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Richard S Lowry

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New Dawn: The Battles for Fallujah
by Richard S Lowry   

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Books by Richard S Lowry
· Marines in the Garden of Eden
· US Marine in Iraq: Operation Iraqi Freedom, 2003
· The Gulf War Chronicles
                >> View all



Publisher:  Savas Beatie LLC ISBN-10:  1932714774 Type: 


Copyright:  May 19, 2010 ISBN-13:  9781932714777

Barnes &
New Dawn
New Dawn

Fallujah. Few names conjure up as many images of blood, sacrifice, and valor as does this ancient city in Al Anbar province forty miles west of Baghdad. This sprawling concrete jungle was the scene of two major U.S. combat operations in 2004. The first was Operation Vigilant Resolve, an aborted effort that April by U.S. Marines intent on punishing the city's insurgents. The second, Operation Phantom Fury, was launched seven months later. Richard Lowry's 'New Dawn: The Battles for Fallujah' is the first comprehensive history of this fighting.

Also known as the Second Battle for Fallujah, Operation Phantom Fury was a protracted house-to-house and street-to-street combat that began on November 7 and continued unabated for seven bloody and exhausting weeks. It was the largest fight of Operation Iraqi Freedom and the heaviest urban combat since the Battle of Hue City, Vietnam in 1968. Death and redemption were found everywhere, from narrow streets to courtyards, kitchens, bedrooms, and rooftops. By the time the fighting ended, more than 1,400 insurgents were dead, compared to ninety-five Americans (and another 1,000 wounded).

Richard Lowry spent years researching and writing his new campaign history. In addition to archival research, New Dawn is based upon the personal recollections of nearly 200 soldiers and Marines who participated in the battles for Fallujah, from the commanding generals who planned the operations to the privates who kicked in the doors. The result is a gripping, page-turning narrative of individual sacrifice and valor that also documents the battles for future military historians.The struggle against a determined enemy at the crossroads of civilization is the story of American kids who grew up down the block from you only to fly halfway around the world to fight in the largest battle of the war. 'New Dawn' is about their courage, their sacrifice, and their commitment to freedom. And it is a story you will never forget.


As goes Fallujah, so goes Anbar Province; as goes Anbar, so goes Iraq. Fallujah has long been a Sunni Wahabi tribal hotbed and vital commercial crossroad. Islamic fundamentalism was brought to Fallujah hundreds of years ago via an ancie3d plt set in atk pos_Leent trade route, linking societies in the Arabian Peninsula with the people of Iraq. This austere, blue-collar city on the banks of the Euphrates River has been regarded as a notorious home of malcontents: even Saddam had problems controlling Fallujah’s religious zealots.

American forces easily deposed Saddam’s regime in 2003, but the fight never ended in Fallujah. The first Americans to arrive were immediately besieged and forced to hunker down in fortified outposts. The situation in Fallujah was a harbinger of events to come throughout Iraq. As in Baghdad, the enemy in Fallujah proved time and time again that America was not prepared to fight a counter-insurgent war. The United States Army simply was not trained or equipped to deal with anarchy and insurrection. A metamorphosis of mission would be needed to overcome the rising insurgency.

The American military had been restructured in the mid-80s. The Goldwater-Nichols Department of Defense Reorganization Act of 1986 had changed our military structure forever. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs was given operational authority over the service chiefs. He also became the principal military advisor to the President, National Security Council and Secretary of Defense. The intent was to bring all of the military services closer together and to create a “joint” force that could train, communicate and fight as one. The intent was not to homogenize our fighting forces, but to enable them to work together, bringing all the tools in the toolbox to any given campaign. However, while a modicum of jointness was achieved during the 2003 invasion of Iraq, for the most part the Army and Marine Corps operated independently for the first year of the war.

But in March 2004 the 1st Marine Division relieved the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division in Iraq’s western province. The Marines’ mindset was better suited to deal with third-world chaos. Years earlier they had developed the concept of the “three-block war.”[1] The Marine Corps, in its struggle to redefine its mission after Goldwater/Nichols, worked to position itself as America’s 911 force. Marine Expeditionary Units were designed to remain afloat near potential hotspots, to be the first in. Over the years the Marines had responded to America’s security needs in Lebanon, Haiti, Grenada, Kuwait, Somalia and myriad potential hotspots. As the U.S. Military’s SWAT team, the Marines became proficient at maintaining order in third-world nations, including dealing with civilians in lawless lands. So in 2003-2004 the leadership in the Pentagon realized that the Marines were best suited to handle the chaotic situation in al Anbar Province. Therefore, after less than a year’s respite, Major General James Mattis and his 1st Marine Division returned to Iraq.

