- Day 1 Wednesday, January 16, 1991
Throughout the day, rumors were running rampant of imminent military action. The deadline set by U.N. resolution 678 of midnight EST, January 15th had passed and indications from the administration were that military actions would commence "sooner rather than later." However, Washington is filled with rumors, and those who truly knew when the operations were to begin were not talking to anyone.
Unbeknownst all but a select few in the military and the White House, the decision to go to war was made the day before, on Tuesday, January 15th when President Bush signed a National Security Directive authorizing the use of force unless some last minute diplomatic settlement was reached or Iraqi forces withdrew in mass from Kuwait. He then told Secretary Cheney he was authorized to sign the "execute" order which would be passed to the military National Command Authority after the U.N. deadline passed. It was then up to the command structure to implement the plan that they had worked so many months to create. Wednesday morning, the President's National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft informed Cheney that there was no change in plans and he should proceed as previously directed.
Around 4:30 PM EST, the first fighter aircraft were launched from Saudi Arabia and off of U.S. carriers in the region. These were joined by tanker, electronic warfare, and command and control aircraft, along with the alerting of helicopter "extraction" units should a pilot go down and need to be rescued from behind enemy lines. Their targets had been decided upon months ago by Air Force planners and an Aircraft Tasking Order had been issued, specifying which units would attack which targets at what times. These ATO's were computer printouts that ranged up to about 300pages on busy days.
At about 6:35 pm, CNN reporters in Baghdad were frantically describing the scene of anti-aircraft fire arching into the sky and large explosions coming from the outskirts of Baghdad. At first, they were unsure if they were really under attack or this fireworks display was merely an accidental firing on the part of Iraqi air defense systems, but a large bomb blast heard over the telephone lines of the reporters confirmed that the war had begun. Around the country, millions of American's called their friends and family telling them to watch their televisions. This was the beginning of the first "live" television war.
The first aircraft to penetrate Iraqi airspace were EF-111 Ravens, electronic warfare aircraft, and F-4G Wild Weasel air defense suppression jets, that cleared a path through the anti-aircraft systems straight into Baghdad. Nearer to the border, Army and Marine AH-64 Apaches teamed up with Special Forces units to eliminate many of the front line anti-aircraft radar and command centers. The aim of allied planners was to decimate the country-wide system of anti-aircraft and force each Iraqi unit to act independent of other Iraqi forces. Initial indications of the anti-aircraft fire was that it was sporadic and undirected, though extremely heavy.
Around 6:44 PM EST, F-117 Stealth fighters dropped their bombs on several targets in and around Baghdad. Priority targets were command and control functions that could control the Iraqi military's response. The telephone exchange, communications centers, and many of Iraq's military command headquarters were taken out in this first wave of Operation Desert Storm. These attacks, and attacks elsewhere in the KTO, were joined by Tomahawk cruise missiles launched from ships in the Persian/Arabian Gulf and other aircraft such as the F-15E's and F-18's from the carrier forces. Free Kuwait, Saudi Arabian, and British forces also joined in these initial air attacks.
As the reports came in, it was discovered only one U.S. aircraft, a Navy F-18 Hornet had been lost. The aircraft, based on the U.S.S. Saratoga, had been hit by an anti-aircraft missile and is pilot was listed as missing. A British Tornado and a Kuwaiti A-4KU were also downed. All of their pilots were also listed as missing.
Surprisingly, Iraq's highly-regarded Air Force was nowhere to be seen. With the exception of some minor artillery shelling of a small Saudi border town called Khafji, Iraq offered no defense, no retaliation. Their Air Force remained on the ground and anti-aircraft weapons were fired without guidance, haphazardly hoping to hit an attacking aircraft.
Diplomatic-- Under the resolution passed by the House and Senate a few days before, the Congress had effectively taken itself out of the day-to-day operations of starting operations in the Gulf. Nevertheless, President Bush choose to notify Congressional leaders of his decision early Wednesday morning. The leadership of the Congress and the military-related committees were told to find "secure" phones and await a phone call from the President. They were then informed that the attack would come that evening.
Bush then made his way through the coalition forces, sometimes contacting leaders directly and sometimes allowing Secretary of State James Baker to inform their ambassadors of the pending action. After the planes were launched, the Soviet's Foreign Minister was informed of the attack, and he immediately relayed this message to President Gorbachev. Gorbachev called Bush if he could relay a message to Saddam to pull out, but his message was not delivered until after the first bombs began dropping.
