NPR Top Stories The start of the Iraq War 20 years later in photos By Grace Widyatmadja, Sarah Mosquera Published March 20, 2023 at 3:00 AM MDT Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Email Eric Feferberg / AFP via Getty ImagesMarch 20, 2003: U.S. Marines prepare themselves after receiving orders to cross the Iraqi border at Camp Shoup, northern Kuwait. On March 20, 2003, the U.S. carried out its first airstrikes in Iraq. Today marks the 20th anniversary of Operation Iraqi Freedom. We take a look at scenes from the Iraq War in pictures. Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org. Daily Mirror Gulf / Getty Images / Getty ImagesMarch 21, 2003: Fires burn in and around Saddam Hussein's Council of Ministers in Baghdad, Iraq, during a wave of attacks in the "shock and awe" phase of "Operation Iraqi Freedom." The White House / Getty Images / Getty ImagesMarch 21, 2003: President George W. Bush meets with his war council in the Situation Room of the White House. Present at the table are, from foreground, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, CIA Director George Tenet, Chief of Staff Andy Card, Secretary of State Colin Powell, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Richard B. Myers. Joe Raedle / Getty Images / Getty ImagesMarch 26, 2003: U.S. Marines from Task Force Tarawa search for Iraqi troops in the southern Iraqi city of Nasiriyah. As night falls, the Marines are on alert for a counter attack from Iraqi troops. CENTCOM / Getty Images / Getty ImagesApril 1, 2003: In this handout image from night-scope video, U.S. military personnel carry U.S. Pfc. Jessica Lynch off of a helicopter at an undisclosed location in Iraq. Lynch was rescued from a hospital in Nasiriyah, Iraq. Lynch had been missing since March 23, when she and members of her unit, the U.S. Army's 507th Maintenance Company, were ambushed by Iraqi forces. Guardian Gulf / Getty Images / Getty ImagesApril 9, 2003: U.S. Marines pull down a statue of Saddam Hussein in the center of Baghdad. Anja Niedringhaus / Associated Press / Associated PressMarch 30, 2003: Women line up for a security check by British soldiers on the outskirts of Basra, as they try to flee from this southern Iraqi town. Mario Tama / Getty Images / Getty ImagesApril 13, 2003: Iraqi National Museum Deputy Director Mushin Hasan holds his head in his hands as he sits on destroyed artifacts in Bagdhad, Iraq. The museum was severely looted. J. Scott Applewhite / AP / APMay 1, 2003: President Bush declares the end of major combat in Iraq as he speaks aboard the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln off the California coast. Marco Di Lauro / Getty Images / Getty ImagesMay 31, 2003: Iraqi men check a list as sheets containing the remains of bodies excavated from a mass grave lie in the desert on the outskirts of Musayib, approximately 30 miles south of Baghdad. Locals said the mass grave contained the remains of hundreds of Shia Muslims allegedly executed by Saddam Hussein's regime after their uprising following the 1991 Gulf War. Chris Hondros / Getty Images / Getty ImagesDec. 15, 2003: The entrance to the "spider hole" where Saddam Hussein was hiding when he was captured is seen from inside the space in Ad Dawr, Iraq. Iraq's notorious dictator was captured in a raid at the compound on Dec. 13. Rusty Russell / Getty Images / Getty ImagesA photo of the capture of Saddam Hussein, subdued during his capture. Mario Tama / Getty Images / Getty ImagesJan. 28, 2004: A boy stands at the scene of a car bombing that killed at least three people in Baghdad. A suicide bomber blew up the explosive-packed car in front of the Shaheen Hotel, which was frequented by many westerners and where Iraq's labor minister lived. Spencer Platt / Getty Images / Getty ImagesMarch 3, 2004: Iraqi mourners carry the coffins of those killed the day before in a series of explosions in the Shia holy city of Karbala. Antonio Scorza / AFP via Getty Images / AFP via Getty ImagesApril 9, 2004: Iraqi insurgents wave their national flag as they celebrate in front of a burning U.S. military tanker after attacking it in Abu Gharib. / AP / APApril 28, 2004: This late 2003 file image obtained by The Associated Press shows an unidentified detainee standing on a box with a bag on his head and wires attached to him, at the Abu Ghraib prison. Justin Sullivan / Getty Images / Getty ImagesMay 3, 2004: People look at rows of graves at an overflowing cemetery built in a soccer arena, in Fallujah, Iraq. An estimated 1,300 Iraqis had been killed in the monthlong siege of Fallujah, and the death toll continued to rise as residents returned home to find more bodies. Ghaith Abdul-Ahad / Getty Images / Getty ImagesAug. 7, 2004: Iraqi Shia militiamen prepare to fire their weapons during clashes with U.S. Marines in Najaf, Iraq. Ghaith Abdul-Ahad / Getty Images / Getty ImagesAug. 