"You may fly over a land forever; you may bomb it, atomize it, pulverize it and wipe it clean of life - but if you desire to defend it, protect it, and keep it for civilization, you must do this on the ground, the way the Roman legions did, by putting your young men into the mud."
- T. R. Fehrenbach This Kind of War
By the morning of 28 February, the Iraqi Army in the Kuwait Theater of Operations (KTO), including the Republican Guards, was routed and incapable of coordinated resistance. Iraqi forces were fleeing from Kuwait or surrendering to Coalition forces in large numbers. In 43 days, culminating in 100 hours of ground combat, the Coalition had shattered the fourth largest army in the world. The victory testified to the capabilities of the men and women who waged the ground operation and to the overall flexibility and effectiveness of the US military.
CINCCENT has said that several factors influenced his belief as to when the Offensive Ground Campaign should begin. These factors included force deployments and planning, logistics buildup, weather forecasts favorable for ground offensive operations, cohesion of the Coalition, and attack preparations, along with the air campaign. All were important in reducing risks and enhancing the probability of success with limited losses. While precise measurement of force ratios was not possible, senior commanders considered that Iraqi combat effectiveness needed to be reduced by about half before the ground offensive began. Combat effectiveness included both measures such as numbers of soldiers, tanks, armored personnel carriers, and artillery (and degradation thereof) as well as less measurable factors such as morale. Once air operations began, Iraqi reactions could be analyzed to provide further evidence on their military capability. For example, the Iraqi failure at Khafii indicated an inability to orchestrate the sorts of complex operations needed for a mobile defense. Further, the battle seemed to indicate a decline in the will of Iraqi soldiers while at the same time it provided a great boost in morale and confidence among Coalition Arab forces.
While Coalition air forces relentlessly pounded Iraqi defenses, Coalition ground forces completed combat preparations. They clandestinely repositioned from defensive sectors in eastern Saudi Arabia to forward assembly areas farther west. In positioning forces and supplies for the ground attack, logisticians and movement planners faced many challenges. The Coalition moved the equivalent of 17 divisions laterally hundreds of miles over a very limited road network. The trucks used for this movement were mobilized from US units, purchased and leased from US firms, donated or procured from foreign countries, and supplied by Saudi Arabia as host nation support (HNS). The move continued 24 hours a day for two weeks under the air campaign's cover. Forward logistics bases were established to support the ground offensive This involved moving thousands of tons of supplies - food, water, fuel, ammunition, spare parts - on the same constrained road network used to move combat forces. This repositioning and logistical build up, completed on schedule and undetected by Iraqi forces, was vital to success.
At the same time, ground combat forces focused on battle preparation. Plans were refined, completed, issued, and rehearsed. The rehearsals were particularly important since much of the initial effort involved breaching extensive Iraqi minefields, obstacles, and fortifications - operations that required close coordination.
Meanwhile, ground forces conducted reconnaissance to prepare the battlefield for the ground attack and counter-reconnaissance to deny Iraq crucial information about Coalition ground forces' dispositions. Army and Marine forces conducted helicopter raids and armed aerial reconnaissance missions into Iraq and Kuwait. The Coalition used laser-guided artillery rounds, Hellfire missiles, and the Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) to strike headquarters, conduct counter-battery fire, and suppress air defense. Indirect fire units focused on destroying the command, control, communications, intelligence and fire support capabilities of the first-echelon Iraqi divisions. Artillery raids caused forward Iraqi artillery to fire counter battery missions, allowing US radar to pinpoint the positions and then destroy them with multiple launch rocket systems, other artillery, and air attacks. Scout and attack helicopters, flying at night, identified Iraqi positions and engaged enemy observation posts.
This chapter discusses the planning and execution of Phase IV of the theater campaign - the Offensive Ground Campaign. It addresses the planning process, the operational considerations, and reasons for certain decisions. Next, it discusses the buildup of ground forces, battlefield preparations, logistics considerations, and intelligence requirements. An assessment of the enemy just before G-Day follows to set the stage for the ground offensive.
A detailed narrative describes the intensity of ground combat, the firepower and rapid maneuver of US ground forces, and the integration of joint and combined forces to attain the theater objectives. The chapter concludes with a summary of the accomplishments, shortcomings, and issues.
Planning the Ground Offensive
Initial Planning Cell
As early as 25 August, Commander-in-Chief, Central Command
(CINCCENT) outlined a four-phased campaign ending with a ground
offensive to drive Iraqi forces from Kuwait. At CINCCENT's request, in
mid-September the Army assembled a group of officers to form the
Central Command J5-Special Planning Group (CCJ5-SPG). CINCCENT
chartered this group, graduates of the Army School of Advanced
Military Studies (SAMS), Fort Leavenworth, KS, to develop courses of
action for the ground offensive. A product of post-Vietnam military
education improvements, SAMS provides a year of concentrated study of
the theory and practice of warfare at the operational level (corps and
above) and campaign planning. Because of this focus, CINCCENT
requested SAMS graduates for his planning staff. The instruction at
SAMS also is guided by the Army's AirLand Battle doctrine, which is
compatible with other service doctrine, particularly Marine maneuver
warfare. Therefore, the cell shared a common educational background
and used the precepts of AirLand Battle as the basis for their
The ground operations plan was developed from an integrated joint and combined campaign plan. CINCCENT chose to retain the function of land force commander over Army and Marine ground forces, although these component commanders had a major role in refining CINCCENT's concept of operations. The Central Command (CENTCOM) Plans and Policy Directorate and Combat Analysis Group, augmented by the SAMS graduates, had primary responsibility for developing and analyzing courses of action for the overall ground offensive plan. Meanwhile, ARCENT and the Marine components, Central Command (MARCENT) had responsibility for developing and analyzing courses of action to implement the Theater Campaign Plan.
The ground forces' responsibilities (particularly Army Component, Central Command (ARCENT)), did not end with the cease-fire. Tasks such as post-war reconstruction, re-establishment of civil authority, and caring for refugees, displaced persons, enemy prisoners of war, and repatriated friendly prisoners of war remained. This planning and preparation had to be accomplished concurrent with the planning for combat operations and required substantial resources and effort.
The Planning Process
As previously discussed in Chapter 5, Transition to the Offensive,
planning for the ground operation was evolutionary. Initially,
planning for ground and air operations was unilateral and highly
compartmented. This was due to political sensitivities and security
concerns regarding an offensive campaign. After the President's
November decision to deploy additional forces, ARCENT was assigned the
lead for planning the ground offensive. ARCENT commanded most US Army
units in theater and exercised tactical control over selected non-US
coalition forces. ARCENT focused primarily on the Army's joint and
combined coordination role. At the same time, CINCCENT began to
develop a combined Operation Desert Storm Operations Plan (OPLAN),
integrating the Coalition's full combat capability. As the overall
land component commander, CINCCENT provided a focal point for the
combined planning of the Coalition. UK, Egyptian and French
representatives augmented the existing US-Saudi combined planning team
during this period.
CINCCENT initially instructed the planners to develop an Offensive Ground Campaign using the forces available in theater at the time: one corps of two heavy, one airborne, and one air assault division; an armored cavalry regiment (ACR), and a combat aviation brigade (CAB); a Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF) ashore along the coast and a Marine Expeditionary Brigade (MEB) afloat in the Gulf; and other Coalition forces.
Planners had reached several significant conclusions that were
designated as operational imperatives and would remain as central
planning tenets throughout planning for the offensive. The planners
concluded that for the ground campaign to be successful, the air
campaign would have to reduce Iraqi combat effectiveness in the Kuwait
Theater of Operations by about half. A second operational imperative
was that Coalition ground forces should fight only those enemy units
necessary to achieve Coalition objectives while bypassing other enemy
forces. The third operational imperative was that battlefield tactical
intelligence would be required in the hands of battlefield commanders
so rapidly that fire power could be placed on target before the target
could move sufficiently to require retargeting. It was felt that this
tactical intelligence-targeting feedback loop would be critical to
success on the battlefield.
Development of Courses of Action
The planning cell briefed their courses of action and recommendation
to CINCCENT on 6 October. The preferred course of action called for a
one corps frontal attack directly into Kuwait from Saudi Arabia. The
objective for this attack was an area of high ground north of the
Mutla Pass and Ridge. The risk with this plan was that the attack
would encounter major portions of the enemy's strength and operations
to breach Iraqi defenses might be extremely difficult. CINCCENT
judged that while such an attack probably would succeed, casualties
could be sizable, and the Republican Guards, one of Iraq's centers of
gravity, might escape. To avoid the enemy's main defensive positions,
a wider, deeper envelopment with additional forces was required.
