Page 1 of 2

March 23d - Deadliest day of the war

Posted: Wed Mar 17, 2004 1:05 pm
by RichardLowry
The Battle of An Nasiriyah

March 23rd will be 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.

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.”

Now LtCol Grabowski’s Marines had two missions; secure the bridges and rescue as many of the stranded soldiers as they could. He immediately ordered Major Bill Peeples to move forward with his M1 tanks. TEAM TANK pressed forward and soon they were receiving fire from both sides of the road.

Meanwhile, ten soldiers had abandoned their shot-up vehicles and raced for cover in a trench along the side of the road. Running low on ammunition and with five wounded, they resigned themselves to the fact that they would not survive the day. They all resolved that they would go down fighting. They lay in the trench for nearly an hour, waiting for the Iraqis to close in on their position and their final stand against the enemy. Suddenly, Staff Sergeant Tarik Jackson, the most seriously wounded, cocked his head, “Listen!” he exclaimed.

“Do you hear that?”

“It sounds like our tanks!”

Someone peeked up out of the trench and saw Major Peeples Marine tanks approaching.

TEAM TANK moved in and straddled the trench. They began picking targets and methodically destroying the enemy. COBRA helicopters swooped in and continued the fight. Soon the wounded were being treated and these ten lucky soldiers were being moved to safety.

The day was just beginning for LtCol Grabowski’s 1st Battalion, 2nd Marines. They continued north into the city. Unfortunately, they only found burning hulks of the remaining 507th vehicles. The occupants had all been removed. It would be weeks before the fate of the remaining soldiers was known.

So, now Grabowski’s Marines focused back on securing the bridges through An Nasiriyah. After a short pause to refuel, Bravo Company led the battalion across the Euphrates River Bridge and into the city. Captain Michael Brooks’ Alpha Company raced across the river next and set up defensive positions while Bravo Company turned northeast to skirt the eastern edge of the city. Objective 1, the first bridge was secure. They had accomplished half of their mission.

Captain Dan Wittnam raced across the Euphrates River Bridge with his Charlie Company, riding in eleven Amphibious Assault Vehicles (AAVs or “tracks”). Charlie Company drove straight through the center of town, toward the second, northern bridge. Enemy fire erupted all around them. Charlie Company plowed forward through the ever-increasing enemy fire. Lance Corporal Edward Castleberry was driving the lead vehicle –C201.

Castleberry kept his track moving forward. Several Iraqis ran to the middle of the road stopped and began shooting RPGs at the vehicle. Two rockets whizzed by, scraping the side of C201 as they passed. Other RPGs were duds and just bounced off the armored vehicle. Castleberry watched in terror as another Iraqi jumped into the road and leveled a RPG at his lead track. He rummaged around in the driver compartment trying to keep the 28-ton vehicle driving down the road while he struggled to bring his M-16 rifle up through the hatch. Unable to free his rifle, he steered straight for the enemy soldier and accelerated, crushing the threatening Iraqi under his treads before he could let loose his deadly projectile. Finally, Castleberry managed to free his weapon. Now he was driving forward and shooting his rifle at the same time. The track commander, Sergeant William Schaefer, looked over and said to Castleberry, “What in the hell are you doing?”

“It makes me feel better.” Castleberry replied.

Eighteen Marines died fighting for the northern bridge on that Sunday afternoon.

Richard S. Lowry, author of The Gulf War Chronicles, is currently working on his next book, Marines in the Garden of Eden. It will tell the complete story of Task Force Tarawa’s week-long battle for An Nasiriyah.

Posted: Sat Mar 27, 2004 8:15 pm
by Mudwalker
I was with 1st Bn 2nd Marines TF Tarawa. I am currious where you got the information for this.

Posted: Tue Mar 30, 2004 3:15 pm
by RichardLowry
Good Question. I first interviewed BGen Natonski; Cols Milstead, Bailey; LtCol Mortenson and Dunahoe; and Captain Brooks last October. Since then I have made two more trips to Camp Lejeune and I have interviewed almost 60 Marines from TFT, including LtCol Grabowski, Major Peeples, Captains Wittnam, Newland, Blanchard; Lt Reid; Gunner Dunfee;Sergeant Schaefer; LCpl Will Bachman and many more.