27, 2004: Iraqi Shia faithful line up outside the shrine of Imam Ali in Najaf, to mark the end of conflict. The rebel leader Moqtada al-Sadr ordered his fighters to lay down their arms in a peace deal brokered by Iraq's most revered Shia cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. Scott Peterson / Getty Images / Getty ImagesNov. 10, 2004: U.S. Marines search houses for insurgents in Fallujah, Iraq. Scott Peterson / Getty Images / Getty ImagesNov. 22, 2004: U.S. Marines use explosives to open rooftop doors as they search houses for insurgents on in Fallujah, Iraq. Chris Hondros / Getty Images / Getty ImagesJan. 17, 2005: Spc. Franklin Smith pulls away as a mortar blasts out of a tube at the edge of the U.S. airbase in Tal Afar, Iraq. U.S. mortaring teams frequently fired "harassment and interdiction" mortar fusillades from the base to suspected enemy positions or watched areas nearby. Chris Hondros / Getty Images / Getty ImagesJan. 30, 2005: Voters look over their ballots before voting behind a cardboard screen on Election Day in Baghdad's Sadr City neighborhood. Wathiq Khuzaie / Getty Images / Getty ImagesMay 12, 2005: The scene of a car bombing in eastern Baghdad. The device exploded near a busy marketplace in a mainly Shia district. Khalid Mohammed / Associated Press / Associated PressFeb. 22, 2006: Iraqis gather at the ruins of the al-Askari mosque in Samarra, Iraq. Ali Yussef / AFP via Getty Images / Ali Yussef/AFP via Getty ImagesJan. 4, 2008: U.S. soldiers patrol the village of al-Wajihiya, 18 miles from Baquba, northeast of Baghdad. David Furst / AFP via Getty Images / David Furst/AFP via Getty ImagesMarch 19, 2008: An Iraqi boy watches as U.S. soldiers patrol his neighborhood in the Diyala province, northeast of Baghdad. Wathiq Khuzaie / Getty Images / Wathiq Khuzaie/Getty ImagesApril 27, 2008: A woman walks with her children during a sandstorm in Baghdad. Wathiq Khuzaie / Getty Images / Wathiq Khuzaie/Getty ImagesOct. 18, 2008: Shia demonstrators carry Iraqi flags during a protest against a proposed U.S.-Iraqi security pact in Baghdad. Ahmad Al-Rubaye / AFP via Getty Images / Ahmad Al-Rubaye/AFP via Getty ImagesJune 23, 2009: Iraqi prisoners hold their hands above their heads as they are escorted by U.S. soldiers from one unit to another at a U.S.-run detention center in Camp Cropper on the outskirts of Baghdad. Ahmad Al-Rubaye / AFP via Getty Images / Ahmad Al-Rubaye/AFP via Getty ImagesOct. 25, 2009: An Iraqi weeps as he walks away from the ministries of justice and labor following a suicide bombing. Twin suicide car bombs blasted the justice ministry and the provincial offices in central Baghdad, killing at least 90 people and injuring 600 others. Ali Al-Saadi / AFP via Getty Images / Ali Al-Saadi/AFP via Getty ImagesNov. 28, 2009: Iraq's flag flutters in the wind as Iraqi Shia take part in Friday noon prayers in Sadr City. Joe Raedle / Getty Images / Joe Raedle/Getty ImagesJan. 5, 2010: U.S. Army National Guard Spc. Jose Guillen-Verde hugs his mother, Denia Metivier, during a deployment ceremony in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Muhannad Fala'ah / Getty Images / Muhannad Fala'ah/Getty ImagesJan. 26, 2010: A crater marks the site of a car bomb's explosion near the Al-Hamra hotel in Baghdad. Three car bombs targeted hotels used by foreign journalists and businessmen in Baghdad. Ahmad Al-Rubaye / AFP via Getty Images / Ahmad Al-Rubaye/AFP via Getty ImagesApril 25, 2010: Iraqi men carry the coffin of one of the victims of a triple bombing attack outside a mortuary in the Baghdad. Marwan Ibrahim / AFP via Getty Images / Marwan Ibrahim/AFP via Getty ImagesJuly 23, 2010: Smoke billows from a burning car in the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk following a blast that seriously wounded the city's police chief, Borhan Habib Tayeb, and killed his son. / Kahlil Al-Murshidi/AFP via Getty Images / Kahlil Al-Murshidi/AFP via Getty ImagesSept. 20, 2010: A man sits on the rubble of his destroyed home a day after two near-simultaneous car bombs rocked Baghdad, killing 29 and wounding 111 in the city's deadliest day in a month. Mario Tama / Getty Images / Mario Tama/Getty ImagesDec. 17, 2011: Soldiers from the 3rd Brigade's 1st Cavalry Division board a C-17 transport plane to depart from Iraq at Camp Adder, now known as Imam Ali Base, near Nasiriyah, Iraq. Lucas Jackson / Pool/Getty Images / Lucas Jackson-Pool/Getty ImagesDec. 18, 2011: Iraqis wave behind a U.S. flag on the dashboard of a Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected (MRAP) vehicle that's part of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team's 1st Cavalry Division, as part of the last U.S. military convoy to leave Iraq near Nasiriyah, Iraq.