Saturday, March 22
'Dead bodies are everywhere'
smh.co.au, Lindsay Murdoch, March 22 2003
Herald Correspondent Lindsay Murdoch, travelling with a Marines artillery unit, reports on one of the war's first battles on the Iraq-Kuwait border.
There was little initial resistance as the United States Marines swept into southern Iraq early yesterday. One of the first encounters of the ground war was more like a massacre than a fight.
The Iraqi gunners fired first, soon after United States President George Bush announced the attack on Saddam Hussein was under way.
It was a fatal mistake.
The Iraqi artillery unit, preparing for the American invasion, had tested the range by firing registering shots at a likely spot where the American tanks would cross from Kuwait. US radar picked up the incoming shells and pinpointed their source.
Within hours, the Iraqi gunners and their Russian-made 122mm howitzers were destroyed as the Americans unleashed an artillery barrage that shook the ground and lit up the night sky with orange flashes.
"Dead bodies are everywhere," a US officer reported by radio.
Later in the day, the American firepower was turned on Safwan Hill, an Iraqi military observation post a couple of kilometres across the border. ... Safwan Hill went up in a huge fireball and the Iraqi observation post was obliterated.
"I pity anybody who's in there," a marine sergeant said. "We told them to surrender."
The destruction of Safwan Hill was a priority for the attacking forces because it had sophisticated surveillance equipment near the main highway that runs from Kuwait up to Basra and then Baghdad. The attacking US and British forces could not attempt to cross the border unless it was destroyed. [...]