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Did 'shock and awe' really work?

From CNN Pentagon Correspondent Barbara Starr

U.S. bulldozers excavate the bomb site in Baghdad's Mansur district which was bombed on April 7.
U.S. bulldozers excavate the bomb site in Baghdad's Mansur district which was bombed on April 7.

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(CNN) -- After all the much trumpeted "shock and awe" of the Iraqi war, did those precision weapons dropped by coalition planes or fired by guided missiles really work?

Did they destroy the bunkers where the CIA thought Saddam Hussein and his top generals were hiding?

These were some of the questions a team of nearly 80 weapons specialists from the Pentagon and the intelligence community that just returned from Iraq had been searching to answer.

The team inspected dozens of sites the U.S. bombed during the war with its highly touted precision weapons.

There had been high hopes after the first strike -- a so-called cruise missile "decapitation strike" targeting Saddam -- which marked the earlier than planned start of the war on March 20.

"There's no question that the strike on that leadership headquarters was successful. We have photographs of what took place," U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told a press briefing a day later.

During a later leadership strike, the bombing of a Baghdad restaurant on April 7, four 2,000 pound bombs hit so precisely there was only one crater.

Military and CIA specialists recently combed through both those sites and found one big surprise -- contrary to U.S. intelligence, there were no bunkers.

The team looked at 150 bombed facilities around Iraq to see how well U.S. precision munitions did against some of Saddam's most secret facilities.

The bombs hit their targets, but surprisingly Iraq's bunkers were even stronger than the U.S. thought.

A senior team official told CNN they found unexpectedly sophisticated construction techniques.

The first Tomahawk missile to be fired into Iraq is launched from USS Bunker Hill 5.
The first Tomahawk missile to be fired into Iraq is launched from USS Bunker Hill 5.

Many bunkers had been built with European assistance designed specifically to withstand U.S. precision bombs, with hardened concrete, steel reinforcements and "shock absorbing" equipment.

The team concluded the Iraqis had "world class" facilities built years ago with multiple layers of protection against the U.S. attacks Iraq always feared.

The team also discovered new clues as to how Iraqis might have escaped other U.S. precision attacks

A B-2 bomber dropped 2,000 and 5,000-pound bombs on a command and control bunker under layers of soil and concrete, reinforced with one inch steel bars.

American intelligence thought there were six to eight large rooms inside, but the team found underground tunnels connecting 25 small rooms protected by individual blast doors.

The eight foot wide entry remained open after the bombs hit, but the underground damage was limited because the unexpected small rooms absorbed the shock of the blast.

So, what was learned from the investigation?

The team concluded that while the bombs were "stunningly accurate," the U.S. would need much better intelligence about targets the next time it goes to war.

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