Following is part two of the true story of what happened when a convoy from the 507th Maintenance Ordnance Company found itself lost in Iraq. To read part one, click here.
A soldier from the 507th detailed the incident that morning in a letter to a relative written a few days later.
"At about 5:30 or six, we started driving through the city of Nasiriyah. It seemed like a peaceful town. Most of the town was still asleep. We crossed over the Euphrates River and drove all the way through town. We then pulled over to the side of the road and turned around. We later figured out the group we were looking for wasn't where they said they were. At about this time, we started seeing more traffic. The information we had been given was that the Iraqi soldiers would be giving up. We were also told that the Iraqi soldiers would be keeping their weapons. So we were nervous."
At 7:10 p.m., according to an account by New York Times reporter Michael Wilson, embedded with a nearby Marine unit, the radios of an artillery battery just a couple of miles south of the city crackled. The battery commander — a colonel — shouted to his officers, "Timberwolf is taking fire!" A Marine patrol was being shot at by Fedayeen irregulars hidden along the route. A fierce firefight began that waxed and waned throughout that day.
Twenty minutes after the first radio report, about 7:30 p.m., the misguided convoy of the 507th lumbered up the road, crossed a bridge over the Euphrates and was greeted by a sign in English that said "Welcome."
The convoy rolled through a dense neighborhood for about two miles into the heart of the eastern part of Nasiriyah. A Datsun 510 with a white top and orange fenders sped past the convoy, turned off the road and drove slowly back alongside, going in the opposite direction. One soldier recalls the uneasy feeling he got that the car was a "scout," carefully checking out their capabilities. A Nissan pickup with a "crew-served" machine gun also sped by and disappeared around a corner.
The trucks passed occasional armed Iraqi soldiers, even a couple of dug-in, old Soviet-made T-55 tanks with their turrets aimed away from the road. At a briefing before entering Iraq, the soldiers had been told that they were certain to come upon Iraqi soldiers who had surrendered but were allowed to keep their sidearms, mostly to keep their subordinate soldiers in line. Still, the sight of armed enemy soldiers — and potentially lethal tanks — was unnerving for the convoy soldiers.
Finally, as the trucks and Humvees crossed the Saddam Canal on the northern edge of Nasiriyah, another sign said simply, "Goodbye."
Sensing they were not where they were supposed to be, Capt. King led the convoy into a 180-degree turn and headed back into Nasiriyah, searching for an east-to-west route that would link him with Highway 1, west of the city. After a couple of false turns and dead ends, the convoy made another winding turn and backtracked along Highway 7 heading south. Sporadic gunfire erupted from buildings all around. The vehicles that could, increased their speed.
‘The Bullets Were Flying’
Atop one 5-ton truck, 24-year-old Cpl. Damien Luten was manning a .50-caliber machine gun. In the truck behind him was Sgt. Campbell. And in the Humvee behind him was the section leader, Staff Sgt. Tarik Jackson, a 28-year-old veteran of 11 years in the Army.