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Wednesday, November 23, 2005 

Baghdad International Airport Battle


People are talking about Baghdad International Airport Battle that took place early April 2003 few days before Baghdad fall; there were many rumors about it, I will tell you here what happened there…

It used to be called 'Saddam International Airport', it is located approximately 16 kilometers west of Baghdad. The airfield is a joint civil-military airport, with a civil international terminal on one side and a smaller military ramp on the other. The airport is served by a Class I runway 13,000 feet long and a second runway on the military side of the airfield measuring 8,800 feet. There were eight hardened aircraft shelters, three of them at the civil side.

In mid-March 2003, Iraqi Airways Engineering Department received orders from the government to prepare the fleet’s aircrafts and to be standing by for an order to take all aircrafts out side Iraq.

No one knew where they were going to take the aircrafts to, many thought to Syria because the relations between Iraq and Jordan were not that good at that time.

One evening, all the aircraft crews came to the airport responded to a call from the operation room, “It is going to be tonight,” the operation officer said; each crew prepared his aircraft and was standing by in the cockpit.

“It is going to be Jordan!” one of the captains said when he received the flight plan with the maps, “I was expecting Syria” his copilot replied.

“Call the tower and get permission for engine start up and take off” one of the captains asked his copilot, so did the other captains on the other aircrafts.

“Stand by” the tower replied; the crews waited for two hours then one of the captains asked his copilot, “Call the tower again and see what is going on”, “Still standing by” the tower replied.

At that time, the Minister of Transportation and the Minister of Defense were at the airport waiting for the tower to give permission for the aircrafts to fly.

Later on, the tower officer show up, he was driving a pickup, he went to every aircraft and told the crews, “I couldn’t say that on the radio but there is a heavy military aircrafts movement in the west and south of Iraqi airspace, I can not give you permission to fly, it is too late, and I have heard that Israel said ‘Iraq will attack Israel by civilian planes’ that means those fighters will attack you even if they will find out that you are civil aircrafts.”

One hour later, American Fighter planes were attacking Saddam Presidential palaces around the airport, it was a heavy bombing, every one hided and took cover; every one waited until the bombing stop and then they went home.

The next morning, the Minister of Transportation called, very early, for a meeting at Iraqi Airways Engineering Department, “Dismantle all the Aircrafts, remove all engines, electronic equipments, cover them good, and hide them, when American attacks will stop, put every thing back; start now, it is an order from the supreme officials”, the Minister said.

The aircraft engineers and the technicians worked for three days, they removed all the engines; they did not stop working even when American fighters were bombing the area around the airport; one time, they attacked one of the airport radars, a big shrapnel from the rocket hit one of Iraqi Airways aircrafts, it was a Boeing 727, and set fire in it, another shrapnel wounded two of the aircraft engineers, but the team continued the work until they finished, “We do not want any one to say that we are cowards and we run away when our company and our country needed us, we must finish this work even though we might be killed by one of those attacks” one of the technicians told his engineer while he was looking at a plane that was bombing the area; he refused to take cover and continued his work on the aircraft.

During this time, in the south of Iraq, there was a heavy fighting, and at the airport, there was an officer from Saddam Special Guards called Captain Ali, he used to come to visit the technicians while they were working, he told them, many times, “They will enter Baghdad from the Airport”; one time some one asked him, “If you are saying that they will enter Baghdad from the Airport, so why don’t you have an army here?”, “There is army, but you can not see them” Captain Ali replied. Every one knows that there was no army, but no one wanted to argue with him also they were to busy to answer, they just wanted to finish this work and go home before they are killed by one of these attacks.

Three days after they finished dismantling the aircrafts, it was Thursday, every one left the airport at 2 pm leaving some technicians in case something would happen, at 3 pm the American forces entered the airport from Abu Ghraib area.

Next day, at Iraqi Airways office in Salihiah at the center of Baghdad, the General Director of Iraqi Airways told the managers that were around him, “Let’s go to the airport now”, “The airport!?” one of the managers replied, “I thought that the Americans is there” he added. “The Minister just called me and he told me that the Republican Army pushes them out of the Airport and took the Airport back, he wanted us to go there to see what did the do and to check after the technicians we left there,” the General Director said.

In their way to the airport on the airport road, they saw the Iraqi Republican Guards were coming back from the airport, “It seems to be that they finished their job, and they do not need to stay there that is why they are coming back!” the General Director said while he was driving the car.

When they reached the airport checkpoint, Saddam Militias were there, wearing all black, “Where are you going?” one of them, who seemed to be the in charge of the operation, asked the General Director who identified him self, “I am sorry I can not let you in, there is still a few Americans here and there we need to get rid of them and comb the area before we can let you in” the man with black who was in charge said.

At this moment, number of trucks with armed men, all in black from Saddam Militias arrived to this checkpoint, “Go inside, and look for them, when you find them, cut there nicks and throw them in the open area, make it fast, after two hours Sahhaf, The Minister of Information, will bring the journalists here to show them the Airport, they must see their corpses, so you have only two hours, go go” the man in charge told the armed men in the trucks.