I have collected more than 1000 photos, hundreds of pages of documents and several CDs worth of information.

Would you like to contribute?

Posted: Tue Mar 30, 2004 4:00 pm
by Mudwalker
I would definitely consider it. Especially in lite of the release of the DoD investigation of the friendly fire incident.

The reason I asked where you had gotten your information was because of what was written about the Bn Commander. There are some inconsistancies with what I know. I won't go any further here but feel free to contact me through my site at and we may be able to set something up.

Posted: Thu Apr 29, 2004 8:24 am
by MarineTanker
Major Peeples was not ordered to rescue the remnants of the 507th on that day. He took that action on his own, and was criticized by the Battalion Commander and the Regimental Commander for doing so.

Posted: Fri Apr 30, 2004 3:46 pm
by RichardLowry
Funny! Major Peeples never mentioned that to me. If you have more info about the battle for Nasiriyah, I would like to hear your story. Please email me at I am still conducting research for my book and I would like your input.


Posted: Fri Apr 30, 2004 4:25 pm
by RichardLowry

I believe that Major Peeples should get the MVP award for that day. He silenced the Iraqi opposition at the southern bridge. Then he went forward and silenced the Iraqis at the Saddam Canal. Then he returned to Ambush Alley to evacuate the wounded Marines in the Alamo.

I went back and listened to my interview with Major Peeples and you are absolutetly correct. Major Peeples moved forward of his own volition. I have actually made a critical sequence error. Major Peeples went forward and rescued 10 soldiers of the 507th, then Natonski, Bailey and Grabowski met. Natonski's words to Grabowski are correct, they just happened to talk AFTER Peeples rescued the 10 soldiers.

Thank you for pointing this out. It is quite difficult to sequence all the events of the day. Some reports are in local time, others Zulu. Most of the Marines cannot tell me what time things happened.

If you can help me put this puzzle together I would appreciate your assistance.

Posted: Fri Dec 01, 2006 10:28 pm
by Guest
Just a quick note...I was with Echo 2/8 and spent some time with our tank unit. I have nothing specific to add for you to reference, however, I did speak with these tankers in great length and I remember them saying that same thing...that Major Peeples was an absolute hero that day. I recall them saying that he continued to bring wounded soldiers aboard the tanks even while under fire. It is quite rare for an enlisted man to ever give praise to an officer, so I always thought this was a remarkable story.

Posted: Tue Dec 05, 2006 10:19 am
by RichardLowry
Dear Guest,

Last summer I had the pleasure of meeting Bill Peeples when I went to Ft Knox for a book signing. I also had the opportunity to speak with the Reserves of what had been Alpha Company, 8th Tanks.

They are all a great bunch of Marines and to the man they could not speak any more highly of their former company commander. I feel privledged to have had the opportunity to tell Major Peeples story in my book.

Posted: Wed Jan 10, 2007 6:00 pm
by fabio
The deadliest day?
Why don't you report the deadliest day for Iraqi civilians?

Are they less important than American soldiers? Paid to be the servants of a corrupted government? Paid to gain and protect foreign natural resources?

No matter what real freedom is? Have you ever tried to watch beyond this faked reality? Or are you so sorry that you need to convince yourself that what you did is right, that it is in the name of God, of freedom, and all that bullshit that you have been brainwashed during your recruitment?

How can you be so blind? How can you be so short of views? How can you talk with the arrogance of someone who establishes whether a life could be more important than another?

For your marine and soldiers, you got a plate. You got a ceremony. You got TV shows and programs dedicated to them. For all and all the innocent dead Iraqis people, just a short news on CNN. They are less important than you, probably.

You should show regret on what you did, instead of auto-celebrating yourself as heroes.

Put that medal in your a.. and enjoy.


Posted: Fri Jan 12, 2007 10:05 pm
by RichardLowry

Here is an email from a father of one of the Marines who was killed to An Iraqi in Southern Iraq and the Itaqi's reply:

My name is David **** a resident of TN , USA. I read an article in the Oct issue of the Smithsonian about the Marshlands.

Frankly what got my attention was the mention of An Nasiriyah. On March 23, 2003 the 2nd Marine Div, 1st Btln, C co had the mission to take and hold the Sadam Canal in Nasiriyah. On that fateful day 18 Marines and 11 Soldiers were killed in action. One of those killed was my son. As time went on after that day I began to hear of UR, the biblical home of the Garden Of Eden and was struck by the historical and biblical aspect of this area.

