“The beer is on us!” was the last radio transmission from the Ranger fire support Sergeant as we departed the Haditha Dam in our AH-6 attack helicopters. The sun was just peaking up that morning, the morning after the first day of the four-day battle. D-Day is always the worst day of a campaign worst… trying to get that first foothold in so as to gain momentum and advantage. Fire superiority we had certainly gained and maintained. As for the rest of it… it’s always a crapshoot!

Haditha Dam was a very high-priority target in Iraq. From where it is located in NW Iraq, it provides electricity for hundreds of thousands of people all the way south to Baghdad. It is a tremendous structure. Built on the Euphrates River, it is some five miles long by 200 feet high. It is classified as one of the largest dams on the planet.

We Could Flood the Whole Dam Valley

America wanted to be able to control one of the country’s key pieces of strategic infrastructure. Iraqi propaganda promulgated that America wanted control of the dam so they could destroy it to flood the Euphrates Valley, wreaking all the more havoc on the war-stressed nation. It was just the fog of war; he-said/she said, war propaganda that you could assimilate with a grain of salt or disregard completely.

But as far as Chief Greg “Gravy” Coker and the men of the assault force were concerned, their orders said to take it from the Iraqis, and nothing else in the Universe mattered. As much as the Iraqis wanted to keep their dam and have things their own way in their country, well, unfortunately for them, the Rangers Led the Way, and Night Stalkers Didn’t Quit — those two things alone prevented Iraq from having its precious dam.