The U.S. Army Medical Research and Development Command (MRDC) has learned valuable lessons by studying the Second Battle of Fallujah, which took place in Iraq between November and December 2004. Military historians called it some of the heaviest urban combat that U.S. Marines and Soldiers had seen since the Battle of Hue City in Vietnam in 1968. From an operations and medical perspective, this battle provides the military with strategic lessons that will enable the U.S. to prevail in close-quartered armed conflict with near-peer adversaries, such as Russia and China.
More than 300,000 residents vacated Fallujah before the battle in anticipation of a protracted struggle that could have produced catastrophic collateral damage. The Iraqi insurgents and foreign mujahedeen present in the city fortified their defenses in advance of the anticipated U.S. attack: digging tunnels, preparing trenches and hiding scores of improvised explosive devices in “spider holes.” The insurgents’ tactics included booby-trapping buildings and vehicles, wiring doors and windows with grenades, and using Jersey barriers within homes to create strong chokepoints from behind which they could attack unsuspecting troops entering the building.