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Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

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Operation Iraqi Freedom 

Petty Officer Second Class (SEAL) Michael A. Monsoor

Petty Officer Second Class (SEAL) Michael A. Monsoor (kneeling) poses for a photo with his teammates while deployed to Ar Ramadi, Iraq, in 2006. (Photo courtesy of U.S. Navy).


20 March 2003 marked the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom with preemptive airstrikes on Saddam Hussein’s Presidential Palace and military targets followed by approximately 67,700 “boots on the ground” with 15,000 Navy personnel on ships in the region (Belasco). OIF was authorized when Iraq was found to be in breach of U.N. Security Council adopted Resolution 1441 which “prohibits stockpiling and importing weapons of mass destruction (WMDs).”

Iraqi forces were overwhelmed quickly and Baghdad fell a mere five weeks after the invasion began. With the invasion complete, an insurgency and influx of al Qaeda inspired fighters poured into the country which sparked guerilla warfare tactics against U.S. troops and civil war between the Sunni and Shia tribes. On 15 December 2011, “The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and other top U.S. military leaders observed the official end of U.S. Forces Iraq’s mission after nearly nine years of conflict that claimed the lives of nearly 4,500 troops (Torreon).”  

After U.S. forces withdrew from Iraq, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) invaded areas of Syria and Iraq causing widespread causalities, destruction of the country’s infrastructure and barbaric practices against citizens. In response to the terrorists group, Operation Inherent Resolve began 17 October 2014. 

The links below showcase NHHC’s online holdings pertaining to OIF.


Belasco, Amy. 2009. “Troop Levels in the Afghan and Iraq Wars, FY2001-FY2012: Cost and Other Potential Issues.” Congressional Research Report for Congress (July 2): 6–9.

Torreon, Barbara. 2016. “U.S. Periods of War and Dates of Recent Conflicts.” Congressional Research Report for Congress (September 29): 8–9.


Notable People

Notable Ships

Special Operations


Further Reading


Navy Art

U.S. Navy Military Sealift Command

The U.S. Navy’s Military Sealift Command ships unload cargo for Operation Iraqi Freedom in the port of Ash Shuaybah, Kuwait. The Sealift Program provides high-quality, efficient and cost-effective ocean transportation for the DoD and other federal agencies. More than 90 percent of U.S. warfighters’ equipment and supplies travels by sea. (photo courtesy of Military Sealift Command).
Published: Mon Nov 07 12:02:54 EST 2022