Inside the Kill Zone
Inside the kill zone of Fallujah’s “Hell House”
The battle altered the course — and perception of — the Iraq War.
Producer: James Novogrod
Graphics Producer and Editor: Alexander Stockton
VICE News Tonight on HBO
Corporal R.J. Mitchell and his Marines lined up flush against the wall and peeked through the doorway. Beams of sunlight streamed into a large room, illuminating dust in the air.
Lying in the middle of the room was the body of a man killed by the last Marines to enter the house. Mitchell knew there were other insurgents in the house, but he didn’t know where.
He was on a mission to rescue wounded Marines, and he could see the bedroom where they were trapped. The Marines would have to cross the room in the middle of the house to get there, a large space with no cover. Mitchell tapped the shoulder of the man in front of him and they charged.
Mitchell made it. But as he began tending to one of the wounded, the Marines who followed Mitchell into the center room were torn down by a hail of gunfire from above. There were men perched above them on a second-floor landing, positioned to fire on anyone who stepped into the room.
It was, in the words of a news photographer present that day, a perfect kill zone.
Mitchell’s Marines were the third wave to fall into the insurgents’ trap. There were now at least eight Marines trapped inside the house, six of them wounded.
The Marines who survived the events of Nov. 13, 2004, in the western Iraqi city of Fallujah call the building where they fought for their lives the “Hell House.” The battle has become legendary within the Marine Corps, and the intensity of the fight made it a defining episode of the U.S. military’s nine-month saga in Fallujah.
Fifteen years after the beginning of the battle of Fallujah, VICE News spoke with survivors of the Hell House.