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Chronology of
U.S. War in Iraq:

Liberation phase chronology (2003)

Mar. 19 U.S. cruise missile and stealth fighter attacks on Baghdad commence, aiming at Iraqi "top leadership" based on a tip from on-the-scene intelligence sources.

Mar. 20 Iraq fires 4 missiles (SCUD?) at Kuwait; one is intercepted by a Patriot missile. Oil wells in south set on fire by Iraq. U.S. ground forces begin artillery barrage and take port town of Umm Qasr.

Mar. 21 U.S. Marines advance toward Basra, joined by British forces who landed at Faw, on the tip of the peninsula. 3rd Infantry Division races across the desert, approaching Nasiriyah. 101st Airborne prepares to move. Special forces seize airfields in the west. Relative ease of advance reflects the fact that most of Iraq's elite Republican Guard units are being kept in reserve around Baghdad and other central cities. "Shock and awe" bombing campaign lives up to its hype, leaving parts of Baghdad in flames.

Mar. 22 U.S. forces take two bridges on the Euphrates River and enter Nasiriyah, engaging in heavy combat there and around Basra. Bombing of Baghdad continues, and no communication from Saddam Hussein. Conflicting reports on possible entry of Turkish troops into northern Iraq. Ships carrying equipment of the U.S. 4th Infantry Division (which was supposed to pass through Turkey) are rerouted from the Mediterranean to the Persian Gulf.

Mar. 23 Elements of U.S. 3rd Infantry Division penetrate to the vicinity of Najaf, only 100 miles south of Baghdad. 10-15 U.S. soldiers killed in battle near Nasiriyah; several are taken prisoner. Iraqi remnants disguised as civilians ambush Marines at Umm Qasr. British Tornado jet accidentally shot down by U.S. Patriot missile. Muslim soldier of U.S. 101st Airborne Division allegedly attacks comrades with hand grenades. U.S. bombs stronghold of Kurdish Muslim extremists east of Suleimaniyah, on the Iranian border. U.S. Special Forces are airlifted into the Kurdish controlled region.

Mar. 24 U.S. jets and helicopters attack Republican Guard units near Karbala. Battles continue around Basra and Nasiriyah. Bombing of Baghdad continues, concentrating on Republican Guard units.

Mar. 25 Sandstorm: most Coalition units are immobilized, and air operations are curtailed. U.S. 3rd Infantry Division and U.S. Marines skirmish with Republican Guard units in the vicinity of Karbala and Kut. Residents of Basra begin an uprising as living conditions there deteriorate, and Britain declares that city a "legitimate military target." Elements of U.S. 173rd Airborne Brigade are airlifted into Hariri airfield, east of Irbil, in the Kurdish controlled region.

Mar. 26 Sandstorm continues, but U.S. 3rd Infantry Division manages to surround Najaf and seize three bridges across the Euphrates River. Iraqi forces head south for possible counterattack. Bomb destroys Baghdad market, Pentagon denies responsibility. Food aid begins arriving at Umm Qasr. Iraqi attempt to break out of Basra is foiled by British forces, who destroy many tanks.

Mar. 27 Weather clears, and U.S. B-52s and artillery units blast Iraqi mechanized forces before they could launch a counterattack. Friendly fire accident wounds 37 U.S. Marines near Nasiriyah. Heavy bombing of Baghdad resumes. Rumors of possible deployment of U.S. 101st Airborne Division to the west of Baghdad. Iraqi troops fire on civilians trying to flee Basra.

Mar. 28 Marines battle in the city of Diwaniyah and advance toward Kut, while others remain engaged in intense street fighting in Nasiriyah. Bombing of Baghdad continues, with more complaints of civilian casualties. Convoys of military supplies cross border from Syria into Iraq; U.S. warns Syria and Iran not to meddle.

