Day 35 Wednesday, February 20, 1991
A helicopter raid was launched Wednesday against an Iraqi bunker complex in Kuwait snaring a surprisingly high 420 prisoners of war, including twenty officers. The attack began when two AH-64 Apaches, guided by two OH-58 Kiowa scout helicopters, began destroying a web of Iraqi bunkers in Kuwait. The attack was called "extremely violent" by American briefers and the Iraqi forces came out of the bunkers waving white flags. CH-47 transport helicopters with troops flew into Kuwait and captured the Iraqis while the Apaches stood guard. The P.O.W.'s were loaded aboard the transports and all aircraft returned safely to base.
Air sorties against the Iraqis concentrated on Republican Guard emplacements and attacks on Baghdad. A flight of B-52's attacked the area where a SCUD missile was fired the previous night with the pilots of the B-52's reported a number of secondary explosions indicating a hit on their targets. Two other SCUDs were destroyed by A-10's in western Iraq.
In air attacks on Iraqi troops, approximately 300vehicles were attacked by U.S. airforces 60 miles from the Saudi border. Initial reports indicated at least 28 tanks were destroyed along with three ammunition bunkers. The attacks lasted several hours and no aircraft were reported lost.
There was one U.S. casualty when a company from the Army's 5th Calvary was killed in his vehicle by Iraqi forces. His unit was engaged in a firefight and reported five enemy tanks destroyed and seven E.P.W.s taken.
One of the biggest complaints heard in the conduct of the war is the media's opposition to the censorship on the part of the military. The military has made no claim to the contrary, and the American public has overwhelmingly supported the restrictions placed on the media by the Pentagon. Nonetheless, the Governmental Affairs Committee of the Senate decided to hold hearings on the role of the media and the military and the Department of Defense's chief spokesman Pete Williams was called in to testify.
Williams acknowledged a New York Times report that some commanders were denying reporters' access to areas if they wrote critical stories on operations. Williams claimed there were reports of this happening and pledged to do what he could to correct the situation. Williams was followed by former CBS anchor Walter Cronkite who argued the media should be given unlimited access to the battlefield but also suggested he would support a return to the policy of World War II with heavy delays in the reporting of stories.
Another issue that was causing some concern in the Congress was exemptions for parents who were stationed in the Gulf. Approximately 17,500military parents had been sent to the KTO and many felt they should be reassigned to positions outside of the combat area. The Pentagon insisted that its protections against undue hardship are already in place and that a massive shift of thousands of troops during the middle of operations would be devastatingly disruptive. In the end, the Senate rejected the proposal 38-54 and passed a non-binding resolution calling on the Pentagon to work out a new policy on parents in uniform.
Day 36 Thursday, February 21, 1991
Air operations on Thursday continued as usual, with most of the day's excitement coming in the diplomatic community. The air war focused more on front line troops, with at least 1,00 sorties against targets in Southern Iraq and Kuwait. Helicopter units launched several more incursions into Kuwait, returning to the bunker they attacked on Wednesday and capturing another 14 prisoners, several weapons and a number of intelligence documents. From these documents it was learned that Iraqi commanders are requiring their troops to take "loyalty oaths" and holding commanders directly responsible if there are any desertions from a unit.
Ground operations intensified with some of the heaviest artillery barrages to date against Iraqi positions on the Kuwait/Saudi border. Multiple rocket systems of the United States and Britain teamed up on an attack on a ten mile stretch of the desert. More than 1,300rounds were launched against the Iraqis from the MLRS and 72 British howitzers.
Military discipline was demonstrated today when an American commander was relieved of his command for violating operational restrictions and killing two Americans in friendly fire on Sunday. The commander of an Army Apache helicopter battalion flew into combat, despite a prohibition on commanding officers from participating in battle. The attack on a group of trucks was carried out by the launching of 100Hellfire missiles which caused Gen. Schwartzkopf to issue a blunt statement against using the $50,00 weapons on "a fly" and ordering commanders to use appropriate force in attacking enemy columns.
There were no aircraft sorties by Iraqi forces, but four SCUDs were launched against Saudi Arabia, including two during the daytime. All were intercepted by Patriot missiles and damage was not reported. In addition, Iraqi forces launched two shorter-ranged FROG missiles into Saudi Arabia. One of the missiles landed and injured a number of soldiers from Senegal.
Saddam Hussein issued a statement early Thursday morning that was regarded as belligerent and unyielding. In this speech, he rejected the idea of surrender and criticized allied forces for seeking to destroy Iraq. While many analysts regarded this speech as another in a long line of bellicose ravings from Hussein, when taken in conjunction with Tariq Aziz's mission to Moscow, some people began to believe this speech was merely a preparation for the Iraqi people, with Iraq acting much differently in the world arena than it did in statements to its own people.
