During the invasion of Iraq, the current Secretary of Defense retired Marine General Jim Mattis commanded the 1st Marine Division, which also happened to be its deepest penetrating ground operation in Marine Corps history.
For 17 days, the division fought continuously while making its way into Baghdad and north to Tikrit. During the Marines push into Baghdad from the east, they found that the Iraqi Army had blown the bridge to cross the Diyala (more recently known as the Sirwan) river in Baghdad.
After repairing the bridge overnight, they crossed and began the engagement with the Iraqi Army, whom General Mattis referred to as cowards.
“Marines went into buildings, where women and children were cowering in the buildings, and people who did not live there had come in and fired from those homes, not allowing these innocent people to get out of the line of fire, breaking every rule, whether it be the law of war, of decency, of the Koran or anything else, and firing at us, knowing full well that we would have to fire back,” he told reporters.
“The Marines were able to get in. In some cases, they didn’t even have the manhood to go down and fight, they surrendered after endangering these women and children, firing on us, then they surrendered. They didn’t even have the guts to go down swinging.”
The Marines moved on to take over strategic military sites, such as Camp Rustamiyah and Rashid military airport, during their push through Baghdad.
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