Mar. 29 U.S. pounds Iraqi Republican Guard Medina Division with bombs. Five U.S. soldiers are killed by an Iraqi suicide bomber north of Najaf. Iraqi Silkworm missile strikes shopping mall in Kuwait City, but no one dies. Brigade of 82nd Airborne Division pulls guard duty along supply lines in the vicinity of Samawah.

Mar. 30 Units of the U.S. 101st Airborne Division lay siege to Najaf, which enables the 3rd Infantry Division to resume the advance toward Baghdad. Fierce fighting around Karbala. British forces penetrate into Basra and capture an Iraqi general. U.S. A-10 "Warthog" tank-busting jets began flying missions from Tallil Air Base, near Nasiriyah, where Marines continue to mop up resistance.

Mar. 31 Heavy battles between the U.S. 3rd Infantry Division and Iraq's Republican Guard Medina Division south of Baghdad. Iraq sends reinforcements to defend Karbala and Kut. Several Iraqi civilians are killed after the driver of the van they were in ignored U.S. soldiers' warnings to stop. U.S. forces attack Islamic terrorist cell in Kurdish territory.

Apr. 1 POW is rescued: Army Pfc. Jessica Lynch, who had been missing since March 23. Intense battle continues near Karbala, 50 miles south of Baghdad. 101st Airborne Division troops finally take control of Najaf, further south, getting a lukewarm welcome. Marines attack Diwaniyah, slowly moving north. After intensive air attacks, two Republican Guard divisions have been cut to less than half strength. More bombs fall on Baghdad. Increased air bombardment of Kirkuk, in the northern oil-producing region. Troops that captured the base of Muslim extremist group Ansar al-Islam found evidence linking them to Al Qaeda and implicating people in the U.S. About 6,000 troops from the U.S. 4th Infantry Division arrive in Kuwait from Fort Hood, Texas. Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld says that the only way the war will end is by unconditional Iraqi surrender.

Apr. 2 Units of the U.S. 3rd Infantry Division slip through narrow gap between the city of Karbala and Razzaza Lake, encircling the city and then taking control of parts of it. Spearhead units cross the Euphrates River and penetrate to within 20 miles of Baghdad, which is under relentless bombardment. Troops of 1st Marine Division seize most of Kut and capture a bridge across the Tigris River, preparing to advance toward Baghdad from the southeast. The "Medina" and "Baghdad" Republican Guard divisions are effectively destroyed.

Apr. 3 U.S. 3rd Infantry Division troops continue their rapid advance to Saddam International Airport, on the outskirts of Baghdad, while Marines approach from the southeast. Some fighting continues in Kut. More chemical warfare material is uncovered. Refugees begin fleeing from the capital, which is blacked out, apparently by Iraqi authorities. U.S. Special Forces raid one of the presidential palaces, 60 miles northwest of Baghdad, seizing documents.

Apr. 4 U.S. forces take control of Saddam International Airport, renaming it "Baghdad International Airport." A film clip of Saddam Hussein exhorting Iraqis to keep resisting is broadcast, but it's not certain when it was shot. Iraqi spokesman warns that Iraq will use "unconventional" attacks, including commando and "martyrdom" (suicide) attacks but not chemical weapons. Washington Post columnist Michael Kelly, embedded with the 3rd Infantry Division, dies in a Humvee accident.

Apr. 5 A tank battalion of the U.S. 3rd Infantry Division makes a brief incursion into Baghdad from the south, killing over 2,000 Iraqi defenders, and then heads west to join the Division's 2nd Brigade at the airport. Headquarters of Medina Republican Guard Division is overrun. Troops from the U.S. 101st Airborne Division arrive at Baghdad International Airport, while others push further into Karbala. Bodies of 8 U.S. soldiers recovered from rescue mission in Nasiriyah are identified.

