March 19, 2003 - Coalition forces target senior Iraqi leadership compound in Baghdad as Operation Iraqi Freedom is launched. According to officials phase one of the military campaign, designed to "shock and awe," is part of a "decapitation strategy" aimed at killing senior Iraqi leaders.

March 20, 2003 - Iraq launched surface-to-surface missiles at U.S. forces based in Kuwait; Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein made a television appearance calling on his people to defend the country. Meanwhile the Coalition military campaign intensified as troops headed for Umm Qasr.

March 22, 2003 - Coalition troops arrived in the southern port city of Umm Qasr. According to British military officials the deep water port, lying the furthest into Iraq is important if a refugee crisis is to be avoided in the region.