When the last Marines depart Fallujah on Nov. 14, they will leave behind a city that has come back from the brink of ruin.
Although relatively untouched by destruction in the initial U.S. push into Iraq, the City of Mosques erupted in violence in late 2003 after 16 protesters died during an anti-American demonstration outside a school.
The city in Anbar province fell into insurgent hands in 2004. When insurgents killed and hanged four Western contractors from a bridge over the Euphrates in March of that year, U.S. forces began Operation Vigilant Resolve in April in an unsuccessful bid to wrest control from the insurgents, ending in an April 9 ceasefire.
In November 2004, the U.S. launched its second major assault and this time regained control of the city during approximately six weeks of intense urban warfare.
Over the next few years, Fallujah began to sow the seeds of peace in the city. In 2005, Marines sent 16 American security guards back to the U.S. after they allegedly fired upon U.S. troops and Iraqi civilians, and the following year, tribal leaders established the Anbar Salvation Council in a pledge to fight Al Qaeda.
In 2007, the U.S. surge helped the Marines keep control of the largely Sunni city and the violence had dropped enough in 2008 that Marine Maj. Gen. John Kelly began to design the Marines' withdrawal from the province, which officially returned to Iraqi control on Sept. 1.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.