On 11 October, the CENTCOM chief of staff briefed the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (CJCS), the Secretary of Defense, and the President. The CENTCOM chief of staff stressed that, although the US ground forces could attack, success could not be guaranteed because of the existing balance of forces. Additional risks included extended supply lines, the lack of an armored force in theater reserve, and the threat of chemical warfare.
Based on guidance from the Secretary, CINCCENT subsequently directed his planning staff to consider an envelopment by two US Army corps west of the Wadi Al-Batin.The purpose of the envelopment was to get behind the main Iraqi forces while supporting attacks were conducted by other Coalition forces into Kuwait. The main attack's objective was the destruction of the Republican Guards forces.
The CJCS was briefed on this concept on 22 October. Following the briefing, his guidance to CINCCENT was straight forward. "Tell me what you need for assets. We will not do this halfway. The entire United States military is available to support this operation." The conclusion was that a second Army corps, initially two divisions and an ACR, should provide the necessary forces to carry out the maneuver to the west, around the Iraqi main defenses. The CJCS agreed to seek approval for deployment of the additional force. VII Corps, based in Germany, was a logical choice for deployment because of its proximity to the theater, high level of training, and modern equipment. VII Corps began its movement immediately after the President's 8 November announcement.
In addition to the European-based corps, other forces were required. At ARCENT's request a third division, the Army's 1st Infantry Division from Fort Riley, KS, was added to give VII Corps more capability. MARCENT saw the need for an additional division and reinforcement of the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (MAW) in order to conduct effective supporting attacks. These forces would let the Marines breach the Kuwait border defenses and defeat the 11 Iraqi divisions thought to be in eastern Kuwait. Planning also continued for an amphibious assault along the Kuwaiti coast to flank Iraqi defenders on the Kuwaiti border. Although the amphibious assault was not conducted, it became an integral part of the theater deception plan, which was intended to portray a Coalition main attack along Kuwait's southern border. To satisfy the requirement for additional forces, elements of II MEF, to include the 2nd Marine Division (MARDIV), a large part of the 2nd MAW, 2nd Force Service Support Group (FSSG), and the 5th MEB were deployed from the Continental US (CONUS).
Issues and Concerns Regarding The Plan
Several concerns were raised during the plan's final development.
CINCCENT's Strategy and Concept
On 14 November, CINCCENT briefed his concept for the operation to
all his ground commanders down to division level. XVIII Airborne Corps
was to be used in the west. VII Corps would be the main effort and
would destroy the RGFC in the KTO. British forces would remain with
MARCENT (a decision later reversed). A heavy division was to be
assigned as theater reserve. Supporting attacks would be conducted by
the I MEF, Joint Forces Command - North (consisting of Egyptian,
Saudi, and Syrian forces) and Joint Forces Command - East (consisting
of Saudi and GCC forces). Commanders were directed to have forces
ready by mid-January.
Secretary of Defense Reviews War Plans
On 19 and 20 December, the Secretary of Defense and CJCS were
provided an update on war plans in Riyadh. NCA objectives were
reviewed and CENTCOM's mission was summarized. Ground offensive plans
were summarized by phases of preparation and operations. The logistics
buildup, which would be initiated when the air campaign started, would
take two weeks and similarly, force repositioning to attack positions
would consume two weeks. The actual ground offensive was estimated to
take up to two weeks, followed by a period of consolidation that would
last up to four weeks. Subsequent logistics buildup and force
repositioning would occur simultaneously. The commander's intentions
were presented. Victory would be achieved through the destruction of
the RGFC in the KTO, preservation of the offensive capability of the
combined forces, and restoration of the sovereignty of Kuwait.
Attacking ground forces were to penetrate and bypass static Iraqi
defensive forces which included infantry and other forces that were
not mobile and could not pose a threat to a fast moving Coalition
armor forces. It was CINCCENT's intention to physically and
psychologically isolate the Iraqi forces in Kuwait. Operations would
fix and block Iraq's first operational echelon reserves, with the
objective of securing Coalition flanks and LOCs. Ground operations
would culminate in the destruction of RGFC divisions in the KTO.
The Secretary of Defense approved CINCCENT's plan. Upon his return to Washington, he and the CJCS briefed the President who also approved the plan. However, it was determined that the actual start of the ground campaign would require a subsequent Presidential decision, which was made in February.
Ground Campaign Phases
The planning process continued within CINCCENT's general parameters.
When Operation Desert Storm OPLAN was issued, it directed the ground
campaign part of the theater campaign be conducted in four phases:
Task Organization (US Ground Forces)
Coalition ground forces were task organized along corps lines to
improve C2 and in accordance with the ground operation mission.
I MEF had two reinforced infantry divisions and the 3rd MAW with 222 fixed-wing aircraft and 183 helicopters. Its combat power greatly exceeded that normally found in a MEF. In addition, I MEF could call on 20 AV-8Bs and 141 helicopters afloat in the Gulf with 4th and 5th MEBs.
The 1st MARDIV, composed of units from all three active MEFs plus Reservists, deployed during the early stages of Operation Desert Shield. To build esprit among the many units assigned to 1st MARDIV, it was divided into task forces, each organized and equipped for specific missions and bearing a unique title.
The 2nd MARDIV deployed in December, minus the 2nd Marine Regiment (Reinforced) afloat with 4th MEB; it also was augmented with Reserves. It retained its traditional regimental titles although it also was task organized. The 2nd MARDIV was given the 1st (Tiger) Brigade, 2nd Armored Division with M1A1 tanks and M2/M3 fighting vehicles, to serve as an exploitation or counterattack force.
Special Operations Forces (SOF) included Army Special Forces (SF) and Army Special Operations Aviation units; Navy SEALs and Special Boat Units; Air Force (USAF) Special Operations squadrons and Special Operations Combat Control Teams; and Psychological Operations (PSYOP) and Civil Affairs (CA) units. A Joint Special Operations Task Force controlled reconnaissance, special reconnaissance (SR), and direct action operations to support battlefield preparation.
SOF teams were attached to non-US Coalition units down to battalion level; their presence increased commanders' confidence. These teams assessed Coalition forces' readiness levels, provided training and communication capability, coordinated tactical operations, assisted with fire support coordination, and provided information CINCCENT needed to ensure effective operational coordination with Coalition forces. (SOF organizations and operations are further discussed in Appendix J.)
A US Army Division, totalling approximately 17,500 soldiers, is organized from a common division base that consists of a division headquarters, three maneuver brigades, an aviation brigade, an artillery brigade, an air defense artillery battalion, an engineer battalion, a signal battalion, a military intelligence battalion, a military police company, a chemical company, and a support command. The heavy divisions that served in Operation Desert Storm each consisted of a mix of 10 armor and mechanized infantry battalions along with necessary combat support and combat service support units.
A US Marine Division is normally organized around three infantry regiments of three battalions, an artillery regiment, and separate tank, light armored vehicle, reconnaissance, assault amphibian vehicle, and combat engineer battalions, totalling approximately 20,000 Marines. During combat, the Division may be reinforced with additional infantry or mechanized units, as occurred during Desert Storm. Infantry regiments are also task organized for combat, usually consisting of two to four infantry battalions along with necessary combat support and combat service support units to enable them to accomplish their missions.
Coalition divisions, on the other hand, are less easy to define, reflecting as they do the broad differences of culture, national security requirements, and military tradition from which they are derived. Some are modeled on European analogous, some on US, some on Soviet, and some on historical influences unique to their country. For example, the 1st British Armoured Division, reinforced for the conflict like many US divisions, numbered some 28,000 troops. Some other divisions were much smaller.