Around the country, heartbeats sped up and tears were shed as the first reports of military action trickled in over the television. The bombing had made CNN, the only network with a feed into Baghdad, the number one source of news. Smaller independent stations were dumping their evening programming and showing CNN all night. Even some of the cable movie stations were broadcasting messages written messages across their screens that their viewers might want to change the channel and watch the news.
At 7:00PM EST, Marlin Fitzwater walked into the White House briefing room to deliver a brief statement on the initiation of hostilities. Had it not been for the instant satellite coverage, his words would have been the first to indicate that the battle had begun. Instead, he merely restated what was obvious to anyone watching television, and gave the country a new codename to memorize: Operation Desert Storm.
At 9:00PM EST, President Bush addressed the country with a speech he had been working on for some time. It was not a long speech, but in it he assured the country that this battle was just, and that he fully intended to bring the troops home as soon as it was possible to do so. One other statement that brought cheers from many veterans of the Vietnam conflict was the Presidents assurance that this war "would not be fought with one hand behind our back." The President finished his remarks and returned to his office to follow the course of the battle. His short statement had become the most watched event in television history, with nearly 80% of the television viewers watching his speech.
Outside the White House, a handful of demonstrators showed up to protest the advent of war, but the situation was so fluid that few people could tear themselves away from the television; no one wanted to leave their homes. Many people stayed up late into the early morning hours watching the television coverage, hoping for more information about the war. When early polls were released, it was found nearly 80% of the American people supported the President's actions.
Day 2 Thursday, January 16, 1991
Allied military strikes continued against Iraq with aircraft striking Iraqi command and control along with attacks against the Iraqi Air Force. Reports later indicated that the Iraqis offered some resistance on the second day of fighting. There were a number of Iraqi combat air patrols operational and U.S. forces engaged some aircraft in air to air combat.
Joining the attacks today were B-52 bombers which were used to attack the Republican Guard units stationed in Northern Kuwait and Southern Iraq. These thirty-year-old bombers, launched from bases inside Saudi Arabia and the island of Diego Garcia, have been upgraded many times since their original construction and can deliver a devastating load of explosives on enemy forces.
Near the border of Iraq and Jordan and the border of Iraq and Kuwait, the Iraqi military was preparing a response to the air attacks. Mobile SCUD missile launchers were being readied to launch their weapons against Saudi Arabia and Israel, in an attempt to bring the Jewish country into a war with the Arab world. These missiles, which have similar characteristics to the German V-2 in World War II, are not considered effective against military targets as their guidance system is not that advanced, and would serve only as a threat to civilian populations.
In the United States, a feeling of euphoria and confidence was sweeping the country. Thousands of sorties had been launched, and only one American pilot had been lost. Chairman Powell claimed that 80% of the sorties were rated as effective in delivering their ordinance on target. Some commentators were beginning to talk of a "one week air war." But that evening, the Iraqis effectively dashed these hopes.
Once again, the evening news began the best conduit for intelligence out of the region. Correspondents in Israel were breaking in to regular news coverage to bring news of air raid sirens in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Moments later, the reporters in Saudi Arabia were reporting the same. The anchormen in Washington could do little but watch as their counterparts in the region quickly donned gas masks and moved into sealed rooms for fear of a chemical attack. SCUD missile had been launched against both countries, and there was concern that they would carry chemically-armed warheads. One missile was launched against Saudi Arabia and seven were sent toward Israel.
The missile against Saudi Arabia was intercepted in what would become a common occurrence. An American Patriot missile, originally designed for an anti-aircraft role, was recently modified to intercept short-range ballistic missile. The Patriot hit the SCUD and debris fell over Dhahran harmlessly. The seven missiles over Israel were not intercepted and landed in Tel Aviv and Haifa, causing extensive damage and injuring at least seven.
Day 3 Friday, January 18, 1991
In an effort to prevent the Israelis from retaliating, the United States promised to make SCUD missile launchers a priority target. A large portion of Allied sorties were redirected to hunting and killing Iraq's mobile SCUD launchers. On Day 3, approximately 11 mobile SCUD launchers were engaged, and allied commanders were hopeful this would lessen the threat from these weapons.
Despite these attacks, Iraq again launched SCUD missiles toward Israel. This time three SCUDS fell on Tel Aviv, causing about ten injuries and major property damage. Again Israel remained silent, acceding to U.S. wishes that they not retaliate for these attacks. Although Israel told the United States it would not retaliate, there were extra precautions such as the U.S. withholding of IFF codes from the Israeli Air Force that would make their planes susceptible to Allied attacks should they cross into the combat area.
