Podcast

A U.S. Marine Looks Back at Fallujah

On the podcast: Elliot Ackerman served five tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan.

U.S. soldiers sweep through an abandoned house during heavy fighting in the insurgent stronghold of Fallujah, Iraq, on Nov. 9, 2004.
U.S. soldiers sweep through an abandoned house during heavy fighting in the insurgent stronghold of Fallujah, Iraq, on Nov. 9, 2004. Scott Nelson/Getty Images

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It’s been 16 years since the United States went into Iraq, nearly nine years since President Barack Obama formally ended U.S. combat missions there, yet the impact of the decision to fight is still being felt today. In July, Democrats in the House of Representatives voted to rescind the 2002 authorization for the use of military force—used, at the time, to approve the U.S. move into Iraq.

In the early years of the Iraq War, one battle particularly stood out for its ferocity. From early November through mid-December 2004, U.S., Iraqi, and British forces fought Operation Phantom Fury in Fallujah—a joint effort to fight the insurgency. More than 80 American soldiers died in that operation.

Earlier that year, four American contractors were killed in Fallujah, and their bodies were burned and dragged through the streets. Phantom Fury was an effort to retake the city.

U.S. Marine Corps veteran Elliot Ackerman led a battalion of soldiers in Fallujah for that month of 2004. Ackerman served five tours in Afghanistan and Iraq and was awarded the Silver Star, the Bronze Star for Valor, and the Purple Heart. In his new book, Places and Names: On War, Revolution, and Returning, Ackerman describes what it was like to be involved in that critical battle and how it felt to return, years later, not as a soldier but as a journalist. He is our guest on First Person this week.

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