Remembering the Lion of Fallujah – Marine Major Douglas Zembiec

 In Military, Veterans

Major Douglas Zembiec was a legend in his time. As commanding officer of Company E, 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, he earned the nickname ‘Lion of Fallujah’ for not only his battlefield actions, but for frequently calling his Marines “lions.”

“My men fought like lions and killed many insurgents. The valor and courage of the Marines was magnificent. The Marines fought with such ferocity that any Marine who went before us would have been proud.”  Zembiec in a letter to his wife Pam

Zembiec was an unabashed fighter whom his wife once said should have born to fight as a Spartan. When 1/3 of his company of 150 men became casualties, he remarked,

“Marines are violent by nature–that’s what makes us different. These young Marines didn’t enlist to get money to go to college. They joined the Marines to be part of a legacy.” Capt Zembiec to the LA Times in 2004

He was comfortable on the battlefield, comfortable with killing the enemy, something the snowflakes of America will never understand. They are happy with being victims. A recipient of two Purple Hearts, a Navy Commendation with Gold Star, a Navy Achievement medal and a Bronze Star with Combat Distinguished Device,  he was never a victim his entire life.

The first Battle of Fallujah during Operation Vigilant Resolve occurred in 2004. It is there that Zembiec earned several awards. The Battle of Fallujah was particularly bloody and hard fought by US Marines.

He was promoted to Major in 2005.

The Washington Post reported,

Zembiec was also awarded the Bronze Star for valor for rushing into the middle of a machine-gun-raked street to get the attention of an Abrams tank supporting Echo Company. Abrams are equipped with small radios on the rear to allow infantrymen to talk to the tank crew while behind the safety of 60 tons of steel, but for what­ever reason the radio, or “grunt phone,” wasn’t working, so Zembiec scaled the tank while bullets ricocheted off its hull.

After he knocked on one of the hatches repeatedly, the crew of the tank finally opened up. Zembiec then loaded a magazine of illuminated tracer rounds and began shooting from the top of the tank to mark the building from which his Marines were being shot.

The tank swung its turret and without warning fired its massive 120mm gun. The blast threw Zembiec into the air and onto the street below.

“He deserved five Bronze Stars, not one,” retired Sgt. Maj. Williams Skiles said.”

On the night of his death, Zembiec was not just a US Marine, he was serving in the CIA Special Activities Division’s Ground Branch, though it was not widely known at the time, and not publicly acknowledged for years. He was killed in a Sadr City alley (a suburb section of Baghdad) on May 11, 2007 while working with a small team of Iraqis to capture insurgents. On that night, he saved the lives of 25 men…for which he was posthumously awarded a Silver Star.

His Silver Star citation reads in part:

“Attacking from concealed and fortified positions, an enemy force engaged Major Zembiec’s assault team, firing crew-served automatic weapons and various small arms. He boldly moved forward and immediately directed the bulk of his assault team to take cover. Under withering enemy fire, Major Zembiec remained in an exposed, but tactically critical, position in order to provide leadership and direct effective suppressive fire on the enemy combatant positions with his assault team’s machine gun. In doing so, he received the brunt of the enemy’s fire, was struck and succumbed to his wounds. Emboldened by his actions his team and supporting assault force aggressively engaged the enemy combatants. Major Zembiec’s quick thinking and timely action to re-orient his team’s machine gun enabled the remaining members of his unit to rapidly and accurately engage the primary source of the enemy’s fire saving the lives of his comrades.”

Zembiec was one of only a handful of people to be honored both by the Marine Corps and the CIA at the same time. He has a star on the CIA’s memorial wall. R.I.P., Major Zembiec, the Lion of Fallujah.

Featured photo from Sgt. Jose E. GuillenU.S. Marines

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