Battle of Shewan (2008)

The Battle of Shewan was a military engagement between Coalition forces and Taliban insurgents that took place on August 8, 2008, near the village of Shewan in Farah Province, Afghanistan.

On the 8th of August 2008, Golf Company, 2nd platoon, 2nd Battalion 7th Marines, elements from 1st Reconnaissance Battalion, were ambushed by approximately 250-350 Taliban fighters armed with small arms, rocket-propelled grenades (RPG), and 82 mm mortars. After fifteen hours of heavy combat the Marines prevailed, killing the majority of the Taliban and causing those that remained to flee.

Planning

The assault on Shewan had been in the planning for weeks by leaders in 2nd platoon and the reconnaissance unit attached to them. It was delayed on the 6th, and set as a go on the 7th. The Marines departed in early hours of the morning on the 8th in two different sections, the Recon Marines heading down Route 517, and 2nd Platoon around Saffarak Mountain.

The Battle

Golf 2 circled around Saffarak Mountain and set up a blocking position from the North, while Recon traveled up Highway 517 directly into Shewan and then dismount and enter the city on foot. Golf 2 set up to the north of the city with the 81 mm mortar team to provide support for Recon, and it served as a QRF. Golf 2 was getting reports by the ANP that there was movement to their north, and many policemen began firing nervously into the trees in front of them. 1st Recon began taking heavy small arms and RPG fire on the outskirts of Shewan from fortified trench lines and bunkers around the city. Their vehicles were targeted by a volley of RPG’s, and a Humvee was disabled and caught fire. The crew suffered minor shrapnel wounds and the other Marines quickly returned fire and rushed to help the wounded, retrieving them from the vehicle. 2nd Platoon mounted back up in their trucks and rushed through the country side to aid recon.

Taking cover in trenches and in their bullet riddled vehicles, the Recon Marines took heavy machine gun and RPG fire. By this time, there were hundreds of Taliban running through the buildings and in and out of the trees. Over a period of five to ten minutes at least fifteen RPG’s were fired from the treeline as Recon awaited Golf 2’s arrival. 2nd Platoon pulled out onto the 517 and headed east at full speed. They could see the smoke billowing from the burning Humvee. The convoy pulled off the road on line and sped towards the berm that ran parallel to the city, firing their crew served weapons into the Taliban positions. At this time, Taliban 82mm mortar rounds began falling on the marines as they moved towards the city. They halted behind the berm and dismounted, continuing to return fire into the city. The 2nd Platoon immediately attacked the Taliban positions and engaged in trench clearing and close combat. Despite the pressure on the Taliban positions, the Taliban RPG and machine gun fire only intensified. It was estimated by the end of the fight that over a hundred RPG’s were fired at the Marines.

A Marine sniper during the Battle.
A Marine sniper during the Battle.

By this time the attached 81 mm mortar crew began firing volleys into the trenchlines from targets called in by their Forward Observer. The mortars succeeded in suppressing the Taliban and fixing them until air support came on station. F-18s strafed the Taliban positions with their cannons, and then dropped a series of 2000 lb bombs. Despite numerous airstrikes, the Taliban continued to fight, utilizing their fortified positions to shield them from the airstrikes. They continued to fire mortar and RPG at the marines. Three more airstrikes were dropped into the city, yet the Taliban continued to fight.

Several hours into the fight, convoys of vehicles carrying an estimated 100 Taliban reinforcements with weapons and supplies arrived in the city. The Marines engaged the vehicles and their occupants, and another volley of mortars and airstrikes were executed. The Taliban’s casualties were becoming too heavy to sustain, and they began to retreat into the buildings to hide from the fire of the Marines. More air attacks commenced on the buildings, though the enemy fire was beginning to whither. The Marines were now only receiving sporadic mortar fire. A Taliban mortar team operating in the mountains was spotted and an 81 mm mortar strike was called onto their position, killing them. The Marines fell back and set up a perimeter around the buildings, cutting off the Taliban completely, and continued to engage Taliban fighters with their crew served weapons. Another bombing run destroyed the damaged Humvee while Marines prepared to disengage. During the lull in the fighting, remaining Taliban fighters attempted to flee into the mountains, and 2nd Platoon cut them down before they were able to reach the safety of the rocks. The battle was the longest of 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines deployment, lasting over 16 hours. No Marines were killed and an estimated 150 Taliban were killed.

Quotes From Marines on the Ground

“The day started out with a 10-kilometer patrol with elements mounted and dismounted, so by the time we got to Shewan, we were pretty beat,” said a Marine who requested to remain unidentified. “Our vehicles came under a barrage of enemy RPGs (rocket propelled grenades) and machine gun fire. One of our ‘humvees’ was disabled from RPG fire, and the Marines inside dismounted and laid down suppression fire so they could evacuate a Marine who was knocked unconscious from the blast.”
“The biggest thing to take from that day is what Marines can accomplish when they’re given the opportunity to fight,” the sniper said. “A small group of Marines met a numerically superior force and embarrassed them in their own backyard. The insurgents told the townspeople that they were stronger than the Americans, and that day we showed them they were wrong.”

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