No sooner had the Marines arrived than four Blackwater security guards were attacked and brutally beaten, burned, bludgeoned and dragged through the streets of Fallujah. According to the account in Bing West’s No True Glory,[2] the Marine commanders wanted to quietly hunt down the perpetrators of the gruesome killings. However, President Bush and Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld—with visions of the 1993 “Blackhawk Down” incident in Mogadishu, Somalia—were infuriated. America’s senior leadership insisted that the Marines attack to clear the entire city. So on April 4, 2004, the Marines attacked—into an insurgent hornets’ nest. After only five days, President Bush ordered a unilateral suspension of offensive operations. Al Qaeda had won the first round of the battle for Fallujah.

How? Al Qaeda had goaded American forces into a fight; then expertly manipulated the world news media, igniting a worldwide diplomatic firestorm. Inaccurate stories and staged photos abounded of so-called Marine atrocities, convincing the world that U.S. Marines were indiscriminately killing women and children. The enemy’s propaganda was so effective that the fledgling Iraqi government insisted that the operation be suspended; the U.S.’ closest allies, the British, also demanded an immediate cessation of offensive activities.

So the Marines were ordered to stop their advance into the city and hold their positions. Even after the Marines halted, the insurgents continued to probe their lines, hoping to kill Americans and elicit another violent response. They continued to build roadblocks and prepare for the next round of fighting.

All the while, the Marines and the Iraqi Governing Council attempted to negotiate an end to the violence. By April 19, 2004, the U.S.-led coalition had reached an agreement with Fallujah’s community leaders. In an attempt to reestablish some sort of stability, the Marines agreed to patrol the city alongside Iraqi security forces. At first the city streets were calm, but violence erupted in less than twenty-four hours. Frustrated by the forced restraint, the Marines withdrew and turned over responsibility for security inside Fallujah to the newly-established “Fallujah Brigade.” This ended the first siege of Iraq’s “Wild West” stronghold.

The Fallujah Brigade had been armed and trained in the hope that its members could take back their own city. It remains debatable whether the Fallujah Brigade ever really intended to deal with the violent element within the city; its officer corps and ranks were heavily populated with former members of Saddam’s Republican Guard. Regardless of their intent, they never became an effective security force, and the Brigade disintegrated. Soon control of the city fell back into the hands of the insurgents.

While tragic, the Fallujah Brigade’s failure to maintain security was a necessary evolutionary step in the history of that war-torn city. The United States had attempted to back away and let the Iraqis bring peace and stability to their own city. The Fallujah Brigade’s failure emphasized the need for further American action and galvanized support for that action in the Iraqi national government.

But otherwise there could not have been a worse outcome to the first battle for Fallujah. The mightiest military in the world had seemingly been defeated by a ragtag band of criminal thugs; Al Qaeda proclaimed its victory over the infidel. The Marines had been unable to quickly penetrate the insurgents’ maze of roadblocks and IED-laced streets. They didn’t have the heavy assets they needed to punch through those fortifications without flattening the city with bombs and artillery.

Additionally, the Marines dashed their chances of winning the hearts and minds of the people; Al Qaeda won that battle, too. The insurgents used their victory in Fallujah to recruit fresh fighters from the local inhabitants and to attract jihadists from all over the world. The call went out: “Come to Fallujah, kill Americans, and defeat the Zionists.” The city was left isolated, with nearly 100% unemployment. All of Fallujah’s military-aged men had nothing better to do than fight the Americans who had brought chaos and destruction to their city.

By the end of April, the Marines had withdrawn to the edge of the city. General Mattis’ only hope was to contain the burgeoning insurgency within the city limits. Fallujah once again became a base of operations and a safe haven for the enemy, and an American no-man’s-land. General Mattis was continually restrained throughout the summer of 2004, as the Coalition leadership tried to get the Iraqis to help solve the problem. Given the opportunity, Mattis would have moved to clear Fallujah, but it was not meant to be. The job of defeating the enemy in Fallujah would fall to the 1st Marine Division’s next commanding general. Major General Richard F. Natonski, a longtime advocate of joint operations, assumed command in August of 2004, and planning was started for the largest joint operation of the war: Operation Phantom Fury.

The Marines had learned much since their arrival in March. They would not be turned back a second time.

