Peter Maass, The Toppling

category: Photos

February 08, 2011  |  permalink

Tahrir 2011, Firdos 2003


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

The Map for Invading Baghdad


The final assault into central Baghdad was planned in a surprisingly ad-hoc manner. I had thought it would have been prepared in depth, with lots of intelligence and surveillance on hand, but instead it was devised on the outskirts of Baghdad, at the Diyala canal, by two majors, John Schaar and Andrew Milburn, who were told to plan hit-and-run raids. As I explain in my story—

Until Diyala, they had not even examined a map of the city, but they quickly concluded that the raids were a bad idea. “We did a little study and thought this was really stupid,” Schaar told me not long ago. Raiding units risked becoming trapped in the city, creating an Iraqi version of “Black Hawk Down.” Schaar and Milburn also concluded that Iraqi forces could not withstand a direct assault by the regiment; for nearly three weeks, the regiment had blasted through every Iraqi unit in its path. They then divided central Baghdad into twenty-seven zones, with each battalion responsible for occupying four or five zones (several low-priority zones were unassigned). Schaar and Milburn had received from divisional headquarters a list of about thirty sensitive sites—a hodgepodge that comprised embassies, banks, detention centers, potential nuclear facilities, and hotels, including the Palestine. The most important targets were in four central zones across the Tigris River from the Republican Palace, which the Army had already seized. Schaar recently sent me a photograph of the twenty-seven-zone invasion map. The map has six thumbtacks marking key targets. One of them, in the central zones, was the Palestine Hotel. According to Schaar, there was never any doubt about which battalion would be assigned the central zones. “Three-four”—McCoy’s battalion—“got tagged to that because they were the sharp guys,” he told me.

On Schaar’s picture of the map, the Palestine Hotel is marked by the yellow thumbtack.


January 03, 2011  |  permalink

Journalists Outside the Frame


The hundreds of journalists at Firdos Square were rarely shown on TV or in photos; their influence on the toppling was obscured. But a Marine who was at Firdos shared with me a series of photos that show the journalist-saturated scene around the statue. The first two photos in the set show the cameramen and photographers atop the M88 that took down the statue. The third photo shows them at the base of the statue, waiting for it to come down. The final photos show the mixture of photographers and Iraqis in the melee around the fallen head of Saddam. All photos by Bryan Mangan. Click here for the photo set.


January 02, 2011  |  permalink

The Front Pages

If you want to see a selection of front pages the day after the toppling, click here.


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.


January 02, 2011  |  permalink

Toppled, the book

If you have an unlimited appetite for information, photos and trivia about the toppled statues of Saddam Hussein, there’s a website and book just for you—“Toppled” by Florian Gottke. My favorite photo in the book shows James Gandolfini, who during a visit to U.S. troops stood next to a toppled head of Saddam Hussein (not the head from Firdos Square, though).


January 02, 2011  |  permalink

Photographer on First Tank Into Firdos

The Marines who were ordered to seize Firdos Square were not entirely sure how to get there, so they asked a photographer to show them the way. These screen shots, taken from a TV video of the first tank entering Firdos Square, show the photographer, Jan Grarup, on the tank’s turret.
Correction: The photographer was Markus Matzel, a German.


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.


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