The Battle of An Nasiriyah
March 23rd was the first anniversary of Task Force Tarawa’s bloody battle at An Nasiriyah. One year later, it remains the costliest day of our struggle in Iraq. As the sun began to rise on that clear Sunday morning, thirty-three members of the Army’s 507th Maintenance Company unknowingly drove directly through Iraqi prepared defenses in, and around, the ancient desert city of An Nasiriyah. A series of misfortunes, poor decisions, and just plain bad luck, had led this convoy into the jaws of death.
There are not many of us that do not know the story of Jessica Lynch’s ambush, capture, and subsequent rescue. Most Americans were horrified at the news of the ambush and the sight of young American soldiers being questioned by their Iraqi captors. Jessica and her fellow prisoners were the lucky ones. Eleven soldiers died in the ambush that morning, and eighteen Marines lost their lives that afternoon.
What is not generally known is that the Marines of Task Force Tarawa were traveling on the heels of Captain King’s beleaguered supply convoy. Brigadier General Richard Natonski’s Camp Lejeune Marines were moving to secure the eastern bridges on the highway through An Nasiriyah. These bridges were vital to the Marines’ plans for the attack toward Baghdad. Colonel Ron Bailey’s Regimental Combat Team 2 (RCT-2) was methodically advancing north toward An Nasiriyah on the same road that the 507th had traveled a few hours earlier when they encountered some of the surviving members of the 507th who were fleeing south from the ambush.
C211 Approaches Burning 507th Vehicles
Captain King pleaded with the Marines to save his soldiers. General Natonski ordered his lead battalion commander, LtCol Rick Grabowski, to press forward and find the remaining soldiers of the 507th. He said to Grabowski, "We have to save those soldiers; they would do it for us."