The 10-hour battle for Curly, Larry and Moe

Tuesday, October 28th, 2003

I just become aware of this Telegraph story describing how American forces took three objectives — named Curly, Larry, and Moe — within Baghdad back in April. A few highlights from The 10-hour battle for Curly, Larry and Moe:

At about 7.20am, Bravo Tank Company reached Larry and immediately came under attack from rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs). Lt Hunter Bowers, 23, the rugby-playing commander of White platoon, was first on the radio. ‘My lead tank’s been hit. He’s on fire on top of the overpass.’

As flames took hold on the back of the turret, ammunition inside started ‘cooking off’ — blowing up. Thanks to the strengthened doors of the ammunition compartment, Staff Sgt James Lawson and his crew were finally able to escape, dousing the flames with fire extinguishers. The men were alive, badly shaken, but still able to fight.

For the next 10 hours, they had no choice but to do so. Wave after wave of seemingly suicidal soldiers, driving civilian cars, trucks and even buses, armed only with AK47s and RPGs, threw themselves at the US tanks.

These fighters were, in large part, Syrians. ‘They drove straight at you at 70 miles an hour, one after the other,’ said Lt Mike Martin, 24. ‘They would see about a dozen or more cars already on fire, but that wouldn’t put them off.’
Engineers went out in ACEs – armoured combat earthmovers — to shift the wreckage, giving the tanks a clear line of fire and allowing vehicles from other units to push further up the line.

Sgt Jason Reis, 23, from Pennsylvania, returned with his ACE sporting five dents where AK47 bullets had failed to penetrate. Days later he was still shocked, but not by the bullets. “There were bodies burning,” he said. “You could smell them and you had to move them out of the way. There were arms and legs lying on the road.”
“Just about every vehicle took three or four RPG hits. They were everywhere. They were even firing from the mosque.

“We fought all day and night and took out about 300 [enemy soldiers]. They would come on foot in waves, three at a time. It was almost comical. These guys would be trying to dodge 25mm high-explosive rounds from the Bradleys, which take out everything in a five-metre radius.”
Sgt Major “Blackhawk Bob” Gallagher, a former special forces solder and veteran of the infamous “Black Hawk Down” mission in Somalia, quickly lived up to his other nickname, the “Metal Magnet”. An RPG exploded nearby, causing a shrapnel wound to his ankle, to add to the collection begun in Mogadishu — bullet wounds in both arms and shrapnel in his back. Sgt Major Gallagher, 40, remained standing and carried on firing, ignoring the medics bandaging his legs.
About 750 of his men had faced 900 enemy fighters. The only American fatalities were the two men killed when the fuel train was ambushed. There were 30 American casualties.

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