The American Veterans Center’s Ninth Annual Conference was held from November 9-11, 2006. Exactly two years earlier, United States soldiers and Marines were locked in a brutal struggle with enemy insurgents for the Iraqi city of Fallujah. When the history of Iraqi Freedom is written, the second Battle of Fallujah—Operation Phantom Fury—will go down as the iconic battle of the war. Fallujah had become a magnet for Iraqi insurgents and foreign jihadists, eager to make martyrs of themselves, all while killing as many Americans as they could.

By the time the battle began on November 7, 2004, the city’s citizens had all but fled. Remaining were several thousand of the most fanatical jihadists in Iraq. They were fearless, vicious fighters, who had come to die. Many of them were high on drugs—liquid adrenaline, amphetamines, heroin, and 3-quinuclidinyl benzillate, also known as “Agent Buzz”, a hallucinogenic chemical weapon. This made the enemy fighters nearly impervious to pain, and able to fight on after sustaining wounds that would have taken down a normal man.

There were an estimated 39,000 buildings with 400,000 rooms in Fallujah, and it was the grim task of the American soldiers and Marines to root out the insurgents block by block, house by house, and room by room. They advanced through streets booby trapped with mines and improvised explosive devices, and faced an enemy as lethal as any our military has ever known.

At the November conference, four distinguished veterans of Operation Phantom Fury gathered to share their experiences. We are printing the transcript of this panel to demonstrate to our readers that the valor and heroism of the men who stormed the beaches at Normandy and Iwo Jima, who survived the bitter cold at the Chosin Reservoir, and who battled in the streets of Hue City lives on in the current generation of United States soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines.

Participating in the panel were former Army SSgt. David Bellavia, who single-handedly took out a house full of insurgents, for which he was subsequently nominated for the Medal of Honor and awarded the Silver Star, as well as former Marine Sgt. Timothy Connors, recipient of the Silver Star and veteran of twelve house fights in Fallujah—believed to be the most of any American serviceman. Also participating were Sgt. Matthew Ragan, a Marine Battalion Senior Intelligence Analyst and Sgt. Jeremy LaForce, veteran of 1st Battalion 8th Marines in Fallujah and currently NCO in charge of the Grounds Element at Marine Barracks in Washington, DC. The panel was moderated by American Veterans Center President James C. Roberts.

Jim Roberts: Sgt. Connors, can you begin by describing the preparations you made for the battle itself?

Timothy Connors: When we started I was stationed at Al-Asad air base and we were just doing counter-mortar ops going back and forth in the desert and outside cities. We really weren’t allowed inside cities at that time, and were just trying to stop mortar attacks on the base when we got the call that we were going to go into Fallujah. So everyone I was with was very excited. It’s an honor to fight; it’s an honor to be a part of something like this. For all of us to be together, to be as close as we were, and be able to do something, and actually know we are making some kind of difference was huge for us.

We went to Camp Fallujah where we trained every day for about a week until it was time to go in. The day of the actual invasion of the city we sat outside the city a few miles, and I watched in awe of the power we unloaded—missiles, air strikes, artillery rounds. The actual power that our country has prior to men going in is unbelievable. We all sat there in complete awe—you need to see it to believe it. The first wave went in and pushed probably about a block or two in, and then we ended up pushing past them to the Government Center.