For the first time, air attacks came from air bases inside Turkey. These attacks by F-111's were concentrated in Northern Iraq and are significant not because of their military value but because it sides Turkey squarely with coalition forces. Despite the Turkish people's opposition to the war, President Ozal allowed the attacks from Turkish soil in what many observers feel his desire to move more toward the Western world. In addition, Iraq has about 150,00 troops on the Turkish border which are threatening Turkey.
On the ground, the minor artillery duel between Iraqi and Allied forces near the border town of Khafji intensified slightly with U.S. Marines returning fire and calling in air strikes on the Iraqi positions. The Iraqi battery was reported as "silenced" but later artillery duels will continue in the same area
Throughout Saudi Arabia, Allied ground units were in transit toward the Kuwaiti border. Media sources in the region reported seeing convoys of hundreds of vehicles heading North toward the border. Despite the reporters' claims that of imminent ground war, Allied military briefers go out of their way to make it known the war is going to take a long time.
At sea, the Navy engaged three enemy patrol boats operating in the Northern Persian Gulf. Iraq's Navy is considered a minimal threat, a number of small coastal patrol craft, but some are capable of mine-laying operations and a few had the capability of launching the ship-killing Exocet missile. The destruction of Iraqi naval forces would need to be accomplished before any amphibious operations could commence.
Suffering from several SCUD missile attacks, many believed that Israel would finally be brought into this conflict. All indications were that the Israeli government was fully prepared to attack Iraq, some reports even claimed they had aircraft in the air, but the United States would not give them the Identification Friend or Foe (IFF) codes that would enable them to fly safely through allied anti-aircraft. In addition, several Arab countries refused Israel overflight rights through their airspace on the way to Iraq.
Besides these practical considerations, President Bush and Secretary Baker were engaged in a diplomatic offensive with the Israeli government. This was a change from the frigid relations the United States has had with Israel over the last two years because of a dispute on the occupied territories. Now, the U.S. administration was on the phone constantly trying to secure assurances that Israel would not enter the war and cause possible problems in the Arab coalition. With the arrival of Patriot missiles and the assurances of the United States that SCUD hunting would remain a major priority, Israel stated it would not attack at this time.
Day 4 Saturday, January 19, 1991
Given the success of the Patriot missile system in Saudi Arabia, and the desire of the United States to maintain Israeli's restraint, the United States sent the Patriot to Israel along with American crews to operate the system. Although Israel had agreed to by the system from the United States earlier, she insisted that Israeli Defense Forces troops man the batteries. As the IDF had not finished training, it became necessary for the first time to have American combat troops provide protection to the people of Israel. Israel's military troops were put on an accelerated training schedule to eventually take over the Patriot system.
In the northern Persian Gulf, the U.S.S. Nicholas, a frigate, attacked an Iraqi position on an off-shore oil platform. The platform was being used as a base for anti-aircraft fire and American aircraft considered it a threat. The Nicholas attacked the platform, and then Navy special forces seized the facility taking twelve Iraqi soldiers prisoner. Five Iraqis were killed in the attacks. Also at sea, two Marine task forces of assault ships moved into the Gulf.
The air war continued but allied forces reported more vigorous defenses from Iraqi troops. SCUD missile sights remained a priority along with power plants and telephone exchanges in the city of Baghdad. By the end of the day, the Pentagon claimed "air superiority" and indicated it would changes it's attack strategy from Iraq's command and control to direct attacks on Iraqi troops in Kuwait.
On the ground, allied forces again came under attack from Iraqi artillery units. Marine units, linking up with A-10 Thunderbolts and attack helicopters attacked these positions and destroyed several artillery pieces. Four Marines were wounded by Iraqi Artillery, one seriously. There were additional reports of ground skirmishes between allied patrols and Iraqi forces.
Inside Saudi Arabia, troop deployments continued toward the border, including the 101st and 82nd Airborne units moving forward accompanied by elements of the British "Desert Rats" and the French Foreign Legion. These units were being positioned for the coming ground offensive and to spread out allied forces from possible counter-attacks.
Later in the day, Secretary of Defense Cheney authorized the call-up of an additional 170,00 reservists. This notification was done under new authority which extended the reservist's time on active duty from three months to one year. Many of these reservists were from the Individual Ready Reserve, former soldiers and sailors who retired and remained in the reserves.
