Peter Maass, The Toppling

category: McCoy

January 18, 2011  |  permalink

The Literature of 3/4

There are a number of books about 3/4, the Third Battalion Fourth Marines, which toppled the statue at Firdos Square. John Koopman, who was an embedded reporter for The San Francisco Chronicle, wrote “McCoy’s Marines: Darkside to Baghdad.” Jack Coughlin and Casey Kuhlman, a sniper team in the battalion, co-wrote “Shooter: The Autobiography of the Top-Ranked Marine Sniper.” Bing West, a former Marine and Defense Department official, co-wrote with Ray Smith “The March Up: Taking Baghdad with the United States Marines.” Nick Popaditch, a gunnery sergeant in the battalion, wrote “Once a Marine: An Iraq War Tank Commander’s Inspirational Memoir of Combat, Courage and Recovery.” And last but not least, Bryan McCoy, the battalion’s commander, wrote “Passion of Command: The Moral Imperative of Leadership.”


January 11, 2011  |  permalink

Being There

If you were at Firdos Square on April 9, 2003, you would end up in somebody’s picture. This photo was shot by Robert Nickelsberg of Time, and it shows Lt. Col. Bryan McCoy outside the Palestine Hotel, moments after he pulled up in his Humvee. McCoy is on the phone, and the guy on the left, in a jacket and tie, is the hotel manager who had nervously come outside to meet his new boss. At the far left of the photo, partially obscured, the fellow with sunglasses who is holding the digital recorder—yes, guilty as charged, that’s me.


January 04, 2011  |  permalink

The Grenade Picture


From my story…

McCoy, who has written a monograph on military leadership, “The Passion of Command,” understood the importance of the media. That was one reason he had agreed to let me and ten other unilateral journalists follow his battalion, which already had four embedded journalists. The reporters worked for, among others, the Times, Time, Newsweek, the Associated Press, and several photography agencies. McCoy occasionally joined us for coffee in the morning, giving us briefings about the battles along the way to Baghdad, and he made it clear to his men that we were to be welcomed. When he threw a grenade at an Iraqi position one day, a photographer was at his side, and the photograph was widely disseminated.

The photo was taken by Robert Nickelsberg of Time.


January 03, 2011  |  permalink

My Other Stories About the Third Battalion

The military unit that toppled the statue of Saddam Hussein at Firdos Square was the Third Battalion Fourth Marines, based at Twentynine Palms, California and led by Lt. Col. Bryan McCoy (who is now a full colonel, based in Tampa with Central Command). During the invasion I was what the military called a “unilateral” journalist, driving unescorted into Iraq on the first day of the invasion in an S.U.V. rented from Hertz in Kuwait. A few days into the war, I happened to meet Col. McCoy at a staging area in the Iraqi desert north of Nasiriya, and he agreed to let me and a number of other unilaterals follow his battalion to Baghdad. I have written two previous pieces about the battalion; the first, titled “Good Kills,” was published in the New York Times Magazine in 2003 and told of the battalion’s capture of a key bridge over the Diyala canal, a feat that unfortunately left a number of civilians dead. I also wrote a long piece for Outside magazine about my strange journey through the invasion; it was titled “The Race to Baghdad.” For “Good Kills,” click here. For “The Race to Baghdad,” click here.


January 03, 2011  |  permalink

The Passion of Command

Col. Bryan McCoy, who commanded the battalion that toppled the statue of Saddam Hussein in Baghdad, has written a fine book about military leadership. It’s called Passion of Command: The Moral Imperative of Leadership, and it has a lot of admirers in the military community.


January 02, 2011  |  permalink

The Mural of Saddam Hussein

Shortly before heading into central Baghdad on April 9, 2003, Lt. Col. Bryan McCoy joined a handful of his Marines who were taking a sledgehammer to a mural of Saddam Hussein at the military base where they had spent the night. Click here for a slideshow of my photos.


About The Toppling by Peter Maass

On April 9, 2003, American Marines toppled a statue of Saddam Hussein at Firdos Square in Baghdad. Broadcast across the world, the event symbolized what was thought to be an American victory in Iraq. My reconstruction, written with support from ProPublica and the Shorenstein Center, was published in The New Yorker. This section contains documents, photos, videos and links related to the story.


Crude World by Peter Maass Crude World by Peter Maass

A look at oil’s indelible impact on the countries that produce it and the people who possess it.

» More


Love Thy Neighbor by Peter Maass Love Thy Neighbor by Peter Maass

Dispatches from the war in Bosnia, published in 1996 by Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.

» More


About Peter Maass

» More