Battle of Karbala (2003)

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Battle of Karbala
Part of the invasion phase of the Iraq War
Date23 March – 6 April 2003
Result U.S. victory[1]
 Iraq United States
Commanders and leaders
Ra'ad al-Hamdani
Riyadh Hussein Nayeri
Faiq Abdullah Mikbas
Colonel Hassani
David Petraeus
Units involved
Flag of the Fedayeen Saddam.svg Fedayeen Saddam
Syrian mercenaries[1]
3rd Infantry Division
1st Armored Division
101st Airborne Division
Charlie Company,1-41st Infantry Regiment
70th Armor Regiment
Casualties and losses
170–260 killed [2] 13–21 killed[1]
1 M1 Abrams tank disabled
1 M2A2 Bradley destroyed
1 US Navy FA-18 shot down[3][4]
1 UH-60 Black Hawk shot down
Karbala in 2008

The Battle of Karbala took place during the 2003 invasion of Iraq as U.S. 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.[5]

Bypassing the city[edit]

Lead elements of the U.S. 3rd Infantry Division had reached the Karbala area on 31 March. 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 Armor Regiment with Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 41st Infantry Regiment, 1st Armored Division.[6] On 2 April, a U.S. Army UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter was shot down by small arms fire near Karbala, killing 7 soldiers. Four other soldiers on board were wounded.

Capturing Karbala[edit]

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 5 April, 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 insurgent 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 6 April. 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, 502nd Infantry, 101st Airborne Division was awarded the Valorous Unit Award.


  1. ^ a b c d e f James Dietz. "Fedayeen Saddam". Strike on Karbala. Archived from the original on 19 January 2013. Retrieved 28 November 2012.
  2. ^ a b Wages of War – Appendix 1. Survey of reported Iraqi combatant fatalities in the 2003 war | Commonwealth Institute of Cambridge
  3. ^ "On April 2 a navy FA-18 was shot down west of Karbala, Iraq." Leave No Man Behind: The Saga of Combat Search and Rescue, George Galdorisi, Thomas Phillips, p. 519, Zenith Imprint, 2008
  4. ^ "The plane from the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk in the Persian Gulf went down just before midnight Wednesday while on a bombing mission near Karbala, a city 50 miles south of Baghdad where fighting raged between U.S. forces and the Republican Guard. A search team was immediately launched. Other aircraft reported seeing surface-to-air missiles and anti-aircraft fire in the area where the plane disappeared, said Lt. Brook DeWalt, a spokesman for the Kitty Hawk ... Iraqi television broadcast pictures Thursday of what it said was the wreckage and Iraqi Information Minister Mohammed Saeed Al-Sahaf claimed the aircraft was shot down by the Saddam Fedayeen, Iraq's paramilitary force." Two Aircraft Down Over Iraq/
  5. ^ Dwyer, Jim (6 April 2003). "A NATION AT WAR: In the Field | 101ST AIRBORNE DIVISION; In Karbala, G.I.'s Find Forsaken Iraqi Armor and Pockets of Resistance". New York Times.
  6. ^

Further reading[edit]

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