Salutes our Veterans, and great honor for all who died fighting during the Gulf War, which ended on this day in 1991 after Iraq accepted a ceasefire following their retreat from Kuwait.
The following article is a repost from my original which appears at PolitiBrew.com
One Hundred Hours
In 1923 Kuwait separated from Iraq and became their own State. On June 19th 1961, the British who had been protecting Kuwait at Kuwait’s request since 1889 ended their protective role. Kuwait joined the Arab League and established diplomatic relations with the US.
Iraq considered Kuwait still a part of their territory and objected to their becoming separate until finally conceding after the country drafted a Constitution, government and elected a national assembly in 1963. Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein wanted to regain land he considered lost and still a part of Iraq.
Hussein had been making threats against Kuwait for years, but the magnitude of an Iraqi invasion on August 2nd, 1990 came as a surprise to much of the world. Within hours, Iraqi forces had seized Kuwait City, headed south towards Saudi Arabia and were soon gathering along the Saudi Kingdom’s border.
George Bush and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher believed that the West needed to respond forcefully to Iraq’s aggressive acts, which threatened Saudi Arabia and much of the world’s oil supply. It would be up to King Fahd however whether an allied coalition could respond by allowing forces to be based within his Kingdom. After a briefing by Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney and U.S. Army General Norman Schwarzkopf, commander of the U.S. Central Command, Fahd agreed to accept allied troops. This led to the US led Persian Gulf War consisting of Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm. In all, more than 20 nations participated in the allied efforts.
Operation Desert Shield began on August 7th 1990, when F-15 Eagle fighters and other Air force fighters, Army paratroopers, and Navy aircraft carriers began arriving in the Persian Gulf. By the end of September there were nearly 200,000 American personnel in Saudi Arabia and still more reinforcements came in.
The initial plan was to drive Iraqi forces from Kuwait with a direct offensive aimed at Kuwait City, but General Schwarzkopf and other American commanders thought that the risk was too high as the Iraqis were firmly entrenched. Instead, American forces first destroyed Iraqi border radar stations, then other parts of the Iraqi anti-aircraft network and began to bomb key targets in downtown Iraq, including Saddam’s palace, communication centers, and power stations. Operation Desert Storm’s air war phase had begun.
The initial air attacks gave the American military a taste of how well their new equipment performed in combat conditions. With the M1A1 Abrams missile and the MIM-104 Patriot missile and GPS also helping to execute precision hits by the Tomahawk missile, the Iraqi military was nearly useless.
Damage done by U.S. air attacks wreaked havoc on Iraq’s Republican Guard; AH-64 Apache helicopters, B-52 Stratofortress bombers, E-3 AWACS and F-117A Stealth fighters battered their forces continuously. In all there were more than 109,000 sorties over the 43-day air war, averaging over 2,500 per day. Sorties hit Scud missiles, airfields, air defenses, electrical power, biological and chemical weapons caches, headquarters, intelligence assets, communications, the Iraqi army, and oil refineries.
Iraq promptly attacked Israel with seven Scud missiles the day the air war began which terrified Israeli civilians who were prepared with gas masks. Thankfully the Scuds were outfitted with conventional warheads and not chemical as previous threats had promised. The Israelis agreed not to respond in retaliation out of fear of sparking a bigger war, as the US promised to target Scud missile sites and knock them out with Patriot Missiles.
In late January, Iraq created a massive oil slick in in the Gulf. Many remember seeing the black smoke rising from miles of fires burning from an estimated 700 wells in Kuwait which the Iraqis later set ablaze. There’s an interesting side story about American Red Adair whose company capped more than one hundred wells in Kuwait after the war.
On January 29th, Iraqis attack Khafji, Saudi Arabia an interesting part of and the unofficial beginning of the ground war. It made only a brief headline here and there as most of the focus was on the buildup of forces which were getting in position for Operation Desert Storm. When the Iraqis occupied Khafji, Saudi commander General Khaled bin Sultan asked American General Norman Schwarzkopf for an air campaign against Iraqi forces in and around the city. It was decided that the city would be retaken by Arab forces instead.
The 2nd Saudi Arabian National Guard Brigade’s 7th Battalion, Saudi infantry and two Qatari tank companies were chosen and were supported by U.S. Army Special Forces and a Marine Recon detachment to retake the coastal city. During this time, 12 Marines, from two reconnaissance teams, were already in the city when the Iraqis moved in, and trapped on the roof tops of a couple of abandoned buildings for over 24 hours.
On February 23rd, the Allied ground assault Operation Desert Storm began in which ground forces had been learning to deal with 110 degree heat and sand so fine that it covered everything and often messed up their weapons and equipment. As the allied forces military strength grew in the Persian Gulf region grew, the focus grew more onto an attack against the Iraqi army in Kuwait than a defense of Saudi Arabia hence the name change of operations.
Allied troops led by U.S. Marines crossed the border into Iraq where in the few days leading up to the ground war, Iraqi troops had suffered under merciless air attacks in which every imaginable target was destroyed.
The Allied offensive focused on three major objectives-Kuwait City, the Iraqi flank and finally farther beyond the major Iraqi lines that would totally outflank Iraqi lines. During the first day of the war US marines advanced halfway to Kuwait City and the western advances proceeded with very little resistance, capturing thousands of Iraqi deserters.
On the second day, Iraqi Scud missile destroyed the U.S. barracks in Dhahran, killing 28 U.S. soldiers. This spurred American troops and they advanced on all fronts.
The largest tank battle in history happened on day three. American armored forces engaged the tank forces of the Iraqi Republican guard, destroying Iraq’s armor without losing a single tank.
On the fourth day, Iraqi troops set fire to the Kuwaiti oil wells as they retreated. Iraqi troops and civilians retreated along the main Iraq-Kuwait highway and were bombed so much by the Allies that it came to be known as the “Highway of Death.” The military objectives were complete, but Saddam Hussein was still ruling Iraq from Baghdad.
George Bush feared that the allies would not support the occupation of Baghdad and it was thought that if Saddam’s regime were toppled, the entire nation could disintegrate into a civil war.
On day five, Bush declared a cease-fire and declared the liberation of Kuwait on February 27, 1991.
The costs were enormous during the war both monetarily and environmentally. As far as casualties, estimates range in the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi deaths. American forces casualties included 147 battle deaths, 145 non-battle deaths and 1 missing in action.
The Persian Gulf War was the largest American military operation since Vietnam and was considered a success, while most Americans felt confident in their military. “Stormin’ Norman” Schwarzkopf and General Colin Powell became household names as people back in the States watched round the clock coverage of the war.
As a brand new immigrant only months after the war, I couldn’t help but remember what I had told my parents when they questioned my decision to move to the US when a war was brewing – that I had total confidence that American troops would keep the fight over there and win. The Persian Gulf War was the point in my life which I really began to love and respect our troops and Veterans.
The more I learn about America’s past military leadership and willingness to stand up to aggression and brutality of oppressed people around the world, I have immense gratitude and even more respect for the men and women who have displayed incredible courage then and now.
God bless our Troops and Veterans. Thank you all for your Service!
Have a blessed day everyone.