Tip of the Spear: The Road to Baghdad

Ted Koppel, embedded with the 3rd Infantry Division, continues his account of the troops' push to Baghdad.

April 2, 12:30 p.m.: 25 miles to Baghdad

The armor was bound for a dot on the map, code-named "Objective Peach."

A tank company begins its move to take a bridge that crosses the Euphrates River.

I had just begun to interview the tank commander when a private vehicle appeared, driving toward the tank.

"We couldn't tell if it was military, civilian, at the time from the front. It was on his way coming at us, pretty fast. We waved our arms at it. I did my best to get their attention, tried to get them to stop. However, he wasn't gonna stop," said 1st Lt. James Temple.

They popped a warning blast at him with a machine gun, and probably blew out his radiator. The man got out of the van, and yelled at Temple.

"It's pretty risky out here right now. I don't know what this guy's doing out there. There's a lot of people dressed up as civilians, you know, that are actually military," Temple said.

Armies at war are, at best, blunt instruments of policy. The young tank commander did exactly what he has been ordered to do. We will never know what the driver wanted or needed, but four U.S. soldiers died the other day because they waited to hear what the driver of a taxi had to say. He was a suicide bomber.

April 3, 6:28 a.m.: East of the Euphrates, 23 miles from Baghdad

We're going on a month with no showers and we're going on two weeks plus of wearing these same things.

In the distance is the town that looks quite peaceful and tropical, which it isn't, our executive producer Leroy Sievers noted.

As we approached Baghdad, small villages gave way to a good-sized town. There, for the first time, there appeared to be some genuine enthusiasm for the armored column rolling its way toward its next confrontation. Although a colleague for the Reuters news agency reported a gun battle in just such a town, indeed, it may have been this town, an hour or two after we passed through.

Throughout the planning stages of this war, the CIA has been predicting Shiite uprisings against Saddam's regime as soon as U.S. ground forces crossed into Iraq. There has been no uprising. That is what is most worrisome to commanders in the field.

April 3, 6 p.m.: Approaching Baghdad

About eight miles from Saddam International Airport, just about sunset, the armored column reached a superhighway, three lanes on either side of the divide.

As dusk settled in, the firing began. Most of it outgoing. Artillery, rockets, .50-caliber machine guns going out. Rocket-propelled grenades, mortars, small arms, and even an occasional anti-aircraft shell coming in.

Fire blossomed on either side of the road. Smoke billowed across the highway. A vehicle careening down the other side of the highway was riddled with machine-gun fire. Tracer bullets and multiple launch rockets streaked across the black sky.

Advance elements of the 3rd Division took the airport as our segment of the convoy stopped and started in their wake. By the time we reached the outer perimeter of the airport, the tanks, in particular, were low on fuel, and commanders were reluctant to risk combat. We stopped and waited in the dark until first light.

April 4: Saddam International Airport, 12 Miles to Baghdad

The battle for Baghdad's main airport was relatively brief, but intense.

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