The explosions on the first night, lighting up the sky as they burned through buildings below, were only the earliest blasts of the yearslong war to come.
For the thousands of days and nights that followed, eruptions across Iraq came from warplanes and cannons, grenade launchers and mines, machine guns, pistols and handmade bombs. What had started with the United States’ aerial assault and invasion to topple Saddam Hussein, became an occupation, a war against an insurgency, and then a sectarian civil war.
Militias fought one another, divided by lines of ethnicity and faith, and fought American forces in turn, long after Mr. Hussein’s capture and the United States gave up its fruitless search for weapons of mass destruction.
And across much of Iraq, as the factions mutated and the missions changed, explosions tore up more sidewalks, more storefronts, more city blocks. Fortified zones were carved out of cities, prison camps and strongholds out of towns. Neighborhoods became graveyards, and houses tombs. Generations grew up speaking of soldiers and insurgents, roadside bombs and traumatic injuries, medics, mourners, protesters, detainees.
American forces did not leave until almost nine years after the invasion began, after years of violence that transformed Iraq and piled grief on grief. Only a few years later, American troops were back, this time to help fight the Islamic State, an enemy that itself had grown out of Iraq’s civil war, and the losses were mounting again.
From the first night of bombing through the official American withdrawal, photographers with The New York Times and other news organizations chronicled the ordeal of the war.
This gallery contains graphic images.
A heavily guarded compound, close to Iraq’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs along the Tigris River in Baghdad, burned after the beginning of the Pentagon’s “shock and awe” bombing campaign on March 20, in the opening salvo of the war.
A U.S. soldier watched as a 20-foot statue of Mr. Hussein, who had ruled Iraq for 24 years, fell in central Baghdad on April 9.
Iraqi soldiers on an American tank that was destroyed in fighting on the highway in Doura, a southern suburb of Baghdad, on April 6.
American soldiers inside a palace that belonged to Uday Saddam Husse in, one of the ruler’s sons, in Baghdad on April 10.
An Iraqi boy, who lost both legs in a bombing, at a hospital in Baghdad on April 14. The hospital was among the institutions guarded by a local Shia group working in the absence of a police force.
Iraqi villagers on May 14 after they had exhumed the remains of up to 3,000 people from a mass grave in Mahawil, about 60 miles south of Baghdad. The victims were believed to have been killed during the 1991 Shia revolt against Mr. Hussein’s regime.
American soldiers on Dec. 15 at the compound in Ad-Dawr where Mr. Hussein was hiding before his capture.
At a cafe along the Tigris River in Baghdad, Iraqi men watched Mr. Hussein during his court appearance as it was broadcast on television on July 1.
Two girls at their home in Baghdad on June 26.
An undated photo acquired by The New York Times of an abused Iraqi prisoner at Abu Ghraib prison while it was under control of the U.S. military.
American Army soldiers from the 1st Battalion of the 5th Calvary Regiment in the cemetery in Najaf on Aug. 11.
A militiaman loyal to a Shiite cleric, Moktada al-Sadr, fired toward U.S. positions in the old city in Najaf on Aug. 22.
The brother of an Iraqi National Guardsman who was killed by a car bomb was comforted by a family member at a hospital morgue in Baghdad on July 14.
Men carried posters of the Grand Ayatollah al-Sistani, the most important Iraqi Shiite cleric, during a gathering for the holiday of Ashura on March 1 in Baghdad.
A Marine being helped after being hit in the arm by a sniper bullet in Najaf on Aug. 25.
Marines during an evening raid in Najaf on Aug. 9. After carrying out raids at two schools and a factory, they were ambushed and took heavy gunfire, including from mortars and rocket-propelled grenades.
Marines and Iraqi Special Forces prepared to evacuate civilians who were wounded in fighting between the military and the Mujahedeen in Falluja on Nov. 12.
American soldiers and members of the Iraqi National Guard spoke to a family while their house was searched on Oct. 10 for weapons in Samarra, where U.S. forces and their allies were struggling to regain control.
Marines fired at a door so a platoon could gain access to a house to conduct a search on Nov. 14, in Falluja, where they were searching for fighters.
An Iraqi girl screamed after her parents were killed when U.S. soldiers fired on their car, which the American authorities said had failed to stop as it approached on Jan. 18 in Tal Afar.
Marines tried to take cover after white phosphorus, used to provide a smoke screen for American tanks, hit their position, causing burns in Falluja on Nov. 9.
The body of a U.S. Marine arrived at the airport in Reno, Nev.
An American sergeant dragged another Marine to safety moments after he was shot by a sniper during a patrol with the Iraqi Army in Anbar Province on Oct. 31.
The aftermath of a car bombing that killed at least four people and wounded about 15 others in the Karada neighborhood of Baghdad on Feb. 28.
U.S. Army soldiers inspected a bag full of blasting caps and artillery caps that were found buried by the Iraqi police in Anbar Province on April 12.
A U.S. Army soldier in the home of an Iraqi civilian in Baghdad on May 14, as part of a U.S. military plan that involved “knock and talks,” in which soldiers would get to know residents by introducing themselves to Iraqi civilians.
A wounded soldier was loaded onto a helicopter after suffering shrapnel injuries caused by a land mine or an improvised explosive device in Latifah on May 19.
Wounded Iraqis looked out from an ambulance during a medical evacuation from the Mufrek neighborhood of Baquba on June 2007. They were injured during fighting between American forces and fighters from Al Qaeda in the western part of the city.
Section 60 of Arlington National Cemetery, where a woman mourned her fiancé, who was killed in Iraq.
A worker at the Wadi al-Salam cemetery, wrapped the body of a man killed during the fighting in Sadr City on May 15.
American soldiers, inside a Stryker fighting vehicle, returned to their base after a patrol in western Baghdad on June 2.
American soldiers, airmen, Marines and seamen raised their hands and repeated the pledge to re-enlist at a ceremony in Baghdad on July 4.
A Sunni militiaman at a checkpoint near Kharma on June 15.
Camp Bucca, the largest U.S. detention facility in Iraq, on March 4. The camp was set to be shut down as detained Iraqis were gradually transferred into Iraqi custody.
An Iraqi police graduate waited for a ceremony at the Baghdad Police Academy on Nov. 9. Fifty women were among hundreds of cadets who graduated that year.
A girl cried after losing her mother in car bomb at a hotel in Baghdad on Jan. 25. Bomb attacks that day struck four hotels around the Iraqi capital, killing at least 37 people.
Mourners at the gravesite where a relative was buried in the vast Wadi al-Saalam cemetery in Najaf on Aug. 23.
The 1st Armored Division band played during an end-of-mission ceremony at Forward Operating Base Prosperity in Baghdad’s International Zone on June 1.
U.S. forces arrived in Kuwait during one of their final convoys out of Iraq on Dec. 3.