camp. By nightfall, 2/502 had cleared 13 of their 30 assigned sectors. 1/502, advancing from LZ Finch in the southeast, captured several weapons caches. Air support from helicopter gunships was used heavily during this operation, and artillery support was also used. Over 100 smoke shells were fired from supporting artillery to screen infantry moving through Karbala's streets. At the same time, 2/70 Armored Regiment and C Co 1/41 IN (Mechanized) had reached Karbala and were engaged in combat, losing 1 man killed from small arms fire and a Bradley to an RPG hit.[1]

The next day, the units continued to clear their sectors. Resistance evaporated by 5:00 PM on April 6. At 5:30, a large statue of Saddam Hussein was torn down by members of the 2/70, 1st Armored Division.[1]

For their actions in Karbala, 3rd Battalion was awarded the Valorous Unit Award.


Further reading

  • Atkinson, Rick (2005). n the Company of Soldiers: A Chronicle of Combat. Holt Paperbacks. ISBN 0805077731. 

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