This theory gained credibility when the Soviet Union announced the details of a major peace plan that was worked out as a result of a meeting between Gorbachev and Tariq Aziz. The plan consisted of eight main points:
1) Iraq would announce the full and unconditional withdrawl of troops from Kuwait.
2) Withdrawal would begin two days after a cease-fire.
3) The withdrawal would be completed on a fixed schedule to be determined.
4) U.N. economic sanctions would cease to be in effect after two-thirds of Iraqi troops had withdrawn.
5) All other U.N. resolutions would lapse after Iraq forces left Kuwait.
6) All P.O.W.'s would be released immediately after the cease-fire.
7) The U.N. would compose a commission to monitor this pull-out designating countries not involved in the conflict.
8) Additional details would be settled as the agreement is implemented.
President Bush, who was in contact with Gorbachev, publicly stated "serious reservations" about the plan. He called a meeting of his top staff and they discussed the matter. Bush then went to a play at Ford's Theater in Washington while his aides continued their analysis and later returned to the White House to decide on the U.S. response. After a late night meeting, the administration declared the Soviet plan was unacceptable because it amounted to a "conditional withdrawal."
While this plan was a great step forward from previous Iraqi demands, the United States had reservations due to the fact that a good percentage of the Iraqi military machine would be allowed to retreat and saved for another day. Although the United Nation's resolutions make it clear that the liberation of Kuwait is the goal, American commanders have made no secret of the fact that the destruction of Iraq's military is necessary for this to be achieved.
Thursday was the "International Day of Student Action against the War." Around the country, students at a number of campuses held demonstrations against U.S. policy in the Gulf complete with teach-ins, panel discussions and civil disobedience. Despite the coordination of a national office and number of anti-war groups, turnout was disappointing and in many areas non-existent. The anti-war movement's fade into obscurity was apparent to even the most committed activist.
Day 37 Friday, February 22, 1991
Black smoke billowed over Kuwait today the result of hundred of oil well fires lit by the Iraqi to deter air attacks. Despite the smoke, allied planes flew a record number of missions over the Kuwaiti theater in preparation for the ground offensive. On the ground, one Marine was killed by Iraqi artillery and five others were wounded.
Responding to the Soviet plan with a plan of his own, President Bush set down U.S. policy with an ultimatum dictating exactly what the United States would require to forestall a ground offensive. The plan was direct and short:
1) Pull out to begin by noon E.S.T. Saturday.
2) Must be completed in one week.
3) Iraq must be out of Kuwait City in 48 hours and allow the Kuwaiti government to return.
Other conditions called for the return of P.O.W.'s and Iraqi removal of the thousands of mine and booby traps set in Kuwait. The United States seven-day withdrawal was designed to give the Iraqis little chance of recovering most of their equipment stationed in Kuwait and making it nearly impossible to bring out stockpiled supplies.
The Soviet Union, still trying to maintain its friendship with Iraq and its new friendship with the United States, modified their earlier proposal to bring it closer to U.S. demands. In this new proposal, the Iraqi forces were to withdrawal in 21 days and all P.O.W.'s would be released in three days. This proposal was explained to President Bush in a 90 minute phone call by President Gorbachev, but the U.S. ultimatum remained.
Day 38 Saturday, February 23, 1991
The Iraqi Foreign Minister was in Moscow today to state the Iraqi's would accept the most recent Soviet proposal for a withdrawal, but other spokesmen rejected the U.S. ultimatum. Shortly before the noon deadline, a SCUD missile was fired toward Central Israel and another toward Saudi Arabia. Both landed harmlessly as the deadline passed with no Iraqi withdrawal. Many regarded this launch as Saddam Hussein response to George Bush's ultimatum--"forget it."
In mid-afternoon, it was reported that General Schwartzkopf had been given the authorization to begin a ground war. This was later acknowledged, but clarified in that Schwartzkopf had the authority to start the war for some time, barring a major diplomatic solution. President Bush reportedly gave the approval to a war plan that would begin at 8:00EST on Saturday the 23rd as much as ten days before the actual operation began. Throughout the week approaching this invasion, the President and his top aides were quoted as saying "everything is on schedule," an obvious reference to this previously unknown plan.
Throughout the day, allied air power clobbered Iraqi positions, flying a record 1,200missions over Kuwait for a total of 2,900 sorties for the day.
