On March 23, 2003, US Marines from the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force were caught in the most extraorinary battle of Operation
Iraqi Freedom. What started off as a routine manoeuvre to capture two bridges in the town of Nasiriyah turned into a 24-hour-long nightmare urban battle in which 18 young marines lost their lives and over 55 others were wounded. It was the single, heaviest loss suffered by the US military during the entire combat phase of the war.
It all started going wrong when the marines came across a burnt out US Army convoy which had got lost and had been ambushed
by Iraqi forces just outside of the city. This was the convoy from which Private Jessica Lynch was captured. In an attempt to rescue
the unaccounted for Army personnel, the marines charged towards the city with a half baked plan, no knowledge of what lay ahead, but plenty of guts. What happened next is a gripping and gruesome tale of blunders, tragedy and heroism.
Huge M1 tanks leading the attack on Nasiriyah became mired in quick sand, then a company of marines took a wrong turn and ended up on a deadly highway known as ambush alley where it's armored personal carriers succumbed to devastating RPG fire. USAF planes bombed and strafed marines who had called in the support. The dead and dying stranded on"ambush alley" only brought more marines into the slaughter. This was not a battle of modern technology. It was a brutal, close quarter urban knife fight which tested the marines' resolve and
training to the limit. At the heart of the drama were 50 or so young men, most of whom had never been to war, who found themselves in a battle from which neither their commanders or the technological might of the US military could save them.
Tim Pritchard is a London based journalist and filmaker, and has made several award-winning documentaries for the BBC, Channel 4, PBS and the Discovery Channel. This is his first book.