Command, Control, and Communications
Coalition Coordination, Communication, and Integration Center (C^3CI)
The Gulf War presented unique challenges in developing Coalition C2
relationships and assigning missions. Faced with the diversity of
forces from more than 23 nations, often with unique doctrine,
language, customs, religion, equipment, and capabilities, CINCCENT was
aware of the operational contradictions that threatened the
Coalition's vitality. Political considerations, national pride, and
public perceptions could, in some instances, complicate military
To harmonize Coalition forces actions and achieve unity of effort (especially with respect to land forces), CINCCENT, ARCENT, and Saudi military leaders created the Coalition Coordination, Communication, and Integration Center (C31C). ARCENT and the Saudi Arabian Armed Forces (SAAF), initially operated the C31C. The C31C gave ARCENT and the SAAF the ability to bring Coalition forces together to coordinate tasks and missions. In December, responsibility for the US operation of the center transferred to the CENTCOM staff. The C31C did not command; it integrated the Coalition land forces into one solid effort, receiving reports, collecting data, improving the information flow, and harmonizing operational planning in areas such as host nation support, movement control, and training. The C31C was the combined operations cornerstone, helping meld the Coalition into an effective combat force. The planning process, involving C31C members, did much to help form and hold the Coalition together. In addition, the scope of the operation, movement of forces across great distances, and the forces' political and cultural complexion demanded innovative techniques and hard work at all levels to ensure battlefield success. Further information on the C31C is in Appendix K.
Liaison teams from ARCENT, SOF, USAF Forward Air Controllers (FACs),
Air Liaison Officers (ALO), and Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Company
(ANGLICO) Marines also were key to coordination and control. Service
war fighting doctrine requires liaison teams between flanking units,
from higher to lower headquarters, among components and among
Coalition forces. For example, ARCENT liaison teams with substantial
communications capabilities were sent to the two Army corps and I MEF.
Liaison teams also were attached to other Coalition forces. ARCENT teams attached to JFC-N and JFC-E averaged 35 soldiers and became battle staff members, helping plan offensive operations and easing coordination with higher and adjacent units. These teams were equipped with satellite communications (SATCOM) packages that allowed them to communicate directly with ARCENT and CENTCOM headquarters. They became the eyes and ears of the ARCENT commander and CINCCENT, and provided an accurate battlefield picture in the non-US Coalition sectors as offensive operations progressed. These liaison teams were crucial to the synchronization, coordination and control of the combined battle.
Coordination and Control Measures
Coordination and control on a battlefield of this magnitude requires
extensive measures, not only to permit joint and combined operations
and synchronize the combat power of the multinational effort, but also
to increase Coalition forces' safety. Commanders were concerned about
casualties from friendly fire from the beginning and took account of
this danger in formulating their operational plans. It is almost
impossible, however,to prevent casualties from friendly fires, given
the speed of operations, lethality of weapons and the ' environmental
conditions under which the war was fought. (Friendly fire incidents
are discussed in Appendix M.)
Every level from company to theater used extensive coordination and control measures. Boundaries between units, phase lines to coordinate advances, fire support coordination lines (FSCL), and restricted fire lines were among the measures used. For the most part, these measures are found in doctrine or standard operating procedures. During the offensive, additional procedures were developed to meet specific needs for additional coordination.
To support Operation Desert Storm, CENTCOM created the largest
theater communications system in history. It connected US sustaining
bases, CENTCOM, Coalition forces, and subordinate elements. Because
the system expanded rapidly, communications frequency management and
asset availability became crucial. Providing reliable and continuous
command, control and communications with a rapidly moving force across
vast distances during the ground war raised a whole new set of
To meet the needs of field commanders, multi channel SATCOM was used. These systems required detailed frequency management and constant attention. There were 115 super high frequency (SHF) tactical satellite (TACSAT) ground terminal relocations during the Offensive Ground Campaign, with 33 multi channel satellite terminals in Iraq and Kuwait at the end of the operation. Planning and executing these satellite terminals' movement to support the ground offensive was a major challenge. Signal units frequently displaced nodes and terminals to maintain and sustain communications for advancing units.
Because of the distances between units, deploying units augmented their organic equipment with ultra high frequency (UHF) TACSAT ground terminals. UHF single channel TACSAT terminals were used for C2, intelligence dissemination and logistics support. The need for this capability across long distances was identified early; the requirement increased steadily throughout the operation. (More detailed discussion of C31 is in Appendix K.)
Joint and Combined Operations
Common War Fighting Doctrine
Evolving joint operations doctrine guided the planning and conduct
of the ground offensive. The basic principles of initiative, depth,
agility, synchronization and combined arms are understood and
practiced by all Services. Forces are trained to fight using common
principles and techniques to ensure battlefield interoperability. Each
Service, however, has developed its own doctrinal concepts,
operational principles, and internal organizational and tactical
concepts to maximize capabilities. For example, USMC war fighting
doctrine is based on many of the same principles as Army AirLand
Battle doctrine, but it is adapted to the USMC organization and
structure. Technical terminology and procedures are being standardized
at the joint level. These include common maneuver and fire support
control measures, air support procedures, and operational planning and
AirLand Battle Doctrine
The basis for ARCENT operations was AirLand Battle doctrine. The
essence of AirLand Battle is to defeat the enemy by conducting
simultaneous offensive operations over the full breadth and depth of
the battlefield. It is the intellectual road map for operations,
conducted at corps and above, and tactics, conducted below corps. This
doctrine places tremendous demands on combat leaders. Commanders must
fight concurrently what are known as close, deep, and rear operations,
all as interrelated parts of one battle. Commanders fight close - to
destroy enemy forces where the battle is joined. They fight deep - to
delay or attack enemy reserves. These operations are intended to
disrupt the enemy's plan and create opportunities for success in close
operations. They fight rear, behind forward units, to protect CSS
assets and to retain freedom of action for friendly sustainment and
movement of reserve forces.
AirLand Battle doctrine is centered on the combined arms team, fully integrating the capabilities of all land, sea and air combat systems, and envisions rapidly shifting and concentrating decisive combat power, both fire and maneuver, at the proper time and place on the battlefield.
Ultimately, success on the AirLand battlefield is predicated on four basic tenets:
Central to MAGTF doctrine is the close integration of ground and air combat elements. Trained to work in close cooperation, this is more than a relationship in which aircraft provide close support to ground forces, although that is a key element. The GCE, task organized to accomplish its mission, can range from a light infantry force to a mechanized combined arms task force. Common war fighting doctrine and training lets units from different parent commands or geographic locations be meshed quickly into a fighting team (as occurred in the 1st MARDIV in Operation Desert Shield). The GCE, however, is only one MAGTF maneuver element. The ACE, with fighter, attack, and rotary wing aircraft, extends the battlefield and operates in the enemy's rear areas, seeking to inflict extensive damage and disruption before ground forces clash. During the ground battle, Marine aircraft ranged throughout the battle area, under the MAGTF commander's control, providing close air support (CAS) to ground forces and interdiction of enemy forces throughout the depth of the MAGTF AOR.
Air Operations in Support of the Ground Offensive
In CINCCENT's theater campaign plan, elimination of strategic
targets and attrition of Iraqi combat effectiveness in the KTO were
prerequisites for the Offensive Ground Campaign. However, many factors
affected this plan and the realignment of air targeting priorities to
support CINCCENT's objectives. These included: the air defense threat;
the need to find and strike Scud missile launcher locations; the
deception plan, which placed the weight of battlefield preparation
initially in the MARCENT and JFC-N zone; ranges and capabilities of
some airframes, which were not suited for certain types of missions;
and an unusually long period of poor weather and low visibility.
Because the ground offensive's start was predicated on reduction of Iraqi forces in the KTO, the ground force commanders were directly involved in battle damage assessment and provided assessments to CENTCOM. CINCCENT's desired level of attrition was approximately half of the Iraqi combat effectiveness. Ground forces and supporting air assets closely coordinated the targeting effort to achieve the required attrition levels.
Army aviation operations during the ground offensive were an integral part of the ground commanders' scheme of maneuver. In addition to the traditional missions of attack, assault, armed reconnaissance, intelligence gathering, and C2, non-traditional missions, such as counter-battery and counter-reconnaissance missions, were flown. Cooperative planning between fire support units and other air assets capitalized on the strengths of both systems.
I MEF relied on 3rd MAW assets. Trained to operate with Marine ground forces, 3rd MAW provided I MEF with an important combat multiplier, letting I MEF conduct an integrated air-ground operation that included not only the increased firepower of CAS, but also the ability to prepare the battlefield and to attack enemy forces throughout its zone. 3rd MAW, in effect, acted as an additional I MEF maneuver unit, operating in concert with the MEF attack plan, but able to strike the enemy and influence the battle well forward and to the flanks of the advancing ground forces.
Naval Operations in Support of the Ground Offensive
While Coalition naval forces continued to operate in the Red and
Northern Arabian seas, primary support to the ground offensive was
provided by forces in the Persian Gulf. This support included an
amphibious task force, two battleships and two carrier battle forces,
as well as escorts, smaller vessels and minesweepers from both the
United States and several other Coalition nations. The primary focus
of naval support for the ground offensive was an amphibious assault on
the Kuwait coast.