The exact moment of the ground war is difficult to determine. But by 7:00pm EST, it was obvious U.S. forces were on the move. All television networks interrupted their programming and reports from the border indicated intense bombardments of Iraqi positions. Allied forces were on the move in mass and the long awaited ground offensive had begun.
For weeks, military commentators had speculated on the direction of the ground attack. All seemed agreed that a frontal assault against Iraqi positions would be devastating and recommended a wide, flanking maneuver to encircle and trap Iraqi forces. Many newspapers and magazines carried graphics and maps of a possible U.S. invasion which were chillingly realistic when the actual battle plan was released.
Attacks on Saturday night were designed as a feint to make the Iraqi think the main U.S. thrust would be right up the middle of Kuwait. During the buildup, the United States positioned all allied units just south of the Saudi/Kuwait border, to give the appearance that a major invasion would come through the southern border of Kuwait. However, Gen. Schwartzkopf had no intention of giving the Iraqis the slugfest they desired. Schwartzkopf ordered what he later called the "Hail Mary" play, shifting the bulk of his forces to the Saudi/Iraqi border for the ground war.
Late Saturday night, Sunday morning Saudi time, the first shots were fired in the ground war. In Kuwait, the U.S. 1st Marine divisions crossed over the Kuwaiti border headed into Kuwait on a path toward Kuwait City. These units were divided into several different task forces composed of: the1st Marines, 3rd Marine Regiment, the 4th Marines, the 7th Marines, and the 1st Light Armored Infantry. The opening hours of this offensive against the well-designed but poorly defended Iraqi trenches were later described by General Schwartzkopf as a "classic breaching" of enemy positions that would be "studied for years." As a result of the air war, frontline Iraqi units had deteriorated to the point that less they had lost over 50% of their pre-war strength. Marines crossed over the mines and barbed wire and immediately engaged enemy tanks, which surrendered shortly after the fighting began.
To the West of the 1st Marine Division, the 2nd Marine Division, with the Army's Tiger Brigade from the 2nd Armored Division moved across the border. These attacks were designed as a feint, giving the Iraqis the impression this would be the main allied attack. By midnight, the Marines had moved approximately 20 miles in Kuwait. Along the coast of Kuwait, Saudi tank forces began to attack Iraqi positions and moved northward toward Kuwait City.
The other major attack came far to the West inside Iraq. The French 6th Armored Division, along with the 2nd Brigade of the 82nd Airborne, moved north into Iraq toward the Iraqi city and airfield at As-Salman. This thrust would be the furthest west of all allied units, forming a defensive line against any units trying to attack from Baghdad or repositioned from the Turkish border.
Fighting was reportedly light with most of the Iraqis deciding to surrender instead of fighting. By the time most Americans went to bed, some 5,00 enemy prisoners of war had been taken, but allied commanders warned the most serious fighting was yet to come.
The commencement of ground operations was a mixed blessing for most Americans. On the one hand, it was feared due to the tremendous increase in casualties that was expected from the land war. But on the other, it signified that allied military operations had finally entered the final phase and soon the troops would be home. Across the country, Americans again gathered around their television sets to watch the battles.
Around 9:00pm, EST, President Bush returned aboard Marine 1 to the White House from Camp David, where he had been spending the weekend with his top advisors. The President came into the press briefing room forty-five minutes later and made a statement saying "The liberation of Kuwait has entered a final phase." The President was very concerned about the reports of Iraqi atrocities being committed in Kuwait; fires were being started, hostages taken, and executions conducted on the street of Kuwaiti citizens. Many suspected his decision to invade may have been hastened by the reports of these assaults.
Following the President, Secretary Cheney addressed the press with a message many Americans understood and many media folks dreaded: the Pentagon was going to have to suspend briefings and press conferences during the initial phases of the ground offensive. Citing the need to protect the troops, the Secretary informed the press that they would have to wait for reports from the front lines, which didn't sit well with many in the media. In the Gulf region, a number of reporters broke off from the pool system, figuring the allied "censors" would be too busy to track them down. Cheney's press conference offered little news on the status of operations and concentrated on the structure of the operations and the initiation of the invasion order.
Day 39/Day 1 of the Ground War/Sunday, February 24, 1991
Just after midnight E.S.T., the 101st Airborne, in the largest helicopter invasion ever launched, moved some seventy miles into Iraq and established a support base for future operations. This assault, which utilized 300helicopters carrying 2,00 troops, secured a refueling base for helicopters carrying out operations near the Iraqi Republican Guards and prevented their resupply by road. By the end of the day, the unit was met by some 700support vehicles carrying fuel and several thousand additional troops. 10000gallons of helicopter fuel were put in position to support air operations in the Euphrates River area. Moving north to supplement the 101st as part of the 18th Airborne corps was the 24th Mechanized Infantry and the 3rd Armored Calvary.
