Marine Ryan P. Shane and uncommon valor during the Second Battle of Fallujah

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Extraordinary Bravery on the Streets of Fallujah Ryan P. Shane
Extraordinary Bravery on the Streets of Fallujah (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps)

Ryan P. Shane’s story during the Second Battle of Fallujah has been hailed as one of the most heroic tales ever captured on camera. The US troops demonstrated extraordinary bravery during this battle, which is widely known to the public. The Second Battle of Fallujah was a risky endeavor and the deadliest urban fighting ever encountered by US troops in the Iraq War. The conflict was nothing short of hell on Earth, and the soldiers’ unwavering courage was essential to its success.

Operation Phantom Fury

The mission, dubbed Operation Phantom Fury and Operation Al-Fajr (The Dawn), had two primary objectives: to reclaim control of the city from the insurgents and to capture Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a notorious al-Qaeda leader who would later become the founder of Daesh (ISIS).

The insurgents, consisting of religious extremists and ex-Iraqi Army veterans, were estimated to number around 4,000. The Coalition forces comprised approximately 13,350 troops (10,500 from the US, 2,000 from Iraqi security forces, and 850 from the UK). The US military began the operation by sealing all city exits to prevent insurgents from escaping and establishing numerous roadblocks and checkpoints to ensure their success.

The Fallujah insurgents, anticipating the Coalition Forces’ assault, erected their defenses and barricades. The I Marine Expeditionary Force carried out the final assault.

This operation is a testament to the Coalition forces’ bravery and unwavering commitment to their mission. Their efforts helped to retake the city from the insurgents and capture one of the most notorious leaders of al-Qaeda. Operation Phantom Fury’s and Al-Fajr’s success is a testament to the US military’s and its allies’ immense skill and determination. It will always be remembered as a defining moment in the history of the Iraq War.

Uncommon valor

On November 9, 2004, during the Second Battle of Fallujah, a Marine was struck by an enemy sniper, resulting in a series of events that demonstrated remarkable bravery and selflessness. The iconic photo set of that day captures the story of Gunnery Sgt. Ryan P. Shane, a platoon sergeant, risked his own life to save a wounded comrade.

Shane had been an infantryman since he was 18, and his experience in combat was evident as he dashed out into the line of fire to save his fellow Marine. With sparks flying around him, he ran to the fatally wounded Marine, grabbed his collar, and attempted to pull him to safety. However, despite his efforts, the enemy continued to fire, and Shane was hit and fell to the ground.

As chaos erupted and the radio crackled with reports of “men down,” the Marines quickly responded with intense retaliatory fire towards the enemy’s location. They managed to rescue the downed Marines, including Shane, who was severely wounded but ultimately survived.

The courage displayed by Ryan P. Shane on that day was exceptional and a testament to the bravery of the Marines who fought during the Second Battle of Fallujah. Although Lonny, the wounded Marine Shane was trying to save, unfortunately, did not survive, Shane’s actions serve as a reminder of the selflessness and courage exhibited by those who serve in the military.

Photos

This set of photographs captures a harrowing moment during Operation Phantom Fury, where Gunnery Sgt. Ryan P. Shane and another member of the 1/8 Marine Regiment, Company B, bravely attempted to retrieve a fatally wounded fellow Marine, Sergeant Lonny Wells, while under enemy fire.

Despite the danger, Gunnery Sgt. Shane and his comrade displayed tremendous courage and determination in their efforts to rescue their fallen comrade. Tragically, Sergeant Wells succumbed to his injuries while Gunnery Sgt. Shane was injured in the process, and the other Marine sought cover.

The photos ran in Leatherneck Magazine—the magazine of the Marines—a month later under a simple headline: “Uncommon Valor.”

Warning: The photo set below may be disturbing to some and personal to others. There is no intended disrespect in its use; it only illustrates the trials and tribulations the Marine force experienced during the battle.

Uncommon valor during the Second Battle of Fallujah - Ryan P. Shane operation Phantom Fury
In the first, Ryan stands in the wet street, bent over Lonny. His 220-pound frame tugs the drag strap on Lonny’s body armor. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps)
Second Battle of Fallujah Operation Al-Fajr Operation Phantom Fury
In the second, another Marine runs to Ryan’s side, trying to help. Clumsily, the second Marine bends over Lonny while Ryan keeps pulling. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps)
Uncommon valor during the Second Battle of Fallujah - Ryan P. Shane
The next frame was taken as bullet tears into Ryan’s lower back, scrambling his stomach. He’s on his heels, falling. The other Marine watches in a half sprint, heading for cover. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps)
Uncommon valor during the Second Battle of Fallujah - Ryan P. Shane Operation Al-Fajr
The final frame is Ryan and Lonny lying face down on the street in the rain. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps)

This event is a powerful reminder of the bravery and selflessness exhibited by our men and women in uniform, who put themselves in harm’s way to protect the lives and freedom of others. The sacrifices made by these brave individuals are immeasurable, and their unwavering commitment to duty and service inspires us all.

We honor the memory of Sergeant Lonny Wells and extend our deepest gratitude to Gunnery Sgt. Ryan P. Shane and all those who have served and continue to serve our country with distinction and honor. Their service and sacrifice will never be forgotten.

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