Apr. 6 British forces take control of Basra, after a two-week siege. U.S. jet mistakenly bombs friendly Kurdish column of vehicles. Marines take Salman Pak, an alleged chemical weapons manufacturing site southeast of Baghdad. First U.S. cargo plane (a C-130 "Hercules") lands at Baghdad Airport. The capital city is now surrounded on all sides by U.S. forces, and U.S. planes, helicopters, and drones are circling it 24 hours a day. Intrepid NBC reporter David Bloom, embedded with the 3rd Infantry Division, dies of an apparent pulmonary embolism. Rumors of large convoy of U.S. military supplies passing through Turkey. UPDATE: U.S. F-15 jet is shot down near Tikrit, and two crew members are missing.

Apr. 7 Brigade-size force of U.S. 3rd Infantry Division charges into downtown Baghdad, taking control of Saddam's new Presidential Palace. U.S. smart bombs dropped from a B-1 destroy a residential compound where Saddam and his sons were apparently taking refuge, possibly killing all three. U.S. troops uncover more evidence of possible chemical weapons. British forces consolidate control of Basra, as looting breaks out. U.S.-led Kurdish forces advance on Mosul and Kirkuk.

Apr. 8 U.S. forces begin cautious patrols in downtown Baghdad, repelling an Iraqi counterattack, while Marines take Rasheed Air Base on the southeast side of the city. U.S. troops fire at a suspected sniper in a high-rise hotel, killing two journalists. U.S. A-10 "Warthog" jet is shot down over Baghdad; pilot is rescued. British troops topple more statues of Saddam, and the wary local population is getting friendlier.

Apr. 9 Baghdad falls: U.S. Army troops consolidate control of downtown, while Marines sweep into the city's center from the east. Sporadic shooting continues at Baghdad University and elsewhere. Crowds loot government office buildings, and jubilation breaks out as a statue of Saddam Hussein is toppled. Iraqi Information Minister Mohammed Saed Sahhf was unavailable for comment. Marines take control of Iraqi 10th Armored Division headquarters near Amarah.

Apr. 10 U.S. 173rd Airborne Brigade and Kurdish militia units move into Kirkuk virtually unopposed, suggesting that the four Iraqi divisions that had been defending the area around that city may have disintegrated. Kurds also occupy Khaneqin, on the Iranian border. Turkey, which fears the emergence of an independent Kurdistan, prepares to send military observers to Kirkuk, under a delicate diplomatic agreement with the U.S. American jets bomb Republican Guard Adnan Division guarding Tikrit, the last bastion of Saddam's regime. Sharp firefights continue in parts of Baghdad as looting gets out of hand.

Apr. 11 Iraqi Fifth Corps surrenders, allowing U.S. and Kurdish forces to occupy Mosul, Iraq's third largest city. Looting breaks out there, and gets worse in Baghdad, where firefights continue. One brigade of U.S. 4th Infantry Division prepares to leave Kuwait and head toward Baghdad, or points further north.

Apr. 12 U.S. intensifies attacks on Tikrit, Saddam's home town, where remnants of the Republican Guard may be rallying for a final battle. Two of Iraq's "most wanted" military leaders are taken into custody. U.S. forces take control of guard posts on the border with Syria, trying to prevent Iraqi leaders from escaping, but meet resistance at Qaim.

Apr. 13 Marines push into Tikrit. Seven U.S. prisoners of war are rescued near Samarra, about 75 miles north of Baghdad. Five were from the 507th Maintenance Company, which was ambushed on March 23, and two were the crew of an Apache helicopter shot down on March 24.

Apr. 14 Marines take control of Saddam's home town of Tikrit, getting a chilly reception. Organized resistance in Iraq comes to an end, while dis-organized resistance intensifies.

Apr. 16 Palestinian terrorist leader "Abu Abbas" is captured in a suburb of Baghdad.

Apr. 18 Elements of the U.S. 4th Infantry Division, which has just moved into Iraq, engages in a firefight near Samarra with Iraqi remnants driving machine-gun-armed "technical vehicles." 927 "noncombatant" Iraqi POWs are released; 6,850 POWs remain incarcerated.