By the time most American's awoke, allied forces were underway on all fronts of the campaign. The units that launched the earliest assaults were all meeting their objectives for the opening hours of the war. The French 6th Armored and the 82nd Airborne had captured the Iraqi city of As Salman, some fifty miles over the border. The Marine 1st and 2nd Divisions were successful in their breaching operation and began to take a huge number of Iraqi prisoners and the Saudi tank forces reported similar success in their trek up the Kuwaiti coast. Additional pan-Arab forces launch operations in Kuwait as a further diversionary tactic to make Iraq thing the bulk of Operations will be inside Kuwait.
With Iraqi forces now alerted to a "head-on invasion" in Kuwait, a massive force under the VII Corps moved north into Iraq composed of:
- 1st Armored Division
- 3rd Armored Division
- 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment
- 1st Infantry Division (Big Red One)
- 1st Cavalry
They were joined in Iraq by the British1st Armored Division including the famous "Desert Rats" of the 7th Armored Brigade. This massive force would compose the main striking force against the Iraqis.
VII corps crossed the border about 70 miles west of the Saudi/Kuwaiti border. Moving through the breaches created by the engineering units, the 1st Infantry Division poured into Iraq. As these units crossed over the border, they began to take thousands of starving and frightened Iraqi soldiers.
The front line Iraqi forces were surrendering in mass to allied forces. Some of the first pool video released showed captured Iraqis kissing their captors, so happy were they to have their lives spared. In fact, the massive amount of P.O.W.s worried some commanders who feared the care and guarding of these men would force the allied columns to be slowed.
Iraqi resistance was offered by some of their second-tier forces, regular Army units with some armor. However, allied commanders reported the battles with these units were rather one-sided with allied forces quickly overwhelming and destroying the defending units.
Once through the front lines and effectively regrouped, VII corps began heading for the Euphrates River. Resistance was light, but allied commanders concentrated on their coming engagement with the Republican Guard, who they were heading straight toward.
Secretary Cheney's suspension of media briefings lasted less than a day. The reports from the front were so encouraging that the military wanted to share them as soon as possible. Briefing the press in Saudi Arabia, General Schwartzkopf told the media that 10,00 prisoners had been taken with allied forces suffering "extremely light casualties." It was later revealed that only four Americans had been killed in the opening day of ground operations. General Schwartzkopf said all attacking units had reached their first day objectives with little resistance.
The support for ground operations rang out in the capitals of the coalition countries with all calling for the Iraqis to give up or face a certain fate. Queen Elizabeth of Britain, in her first wartime broadcast, told the citizens that the war would be as swift "as it is certain." In France, President Mitterand said Saddam Hussein had chosen "a kind of political and military suicide." In many Arab countries, support for Saddam Hussein was expressed at massive rallies against the allied action. The protesters in these crowds hung on every word of Baghdad Radio's reports of the war, which were slanted toward a major Iraqi military victory.
Day 40/Day 2 of the Ground War/Monday, February 25, 1991
Units continued their northward march in Iraq and Kuwait to establish bases near the Euphrates River valley. At the western edge of advancing forces, the French 6th Armored Division along with 82nd Airborne had established a defense to prevent the Iraqis from reinforcing their units with troops from Baghdad or the West. To the East of the French, the 24th Mechanized continued to race northward, having pushed nearly 100miles and continuing forward. The XVIII Airborne Corps was working feverishly to take control of highways and airports in their sector to prevent any fleeing Iraqis from returning to Baghdad.
In Kuwait, Saudi and Kuwait troops had seized the town of Al Zour, 15 miles inside Kuwait. The Marines 1st Division moved toward the Jaber airfield in central Kuwait and began some heavy fighting with Iraqi forces. The Army's Tiger Brigade was leading the advance of the 1st Division. The M-1's of the Tiger Brigade were extremely successful in eliminating the Iraqi armor and caused thousands of enemy soldiers to surrender.
The main allied attack continued with VII corps moving northward to take up position west of the Republican Guards. By the end of the Day, 25,00 prisoners had been taken and seven Iraqi divisions destroyed. Allied intelligence reported that the Republican Guards were oriented to attack southward of their positions, directly into the Marines feint as planned. The existence of VII Corps remained a mystery to them. This was a tragic error on their part.
Day 41/Day 3 of the Ground War/Tuesday, February 26, 1991
Having raced northward, Tuesday became the day of the "turn." VII Corps forces had penetrated to their objectives in Iraq and now headed east to engage Iraqi Republican Guards. Units continued to seize unbelievable numbers of enemy prisoners and had destroyed a considerable number of Iraqi army units.
