Page: Richard's Blog
Nov 21st, 2009 by Richard Lowry
FALLUJAH – 5 Yrs Ago – The fight continues
On the Euphrates River

On the Euphrates River

Operation Phantom Fury raged for several weeks and the fighting was widespread, not limited to Fallujah’s city streets. Here is an excerpt form New Dawn, on bookshelves in May, 2010:

On December 5, 2004, Dan Wittnam’s Small Craft Company went out again on a sweep along the Euphrates River, east of Ramadi with engineers from Colonel Patton’s 44th Engineer Battalion, 2nd Infantry Division. After a productive day of clearing caches, the boats turned west to return to Camp Blue Diamond. And again, the enemy had set up a large ambush to attack the Marines as they returned to their base. They were only seven or eight kilometers from Blue Diamond when the insurgents attacked with RPGs and heavy machine guns.

An RPG whizzed across the water and hit the side of Staff Sergeant Iversen’s boat. It pierced the hull and severed the port fuel line, killing his port engine. The starboard engine took a round in its block. The engine sputtered and coughed and Iversen’s boat slowed to a crawl. Now, they were sitting ducks in the hot zone. Iversen’s crew lit up both sides of the river, allowing the other boats to safely navigate through the ambush, but four soldiers had been hit, one in the neck. Pfc Andrew M. Ward was bleeding out and in urgent need of surgical attention. Iversen called Vasey for help and Doc Rubio jumped to Iversen’s boat and started working on the wounded.

Rubio had two of the soldiers bandaged before he learned of the critically-wounded soldier in the front of the boat. Rubio rushed to Ward’s side. Ward was bleeding profusely, but was still alert. Soldiers and Marines quickly moved Ward to the back of the boat and Rubio went to work. He knew that if he didn’t stop the bleeding, this young soldier would die. Rubio quickly sliced into Ward’s neck, located the damaged artery and clamped off the bleeding with and IV hose clamp. Just as he finished, Iversen said, “Doc, we need to move the people off to another boat.” Parrello, driving Vasey’s boat, was already alongside.

“What?” This was not the time to be moving this soldier. Rubio didn’t know that Iversen’s engines were nearly dead and that they were still in the kill zone. Rubio was so focused on treating the severely wounded soldier that he didn’t notice the bullets whizzing over his head. If Rubio had learned anything in his years with the Marines, it was that when you are told to do something, you don’t ask why, you just do it. Rubio rallied the soldiers around him. They lifted Ward and Rubio straddled the two boats. Rounds crackled by Rubio, standing with one foot on Vasey’s boat, the other on Iversen’s.

“Oh my God, I cannot believe I’m doing this.” He thought.

The soldiers passed Ward to Rubio and Rubio passed Ward to an Army medic in Vasey’s boat. As they were moving to Vasey’s boat, the Army medic slipped and dropped Ward on the deck. Ward started bleeding again. Rubio went to work again to secure the clamp.

“Are you good, Doc?” Vasey asked.

“Roger, I’m good.”

Parrello gunned his engines. The stern sank in the water, the water jets kicked up large white plumes and the boat lurched forward at fifty knots. When they arrived at the boat ramp only minutes later, there were three ambulances waiting. Soldiers and Marines rushed to offload Ward on a stretcher. When they hit the water, one of the soldiers panicked and let go of his corner of the stretcher. Rubio jumped into neck-deep water, grabbed the untended corner, pushed it above his head and helped get Ward to shore. They rushed Ward into one of the waiting ambulances and a First Class Corpsman said, “What are you doing? He’s going to die.”

Rubio felt the anger sweep through his body. He got in the guy’s face and said, “He’s alert and he knows where he’s at. Get his ass to the Battalion Aid Station.”

Ward was rushed to a helicopter that whisked him to surgery. That night, Lieutenant Thomas came to Rubio, sat down and told him that Ward had made it back to the hospital and into the operating room, but died while the surgeons were trying to repair his artery. The next morning, Juan Rubio went to the Battalion Aid Station to confront the First Class Corpsman. “How can I trust my casualties to someone who has already given up?” Rubio asked, not expecting an answer. “I don’t want to see you on my medevac team ever again.” Then, he turned and walked out.

Wittnam’s company ranged the Iraqi waterways in twenty Small Unit Riverine Craft (SURC). These were the modern-day version of the Vietnam-era riverboats. The boats were nearly forty feet long and 20,000 lbs, yet they only had a nine inch draft. They were powered by twin 440 hp water jet engines that could propel the craft at speeds exceeding forty knots[1]. These powerful boats could also turn on a dime. Fast and agile, the boats packed a powerful punch. They had 240G and .50 caliber machine guns as well as MK-19 automatic grenade launchers. Some even carried the GAU-17, 7.62mm, mini-gun. In addition to all this, each boat could transport sixteen battle-ready Marines.

Watch for New Dawn: the Battles for Fallujah by Richard S. Lowry (author of Marines in the Garden of Eden and The Gulf War Chronicles). It tells the entire story of Operation Phantom Fury and will be in bookstores in May of 2010. Visit to learn more about Richard and his work.

[1] 1 knot = 1.151 miles per hour.

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7 Responses

  • BT in SA says:

    Cannot wait to read this, Richard! Only too bad it won’t be available until May. Unless, of course, there is a way to pre-order it and get it when I go home to the States in February… Otherwise, it waits until September or October of next year.

    I would not have known about this book if I wouldn’t have read the recent comments at JWF’s place.

  • Richard Lowry says:

    Even with a pre-order, the book won’t be available until April. Keep watching the website for more details and tell everyone you know.

  • Wanda A. Ward says:

    Andrew is my older brother, I never really knew the extent of what happen to him until today…and that was the most painful thing that I have ever read.

  • Brooke says:

    Thanks so much for posting this excerpt; I’m really looking forward to the release of your book. I work with the group that made the film Perfect Valor, which documents Operation Phantom Fury, and after watching the film and reading this post, I’m eager to learn more about what happened in Fallujah. If you or any of your readers is interested, you can learn more about the film here:

  • Richard Lowry says:

    Many of the stories in Perfect Valor were pulled from the pages of “New Dawn.” I was the military consultant to David Taylor for the film. You might think of Perfect Valor as a trailer for the book.

    If you would like to reserve an advance, autographed copy of New Dawn, please visit and leave a message in the Guestbook at the bottom of the page. I will place you on the list and notify you when I have further details on the book’s availability.

    Thanks for visiting my blog site. Ask everyone you know to do the same.

    Semper Fidelis,

  • I really enjoyed this post. You explain this topic very well. I really love your blog and I will definetly bookmark it! Keep up the interesting posts.

  • Roxy Riippi says:

    Wow, fantastic blog layout! How long have you been blogging for? you made blogging look easy. The overall look of your web site is great, as well as the content!

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