the evening of April 12, we received fresh orders to move south,
link up with regimental combat team 7 and redeploy to near
We were to assist other 1st
Division troops to secure some of the trouble areas and main roads
around the town in an operation called ``Ripper Sweep''.
We moved to Al Asad, about 150km
to the north of Fallujah.
We used it as a staging area in
preparation for the operation.
officer Joe Day (right) with fellow Australian officer Flt Lt
We moved to clear all roads to the
west of Fallujah. Artillery fired over our heads, fixed-wing and
rotary-wing aircraft were attacking (insurgent) positions.
It was almost like the war all over
again. We were prepared for a big fight as we moved through. Our force
was so large and must have appeared so daunting for the enemy that they
fled in front of us, abandoning their positions.
We met little resistance on the
opening day. There was one close call when a roadside bomb exploded near
a humvee. Luckily, nobody was seriously injured. Over the next few days
we searched every house and questioned every male of military age. Some
were detained for further questioning.
We found and cleared many roadside
bombs along all the roads we covered. We moved further south to cordon
the town of Ash Amerya. The town had a population of about 25,000
people. I thought that it was an insurgent stronghold feeding fighters
We searched the town without incident
and re-established law and order. It was assessed that, once again, the
enemy had fled the town before we arrived. This was of some concern
because it meant that they were able to gain early warning of our
I went with the CO to a bridge at the
western entrance of Fallujah. It was like a scene out of World War II.
Marines in heavily fortified sandbag bunkers guarded the bridge. The
sounds of battle were all around.
It reminded me of when we were
preparing to move into Baghdad nearly a year before. I realised that
this bridge was the one that (US) civilian contractors' bodies had been
hung off after being dragged through the streets by a mob of barbaric
My blood boiled as I realised this was
what started the whole thing in the first place. Now, people were dying
in there. All because of some evil desire to kill Americans and for some
hollow cause (if any at all). Marine losses were the highest they had
been since our return. That thought angered me as I pondered where all
this was going.
Soon we received orders to redeploy to
the eastern side of the city. We were to cordon the small town of Al
Karmah, about 10km to the northeast of Fallujah proper. This town was a
known stronghold of Mujaheddin/insurgent fighters. They estimated there
were up to 500 and they wanted to fight. This rang true when our
movement was stopped by the discovery of several roadside bombs.
As we surrounded the town in the
classic cordon, the discovery of more and more bombs was getting to be
some kind of record. In the end, we had found 61 IEDs -- Improvised
Explosive Devices -- which were all successfully destroyed.
We attacked the town on or around
April 20. With the exception of one firefight in which eight enemy were
killed (and no losses on our side), there was no enemy to be found.
Rumours were rife that some members of
the media had deliberately let the word slip out so as to avoid a
bloodbath. I don't know if that is true or not. If it is, that is a very
dangerous course of action for us, as it will certainly cost lives in
We remained in the town for the next
few days, continuing our searches and detaining suspects as we went. It
was decided that we would get some rest in a Forward Operations Base
which was just outside Fallujah itself. The base was known as Camp
Fallujah and was well protected by walls, wire and fortified positions.
There was fresh food there and phones, an internet cafe and a PX. We
were in heaven after weeks in the field.
On the evening of April 24 I knew that
we would not be going back out for at least 24 hours. I smiled, as I
knew the next day was so precious to me. At the orders that night I
invited everyone to join me at dawn to help me commemorate ANZAC Day.
Those who were with me last year knew exactly what I meant, the rest
were curious but nodded anyway.
I woke early, about 0500. I took out
my Australian flag, which is carefully folded and sealed in a zip-lock
plastic bag. I quietly raised it on a makeshift flag pole, which my men
had made out of camouflage net poles (it worked perfectly). I didn't ask
them to do that, they knew it was ANZAC Day and they were more excited
than I was. They do surprise me sometimes. The flag was to be the signal
to everyone else for where they were to gather.
While I waited for the others to arrive,
I went about making a special brew of coffee in a large pot. Everything
was going just perfectly as some early rising guests arrived to give me
a hand. I was impressed as the number of guests grew. I wondered whether
I had enough coffee to go around. Rationing was in order, I thought. But
I was glad, as I had not forced anyone to wake up early; they came of
their own free will, out of respect.
Anzac Day in Fallujah
I honoured their attendance with my
special blend of coffee, which included that special ingredient - rum -
in keeping with the finest ANZAC tradition. Of course, alcohol of any
kind is strictly forbidden to US forces in Iraq, but I am not in the US
forces and special exception was made for me.
I went on to tell the story of the
first ANZAC Day and explain what it now means to me and to all
Australians. I was careful to recognise the bond that has grown between
the US and Australian forces ever since World War I.
I continued: "So here we stand as
comrades and I want to dedicate this ANZAC Day to all our Marines who
have made the ultimate sacrifice in this, our latest fight for freedom.
"Let's bow our heads for a
moment's silence as we remember our fallen mates.'' I saw the sea of
moist eyes around me as I realised that I had touched them by what I had
said. I think this was the first time we had to really think about these
The next day we returned to the field
to tighten our cordon on Fallujah and its surrounding towns. We still
had a sizeable force in Al Karmah. Rocket attacks were becoming more
prevalent and our artillery was coming into play now with counter
A few days later a ceasefire was
declared and the battalion was ordered to return to Al Asad, and then
its own area of operations further to the north, at Al Qaim.
After nearly a month-long operation we
are now at our base camp and preparing for the next operation. We don't
know where we are going or what the mission will be. Our base camp is a
lot smaller than the ones to our south. There is no fresh food and water
is scarce, we sleep in an abandoned building with no air-conditioning
nor any other luxuries.
We have certainly seen a lot more of
this country than most. My platoon clocked up 8000km this week after
just three months.
I have to acknowledge the important
role which my wife and children play. Their support is the most critical
and precious thing to my own morale. I think about them every day. They
give me the tools to go on. They give me something to fight for and
something to live for. That is a powerful thing and should never be
Some operational details are not fully disclosed in
this version of events for security reasons. Any views expressed in this
summary are my own and do not represent official US or Australian
- JOE DAY'S WAR
- March 2003: Has front-line role
with coalition invasion force before returning to the US in June
- February 19, 2004: Returns to
Iraq when he is deployed to the northwest of the country
- April 12: He moves to Al Asad
about 150km north of Fallujah where his battalion moves to clear
all the roads and towns to the west of Fallujah. Over the next
few days his force moves to Ash Amerya, where they locate bomb-makers
and weapons caches
- Several days later Day and his
battalion deploy to Al Karmah about 10km northeast of Fallujah.
They find and disarm 61 roadside bombs (a record) set up to
attack their convoys. On April 20 they attack the town, killing
- April 24: Pulls back to a
protected base just outside of Fallujah where he celebrates
- April 26: Comes under rocket
attack at base camp near Fallujah
- April 27: Conducts a sweep
around the outskirts of Fallujah, with soldiers in his unit
finding weapons caches and capturing a high-ranking Lebanese
arms dealer - described as a 'high value target'
The Australian (newspaper)