Professional Reviews

Military Writers Society of America
New Dawn: The Battles for Fallujah is award-winning author, Richard Lowry's Opus Magnus. Well-documented, mapped, footnoted, and indexed to enhance comprehension of military terminology, this important piece of American history is as moving as a historical novel and as scholarly as a text book. It's a small piece that packs an enormous wallop.

Unlike other historians who focus solely on battle strategies and tactics, Lowry also introduces the reader to the participants--from the Generals to the Privates--by name. As a result, I shuddered as the Blackwater Contractors were murdered and mutilated in Fallujah -- because this time, they weren't strangers but four men with names -- Westley Batalona, Jerry Zovko, Scott Helvenston, and Michael Teague. I felt like I was with Gunny Popaditch as he charged into the city to clear out the insurgents -- and I was distressed as any friend would be when he was wounded. Throughout the battle, I held my breath and prayed for the safety of real people with mothers and fathers and wives and children -- men like Juan Rubio, Benny Alicea, Matthew Smith, and Jason Arellano.

For American tax payers who have come to expect the complications associated with inter-service rivalries, this book highlights the cooperative spirit between the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines that made this mission successful. Lowry allows the reader to peek behind the scenes as the Generals define their battle plans, assessing resources and determining who will do what. Then, as the insurgents react, we see Command reassessing and making tactical adjustments. We see the Army offering up not just the resources that were requested, but the resources that were available. We see Navy Corpsman risking their lives to bring aid to the wounded and dying. We watch as the Air Force C130s " Basher and Slasher "rain down death on the enemy--and we gasp at the bravery of young men willing to confront fanatics who came to Fallujah specifically to kill Americans.

Battle is grim under the best of circumstances -- and this was a long, sweaty journey into horror. However, there are moments that make us laugh � like the time when two officers were talking during a lull in the action. One says to the other, "Let's play the Marine Hymn." They radio back to the Army Psyops group who queues up the tune and broadcasts it. In response to the taunt, the enemy pops up from their hidden positions firing wildly and the Marines pick them off, one by one. As silence returns, one officer says, "That turned out pretty good. Let's play it again!"

New Dawn showcases the close relationships our troops form with each other--so close that they literally risk life and limb to keep other Marines or Soldiers safe. How proud their Mamas must be -- and terrified for them at the same time. On the flip side of that intensity, we can intuit that these young men will grieve for friends who couldn't be saved for the rest of their lives.

Lowry's book concentrates on what happened. He wisely leaves the why to be argued in other venues. He simply tells the world about Richard Natonski and Tom Metz and John Sattler and Pat Malay and Mike Shupp and Willy Buhl and Craig Tucker and Gary Patton and many others who guided our forces through this tough and frustrating assault. He shows us how men like Jeff Lee, Jason Clairday, Brad Kasal, and Jeremiah Workman came to be recognized for their heroism--and he reminds us about Ed Iwan, Antoine Smith, Steve Faulkenburg, Chris Adlesperger, and the others who didn't make it back alive.

I've been carrying this book around and showing it to everyone I meet. I tell them that it's the real deal. I don't tell them that this story makes me cry sometimes when it's dark and I'm all alone.

Review by Joyce Faulkner, MWSA President and Reviewer (June 2010)

Leatherneck Magazine, August, 2010
During spring 2004, responding to the murder and desecration of American contractors, Marines were ordered to attack the insurgent-infested Iraqi city of Fallujah. Operation Vigilant Resolve, as it was designated, soon became a media fiasco and the operation was terminated, and Islamic militants continued to maintain pos­session of the city. Plans, however, soon were undertaken for a coordinated all-out rematch.

Operation Phantom Fury, or al Fajr, also known as Operation New Dawn, would be a carefully detailed, well-executed and decidedly successful military engagement. Marines had not been faced with such a complex inner-city urban fight since the Battle of Hue City during the Vietnam War. In fact, the New Dawn military planners reached back to the 1977 writings of Lieutenant General Ron Christ­mas, USMC, for assistance in planning this inner-city battle.

The author of “New Dawn,” Richard Lowry, described the nasty streets of Fallujah as a perilous cross between the olden-day Wild West and the futuristic movie “Mad Max.” Fallujah is located 43 miles northeast of Baghdad in the Sunni-dominated province of Anbar. Positioned on the old-world Silk Road and bordering the Euphrates River, this Byzantine metropolis had been fought over since early antiquity; and it was a long-established headache for countless would-be rulers.

