RAMADI, Iraq -- "There was about a half mile stretch of the main road in town that instantly became a battlefield as we moved through it," explained Maj. Mike Wylie, the executive officer of 2nd battalion, 4th Marines (2/4). Wylie was describing the genesis of a truly violent clash on "Wicked Wednesday" here in Ramadi, the provincial capital that lies about 70 miles west of Baghdad.
Marines and soldiers were on patrol, making their way through town in the 120-degree mid-afternoon heat, when an improvised explosive device (IED) was set off by insurgents in an attempted ambush on the convoy carrying the executive officer of 2/4. The IED exploded beside the vehicle that was carrying our Fox News cameraman, Mal James, who jumped out of the humvee to capture some of the most dramatic war footage since the major hostilities of 16 months ago.
The ensuing battle, which involved upward of 600 soldiers and Marines and lasted for well over four hours, occurred near the government center, where, clearly, the insurgents do not want this government to succeed. Wylie, who did a magnificent job running the operation, called it a "large sized battle -- probably the third or fourth largest of our deployment." During the battle, 25 insurgents would be killed, 17 more wounded, and another 25 taken off the streets and into custody. Fourteen Marines sustained minor injuries during the clash.
The attack began with the detonation of an IED, whose cousin is the VBIED -- Vehicular Born Improvised Explosive Device, or car bomb. IEDs are the preferred form of attack in Iraq against coalition forces and the new Iraqi government, whether they are used in vehicles or simply in trash cans off to the side of the road. The enemy no longer wants to face soldiers and Marines head-to-head, as evidenced by the lopsided outcome of Wednesday's firefight.
One evening earlier in the week, just after 9:00 pm, the Marines responded when Iraqi police called in what they said was a suspected VBIED. The Iraqi officers pulled up to a vehicle parked in the middle of a six-lane highway, inspected it and took off upon realizing it was a car bomb. Though the Iraqi police are training to deal with IEDs, they don't yet have the kind of equipment that the Marines do to neutralize them. So the Marine explosive ordinance disposal team was dispatched with a security force from Weapons Company.
While preparing to deploy a robot to detonate the bomb, Weapons Company was attacked by mortars. A Marine on the scene decided instead to use a TOW, a wire guided anti-tank weapon, to destroy the IED, which they did in dramatic fashion.
Oliver North is a nationally syndicated columnist, the host of War Stories on the Fox News Channel, the author of the new novel Heroes Proved and the co-founder of Freedom Alliance, an organization that provides college scholarships to the children of U.S. military personnel killed or permanently disabled in the line of duty. Join Oliver North in Israel by going to www.olivernorthisrael.com.