Military Life Veterans

How Medal of Honor hero David Bellavia wiped out an entire enemy squad in Fallujah

The Audie Murphy of his generation.
Medal of Honor recipient, former Army Staff Sgt. David G. Bellavia is inducted into the Pentagons Hall of Heroes, at the Pentagon, Washington, D.C., June 26, 2019. Bellavia was awarded the Nation’s highest military award for his conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his own life above and beyond the call of duty during the Battle of Fallujah, Nov. 10, 2004. (DoD photo by Marine Corps Sgt. Dylan C. Overbay)

It’s hard to believe what Army Staff Sgt. David Bellavia went through and did in order to save his squad in Iraq during the Second Battle of Fallujah on Nov. 10, 2004. It’s unbelievable how much he turned his life around from feeling like the “weakest link” — his words, not ours — to leading his soldiers during a pitched firefight in one of the deadliest battles of the Iraq War. He’s been called the “Audie Murphy of his generation,” and with good reason. In this video, Task & Purpose’s Chris Cappy breaks down what happened on that day based on Bellavia’s own account from his memoir House to House. Please disable your ad-blocker to watch the video.

In February 2004, Bellavia deployed with the 2nd Battalion 2nd infantry regiment, 1st Infantry Division. They were stationed outside Fallujah, and Bellavia was a squad leader, one who would soon be leading his men into hellish combat.

His platoon was tasked with searching and clearing houses in Fallujah; a brutal and costly affair. They went block by block, house by house, and room by room in a city crawling with enemy fighters, one that was laced with booby traps, with ambushes around every corner. By the time that U.S. troops made their way into the city in November, they had already been engaged in months of fierce fighting. Bellavia was no longer bothered by fear at this point; he was fueled by it. By this time, he had transformed into a reliable leader who was ready for whatever this war could throw at him.

On Nov. 10, 2004, while clearing a house, Bellavia pursued a group of ambushers through the building in a running battle that would end with one soldier taking out a group of attackers many times his number. For his actions, Bellavia was awarded the Medal of Honor on June 25, 2019.

Staff Sgt. David Bellavia’s award citation can be read in its entirety below:

Staff Sergeant David G. Bellavia distinguished himself by acts of gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty on November 10, 2004, while serving as a squad leader in support of Operation Phantom Fury in Fallujah, Iraq. While clearing a house, a squad from Staff Sergeant Bellavia’s platoon became trapped within a room by intense enemy fire coming from a fortified position under the stairs leading to the second floor. Recognizing the immediate severity of the situation, and with disregard for his own safety, Staff Sergeant Bellavia retrieved an automatic weapon and entered the doorway of the house to engage the insurgents. With enemy rounds impacting around him, Staff Sergeant Bellavia fired at the enemy position at a cyclic rate, providing covering fire that allowed the squad to break contact and exit the house. A Bradley Fighting Vehicle was brought forward to suppress the enemy; however, due to high walls surrounding the house, it could not fire directly at the enemy position. Staff Sergeant Bellavia then re-entered the house and again came under intense enemy fire. He observed an enemy insurgent preparing to launch a rocket-propelled grenade at his platoon. Recognizing the grave danger the grenade posed to his fellow soldiers, Staff Sergeant Bellavia assaulted the enemy position, killing one insurgent and wounding another who ran to a different part of the house. Staff Sergeant Bellavia, realizing he had an un-cleared, darkened room to his back, moved to clear it. As he entered, an insurgent came down the stairs firing at him. Simultaneously, the previously wounded insurgent reemerged and engaged Staff Sergeant Bellavia. Staff Sergeant Bellavia, entering further into the darkened room, returned fire and eliminated both insurgents. Staff Sergeant Bellavia then received enemy fire from another insurgent emerging from a closet in the darkened room. Exchanging gunfire, Staff Sergeant Bellavia pursued the enemy up the stairs and eliminated him. Now on the second floor, Staff Sergeant Bellavia moved to a door that opened onto the roof. At this point, a fifth insurgent leapt from the third floor roof onto the second floor roof. Staff Sergeant Bellavia engaged the insurgent through a window, wounding him in the back and legs, and caused him to fall off the roof. Acting on instinct to save the members of his platoon from an imminent threat, Staff Sergeant Bellavia ultimately cleared an entire enemy-filled house, destroyed four insurgents, and badly wounded a fifth. Staff Sergeant Bellavia’s bravery, complete disregard for his own safety, and unselfish and courageous actions are in keeping with the finest traditions of military service and reflect great credit upon himself and the United States.

Written and edited by Chris Cappy. Video editing and co-produced by Rebecca Rosen.