Naval forces in the Gulf also conducted several other missions to support the ground offensive. The battleships USS Missouri (BB 63) and USS Wisconsin (BB 64) bombarded Iraqi coastal positions, and later provided naval gunfire support (NGFS) to advancing Coalition units. Naval aircraft destroyed Iraqi naval forces based in Kuwait and Al-Faw and conducted bombing attacks, which helped prepare the battlefield. Beginning in late January, SEALs conducted coastal reconnaissance. Finally, maritime forces ensured the continued flow of supplies and equipment to the Gulf coast ports, enabling the VII Corps and additional Marine forces to arrive. A detailed discussion of naval operations is in Chapter VII.
Roles of Non-US Coalition Forces
The various Coalition forces each had different abilities. The
theater plans considered these differences and assigned roles and
missions to achieve the best results. Final assignments of
Arab-Islamic forces were coordinated between CINCCENT and Commander,
Joint Forces/Theater of Operations. These missions considered the
Arab-Islamic forces' relative capabilities, tactical mobility, and
As the plan developed, CINCCENT redistributed missions. The 6th French Light Armored Division was placed under XVIII Airborne Corps tactical control (TACON); it was used to secure the theater's left flank. With the arrival of the remainder of the 1st UK Armoured Division from Germany, the 7th UK Armoured Brigade, attached to MARCENT, reverted to its parent unit. The 1st UK Armoured Division was placed under VII Corps TACON. To compensate for this loss in MARCENT's armor capability, the 1st (Tiger) Brigade, 2nd Armored Division was detached from the 1st Cavalry Division and attached to MARCENT.
Ground commanders at corps and below required as much information as
possible about Iraqi forces and defensive positions, particularly
along the Kuwait-Iraq border, where extensive minefields, complex
obstacles, and interlocking defenses had to be breached. Deception
and operations security (OPSEC) requirements precluded those same
commanders from conducting intelligence collection operations to the
depth of their respective areas of interest. As a result, the echelons
above corps intelligence systems and organizations were tasked to
provide detailed intelligence support to tactical commanders. At the
same time, those sensors and organizations were expected to continue
to provide intelligence support to other areas of vital US interests.
Competition for scarce and capable resources was intense and resulted in situations where requirements were not validated or were included in higher headquarters taskings. Sensors (particularly imagery) were unavailable or were incapable of being reoriented on short notice, and national-level analysts did not respond in the detail ground tactical commanders required.
Overall, intelligence organizations attempted to apply innovative solutions to difficult problems. Intelligence provided to ground tactical commanders from the theater and national levels was not always timely and often came in unfamiliar formats. In confronting these difficulties, commanders often generated additional requests for information which, in turn, further taxed the over burdened theater and national intelligence systems. Consequently, ground tactical commanders were not confident with the tactical intelligence picture as G-Day approached. (A detailed discussion of tactical intelligence is in Appendix C.)
From the first day of Operation Desert Shield, the logistical effort
was a major priority. Committed to a theater of operations without a
broad, well-developed logistics infrastructure or transportation
network, and lacking established alliance support relationships, US
forces had to create these capabilities in the midst of a massive
deployment, with the prospect of imminent combat.
Saudi air and sea ports are modern, sophisticated and complex, rivalling those of Europe and the Pacific in terms of capacity and capability. Major coastal roads and road systems around principal Saudi cities were also excellent. These provided a foundation which was critical to the overall effort. In contrast, the meager inland transportation system dictated a major road building effort and field logistics infrastructure development.
The ability to support and sustain the force was perhaps the most crucial operational consideration as CINCCENT planned the theater offensive. Massive logistics assets would have to be in place to support the ground offensive. Accordingly, two contingency plans were developed. The first was to shorten the LOC by building roads following the attacking corps. The second was a logistics over the shore operation, if a port in Kuwait could be made available. A base along the Kuwaiti coast, at Ash Shuaybah or farther north, would shorten logistics lines by hundreds of miles and enable supplies to be carried by sea from main bases in Al-Jubayl and Ad-Dammam.
Plan For Sustainment
The forces to be supported for the ground offensive were sizable.
ARCENT, British, and French forces totaled 258,701 soldiers, 11,277
tracked vehicles, 47,449 wheeled vehicles, and 1,619 aircraft. In
accordance with joint doctrine and agreements, ARCENT also retained
responsibility for much of the theater logistics support of Air Force
Component, Central Command (CENTAF) and MARCENT. In preparation for
G-Day, 29.6 million meals, 36 million gallons of fuel, and 114.9
thousand tons of ammunition were moved from the port to forward
positions west of Wadi Al-Batin. These supplies had to be moved in a
very short period; however, to preserve security, logistics bases
could not be set up west of the Wadi Al-Batin before air operations
The plan for logistical support and sustainment envisioned moving all classes of supplies, but especially fuel, ammunition, food, and water, forward to the ground forces as they pushed into Iraq. The corps support commands (COSCOM) in turn received and moved these supplies and equipment forward to the appropriate division support commands (DISCOM). The DISCOM then sent these supplies to the respective forward support battalions which supported the ground maneuver forces. The plan for theater logistics sustainment further called for support to be echeloned forward to temporary logistics bases, as the battle unfolded and tactical objectives were seized. Logistics planning and sustainment below the theater level were conducted according to established doctrine.
Establishment of Logistics Bases
The establishment of logistics bases was a key feature of the plan.
CSS assets were required well forward and positioned to sustain the
momentum of the attack once the ground offensive began. The bases had
to be able to sustain the combat forces in their initial deployment
areas and serve as intermediate storage areas for supplies to be moved
to sites west of the Wadi Al-Batin. These sites would, in turn,
support operations into Iraq and Kuwait.
ARCENT established six sites to sustain the XVIII Airborne and VII Corps. In the I MEF area, four CSS areas were set up near the Kuwait border. All forward sites were stocked with bulk potable water, both bottled and from reverse osmosis water purification units, ammunition, equipment,food, petroleum, construction materials and spare parts for delivery forward as needed. At these forward logistics sites, the components organized logistics units to support and sustain forward elements according to their assigned missions.
ARCENT's 22d SUPCOM shifted vast quantities of supplies to these bases in the west. The supply bases contained enough materiel to support combat operations for up to 60 days. Some were moved several times, first to the west and then north once the operation began. Several lessons emerged from planning for this initial shift, including the fact that US forces lack sufficient heavy equipment transporters (HETs) and trucks with off-road capabilities. Just one of the five heavy divisions, the 24th Infantry Division (Mechanized), for example, needed 3,223 HET, 445 lowboys, and 509 flatbed loads to move its heavy equipment from forward assembly areas into attack positions. The problem was further complicated because units arrived at the ports at irregular intervals. While trucks could be surged to meet arriving units, the limited road space upon which to move them remained constant. The necessary trucks were obtained with other Coalition countries' help. HNS, Coalition forces' support, and support from non-traditional allies, including the former Warsaw Pact nations, were substantial and essential. Although the Army sent considerable numbers of the most modern wheeled vehicles to the theater before Operation Desert Storm, off-road truck transport remained a problem throughout the ground offensive.
The extended maneuver of US ground combat units, characterized by rapid advance and continuous operations, was successfully sustained from the established logistics bases during the offensive. The greatest challenge for CSS operators at the logistics bases and supply operators with the maneuver units was trying to manage transportation assets effectively to ensure resupply across the rapidly expanding battlefield. Keeping the combat vehicles supplied with fuel was the greatest challenge. The Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Truck was one of the few vehicles that could keep going when rain turned roads into a quagmire. (Appendix F includes a further discussion of heavy equipment transporters.)
In addition to supporting Army elements, ARCENT supported the other
CENTCOM components. ARCENT was responsible for food, water, bulk fuel,
ground munitions, port operations, inland cargo transportation,
construction support for all US forces and for graves registration
after a Service exceeded its own organic capability.
Support for the Tiger Brigade attached to MARCENT for the ground offensive was an excellent example of how joint logistics was managed. The USMC system is not structured to support and maintain an Army brigade equipped with M1A1 tanks and M2/M3 fighting vehicles. To meet this requirement, back-up direct support and general support was provided through a provisional forward area support company tailored from elements of the ARCENT 593rd Area Support Group and the 176th Maintenance Battalion. These elements augmented the brigade's direct support battalion and operated with the USMC 1st FSSG. The relationship between the Army forward area support operations and the USMC logistics structure provided the necessary support to the brigade.
