The town is perhaps best known for being the birthplace of Saddam Hussein. Large numbers of the Iraqi political leadership of the Saddam Hussein period, were drawn from the region, as were members of his Iraqi Republican Guard.
The town is also known as the birthplace of Saladin, after which the province is named, and who among other achievements defended Egypt against Crusaders, and recaptured Jerusalem in 1187. Saddam on many occasions compared himself to Saladin.
In the opening weeks of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, many observers speculated that Saddam would return to Tikrit as his "last stronghold". Along with intense aerial bombardment, forces of several thousand US Marines with 300 lightly armored vehicles, converged on the town on April 13, 2003, meeting little or no resistance. With the fall of Tikrit, U.S. Major General Stanley McChrystal said, "I would anticipate that the major combat operations are over," postulating the end of major military action in Iraq.
On December 13, 2003, at around 8:30PM Baghdad time (UTC +3), Saddam Hussein was captured and arrested by Coalition forces, primarily the US 4th Infantry Division, in the town of Ad Dawr, fifteen kilometres south of Tikrit.