The city always had been a sanctuary for close-knit and independent tribal factions; but by 2004, the city also had become a haven for Saddam supporters, former Baath party members and diehard Iraqi Republican Guard soldiers. Additionally, the hot-blooded city had become a magnet for hardcore fundamentalists from a range of Islamic countries. Fallujah became a symbol of resistance to the recently formed Iraqi government.
On Nov. 8, 2004, a combined Army, Navy and Air Force personnel joined Marines, in “full body rattle,” in the new assault upon Fallujah. Regimental Combat Teams 1 and 7, supported by U.S. Army armored units, attacked south through the city. As expected, the prolonged fighting was fierce. Marines assaulted through a maze of narrow streets and multistoried concrete buildings.

Clearing fortified structures, house by house, was a dirty, agonizing and thankless affair. “Grunts” used a “whack-a-mole” approach, wielding grenades, bayonets and well-placed small-arms fire to dislodge and destroy well-motivated, well-armed in­surgents. The deft use of combined arms—armor, artillery and well-coordinated air support—helped decide the intensely violent conflict. In some instances, armored D9 bulldozers were employed to hammer down hardened enemy fortifications.

On Nov. 10, and before resuming the attack, Captain Drew McNulty read former Marine Commandant, General John A. Lejeune’s Marine Corps Birthday mes­sage. Over the citywide loudspeaker, the captain ended his message with this compelling pronouncement: “Slow is smooth and smooth is fast. Today, I expect the enemy to stand and fight. Kill him and kill him twice. Oorah, Semper Fi, and Happy Birthday.”
By New Year’s Day 2005, the insurgents had suffered a major defeat. Importantly, and thanks to the skillful uses of embedded news reporters, the always difficult media war had been won.

“New Dawn: The Battles for Fallujah” is a well-written, well-researched account of this monumental battle in Marine history. Thanks to Richard Lowry’s fine book and “Operation Phantom Fury” by Dick Camp, the Battle of Fallujah will take its rightful place in Marine history and in the lore of the Corps.

“New Dawn” paints a dust-choked graphic look into the intricacies of modern urban combat. The author skillfully includes the personal accounts of nearly 200 combatants in the book’s first-rate narrative. The reader will be awed by the courage of Marines, sailors and soldiers who battled in the Iraqi city. Within the fire-swept stairs of well-fortified buildings, desperate men struggled in a maze of close-quarter gunfights. Talk about reality-based action: this saga of Marines is a combat thriller!

W.J. Rayment / Conservative Bookstore
The greatest urban battle for U.S. forces since the Vietnam War occurred in Fallujah in 2004. It was a struggle for the heart and soul of Iraq. Insurgent forces, bent on returning Iraq to Saddam Hussein or converting it to a Jihadist's paradise had taken over the city and were using it as a base of operations to terrorize Anbar Province as well as Baghdad, the capital city of Iraq. The U.S. was equally set on bringing democracy and freedom to the region.

The clash between East and West in Fallujah is depicted in detail in Richard S. Lowry's book, New Dawn. The U.S. Marines, supported by the other branches of the military including Army Rangers, Navy Seals, and Air Force C-130 gun ships, after removing the civilian population, moved in to clear the city of insurgents. The battle developed into a house-to-house, man-to-man struggle. Lowry, as in all of his books paints a clear and detailed picture of the action.

Based on phone interviews, newspaper articles, and official documents, the book reads like ringside commentary at a boxing match. The overarching operation is described, but the fascinating reading is in the details. The reader feels as though he is with the troops as they clear houses and buildings of fanatical insurgents toting AK-47s and RPGs (Rocket Propelled Grenades). The individual vignettes are fascinating not just from what they reveal about modern urban warfare, but what they reveal about the human spirit and man's ability to take punishment and keep on fighting in the face of grave danger. A novel could not have captured the intensity of individual combat more vividly.

Besides being a fascinating read, New Dawn is a primary resource. The collected information would surely have been lost to time and foggy memories had Lowry not taken on this project. It is important not just as a work of history, but also as an instructive book revealing the tactics, methods, weapons and thinking behind urban warfare and counter-insurgency fighting. We learn just how truly fanatical the resistance in Fallujah was. Yet it was insufficient to stand up to the training and determination of the U.S. military. Any future participant in an urban struggle would do well to read this book before embarking upon his mission.

Reading the history of an individual battle is an interesting proposition. More than 70 Marines died in the attack on Fallujah. As the story plays out we are amazed at the visceral, palpable presence of imminent mortality. Each heroic act inspires. Each heroic death prompts us to shake our head sadly. New Dawn is a great work on so many levels. It is exciting, intense, thoughtful, and informative. A must read for anyone interested in the insurgency after the Iraq War or military combat in general.

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