Before sunrise on the 23rd on March 2003, thirty-three soldiers, traveling in eighteen trucks, stumbled into the dusty desert city of An Nasiriyah. It wasnâ€™t until they had driven all the way through the city that they realized that they were hopelessly lost. As soon as they turned around and tried to retrace their path, every Iraqi with a gun started shooting at the beleaguered convoy. The lead three vehicles managed to run the gauntlet and get back to the U.S. Marinesâ€?front lines.
Five vehicles broke down and ten soldiers scrambled for cover in a nearby ditch. Surrounded, they each vowed to go down fighting. They had fought to hold off the enemy for nearly an hour, when Major Bill Peeples and the Marine tankers of Alpha Company, 8th Tanks arrived to save the day. The Marines beat back the enemy and rushed the ten soldiers to safety.
The remaining seventeen soldiers were not so fortunate. Eleven were killed and six captured. Specialists Jamaal Addison and James Kiehl both died when their vehicle careened through an intersection and rolled over on its top. Private First Class Howard Johnson II and Private Ruben Estrella-Sotoâ€™s truck crashed at the same intersection. Sergeant Donald Walters was lost north of An Nasiriyah when his vehicle broke down. He leapt from his disabled vehicle behind enemy lines and laid down covering fire so that the rest of his unit could turn their vehicles and get out of a horrific ambush. Private Brandon Sloan was shot and killed while the vehicle he was in was racing south. Chief Warrant Officer Johnny Mataâ€™s truck shuddered to a stop atop a railroad overpass and burst into flames. Mata was killed, but his driver, Specialist Hudson, survived.
Near the end to the doomed convoy, First Sergeant Robert Dowdy tried to shepherd his soldiers to safety. Private First Class Lori Piestewa was driving Dowdyâ€™s HMMWV. Specialist Edward Anguiano, Sergeant George Buggs and Private First Class Jessica Lynch were riding in the back. Piestewa managed to maneuver around obstacles and raced all the way back through Nasiriyah when the flatbed in front of her jackknifed. Lori was unable to avoid the back of the skidding truck. She plowed into the rear of the flatbed, instantly killing Dowdy.