The XVIII Airborne had established a defense line with the French 6th Armored and the 82nd Airborne protecting the western front. Inside this closed area, the 101st and the 24th Mechanized Infantry were raiding enemy bases and cutting off Iraqi supply lines. By the end of the day, soldiers from the 101st were flying over the Euphrates River and establishing bases in the river valley.
This area now seized by the allies, from the French 6th Armored to the Kuwaiti border, contained a considerable amount of Iraq's oil production capability. When questioned about the "coincidence," U.S. officials interjected "it was no coincidence." It was later speculated that if the Iraqis refuse to negotiate after the war was over, this land would be considered a valuable "bargaining chip."
In Kuwait, the allied forces had sealed off Kuwait City. From the South along the coast, the Saudi and Arab forces moved toward Kuwait City. For diplomatic reasons, it was decided that some of the first troops to liberate Kuwait should be Arab forces instead of U.S. Marines. The 1st Marine Division continued northward to a point near the Kuwaiti International Airport where an intense fight took place between Marine tanks and Iraqi forces.
By nightfall EST, the first elements of the Marines reconnaissance groups had entered Kuwait city. American television crews reported live from the outskirts of the city where dozens of Kuwaiti citizens, many of them heavily armed as part of the "Kuwaiti resistance," were praising the allied forces for liberating their homeland.
Day 42/Day 4 of the Ground War/Wednesday, February 27, 1991
Wednesday was the day of destruction for the Iraqis. The VII Corps moved due East from their positions in Iraq, flanked by the 18th Airborne Corps to the North and the Marine forces to the South in Kuwait. Beginning the night before and throughout Wednesday, allied tanks conducted a series of running battles with the Iraqi forces, calling in close air support to destroy hundreds of Iraqi tanks, many of them still dug into the ground. Allied commanders reported that a number of Iraqi units had their guns pointed the wrong directing, given the mistaken belief that the allied attack would come from the South. Around sundown Kuwait time, late morning in Washington, the Republican Guard was destroyed.
West of the VII Corps, the allies continued mopping up operations against Iraqi forces and airfields. The 82nd Airborne conducted one raid against an airfield which brought in over 1,00 prisoners of war. The estimated number of prisoners throughout the ground war had grown to over 50,00, with accurate counts being nearly impossible.
In Kuwait City, the lead elements of the Pan-Arab forces entered to the cheering and thanks of thousands of Kuwaiti citizens. People were out on the streets waving Kuwaiti and American flags and firing weapons into the air in celebration. Many American's likened the reception to that allied force received when liberating Paris in 1944.
Having been briefed on the allied success, President Bush telephone General Schwartzkopf with what many say was his only military request: stop the killing. Bush wanted to know if a cease-fire was possible and he was told yes. Iraq's Republican Guards had been defeated, its Army had surrendered and allied forces were engaging in mopping up operations throughout the region. It was later determined that of the 42 divisions of Iraqi troops, all 42 had been effectively destroyed with stragglers making up about one division widely spread throughout the entire region. It had been a 100hour war, with unbelievably low casualties among allied forces.
Bush addressed the world at 9:00pm EST with a simple message. Effective at 12:00 all offensive operations would cease. Iraq would have to agree to specific military conditions for a temporary cease-fire, to be followed upon later by a U.N. resolution setting forth the terms of a permanent cessation of hostilities. One condition that was put forth forcefully was the immediate release of all P.O.W.'s from Iraqi custody as the President wanted to avoid prolonging the crisis. Throughout the capitals of the coalition countries, there was support for the President's actions. In several Arab nations, many believed that Saddam Hussein had beaten the United States, but the television footage eventually dismissed these beliefs.
The cease-fire announcement took many by surprise. For months, the commentators and professional pundits in the media had predicted a ground offensive of weeks even months costing thousands of casualties. When it was all done, 100hours had passed with miraculously low number of Americans killed.
Despite any initial surprise, across the country a euphoria was spreading. Although President Bush said in his statement it "is not a time to gloat," American flags were displayed everywhere and the countdown to the return of American forces began. The families of the servicemen and women were finally able to sleep better as now knew their loved ones were coming home.
Initial End of the War Report
- Sorties to date:
- Total U.S. Casualties to date:
- 125 Killed in Action, 21 Missing in Action
- Iraqi Tanks destroyed:
- Iraqi APCs destroyed:
- Iraqi Artillery destroyed:
- Iraqi Aircraft in Iran:
- Iraqis Held as P.O.W.'s:
- SCUD's launched to date:
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