It was 2 pm at that time, the General Director and his managers had to go back, while they were driving back, they reached an area that had a good view to the airport field, “I can not see any Americans at the Airport! From this high position we are having a good view, where are they?” one of the Managers was wondering.

One hour after that, around 3 pm, the American Forces attacked the airport again, and this time they entered and staid there.
“If the American forces were only few kilometers outside the airport and some of them were still inside why did the Republican Guards, had to go back and leave the airport? Why didn’t they just stay there in case the Americans will attack again? If every one knew that the Americans would enter Baghdad from the Airport, why did not they leave an army there?” Every one that works at the airport was asking these questions.

Captain O. from the Republican Guards Surface-to-Surface missiles forces said that they attacked the airport with a big number of Surface-to-Surface missiles but when some one went there and told him that many missiles fell on the airport road and not inside the airport, he became so angry and sad, “But there was some one who was telling us all the time that we were hitting the right spot, Oh my God, he was wrongly leading us”

There was no damage in the airport, people was asking their selves, “if there was a big battle here, why can’t we see any indications of a big battle”, some people said that the battle took place on the airport road not inside the airport.

All the people said that there was a big battle, some Iraqis said that the Americans used nuclear weapons some others said they used chemical weapons, but no one said that they lost some one they knew at the airport battle, and if the Americans used these kind of weapons there, how could they accept to stay there right after they enter the airport and for a long time.

I think there was a battle but it was not as bad as the people think…
I know about this because,

I was there…

if you were there why didn't you post this until november 2005?

Phsphore & neutron bombs ...

stop defending terrorists ...

the only terrorism comes from governments **** them all

hey guy, guess what, i was also there. I was with a unit called 3rd ID. You might have seen me. I was in one of the vehicles with the big "13" spray painted on it. A Bradley to be exact. Another little piece of information is that we didnt arrive at 3, we were there from about 11pm. we positioned all our vehicles on the end of the run way and waited three hours before we actually assaulted. But, by assaulted, i mean we drove up the runway to find an abandoned tank and no soldiers. well, there were a few but we took care of them pretty quick. After about 45 minutes of driving in the pitch black dodging the mounds of dirt your engineers put on the runway we stopped and waited for the sun to come up. After that we never left. We stayed there and kept it. we took sporatic gun fire every once in a while but other than that i was able to relax quite a bit. there was never a major counter attack mounted on us. infact, i remember when your information minister said that we were running away. i was sleeping sitting on top of my Bradley smoking a cigarette and relaxing.
I would know, I was there.

My unit 3/187 was assigned to the 3rd ID. We got ambushed outside the Airport and killed 10 Iraqi guerrillas. My unit arrived at the Airport after 11 PM on the 3rd April I do believe. We listened to the tank battles all night as we tried to get some sleep in an old hanger. Were re-cleared the terminal and some of the other buildings and under ground bunkers the next day. We woke up to thuds from the roof top of the terminal building. The battalions 81 mm mortars were wrecking havoc on more Iraqi units coming up to the airport. We replaced a Cav unit near the East gate on the BIAP. As Gary Owen was pulling out we got into a fight with Iraqi units trying to take back the Airport. We killed around 40 or so with another 40 or so being killed by 155 artillery fire from 3rd ID's gun. We took sporadic fire for a couple of days and cleared out the Republican Guards barrack the next day killing 10 or so Republican Guard Soldiers. The following day my buddy and his supply convoy ran into more Iraqi Fedayeen killing 7 more with .50 cals and Mark-19's.We left the BIAP about a week later.

It is amazing. You are a very smart person! Say thanks to you truly for providing plenty of both useful and interesting advise.

I don't think that war is just at all!
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I found this very interesting to read. Thank you for writing this. And all so the comments, where more personal records were told, were very enlightening.

I was there after the ground units took control of BIAP. We were in soft skin vehicles like most of the people convoying from Kuwait. We came in the gate of the BIAP and there was a bus (commuter bus) on fire coming over the over pass. The bus tried to run into our very big convoy, into my friends truck and an Abrams Tank drove in front of it and it hit the tank. The tank opened fire and smoked the bus of Iraqi militants. Unfortunate but had to happen. When they let us continue driving we pulled up to the hangars on the south east side of the airfield. The Iraqi Airlines aircraft supposedly shelled by our artillery was destroyed already. Our tankers said they shot it but I don't know what happened for sure. Wish we got to take the airport with you guys. Would be good to clear rooms with someone in them, instead of no one in them. I know its not fun being shot at, not fun at all.

Warfare is a fascinating subject. Despite the dubious morality of using violence to achieve personal or political aims. It remains that conflict has been used to do just that throughout recorded history.

Your article is very well done, a good read.

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About me

  • I'm I was there..
  • From Baghdad, Iraq
  • I'm a pilot and an Aircraft Engineer who born in Iraq and spent half of his life flying to every country in the world but the Invasion of my country at 2003 turned me to a journalist who is sharing the others in writing the History of Iraq..
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