Apr. 28 About a dozen Iraqi demonstrators are apparently killed by U.S. soldiers responding to gunshots fired at them in Fallujah, a Baath Party stronghold west of Baghdad. Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld visits Riyadh, announces U.S. troops will withdraw from bases in Saudi Arabia.

May 1 President Bush, speaking aboard the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln, declares that major military operations in Iraq have ended. (The last significant battle took place two weeks previously.) Seven U.S. soldiers are injured by an Iraqi hand grenade.

May 14 Spain's Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar announced that his country will send 1,500 troops to Iraq, stipulating that they will not engage in any combat operations.

May 19 Units of the U.S. 1st Armored Division, formerly based in Germany, arrive in Iraq to help police the streets of Baghdad. The 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment also arrived, apparently later than expected. Those units are not expected to return to Germany.

Occupation phase chronology (2003-2011)

(Underlined months are links to War blog archives.)

Month Event
June, 2003 Units U.S. 4th Infantry Division kill 23 Iraqi guerrillas who had tried to ambush them in Balad.
July, 2003
Aug. 2003 First major bombing attack by insurgents, at U.N. building in Baghdad.
Sept. 2003
Oct. 2003
Nov. 2003
Dec. 2003 Saddam Hussein captured while hiding in a hole.
Jan. 2004
Feb. 2004
Mar. 2004
Apr. 2004 Abu Ghraib scandal; wave of guerrilla attacks and suicide bombings; U.S. troops attack Fallujah, then pull back.
May, 2004 Fighting in Shiite cities of Karbala, Najaf, and Baghdad's Sadr City.
June, 2004 CPA hands over authority to Iraqi interim government.
July, 2004
Aug. 2004 More fighting in Najaf.
Sept. 2004 Escalation of terrorist bomb attacks in Fallujah, Baghdad, and Najaf.
Oct. 2004
Nov. 2004 U.S. troops attack Fallujah again, mopping up resistance.
Dec. 2004
Jan. 2005 Elections for transitional government; big success. 31 U.S. Marines die in helicopter crash.
Feb. 2005 R.I.P. Jason Redifer
Mar. 2005
Apr. 2005
May, 2005 U.S. Marines launch offensive against insurgent bases along Syrian border.
June, 2005 Continued onslaught of suicide bombings.
July, 2005 Escalation of horrific car bombings in Musayyib.
Aug. 2005 Iraqi constitution is approved, pending revisions.
Sept. 2005 Hundreds die in car bomb attacks; U.S. troops attack insurgent bases in Tall Afar, near Syria.
Oct. 2005 Operation River Gate: U.S. offensive in western Iraq (Haditha, Haqlaniyah, Barwana). Constitutional referendum is approved. R.I.P. Daniel Bubb.
Nov. 2005 Operation Steel Curtain: U.S.-Iraqi offensive against terrorists around Husaybah, near the Syrian border.
Dec. 2005 First Iraqi parliamentary elections.
Jan. 2006
Feb. 2006 Terrorists bomb Shiite mosque in Samarra, sectarian violence escalates.
Mar. 2006 Parliament sworn in, but cabinet is not fully formed.
Apr. 2006 Nuri Kamil al-Maliki is chosen as prime minister.
May, 2006
June, 2006 Terrorist leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi is killed.
July, 2006
Aug. 2006
Sept. 2006
Oct. 2006 Sectarian violence worsens, "cleric" Moqtada al Sadr claims control of Amarah.
Nov. 2006
Dec. 2006
Jan. 2007 Pres. Bush orders "surge" in U.S. troop levels (Jan.);
Feb. 2007 R.I.P. Daniel Todd Morris.
Mar. 2007
Apr. 2007
May, 2007
June, 2007
July, 2007
Aug. 2007
Sept. 2007
Oct. 2007
Nov. 2007
Dec. 2007
Jan. 2008 Pacification progresses, U.S. casualties fall.
Feb. 2008
Mar. 2008
Apr. 2008
May, 2008
June, 2008
July, 2008
Aug. 2008
Sept. 2008
Oct. 2008
Nov. 2008
Dec. 2008
Jan. 2009 Iraq assumes control over Green Zone, etc.; U.S. force levels are reduced.