Day 5 Sunday, January 20, 1991
The SCUD war continued today, with the Patriot system having its most successful test. Ten missiles were launched at Saudi Arabia, nine were intercepted by Patriots, and one fell harmlessly into the Persian Gulf. Although Americans were in awe of the Patriots ability to track and intercept these multiple in-bound missiles, American military planners were dismayed by the fact that their concentrated efforts at the SCUD launchers were still not entirely successful.
American air raids continued to strike deep into Iraq and it was confirmed that Iraq's four primary nuclear power plants had been disabled. Iraq has been attempting to build a nuclear weapon for some time and, with the help of the Soviet Union and France, built several reactors and research facilities capable of producing the necessary materials for a bomb. The bombing of these facilities, along with Saddam's chemical weapons plants, indicates to some that the United States is not merely interested in evicting Iraq from Kuwait, but assuring the region and the world that Iraq will be incapable of mounting a serious threat for some time to come.
Losses on Sunday were considered relatively heavy. Three American aircraft were downed making this the highest loss of aircraft in one day for the first week of operations. To date, eight American aircraft have been shot down and one crashed because of mechanical difficulty. Despite these loses, Allied commanders were pleased to see such limited losses after flying 7,00 sorties.
The main story of the day was when Iraqi television broadcast interviews with seven allied servicemen taken as prisoners of war, three of them Americans. The airmen, shot down throughout the KTO, appeared injured with several bruises on their faces. Although many Americans suspected torture, no one was able to discern if these wounds came from their planes crashing or at the hands of their captors. The captured fliers spoke slowly, identifying themselves, their units, and then adding "statements" about the war "against the peaceful people of Iraq." These were not regarded as credible, and in one case, it appeared if the pilot was reading from a cue card.
There were no indications of Iraqi ground maneuvers or artillery but as a result of earlier fighting, the first Purple heart was awarded on Sunday. Navy medic Clerence Conner of Hemet California was stationed with a Marine unit which came under fire near Khafji during the opening days of the war. The 19-year-old medic received a shrapnel wound with a jagged piece of metal wounding his right shoulder.
In Israel, American Deputy Secretary of State Lawrence S. Eagleburger met with government officials to solidify Israeli restraint in the face of continued Iraqi SCUD attacks. Eagleburger sought to mend the rift between the United States and Israel that had developed over the last year over settlement of Soviet Jews in occupied lands. With the crisis under way, President Bush and Secretary Baker broke from their policy of virtually ignoring the Israeli government to frequent contact and consultation with Yitzhak Shamir.
The pictures of American P.O.W.s on television galvanized support behind the President and against the Iraqi government. Many former P.O.W.'s from Vietnam recognized the fear that the new P.O.W.'s showed and felt sympathy for their plight. The families of the new P.O.W.'s identified their loved ones, but questioned their use of language and suggested they were being told what to say by their Iraqi captors.
In New York, 10,00 Jewish Americans rallied in support of the troops and against Saddam Hussein. This was the first public reaction of many American Jews private feelings of concern for the fate of Israel under attack by Saddam Hussein. Many Jews found comfort in helping Israel while she was under attack only by heading to Israel and doing whatever they could. A large number of Americans booked passage to Israel in the opening days of this war.
Day 6 Monday, January 21, 1991
The air war against Iraq continued today but was hampered by a foreseen but uncontrollable factor: the weather. Low-level clouds prevented many aircraft from locating and identifying their targets. Under orders to prevent civilian casualties, also know as collateral damage, allied planes were returning to bases with their armaments still under their wings, unused during their missions.
The cloud cover also hampered "bomb damage assessment" of Iraqi troops. Although figures were released of 80% effectiveness of allied weapons, these were the result of "gun camera footage" and pilot reports. Whether or not the weapon (which was effective in hitting its target 80% of the time) accomplished the goal of destroying its target or rendering it inoperable is determined by bomb damage assessment, which was painfully slow.
An American F-14 was shot down over Iraq, but for the first time, American extraction units were able to rescue the pilot. The pilot was on the ground for nearly eight hours while two A-10 Thunderbolts circled him and arranged for helicopter transportation to get him out. Refueling several times, the A-10's maintained a constant vigil against enemy units that might have threatened the life of the downed pilot. Just as the helicopters approached, an Iraqi truck drove on the scene and had to be destroyed by the A-10's. With allied pilots seeing their captured colleagues on television, the rescue of this downed pilot was a great morale boost.
