On December 13, 2003, at 2030 hours local time, HVT #1, Saddam Hussein, was found and captured in the town of ad-Dawr, Iraq, by a joint service and combined arms force of nearly 600 soldiers, sailors, and airmen from various conventional and special operations elements. Operation Red Dawn, one of the largest man hunts in history, was executed by 1st Brigade Combat Team (4th Infantry Division) and Joint Special Operations Command Task Force 121 — which itself consisted of personnel from Delta Force, 75th Ranger Regiment, and 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, DEVGRU, the CIA’s Special Activities Division, AFSOC and the Aviation Tactics Evaluation Group, and the Joint Communications Unit; with armor support from 4th Infantry Division.
The operation was clearly named after the 1984 film. So much so, that the two objective sites in the operation were named “Wolverine 1” and “Wolverine 2” in homage to the group of teenage resistance fighters. Operation Red Dawn was commanded by MG Raymond Odierno, commanding general of 4ID, with the ground force command given to COL James Hickey, also of 4ID.
The two objective sites were located outside of the town of ad-Dawr; itself located south of the city of Tikrit. Tikrit was Saddam’s hometown. Indeed, his family name was actually al-Tikriti. Saddam did not resist capture. And although he did receive a butt-stroke to the head, was captured unharmed.
This capture was, of course, the culmination of months of work by United States and coalition forces. However, Operation Red Dawn itself was initiated in July, 2003. The scope of the Operation managed to find focus on December 1, 2003, when HUMINT collected the name of Saddam’s right-hand man — known to TF 121 as “The Fatman.” This intelligence led to the interrogations of dozens of Saddam’s family members. A raid on December 12, 2003, revealed even more intelligence. Between family interrogations, the 12DEC raid, further intelligence gathered from former Ba’ath Party members, and Signal Intelligence gathered by the Intelligence Support Activity… Wolverine 1 and Wolverine 2 were ascertained.
After months of hundreds of raid, human source operations, SIGINT collections, and more than 300 interrogations, Operation Red Dawn was successful in its mission. Saddam Hussein al-Tikriti was discovered, secured, and moved by a 160th Nightstalker MH-6 Little Bird to Baghdad International Airport, where he was officially taken into custody by the United States government. The mission sustained zero casualties.
Response within Iraq was very broad. Hours after the announcement, many pro-American (or anti-Saddam) Iraqis celebrated publicly. (This means gathering in groups and shooting mostly into the air… but sometimes not into that air at all.) One of these not-into-the-air rounds hit a fuel can outside the Palestine Hotel — which housed foreign journalists — and detonated, detonating nearby fuel cans. On the opposite end of the public response spectrum, a car bomb was detonated outside and Iraqi police station in Khaldiyah, killing 10 and wounding 20 (mostly policemen). It is relevant to note that this explosion took place prior to the actual announcement.
Regional response was reasonably unanimous, as was the international response, with few nations detracting the capture. With comments coming from Middle-Eastern nations like, “I don’t think anyone will be sad over Saddam Hussein,” (Egypt) to, “Thank God that he has been captured alive, so he can be tried for the heinous crimes he has committed,” (Kuwait), anyone can see the former dictator wasn’t exactly the most liked head of state in the region. Iran even added, “I am happy they have arrested a criminal, whoever it may be, and I am even more happy, because it is a criminal who committed so many crimes against Iranians.”
The exception to those joyous comments comes from nations like Lebanon, “The capture of Saddam will not save the U.S. from the world’s condemnation for supporting the greater enemy, Israeli P.M. Ariel Sharon.” While sub-national organizations in Palestine replied with comments that “[the United States will] pay a very high price for the mistake [of capturing Saddam Hussein].”