CSS in the MARCENT sector was equally challenging. Organized and
equipped to conduct operations relatively close to the shore, the 1st
FSSG operated more than 50 miles inland and 100 miles from its main
supply base at Al-Jubayl. As an innovative partial solution, Marine
Reservists, primarily from the 6th Motor Transport Battalion, formed
"Saudi Motors", a collection of several hundred drivers with
commercial trucks provided by the Saudis to link Al-Jubayl with the
forward logistics sites. Marine assault support helicopters shuttled
back and forth between the rear and forward logistics sites, carrying
cargo and delivering high priority items. I MEF requested and received
some direct support line haul, transportation and theater level fuel
support in the form of HETs, fuel tankers and other motor transport
assets from 22nd SUPCOM.
To support the tactical units, 1st FSSG divided itself into general support and direct support groups, with mobile service support detachments providing support to each assault regiment or task force. This decentralized structure let 1st FSSG distribute supplies from Al-Jubayl directly to front-line units without a cumbersome intervening support organization. Each level operated to help the next element forward. Although not a part of USMC doctrine, this innovative organization of the service support structure may have been one of the more successful aspects of the ground campaign. I MEF supported its combat forces at distances far exceeding those anticipated in peacetime, and given the volumes of supplies and speed of advance, Marine logistics abilities were stretched to the limits.
The Final Operational Plan
The final CINCCENT ground offensive plan involved several
interrelated operations. ARCENT would lead the main effort. XVIII
Airborne Corps would attack in the west and deep into Iraq to control
the east-west LOC along Highway 8 and cut off Iraqi forces in the KTO.
VII Corps would conduct the main Coalition effort, attacking east of
XVIII Airborne Corps and west of Wadi Al-Batin, driving to the north
and then east to destroy Republican Guard forces. VII Corps adjusted
its plan by calling an "audible" during a CPX conducted 6-8 January
1991, to move two armored divisions and a cavalry regiment to the west
to take advantage of a gap in the Iraqi defenses. This was made
possible when the 1st Cavalry Division was made OPCON to VII Corps to
prevent a Khafji-type attack by Iraqi forces into Hafir Al Batin. VII
Corps moved the 1st Cavalry Division to prevent an Iraqi attack and to
fix Iraqi forces in place to allow the envelopment to take place.
On the right flank, JFC-N, MARCENT, and JFC-E, would hold the enemy's tactical and operational forces in place by breaching Iraqi defenses in Kuwait and encircling Iraqi forces in the heel of Kuwait and Kuwait City. JFC-N would block Iraqi LOC north of Kuwait City. MARCENT would destroy enemy forces and seize key objectives southeast of Al-Jahra City. MARCENT also would protect JFC-N's right flank. Navy and Marine forces in the Gulf would create a deception through amphibious exercises and feints before and during the ground offensive. JFC-E would protect MARCENT's right flank by destroying Iraqi forces and securing key objectives along the coast. Once Kuwait City was encircled and Iraqi forces were ejected or defeated, Arab-Islamic forces from both JFC-E and JFC-N, would liberate Kuwait City. CINCCENT initially designated the 1st Cavalry Division from Fort Hood, TX, as the theater reserve.
To further confuse the Iraqis and perhaps draw off tactical and operational reserves, the ground offensive was to be sequenced. The XVIII Airborne Corps' 6th French Light Armor Division, 82nd Airborne Division, and the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) would attack at 0400 on G-Day, in the general direction of Baghdad and the lower Euphrates River to secure the left flank of the main attack. The Marines would attack at the same time, followed by the JFC-E on the coast. The I MEF's specific mission was to attack into Kuwait west of Al-Wafrah to hold and destroy Iraqi forces to their front, hold Iraqi tactical and operational reserves to prevent reinforcement of Iraqi forces in the West, block Iraqi forces' retreat from southeast Kuwait and Kuwait City and help Arab forces enter Kuwait City. The theater main effort, the VII Corps, was not intended to begin until G + 1, followed an hour later by an attack from JFC-N forces.
The main attack was designed to avoid most fixed defenses, drive deep into Iraq, envelop Iraqi forces from the west and attack and destroy Saddam Hussein's strategic reserve - Republican Guard armored and mechanized infantry divisions augmented by several other Iraqi Army heavy divisions. This wide left sweep, sometimes referred to as the " Hail Mary" plan, emphasized the key tenets of AirLand Battle doctrine. Accurate intelligence, air supremacy, the reduction of combat power by air operations and technological advantages, such as the Small Lightweight Global Positioning System Receivers (SLGRs) sent to the theater during the six-month buildup prior to the offensive, made it possible to cross the desert undetected and effectively apply overwhelming ground combat power from a direction and in a way the Iraqis did not expect.
During the operation, some adjustments were made to the original ground offensive plan. The most significant alteration was the acceleration of the time for the main attack. The high rate of advance by I MEF, JFC-E, and the XVIII Airborne Corps let CINCCENT accelerate the time table for the operation. As a result, VII Corps crossed the line of departure 15 hours ahead of schedule. In addition, after it was apparent the attack by JFC-N was proceeding satisfactorily, the 1st Cavalry Division was released from theater reserve and attached to the VII Corps on Tuesday morning, 26 February. The 1st Cavalry Division moved rapidly around the VII Corps left flank and was in position to conduct the northern assault of the planned corps double envelopment.
Posturing for the Attack
Repositioning of I Marine Expeditionary Force
Because I MEF's area of responsibility had shifted away from the
coast, its assault would be conducted through the defenses covering
Ahmad Al-Jabir Airfield west of Al-Wafrah. To support this move,
supply points at Al-Mish'ab and along the coast had to be moved to
newly constructed bases at Al-Kibrit and Al-Khanjar. Two expeditionary
airfields and a helicopter complex were built at Al-Khanjar while the
existing dirt strip at Al-Kibrit was improved to handle C-130s to
support the ground attack. The two divisions leapfrogged past each
other, placing the 1st MARDIV on the right and 2nd MARDIV on the left.
This simultaneous movement of nearly 60,000 Marines and all their
equipment was accomplished using a single dirt road that stretched
across 100 miles of desert. Difficult to execute under the best
peacetime conditions, the shift was carried out while I MEF elements
remained in direct contact with enemy forces.
Once in assembly areas, assault units honed their skills by conducting extensive training and rehearsals. Full scale mock-ups of breach areas were constructed. New engineer equipment arrived, to include armored combat earthmovers and mine-clearing plows loaned by the Army.
The Shift West of ARCENT Forces
Throughout December, the 22nd SUPCOM shifted supplies from the ports
to bases near King Khalid Military City. From 17 January to 24
February, while the Coalition air forces waged the air operation, VII
Corps, XVIII Airborne Corps, and other coalition elements moved more
than 270,000 troops and supplies into position for the attack. XVIII
Airborne Corps displaced approximately 260 miles and VII Corps
maneuvered west over 150 miles in the same tactical formations that it
would use to attack from south to north. This was done without HETs
and was a corps level rehearsal for the actual attack. This movement,
which continued 24 hours a day for more than three weeks before the
start of the ground war, was one of the largest and longest movements
of combat forces in history. The total number of personnel and amount
of equipment exceeded that moved by General George S. Patton during
his attack into the German flank at the Battle of the Bulge. Whole
divisions and extensive support structures moved hundreds of miles,
undetected by the Iraqis. The move was conducted on largely unimproved
roads. The road network not only made repositioning physically
difficult, but also complicated movement management. To avoid massive
traffic jams, movement schedules were worked out to the last detail.
In the dense traffic, vehicles were moving at 15 second intervals.
The tactical airlift fleet also supported the westward shift. C-1 30s established air tactical routings to Rafha, the XVIII Airborne Corps' destination, from airfields near the Corps rear staging areas. These routings were established at low altitudes to ensure the movement would not be detected by the Iraqis and to deconflict them with the near continuous flow of fighters to targets in Iraq. The C-1 30s averaged a takeoff and landing out of King Fahd International Airport every seven minutes, 24 hours a day, for the first 13 days of the move.
Once forces were at Rafha, the C-1 30s helped build up the supplies, combat replacements, and the logistics bases. At log base Charlie, the combat engineers blocked a one mile strip of the Trans Arabian Pipeline (Tapline) Road to serve as an airstrip. Only nine miles from the Iraqi border, it was essential to get in and out quickly. Perhaps the most important cargo delivered was fuel. Aircraft equipped with special bladders brought in more than 5,000 gallons of fuel on each lift and pumped it into waiting fuel trucks.