SOURCE: Washington Post

Annual chronology

2003 Liberation in three weeks (Mar.-Apr.); looting and chaos follows; Paul Bremer disbands Iraqi Army.
2004 Government of Iraqi regains sovereignty (June);
Battle of Fallujah (Nov.)
2005 Increase in violence fails to stop elections (Jan.);
Battle of Tall Afar (Sept.)
2006 Widespread terrorist bombs by Al Qaeda in Iraq. (Jan.); Terrorist leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi is killed (June); Sectarian violence worsens, "cleric" Moqtada al Sadr claims control of Amarah (Oct.)
2007 Pres. Bush orders "surge" in U.S. troop levels (Jan.), despite opposition in Congress.
2008 Pacification progresses steadily.
2009 Pacification continues.
2010 End of combat operations. (Sept.)
2011 Withdrawal of U.S. combat forces. (Dec.)

Orders of Battle

Coalition Order of Battle

    IN IRAQ:
  • U.S. 3rd Infantry Division (mechanized) (+)
  • U.S. 1st Marine Division (+)
  • plus miscellaneous elements of other divisions
  • British 1st Armoured Division
  • British Royal Marine Commando Brigade
  • British 16th Air Assault Brigade
  • U.S. 101st Airborne Division (airmobile) -- committed Mar. 30 - Apr. 2
  • U.S. 2nd Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division -- committed Mar. 29
  • U.S. 173rd Airborne Brigade -- arrived from Italy Mar. 26-28
  • U.S. 4th Infantry Division (mechanized) -- arrived Apr. 15 (delayed waiting for permission from Turkey)
  • Australian 16th Aviation Regiment
  • U.S. 1st Armored Division (2 brigades) -- arrived May 16 from Germany
  • U.S. 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment -- arrived May 16 from Germany
  • U.S. 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment -- arrived ??
  • EN ROUTE (?):
  • U.S. 1st Cavalry Division (mechanized) -- from Texas

Iraqi Order of Battle

  • 2 armored divisions -- Al Medina, Al Nida
  • 3 mechanized infantry divisions -- Special Republican Guard, Hammurabi, Adnan
  • 3 infantry divisions -- Baghdad, Al Abed, Nebuchadnezzar
  • REGULAR ARMY (understrength, poor morale):
  • 3 armored divisions -- 3rd, 6th, 10th
  • 3 mechanized infantry divisions -- 1st, 5th, 51st
  • 11 infantry divisions -- 2nd, 4th, 7th, 8th, 11th, 14th, 15th, 16th, 18th, 34th, 38th

NOTE: These were the major ground units on hand at the beginning of the war.

Coalition members

These are the countries that provided material assistance in some form. In addition, about 37 other countries expressed moral support for the war.

  • Australia -- about 5,000 troops
  • Britain -- about 45,000 troops
  • Bulgaria -- biochemical warfare troops
  • Czech Republic -- biochemical warfare troops
  • Denmark -- submarine monitors Iraqi intelligence
  • Italy -- logistical support, port and air base facilities
  • Kuwait -- logistical support, port and air base facilities
  • Poland -- commandos, biochemical warfare troops
  • Portugal -- logistical support, air base facilities
  • Romania -- biochemical warfare troops
  • Slovakia -- biochemical warfare troops
  • United States -- about 300,000 troops in the region
  • Spain -- 1,500 troops, logistical & humanitarian support (hospital ship) (Withdrawn in 2005.)
  • Honduras -- 300 troops (Withdrawn in 2005.)