With the proposed cancellation of the Marine Corps planned amphibious vehicle of the future—the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle—about to be put up for debate in Congress, there has been a lot of talk lately about how the Marines haven’t made a wartime amphibious landing since the Korean war.
But that isn’t necessarily true. In April 2003 the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force was approaching Baghdad from the east, but found that the Iraqis had blown holes in the two main bridges on Route 6 leading into East Baghdad. The Marines knocking on Baghdad’s door were stuck—or at least they might have been if they weren't riding in Amphibious Assault Vehicles (AAV). So they hit the water.
As a Marine history describes it, the Marines didn't know if their vehicles would even float, since they only received the AAVs three days before the invasion.
Colonel Toolan made the decision to swim the AAVs across the river with the top hatches open (to allow a quick escape if they foundered before reaching the other side of the river.) At 1100Z, the first vehicle from Alpha Company was 'feet wet'. The Marines cheered as each vehicle swam across the river. As 1/4 continued inland to expand the beachhead line, it encountered sporadic small arms fire. The enemy began to pull back in the face of the assault, and now the Division had two fronts from which to pressure the capitol. Third Battalion, 1st Marines, crossed the river and passed through 1/4's lines, heading south to secure the far side of the northern Diyala Bridge.
But the best part of the story might be the recon mission that two Marines undertook in order to make sure that the AAV's would cross at a spot advantageous for the unit.
As fires were exchanged across the river 500 meters north of their position, Lieutenant Roeder and Corporal Brian Goff stripped down to their 'green on green' shorts and tee shirts. Armed with only their pistols, the two combat engineers swam 150 meters across the river.
First Lieutenant Roeder and Corporal Goff identified fighting positions and bunkers that had been recently abandoned by the enemy. The engineers made quick work of the far side survey and swam the span of the river to rejoin the waiting CAAT Marines. These two stalwart Marines had confirmed the only viable crossing site along miles of river line.