Preparing and Shaping the Battlefield
Preparation and shaping of the battlefield is intended to seize the
initiative from the enemy, forcing him to fight in accordance with
your plan rather than his, thus allowing the attacker to exploit the
enemy's weaknesses and to maneuver more freely on the battlefield. The
concept of preparation and shaping entails two aspects - physical
degradation of the enemy's capabilities and psychological operations to
deceive and demoralize the enemy. Both are carried out throughout the
depth of the battlefield. Physical degradation requires extensive use
of supporting arms and raids, both ground and air, to attack and
destroy enemy abilities to conduct operations. PSYOPS attack the
enemy's will to fight and deceive him, thereby forcing him to react
to, rather than anticipate the actions of the attacker. Coalition air
and ground forces extensively prepared and shaped the battlefield.
CINCCENT placed a high priority on deception operations which were
intended to convince Iraq that the main attack would be directly into
Kuwait, supported by an amphibious assault. All components contributed
to the deception operation. Aggressive ground force patrolling,
artillery raids, amphibious feints and ship movements, and air
operations all were part of CINCCENT's orchestrated deception
operation. Throughout, ground force units engaged in reconnaissance
and counter-reconnaissance operations with Iraqi forces to deny the
Iraqis information about actual Coalition intentions.
For 30 days before the ground offensive, the 1st Cavalry Division conducted aggressive feints, demonstrations, and artillery raids in the direction of the Iraqi defenses nearest the Wadi Al-Batin. These activities reinforced the deception that the main attack would be launched directly north into Western Kuwait. It also held five infantry divisions and an armored division in place, well away from the actual VII Corps zone of attack.
I MEF also implemented a detailed deception operation. A series of combined arms raids, similar to those conducted in January, drew Iraqi fire, while PSYOP loud speakers broadcast across the border. For 10 days, Task Force (TF) Troy, consisting of infantry, armor, reconnaissance, engineers, Seabees and Army PSYOPS created the impression of a much larger force, engaging enemy elements in the Al-Wafrah area, conducting deceptive communications, and building dummy positions.
These operations complemented the deception effort carried out by amphibious forces off Kuwait's coast. The amphibious task force (ATF), assigned the mission of deceiving the Iraqis into expecting an assault against Kuwait, and conducting that assault should it become necessary, began posturing in the Gulf in mid-January. A well publicized amphibious rehearsal in Oman attracted media attention in the end of January while, simultaneously, Marines from the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) conducted a raid on tiny Umm Al-Maradim Island off the Kuwait coast. As the ground offensive approached, the ATF moved into the northern Gulf, conspicuously preparing for a possible assault. Overall, the deception operation was key to achieving both tactical and operational surprise and, ultimately, the ground offensive's success.
Air Preparation of the Battlefield
CINCCENT established priorities for air preparation of the
battlefield. Although the ground commanders made recommendations
regarding targets and timing of the operation, CINCCENT aligned it
with the overall theater plan. Ground tactical commanders found this
discomforting, since they were most concerned about the forces
immediately to their front and had only limited information on how
CINCCENT was using air power to shape the entire theater.
Additionally, by CINCCENT direction, air operations did not initially
emphasize destruction of front line Iraqi forces in the KTO until just
before the ground offensive. This was done in part to enhance the
deception plan. This also concerned the ground commanders, who
naturally wanted air power to degrade the Iraqi units immediately in
their line of advance.
Coalition air forces flew more than 35,000 sorties against KTO targets, including more than 5,600 against the Republican Guards Forces Command (RGFC). The Service components nominated targets, but CINCCENT apportioned sorties, and the Joint Force Air Component Commander tasked them. Artillery, CPs, C2 facilities, armor, and logistics installations were hit repeatedly. As the ground war approached, the percentage of sorties allocated to the destruction of Iraqi forces in the KTO increased.
In preparation for round attacks in the eastern portion of the KTO, 3rd MAW used primarily AV-8Bs and F/A-18s to attack targets inside Kuwait. Priority was given to locating and destroying enemy artillery, armor and troops in the central and southern parts of Kuwait. Marine aviation intensified its attacks in Kuwait as the date for the ground offensive approached. By mid-February, 3rd MAW was used almost totally to prepare the battlefield. Aircraft were kept on continuous alert to provide immediate CAS, and to respond to enemy sightings, artillery attacks and Iraqi cross-border incursions.
Ground Preparation of the Battlefield
Iraqi artillery was a primary objective in the battlefield
preparation. Iraqi artillery, modern by any standard, often out-
ranged Coalition guns, and had been effective in the Iran-Iraq war.
While the Coalition could hold Iraqi maneuver forces in position; left
unchecked, Iraqi artillery alone might disrupt the Coalition ground
assault. Properly used, enemy artillery could have delayed breaching
operations long enough for some Iraqi units to counterattack.
Additionally, there was a real concern that Iraqi commanders might use
artillery-delivered chemical weapons. Accordingly, Iraqi artillery,
particularly their most modern systems, were high priority targets
during Phase III of the theater campaign. Air, attack helicopters,
and Multiple-Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS) were used to destroy enemy
artillery. 3rd MAW AV-8Bs and F/A-1 8s, assisted by Marine unmanned
aerial vehicles (UAVs) and airborne FACs, searched out batteries for
destruction. The Army and Marines also conducted many artillery raids
to destroy Iraqi artillery.
Reconnaissance and Counter-Reconnaissance
During the air campaign, ground forces conducted extensive
reconnaissance to determine the extent and locations of Iraqi
obstacles and defensive positions and counter-reconnaissance
operations to deceive the enemy regarding Coalition forces
disposition. Ground forces conducted raids, patrols, feints and
Both air and ground maneuver benefited from Army aviation reconnaissance in depth. Attack, scout, and special operations aircraft performed repetitive armed reconnaissance missions in each division zone for days before the ground offensive. Even with the array of deep acquisition platforms, one of the most reliable and timely sources of battlefield information for tactical commanders was human source intelligence (HUMINT) provided by aviation.
Another innovative approach was the extensive use of helicopters to locate Iraqi observation posts and CPs. Flying at night, Army and Marine observation and attack helicopters found and destroyed these positions using Hellfire and other laser-designated munitions such as Copperhead. The same tactics proved effective for air defense sites, and contributed to joint suppression of enemy air defense activities.
During night operations, 30 January, the 24th Infantry Division's Apache attack helicopter battalion, conducting reconnaissance, found an electronic warfare site with their long-range optics. Early in the morning of 31 January, the Battalion Commander ordered Apache A Company across the border to attack it. "It was a great start for the Apaches and a successful raid," the battalion commander said.
- The US Army Aviation Center
On the left flank, in the days immediately before the ground offensive XVIII Airborne Corps conducted aerial and mounted raids deep into Iraqi territory to hit armor, artillery, bunkers, and observation posts. The XVIII Airborne Corps reported, that in one armed aerial reconnaissance operation on 20 February, the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) aviation brigade destroyed 15 bunkers with air and TOW missile fire and induced 476 Iraqis to surrender. The division, with attack helicopter support, sent CH-47 Chinook helicopters and troops forward to gather the EPWs. By 22 February, 82nd Airborne Division helicopters were penetrating deep into Iraqi territory in daylight.
In the VII Corps area, in preparation for the attack, the 2nd ACR pushed 15 kilometers into Iraq to cover engineers cutting openings in the border berm. Just before the ground offensive, VII Corps reports show that the 1st Infantry Division (Mechanized) engaged 20 Iraqi tanks and killed several enemy soldiers patrolling the border.
SOF operated deep in enemy territory and along the coast, reporting enemy disposition and activities. Early in the crisis, the 5th Special Forces Group (SFG), (Airborne) in cooperation with Saudi paratroopers, had manned observation posts and conducted patrols along the Kuwaiti border to provide early warning of an Iraqi attack. 3rd SFG (A) carried out valuable long-range patrols north of the border. One team used low-light cameras and probing equipment to determine if the terrain north of the border would support armored vehicles. Others, including the British Special Air Service (SAS), watched suspected Iraqi reinforcement routes and searched for Scud launchers. SEALS conducted reconnaissance operations along the coast to determine enemy dispositions and to clear mines.
