U.S. troops inflict 'so many deaths'
LONDON DAILY TELEGRAPH
Published April 4, 2003
BAGHDAD — As thick black smoke hung
over the outskirts of Baghdad last night, American troops stood stunned
by the number of enemy forces they had killed.
2003 News World Communications, Inc. All rights reserved.
Bodies dressed in the uniform of the
Republican Guard and burned-out vehicles were strewn around the
roadways. Buildings were riddled with bullet holes.
"I hope we don't experience anything
like that again," said Sgt. Simon, 38, who gave only one name.
"It is like [the 1991 Persian Gulf war]. When I see that many
bodies, I just don't want to be here anymore."
As the unit regrouped on a stretch of open
land, a soldier stood looking dazed.
"When do we know when it's
over?" one Sgt. Scott said. "You could have sent two men in to
kill Saddam Hussein. Why did we have to kill so many people? There were
so many deaths today."
The forces from the Army's 3rd Infantry
Division had fought their way from a bridgehead secured over the
Euphrates River north of Karbala, encountering strong resistance from
Republican Guard units stationed in the area. At the same time, the 1st
U.S. Marine Division moved northwest from Kut.
In a day of often-brutal fighting, the
troops destroyed Iraqi units equipped with T-72 tanks and infantry armed
with rocket launchers and mortars. Not one American was reported killed.
From the back of an armored vehicle, the
most vivid impression of the dash for Baghdad was the impassive faces of
three soldiers as the shell cases cascaded down from the volleys of
First Sgt. Jose Rosa stood half out of his
hatch, loading grenades into a launcher and firing them at targets
indicated by hand signals from the rest of the crew.
Staff Sgt. Trey Black sat at the 25 mm
cannon, rotating as he sprayed bursts of rounds.
Even the medic in the van behind had a
weapon at his shoulder, joining the cacophony of fire.
The air was thick with the smell of
Finally, there was a pause in the advance
to call in an air strike on a foxhole ahead. News had just come in of
the unit's first casualty: a scout with a leg wound.
By the end of the day, there had been five
casualties in the unit, including an Abrams tank commander, Sgt. Gerald
Pyle, whose vehicle was hit by three rockets fired from hand-held
launchers. None of the injuries was considered life-threatening.
Around 3 p.m., the first units moved into
the edge of the capital, and troops conducted house-to-house searches to
ensure that no enemy forces were using them as cover. Abrams tanks
adopted defensive formations at key intersections.
By dusk, machine-gun fire and the
occasional exploding shell could be heard. At one point, sniper fire was
directed close to the headquarters and supply area. Fires still burned
where targets had been destroyed by artillery and air strikes earlier in
In a mosque, six Iraqi soldiers and two
armed civilians were captured with a cache of weapons. A unit of
engineers removed the weapons and destroyed them.
A few residents ventured onto the streets.
Occasionally, an individual or small group walked past, holding white
flags. Medics gave two injured Iraqis first aid.
Soldiers passed out leaflets to the owners
of the homes they searched. The leaflets explained in Arabic that they
had come to liberate the people. First Sgt. Rosa said he had received a
warm welcome in one of the houses.
The owners offered him food and water, but
a younger man, presumably their son, had appeared more hostile.
"He did not have good body
language," he said.
After two weeks of fighting, an advance of
hundreds of miles in which the troops had withstood mortar and sniper
fire and sandstorms, felt constant fear of chemical attacks and overcome
often ferocious pockets of resistance, the 3rd Infantry Division had
finally reached its objective.
A tank gunner surveyed the mud-colored,
two-story buildings at a dusty suburban junction and said: "I don't
like the look of it much, but I guess we've arrived."
Daily News Headlines Email Digest
News Headlines Digest