Uncommon valor during the Second Battle of Fallujah

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

The uncommon valor during the Second Battle of Fallujah was expressed by US troops. It was by far one of the most dangerous undertakings during the entire war. It was the deadliest sustained urban fighting for US troops in the Iraq War. Without any hesitation, it was hell on Earth.

Operation Phantom Fury

The operation was titled Operation Phantom Fury and Operation Al-Fajr (The Dawn) with only two objectives, retake the city from the insurgents and the capture of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a notorious al-Qaeda leader and future founder of Daesh (ISIS).

The estimated number of insurgents peaked at around 4,000 insurgents who were a mix of religious extremist and ex-Iraqi Army veterans. On the other side, the Coalition forces had around 13,350 troops (US 10,500 troops, Iraqi security forces 2,000 troops and UK 850 troops). US Forces began the battle by sealing all exits of the city so that no insurgents could escape and established various roadblocks and checkpoints to ensure this.

The insurgents in the Fallujah established their own defense perimeters and barricades in anticipation of the Coalition Forces that were about to assault the city. The final assault was left for the I Marine Expeditionary Force.

Uncommon valor

The most iconic photo set of the Second Battle of Fallujah was captured on November 9, 2004. One of the Marines was hit by an enemy sniper. While he was lying down on the street Gunnery Sgt. Ryan P. Shane, the platoon sergeant, dashed out into the line of fire. Uncommon valor during the Second Battle of Fallujah is portrayed in the acts of Ryan P. Shane. He had been an infantryman since he was 18.

With sparks kicking up around him, Shane ran to the fatally wounded Marine, grabbed his collar, and attempted to pull him to safety. But the enemy was unrelenting, and within seconds, Shane spun to the ground.

The incoming fire was intense. The radio crackled, “Men down, men down!” People were screaming orders, everyone trying to figure what just happened.

Within seconds the Marines returned fire toward the enemy’s location. With the support of nearly every Marine and his weapon, a group ran out and rescued the downed Marines. Although severely wounded, Ryan P. Shane would pull through. He was rushed out of the city, treated at a hospital.

Lonny is dead, Ryan survived.

Photos

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

In this series of photographs Gunnery Sgt. Ryan P. Shane (center), platoon Gunnery Sergeant assigned to Company B, 1st Battalion 8th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 7 and another member of the 1/8, recover a fatally wounded Marine, Sergeant Lonny Wells, while under fire during Operation Phantom Fury. Seconds later Shane was wounded by enemy fire and the Marine assisting him ran for cover. Sadly, Sergeant Wells died of his injuries and Gunnery Sgt. Shane survived.

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

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 just as a 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, both laying face down on the street in the rain. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps)
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