In mid-January, I MEF established observation and signal intelligence collection posts along the Kuwait border to try to locate enemy defenses and concentrations. Reconnaissance teams and light armored vehicles kept a watchful eye on the border while screening the forward movement of the 1st and 2nd MARDIVs. The Iraqis reacted quickly; on 17 January, forward elements of 1st Surveillance Reconnaissance and Intelligence Group at Al-Khafji received artillery fire. Marine AV-8Bs on strip alert at King 'Abd Al-'Aziz Expeditionary Airfield in northern Saudi Arabia were launched to silence the Iraqi artillery. On 19 January, several Iraqi soldiers crossed the border and surrendered to Marines, the first prisoners the MEF took.
Beginning 20 January, and continuing for the next 10 days, I MEF conducted combined arms raids along the Kuwaiti border. These raids were designed to deceive the enemy as to the location and disposition of Coalition forces, focus attention toward Kuwait, keep the Iraqis off-balance, and test their response. Marines manning outposts along the border continued to call on AV-8Bs to conduct counterbattery attacks, while UAVs flying from Al-Mish'ab located targets. Although air operations over Iraq absorbed much of the world's attention, the Kuwaiti border had become a scene of active fighting.
As the ground offensive approached, I MEF increased reconnaissance and surveillance, both to deny enemy intelligence collection and to gain a more accurate picture of his dispositions. Reconnaissance teams from both 1st and 2nd MARDIV crossed the border and moved into Kuwait a week before the attack. Elements of two regimental sized task forces from 1st MARDIV began infiltrating on the night of 21 February and during the next two nights, remaining hidden and largely undetected during the day. These elements eliminated Iraqi forward observers, cleared minefield lanes, and positioned themselves to support the mechanized task forces when they attacked on the morning of 24 February.
In the 2nd MARDIV sector, conditions differed markedly. Only a few kilometers separated its attack positions from the Iraqi defenses. The two defensive lines were only two to three kilometers apart and intertwined within the Umm Qudayr oilfields. Obstacles included forward outposts, berms, and fire trenches in addition to the minefields and trenchlines. Before G-Day, the 2nd MARDIV's 2nd Light Armored Infantry (LAI) Battalion crossed into Kuwait on a three-day operation to clear Iraqi outposts and defenses forward of the first obstacle belt.
The Battle of Al-Khafji and Contact at Al-Wafrah
On 29 January, attention abruptly shifted from air operations to the
JFC-E and Marine areas. Iraqi armored forces launched cross-border
attacks, the most newsworthy at Al-Khafji. However, a second attack,
directed at the area south and west of Al-Wafrah, engaged I MEF's TF
Shepherd. A young Marine corporal in the 2nd LAI Battalion scored a
TOW antitank missile kill in the dark from more than 3,000 meters as a
T-55 tank emerged through the border berm, blocking the exit and
halting further Iraqi advance. The next day, the 6th Marine Regiment
rushed northward and dug in south of Al-Wafrah, ending any Iraqi
threat in that sector, although sporadic artillery fire continued for
At Al-Khafji, Arab forces, supported by Marine forward observers, who called and adjusted artillery and CAS, pushed invading Iraqi columns back into Kuwait. At the height of the fighting, a Marine reconnaissance team, cut off in the town and cornered on the roof of a building, continued to report enemy movements and call in air and artillery fires. These battles proved costly to the Iraqis while instilling new confidence in the Coalition and providing Marines combat experience. (See Chapter 6 for details on air operations at Al-Khafji.)
The Threat as of 23 February - The Day Before the Ground Offensive
Iraqi Defensive Positions and Plan
As discussed earlier, the Iraqi Army was prepared to defend the KTO.
Operational and tactical level plans existed, preparations for
contingencies were made and executed, and, while some units in the
forward areas were composed of second class troops, many Iraqi regular
and heavy units put up a fight. The Iraqi defensive strategy, however,
was not prepared for the Coalition's offensive strategy The Iraqi
assumption that the tactics used in the Iran-Iraq War would be
applicable against the Coalition proved faulty, as did their
assumption that the attack would be terrain-oriented in support of the
Coalition's political goal of liberating Kuwait. Further, once the air
war began, Iraqi tactical intelligence became virtually blind. Most
importantly, Iraqi defensive planning was rendered ineffective due to
the speed, maneuver, firepower, and technological advantages of the
Coalition offensive, which surprised and overwhelmed the Iraqis.
The Iraqis prepared for the expected assault into Kuwait in a manner that reflected the successes of their defensive strategy during the Iranian War. They constructed two major defensive belts in addition to extensive fortifications and obstacles along the coast. The first belt paralleled the border roughly five to 15 kilometers inside Kuwait and was composed of continuous minefields varying in width from 100 to 200 meters, with barbed wire, antitank ditches, berms, and oil filled trenches intended to cover key avenues of approach. Covering the first belt were Iraqi platoon and company-size strongpoints designed to provide early warning and delay any attacker attempting to cut through.
The second obstacle belt, up to 20 kilometers behind the first, began north of Al-Khafii and proceeded northwest of the Al-Wafrah oilfields until it joined with the first near Al-Manaqish. This second obstacle belt actually constituted the main Iraqi defensive line in Kuwait. Obstacles and minefields mirrored those of the first belt.
They were covered by an almost unbroken line of mutually supporting brigade-sized defensive positions composed of company trench lines and strongpoints. The minefields contained both antitank and antipersonnel mines.
The Iraqi tactical plan was designed to slow the attacker at the first belt, to trap him in prearranged kill zones between the two belts, and to destroy him before he could break through the second belt. Any attacking forces able to breach the second belt would be counterattacked immediately behind the strongpoints by division and corps level armor reserves.
Iraqi Combat Effectiveness
One objective of the initial phases of the theater campaign was to
shift the balance of forces more in favor of the Coalition; this goal
was achieved. In all, almost 100,000 total combat and support sorties
were flown and 288 Tomahawk land-attack missiles launched during the
first three phases of the campaign. of the total sorties flown, 60
percent were combat missions. Damage to Iraqi forces was extensive,
and Iraqi C2 was severely degraded. Saddam Hussein's ability to direct
his field forces was impeded and in many cases, forward camps,
division and brigade commanders lost touch with their subordinate
commands. Large amounts of equipment were damaged or destroyed. Vast
stockpiles of Iraqi supplies, positioned to support the KTO, were
destroyed and the road nets on which replenishment had to pass were
degraded. Air operations against fielded forces, in conjunction with
PSYOPS, helped sap Iraqi morale. Phase III of the campaign greatly
reduced Saddam Hussein's ability to bring the strength of his army to
bear against the Coalition ground forces.
At the end of more than a mouth of bombardment, Iraqi forces remained in Kuwait; many particularly in the front line units, were in poor condition, with their ability to coordinate an effective defense along the border severely reduced. When the ground was started, CINCCENT assessed that, largely through the results of the Coalition air operation, the overall combat effectiveness of the opposing Iraqi forces had been reduced by about half.
It should be noted that while the forward infantry divisions suffered high attrition, a substantial portion of the more capable units, such as the Republican Guards, and Iraqi armored and infantry divisions to the west and north, still were combat effective. This was, in part, the result of a conscious decision to target the forward defensive positions as a part of the deception plan. As the ground offensive unfolded, many Republican Guards units and other forces to the west and north, even though they were surprised by the advancing Coalition formations, retained much of their combat capability and put up a fight.
Iraqi Disposition and Strength in Theater Before the Ground Offensive
DIA intelligence assessments of enemy attrition and disposition
before the ground offensive began indicated the combat effectiveness
of all first-line defensive divisions were reduced to less than half.
The 45th Mechanized Division south of As-Salman was estimated to be at
50 to 75 percent strength as were the 12th, 52nd, 17th and 10th
Armored divisions,the tactical reserves. The two most western
Republican Guards divisions, the Tawakalna Mechanized and Al-Madinah
Armored divisions, were estimated to be at 50 to 75 percent
effectiveness. The general assessment was that the tactical echelon
and artillery were severely degraded, the operational echelon's
sustainment capability had been eliminated, and the Republican Guard
Iraqi ground forces in the KTO included elements of up to 43 divisions, 25 of which are assessed as committed, 10 the operational reserve, and eight the strategic reserve. Some independent brigades were operating under corps control. The RGFC and Iraqi Army heavy divisions remained deployed in defensive positions behind the tactical and operational forces.
