Opinion

4th Infantry, which captured Saddam, packs biggest punch

WASHINGTON—The U.S. soldiers who captured Saddam Hussein belong to the 4th Infantry Division (Mechanized), based at Fort Hood, Texas, and Fort Carson, Colo. Their 15,000-plus soldiers have been deployed in Iraq since April, and they operate north of Baghdad, where Saddam loyalists and diehards from his Baath Party are most numerous.

The 4th Infantry, known as the Iron Horse Division, packs the biggest punch of any division in the Army. It's the Army's first high-tech division, outfitted with the latest-model Abrams tanks and Bradley fighting vehicles equipped with digital communications equipment, night-fighting gear and advanced weaponry.

Formed in 1917 as an infantry unit, the 4th Division fought in World War I, landed on Utah Beach on D-Day and fought in the Battle of the Bulge in World War II, and fought for five years in the Vietnam War. After Vietnam it was reorganized as a mechanized infantry outfit.

Earlier this year, the division intended to land in Turkey and attack Iraq from the north. Its tanks, helicopters and gear were on ships offshore when negotiations with the Turkish government stalled.

Gen. Tommy Franks, then commander of the U.S. Central Command, told Knight Ridder he deliberately left the 4th Division equipment floating around the Mediterranean long after he knew the division wouldn't be allowed to land and cross Turkey, because the threat held several of Saddam's Republican Guard divisions in the far north and kept them from reinforcing Baghdad.

The three-week war was over by the time the Iron Horse equipment landed in Kuwait and soldiers linked up with it and headed north into Iraq. They have fought insurgents all around Saddam's hometown of Tikrit.

The division commander is Maj. Gen. Ray Odierno, 49, a West Point graduate, Class of 1976. He's a field artillery officer who served in Operation Desert Storm and has served with the 3rd Armored Division, the 1st Cavalry Division and the 1st Armored Division in a variety of assignments.

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