Photo: Former US Marine Cpl. Edward Chin places the U.S. Flag over a statue of Saddam signifying the liberation of the Iraqi people in 2003 during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Special Forces Gear sent out an email remembering the time when America used its great power to stop the rule of a tyrant – Saddam Hussein. America the powerful rallied its allies to stop a meglomaniac. Fast forward to today, eleven years later, the Middle East is in flames, Iraq has sided with Iran, Syria is a blood bath, Crimea belongs to Russia and Ukraine is preparing for war.
Si vis pacem, para bellum – “If you want peace, prepare for war”
The 2003 invasion of Iraq lasted from 19 March 2003 to 1 May 2003 and signaled the start of the conflict that later came to be known as the Iraq War, which was dubbed Operation Iraqi Freedom by the United States (prior to 19 March, the mission in Iraq was called Operation Enduring Freedom, a carryover from the conflict in Afghanistan ). The invasion consisted of 21 days of major combat operations, in which a combined force of troops from the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, and Poland invaded Iraq and deposed the Ba’athist government of Saddam Hussein. The invasion phase consisted primarily of a conventionally-fought war which concluded with the capture of the Iraqi capital of Baghdad by American forces.
Four countries participated with troops during the initial invasion phase, which lasted from 19 March to 9 April 2003. These were the United States (148,000), United Kingdom (45,000), Australia (2,000), and Poland (194). Thirty-six other countries were involved in its aftermath. In preparation for the invasion, 100,000 U.S. troops were assembled in Kuwait by 18 February. The coalition forces also received support from Kurdish irregulars in Iraqi Kurdistan.
The invasion was preceded by an air strike on the Presidential Palace in Baghdad on 19 March 2003. The following day, coalition forces launched an incursion into Basra Province from their massing point close to the Iraqi-Kuwaiti border. While the special forces launched an amphibious assault from the Persian Gulf to secure Basra and the surrounding petroleum fields, the main invasion army moved into southern Iraq, occupying the region and engaging in the Battle of Nasiriyah on 23 March. Massive air strikes across the country and against Iraqi command and control threw the defending army into chaos and prevented an effective resistance. On 26 March, the 173rd Airborne Brigade was airdropped near the northern city of Kirkuk, where they joined forces with Kurdish rebels and fought several actions against the Iraqi army to secure the northern part of the country.
The main body of coalition forces continued their drive into the heart of Iraq and met with little resistance. Most of the Iraqi military was quickly defeated and Baghdad was occupied on 9 April. Other operations occurred against pockets of the Iraqi army including the capture and occupation of Kirkuk on 10 April, and the attack and capture of Tikrit on 15 April. Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and the central leadership went into hiding as the coalition forces completed the occupation of the country. On 1 May, an end of major combat operations was declared, ending the invasion period and beginning the military occupation period.
As of December 2011, the 2003 invasion of Iraq was the most recent armed conflict between standing national armies causing at least 1,000 battle deaths.