From news headlines to video games, the Javelin Anti-Tank Missile is a 21st Century American icon. An amalgamation of warhead, styrofoam and an advanced guidance system, the nearly 50-lb weapons system first saw its “major league” debut during the 2003 Battle of Baghdad, one of the most televised battles in history.
Prior to Iraq, America had -if only briefly- learned its lesson about allowing embedded news crews to float about on the front lines. Faced with the horrible shadows of Vietnam, the Gulf War of 1991 is largely remembered as a “clean war,” a big part of that being because media was so sanitized.
During the Battle of Baghdad, CNN captured the first use of the Javelin in combat, when infantrymen of the 3rd Infantry Division’s 2nd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment took on Iraqi Armor outside of Saddam International Airport in Baghdad.
Third Infantry Division succeeded in taking control of Baghdad International Airport after several hours of intense fighting, claiming victory over the best defended Iraqi position of the entire war. Despite losing their control over the airport, the Iraqi Army did not intend to let the mechanized infantrymen hold their position for long but the men of 3ID stayed true to their motto, Nous Resterons La (We Shall Remain Here).
Kristopher Monti recalls April 3rd, 2003 as if it was yesterday. Monti, along with several men from 3rd Platoon Bravo Company were featured in the iconic moment of failure and triumph. At that very moment they were facing down two Iraqi tanks that had just struck one of their Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicles guarding the airport.
“I was the squad RTO [radiotelephone operator] for the Lieutenant and squad leader [of 3rd platoon],” Monti told Popular Military. “Just depended who was on the ground at the time.”
Their platoon, along with another from Bravo company, were put in charge of repelling their two tanks that had just fired on their position during the Iraqi Army offensive and CNN cameras followed to capture it all.
As the camera started recording, 3rd platoons’s Sergeant Maltby was directing Sergeant Jimenez to engage the tanks from a bridge they had positioned their platoon on.
Exposed and hesitant to be more exposed, Jimenez scooted his way up with the relatively new Javelin, locking onto his target and pulling the trigger.
“Eh!” Jimenez shouted. “There’s something wrong with the missile.”
Switching out the missiles, the troops opened fire on the tanks, this time with great success- sending the turret of the enemy tank flying into the air.
“WOOOOH!” the troops shouted, hollering like a native war party on a scalping run as the enemy armor -who had unsaddled their brethren- burst into flames. Wasting no time, the troopers fired again with equal success.
Jimenez reportedly got to go to the Pentagon and talk about the Javelin shoot. According to Monti, “Jimenez received a Bronze Star for those kills if I’m not mistaken.”
Only three days after the quirky tank bust, US Army Special Forces took out two Iraqi T-55 tanks while fighting alongside Peshmerga rebels in Northern Iraq during the Battle of Debecka Pass.
The rest, as they say, is history. Since then, the Javelin has been finding its way across American-influenced battles the world over, including a recent shipment to the Ukraine.
While the Javelin is now beginning to show its age, there is no doubt of its lethality, even on modern day battlefields.
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