Still of concern to many was the fate of the allied P.O.W.'s. Although happy to hear that they were alive, the families and the Pentagon began to express the desire for a "war crimes" tribunal for Saddam Hussein after the cessation of hostilities. Iraq announced that the P.O.W.'s would be stationed at industrial and military facilities as "human shields" against allied bombing. This, along with the parading of P.O.W.'s on television and the failure to notify the International Red Cross of their capture are considered direct violations of the Geneva Convention for the holding of prisoners of war. Even President Bush expressed "outrage" at the "brutal" parading of the allied pilots. When asked if Hussein would be held accountable for this action, Bush responded: "You can count on it."
Four more SCUDs were launched toward Saudi Arabia on Monday, but did not cause any significant damage. One was intercepted by a Patriot, one splashed into the Gulf and two others landed in deserted areas of Saudi Arabia. Israel enjoyed its second night of no air-raids.
Lawrence Eagleburger remained in Israel to work on U.S/Israeli relations but the best indication of the new warming between the two countries was not in the meeting rooms but on the streets of Tel Aviv. Israeli citizens came out and offered gifts and cheers for American servicemen manning the Patriot missile batteries. Lawrence Eagleburger was also cheered when he toured a SCUD landing site. Eagleburger expressed satisfaction that the Israel would restrain from attacking Iraq for the launching of SCUDs and was able to smooth over other differences while in Israel.
The American public's support for the war remained high with polls putting it around 80%. The videotape of the allied P.O.W.'s had an uncertain effect on Americans, but many suspect it would anger the American population and move them to support the efforts of President Bush. Although the support for Bush remained unchanged, a majority of the public began expressed the opinion that the war would last several months and cause considerably more casualties.
In a little noticed move, President Bush issued an executive order which designated the KTO as a "combat zone." While this was obvious to everyone, the order officially exempts troops in the region from having to pay income tax on their military pay. In addition, it gives the troops a three-month extension for the filing of their income taxes.
Day 7 Tuesday, January 22, 1991
SCUD missiles again caused headlines with one missile landing in Tel Aviv and causing considerable casualties. Three were reported killed and 96 injured when a SCUD slammed into a row of apartment buildings in downtown Tel Aviv. The SCUD was hit by a Patriot missile, but the impact did not cause the SCUD to be destroyed and the debris fell along with the warhead. Fears grew in this country that this attack would be the one that would cause the Israelis to counter-attack against Iraq, but again the government demonstrated restraint in the face of aggression.
Six SCUDS were launched at Saudi Arabia on Tuesday, but three landed in uninhabited areas and three others are intercepted by Patriot missiles. Portions of one missile landed in the streets of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia but damage was considered minimal.
In Kuwait, reports and aerial photos showed a number of oil wells and storage tanks on fire. The rationale for doing this was unknown, but some speculated the smoke could be used to shroud possible targets from Allied bombers. The massive clouds of black smoke could hinder optically guided smart bombs and the fires on the ground were thought to cause problems with heat-sensitive munitions. It was also possible that the bombing of these fields could have been caused by errant American strikes which hit the facilities by accident. American and Allied officials pledged to watch these fires to see what impact they would have on the battlefield.
This most recent attack by Iraq on Israel brought fears that this would finally prompt the Israelis to action. But, with Secretary Eagleburger still in the country and considerable U.S. pressure not to move, the Israelis again demonstrated restraint. Even as Israeli television showed the casualties being pulled from the rubble of the Tel Aviv apartment building, Israeli public opinion continued to support the policy of restraint and caution.
Also on Tuesday, the Israeli government announced its desire for a new package of aid from the United States. The $13 billion request was the largest ever received from the Israelis and led many to believe some sort of deal was struck to keep Israel out of the war by paying it a large amount of foreign aid. However, when examining the figure, almost $10 billion was requested as part of the Soviet Jewry immigration which had reached incredible proportions. The other $3 billion would be used to pay for the heightened state of the Israeli Military during the war and for losses caused the economy by the Gulf crisis. The United States already gives Israel $3 billion a year in economic and military aid.
Week One Report
- Sorties to date:
- Total U.S. Aircraft Losses to date (combat):
- Total U.S. Aircraft Losses to date (noncombat):
- Total Allied Aircraft Losses to date (combat):
- Total U.S. Casualties to date:
- 8 Missing in Action, 4 Prisoners of War
- SCUD's launched to date:
- SCUDs intercepted:
- Against Israel:
- 13/0 intercepted
- Against Saudi Arabia:
- 17/12 intercepted
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