In Photos: The Iraq War

The explosions on the first night, which lit up the sky as they burned the buildings below, were only the first explosions of the war years to come.

During the thousands of days and nights that followed, the eruptions in Iraq came from warplanes and cannons, grenade launchers and mines, machine guns, pistols and hand-made bombs. What had started with the US air raid and invasion to overthrow Saddam Hussein turned into an occupation, a counter-insurgency war, and then a sectarian civil war.

The militias fought each other, divided along ethnic and religious lines, and fought against US forces, long after Hussein’s capture and the US abandoned its fruitless search for weapons of mass destruction.

And in much of Iraq, as factions mutated and missions changed, blasts ripped apart more sidewalks, more storefronts, more city blocks. Fortified areas were created in cities, prison camps, and fortresses in cities. The neighborhoods became cemeteries and the houses into tombs. Generations grew up talking about soldiers and insurgents, roadside bombs and traumatic injuries, doctors, mourners, protesters, detainees.

US forces did not leave until nearly nine years after the invasion began, after years of violence that transformed Iraq and piled pain upon pain. Only a few years later, US troops returned, this time to help fight Islamic State, an enemy that had emerged from Iraq’s civil war, and the losses were mounting again.

From the first night of the bombing until the official US withdrawal, photographers for The New York Times and other news organizations recorded the ordeal of war.

This gallery contains graphic images.

A heavily guarded compound, near the Iraqi Foreign Ministry along the Tigris River in Baghdad, caught fire after the start of the Pentagon’s “shock and awe” bombing campaign on March 20, in the opening salvo of war.

A US soldier saw a 20-foot statue of Hussein, who had ruled Iraq for 24 years, fall in downtown Baghdad on April 9.

Iraqi soldiers in a US tank that was destroyed during road fighting in Doura, a southern suburb of Baghdad, on April 6.

US soldiers inside a palace that belonged to Uday Saddam Hussein, one of the ruler’s sons, in Baghdad on April 10.

An Iraqi boy, who lost both legs in a bombing raid, in a Baghdad hospital on April 14. The hospital was among the institutions guarded by a local Shiite group working in the absence of a police force.

Iraqi villagers on May 14 after exhuming the remains of up to 3,000 people from a mass grave in Mahawil, some 60 miles south of Baghdad. The victims are believed to have been killed during the 1991 Shiite revolt against Hussein’s regime.

US soldiers on December 15 at the Ad-Dawr compound where Mr. Hussein was hiding prior to his capture.

At a cafe along the Tigris River in Baghdad, Iraqi men saw Mr. Hussein during his court appearance, as 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 Iraqi prisoner being abused at Abu Ghraib prison while under the control of the US military.

US Army soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment at the Najaf cemetery on August 11.

A militant loyal to a Shiite cleric, Moktada al-Sadr, fired on US positions in the old city of Najaf on August 22.

The brother of an Iraqi National Guardsman who was killed in a car bombing was comforted by a relative in a Baghdad hospital morgue on July 14.

The men carried signs of the Grand Ayatollah al-Sistani, Iraq’s top Shiite cleric, during a gathering for the Ashura holiday on March 1 in Baghdad.

A Marine receives help after being hit in the arm by a sniper bullet in Najaf on August 25.

Marines during a night raid in Najaf on August 9. After carrying out raids on two schools and a factory, they were ambushed and came under heavy fire, including from mortars and rocket-propelled grenades.

Iraqi marines and special forces prepared to evacuate civilians who were injured in fighting between the army and the mujahideen in Fallujah on November 12.

US soldiers and members of the Iraqi National Guard spoke to a family as their home was searched for weapons on October 10 in Samarra, where US forces and their allies were fighting to regain control.

Marines fired on a door to allow a platoon access to a house for a search on November 14, in Fallujah, where they were looking for fighters.

An Iraqi girl screamed after her parents were killed when US soldiers fired on her car, which US authorities say had failed to stop as it approached Tal Afar on January 18.

The Marines tried to take cover after white phosphorous, used to provide a smoke screen for US tanks, struck their position and caused burns in Fallujah on November 9.

The body of a US Marine arrived at the airport in Reno, Nevada.

A US 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 October 31.

The aftermath of a car bomb that killed at least four people and injured 15 others in the Karada neighborhood of Baghdad on February 28.

US Army soldiers inspect a bag full of detonators and shell casings that Iraqi police found buried in Anbar province on April 12.

A US Army soldier at the home of an Iraqi civilian in Baghdad on May 14, as part of a US military plan involving “call and talk,” in which soldiers would meet residents by introducing themselves to Iraqi civilians.

A wounded soldier was loaded into a helicopter after sustaining shrapnel injuries from a landmine or improvised explosive device in Latifah on May 19.

Injured Iraqis look out of an ambulance during a medical evacuation from the Mufrek neighborhood of Baquba in June 2007. They were injured during fighting between US forces and al Qaeda fighters in the western part of the city.

Section 60 of Arlington National Cemetery, where a woman mourned her fiance, who was killed in Iraq.

A worker at the Wadi al-Salam cemetery wrapped the body of a man killed during fighting in Sadr City on May 15.

US soldiers, inside a Stryker combat vehicle, returned to their base after a patrol in western Baghdad on June 2.

US soldiers, airmen, marines and sailors raised their hands and repeated the pledge to re-enlist at a ceremony in Baghdad on July 4.

A Sunni militant at a checkpoint near Kharma on June 15.

Camp Bucca, the largest US detention center in Iraq, on March 4. The camp was scheduled to be closed as detained Iraqis were gradually transferred to Iraqi custody.

An Iraqi police graduate waited for a ceremony at the Baghdad Police Academy on November 9. Fifty women were among the hundreds of cadets who graduated that year.

A girl cried after losing her mother in a car bomb at a Baghdad hotel on January 25. Bomb attacks that day hit four hotels around the Iraqi capital, killing at least 37 people.

Mourners at the grave where a relative was buried in the vast Wadi al-Saalam cemetery in Najaf on August 23.

The 1st Armored Division band played during an end-of-mission ceremony at Forward Operating Base Prosperity in the Baghdad International Zone on June 1.

US forces arrived in Kuwait during one of their last convoys out of Iraq on December 3.