During the past 31/2 years I have wondered what it was that Pat and his fellow Marines were fighting for. I know that removing Saddam was an important thing for Iraq and, frankly, the world. But beyond that what did he and all of the others accomplish. When I read this Smithsonian article I was struck with the thought that part of this was to bring back the life of those Iraqis who had suffered so under the regime. I suddenly had a kernel of a thought, " the Charlie 1/2 project ". So before I contact other family members of Charlie Co who also lost loved ones there af An Nasiriyah, I wanted to contact someone there for some guidance.

Freedom Is Not Free 3/23/03


I am honored to receive your letter and certainly there are no words that I can think of that can express my thoughts as I read your letter. I can tell you that my eyes became teary. Sir, I can tell you that your son's life was not lost in vain, no matter how gloomy the news from Iraq may get. A people have been set free as a result of your family's and three thousand other families sacrifices. History will judge, but if you want to hear the voice of gratitude, I invite you on a personal tour of the restored gardens of eden , and you will be an honored guest of the marsh arabs. I am attaching a picture of the before and after of one small corner of this garden to keep next to the pictures of your son.

There are many thousands of stories of peoples who have come back to resume their way of life, as a direct result of the sacrifices of the Americans and the coalition forces. Disregarding all the propaganda and the political noise, sir, make no mistake about it, it is a noble cause to liberate a land and its peoples from the shackles of a tyranny that exceeds that of Stalin and Hitler. And I do not exaggerate.

If there is anything I can do for you, please do not hesitate to ask.

May god give you and your family the patience to endure the loss. I leave you with an Islamic prayer, Ina lillah, w ina Ilahe Rajeoon (we are from God, and to him we return)…

Please accept my deepest of gratitude.


Posted: Tue Jan 16, 2007 11:23 am
by fabio
Nasiriyah is where a refinery and an oil pipeline are located. Again the soldiers were there for this reason, not to free Iraqi people from Saddam, whose now are having a worse time than during the regime. It's actually pure demagogy that you report those "teary" letters about people who lost their sons saying that it was for a good cause. Shame on you.

For the benefit of memories, and just to mention something else rather than american soldiers, in Nasiriyah a troop of 19 Italian soldiers died during a suicide bomb attack to their base. The Italian government at that time sent them for "humanitarian" purposes, but actually they were there to protect the oil pipeline.

We in Italy are all fed up with the american government and we want to free up our country from all the american military basis that abusively occupy our territory. The actual government is following this line, and, guess what, some bombs have been placed near the house of those politicians who want to kick off the americans from Sardinia Island.

Yet the real terrorists are the Americans.


Posted: Tue Jan 16, 2007 4:56 pm
by liznoraas
Have you ever served? If not then BITE ME! I am a proud wife, sister in law, niece, and granddaughter of vets from all eras. If you want to trash talk on the vets then start your own page and leave the ones that appreciate what the men and women that are serving and have served with out your brainless hateful words.

Posted: Wed Jan 17, 2007 7:09 am
by fabio
liznoraas wrote:Have you ever served? If not then BITE ME! I am a proud wife, sister in law, niece, and granddaughter of vets from all eras. If you want to trash talk on the vets then start your own page and leave the ones that appreciate what the men and women that are serving and have served with out your brainless hateful words.
The fact that you are a proud servants of the liars doesn't improve things in Iraq. Now go back to serve and don't write any of this crap again, unless you have something useful to say.


Posted: Wed Jan 17, 2007 8:01 am
by Dispacther
While attending a N.A.T.O. school in Latina Italy, I met some good
people in The Italian Air Force. It was during the winter Olympics of 92.
Despite the language differences we had some good times, and got to
know each other a little .They were decent people working for the future.
However the total disregard and lack of respect the residents of Rome
showed for the Tiber, coliseum, and other ruins/relics of their past awed
me to speechlessness. I wonder about You. What has caused you to have
such boundless hate for people you've never meet; your complete lack of
thought of the lessons of the past. Your eagerness to consume the trype
spewed forth by those who despise the world view that has grown from
the ideas of liberty and individual responsibility that became the Roman
and Greek civilizations.