Vicious hand-to-hand combat with knife, M249 in Fallujah yields Medal of Honor

Apr 11 , 2022

Vicious hand-to-hand combat with knife, M249 in Fallujah yields Medal of Honor

On Nov. 10, 2004, during the Second Battle of Fallujah, Army Staff Sgt. David Bellavia and his platoon were ordered to clear a block where insurgents were firing at American forces. As they entered the tenth house, a firefight broke out, and Bellavia was trapped inside with four other soldiers. According to his Silver Star citation, Bellavia, armed with a M249 SAW, entered the room where the insurgents were gathered and sprayed it with gunfire, forcing them to take cover and allowing Bellavia and his men to withdraw into the street.

Alone, Bellavia went back inside the house to clear it. As he entered, he shot an insurgent who was loading an RPG, and wounded another, before taking cover in a bedroom, but he was followed by the wounded fighter, who Bellavia shot and killed. A third enemy fighter began shooting from upstairs, and after a brief but fierce gunbattle, Bellavia killed him too. As Bellavia crossed to another room, a fourth insurgent emerged from a closet. Bellavia shot and wounded him as well, but the man ran past him and up the stairs.

Bellavia tracked the man through the house by following his bloody footprints, and encountered a fifth fighter, who he routed by throwing a fragmentation grenade. He then came upon a room stocked with propane tanks and explosives, where Bellavia encountered the wounded fighter from downstairs. Knowing he couldn’t fire his weapon for fear of setting off an explosion the two engaged in hand to hand combat, which ended with Bellavia slitting the man’s throat with a knife.

Of his actions that day, Bellavia explained that “It was survivability. This is what we were destined to do. In the moment that's very much rational.”



The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, March 3rd, 1863, has awarded in the name of Congress the Medal of Honor to Staff Sergeant David G. Bellavia, United States Army, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty.

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 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 Army.

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