Despite these assessments, the Iraqi military's weaknesses were not so apparent to the ground commanders. They saw an Iraqi force of up to 43 divisions in the theater, arrayed in depth and with strong operational and tactical reserves. Dug-in infantry was reinforced by reverted tanks and artillery, all backed by armored reserves of brigade strength or larger. In central Kuwait, roughly in the area between 'Ali As-Salim airfield and the Kuwait International Airport, one armored and two mechanized divisions formed strong corps-level reserves, with additional armored forces to the northwest of Al-Jahra. Along the beaches, in testimony to the Iraqi fear of an amphibious assault, no fewer than four infantry divisions and a mechanized division occupied positions behind minefields and obstacles. Finally, along the Iraq-Kuwait border, at least six Republican Guards divisions and other armored, mechanized, and infantry divisions were poised to counterattack. On the eve of the ground offensive, Coalition planners thought nearly 450,000 Iraqi troops remained in the KTO.
Weather was a factor during the entire campaign. Approximately 15
percent of all scheduled attack sorties during the first 10 days of
air operations were canceled because of poor visibility or low
overcast in the KTO. Ceilings of 5,000 to 7,000 feet were not
uncommon, especially during the ground operation. Coalition planners
assumed the standard 13 percent cloud cover, typical for the region at
that time of year. In fact, cloud cover persisted 39 percent of the
time, the worst in 14 years.
The early morning of G-Day was marked by adverse weather throughout the area. Blowing sand and rain, along with dense smoke from burning oil wells, made visibility extremely poor. These conditions early in the ground operation improved the US technical advantage in electro-optics. At the same time, it inhibited CAS and proved the value of the Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (JSTARS) as both an operational indicator of enemy movement and a deep targeting system. The bad weather at the beginning of the attack also threatened sustainability by making cross-country mobility difficult for wheeled logistics vehicles. Fortunately the skies cleared and the cease-fire was declared before serious sustainment problems developed. (Weather also was a factor in fire from friendly forces, as noted in Appendix M.)
Disposition of Coalition Forces on the Eve of the Ground Offensive
When the ground offensive began, Coalition forces were poised along
a line from the Persian Gulf 300 miles west into the desert, in four
Army Component, Central Command
ARCENT, which consisted of the XVIII Airborne Corps and VII Corps,
was on the western flank of the theater. Positioned on ARCENT's left
flank was the XVIII Airborne Corps; VII Corps was to the right. These
two corps covered about two thirds of the line occupied by the
Joint Forces Command - North
JFC-N, in the center, consisted of the 3rd Egyptian Mechanized
Division, the 4th Egyptian Armored Division, the 9th Syrian Division,
the Egyptian Ranger Regiment, the Syrian Special Forces Regiment, the
20th Mechanized Brigade, Royal Saudi Land Forces (RSLF), the Kuwaiti
Ash-Shahid and Al-Tahrir Brigades, and the 4th Armored Brigade (RSLF).
I Marine Expeditionary Force
I MEF, on the right of JFC-N, had the 2nd MARDIV, with the attached
Tiger Brigade on the left and the 1st MARDIV on the right. The 5th
MEB, coming ashore at Al-Jubayl and Al-Mish'ab and staging near
AI-Khanjar, acted as the MEF reserve. 3rd MAW flew from bases in Saudi
Arabia and Bahrain, basing AV-8Bs and attack helicopters forward at
Tanajib and Al-Khanjar, respectively.
Joint Forces Command - East
On the right flank, along the coast, JFC-E anchored the Coalition
line. Like JFC-N, JFC-E was under the command of Saudi Lieutenant
General Khalid bin Sultan. JFC-E consisted of units from all six Gulf
Cooperation Council (GCC) member states. There were three task forces
- TF Omar, consisting of the 10th Infantry Brigade (RSLF) and an
United Arab Emirates (UAE) Motorized Infantry Battalion; TF Othman,
consisting of the 8th Mechanized Infantry Brigade (RSLF) an Omani
Motorized Infantry Battalion, Bahrain Infantry Company, and the
Kuwaiti Al-Fatah Brigade; TF Abu Bakrwith the 2nd Saudi Arabian
National Guard (SANG) Motorized Infantry Brigade and a Qatar
Conduct of the Ground Offensive
At 0400 24 February, the ground assault to liberate Kuwait began.
CENTCOM unleashed combined arms attacks against Iraqi forces at three
points. In the far west, the French 6th Light Armored Division, (with
the 2nd Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division under its operational
control), and 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) conducted a
massive air and ground envelopment to secure the Coalition western
flank and establish forward support bases deep in Iraq. In the center
of the Coalition line, along the Wadi Al-Batin, the dry ravine that
separates Kuwait from Iraq, the 1st Cavalry Division, the theater
reserve, feinted an attack north toward a heavy Iraqi concentration.
In the east, I MEF and JFC-E, attacked north into Kuwait.
G-Day (24 February) - The Attack and The Breach
Enemy Actions and Dispositions
When the ground offensive started, Iraqi ground forces remained in
defensive positions in the KTO. There were no indications of any Iraqi
troop withdrawal. Iraqi front line units, including the 7th, 14th and
29th Infantry divisions in the I MEF zone and the 19th Infantry
Division in the JFC-E zone, offered sporadic, but sometimes stiff,
resistance. These forces were bypassed, withdrew or surrendered.
Despite these initial setbacks, the Iraqi III Corps, opposite I MEF
and JFC-E and the Iraqi IV Corps, generally opposite JFC-N, still
could counterattack with units from the 3rd Armored Division south of
Kuwait International Airport. However, the large number of III Corps
soldiers surrendering suggested many had lost the will to fight. For
the Iraqis to stop the Coalition ground offensive, mobile forces would
have to leave their reverted positions, making them vulnerable to
Coalition air attack.
Iraqi artillery fired at Coalition forces during the ground offensive was persistent but inaccurate. The Iraqis appeared to fire on known points, but did not shift or follow targets. The infantry fought initially, but surrendered when Coalition forces approached their positions. Coalition forces found ammunition stored throughout the trenches. The front line infantry forces' performance demonstrated serious shortcomings, particularly in coordinated indirect fire, air defense, and morale. Perhaps Iraqi commanders anticipated difficulties since intelligence sources indicated some RGFC artillery units were assigned to regular army divisions in southeastern Kuwait.
Enemy prisoners of war (EPWs) and deserters who crossed the Saudi border before the ground offensive began, complained of the lack of food and water and poor sanitation. A former battalion commander reported morale was poor, and he had not communicated with his brigade since the end of January. Expressing surprise that Americans were in front of his forces, he lacked specific Coalition force dispositions: this illustrates Iraq's weak battlefield intelligence capabilities, the breakdown of communications with higher headquarters, and the success of the Coalition in achieving surprise.
Army Component, Central Command
XVIII Airborne Corps
XVIII Airborne Corps was tasked to penetrate approximately 260
kilometers to the Euphrates River, cut the Iraqi LOC along Highway 8to
Baghdad, isolate Iraqi forces in the KTO, and help destroy the theater
reserve - the RGFC. The 6th French Light Armored Division with a
brigade from the 82nd Airborne Division under operational control
(OPCON) and the 82nd Airborne Division (with two brigades) were along
the western Corps boundary and began the theater ground attack. The
101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) was east of the French. Its
mission was to penetrate rapidly by air assault to the Euphrates
River, cut the LOC between Baghdad and Iraqi forces in the KTO,
destroy all enemy forces along those routes, and turn east to block
north of Al-Basrah. In the center of the Corps zone, the 24th Infantry
Division (Mechanized) was to attack through Iraqi forces in their zone
to the Euphrates River, then turn east to destroy RGFC forces trapped
in the KTO. On the Corps eastern boundary, the 3rd ACR was to secure
the Corps right flank and maintain contact and coordination with VII
At 0400, 6th French Light Armored Division scouts advanced into Iraq. Three hours later, the French main body attacked through a light rain. Its objective was As-Salman, a small airfield about 90 miles inside Iraq. Reinforced by the 2nd Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division, the French crossed the border unopposed and attacked north. Short of their objective, the French ran into outposts of the 45th Iraqi Mechanized Infantry Division. After a brief battle, using missile-armed Gazelle attack helicopters against dug-in enemy tanks and bunkers, the French captured 2,500 prisoners and controlled the objective. The French moved on through Objective Rochambeau and onto As-Salman, known as Objective White in the plan, without opposition. Less than seven hours into the operation, the French 6th Light Armored Division, supported by the 82nd Airborne Division, secured its objectives and continued the attack north. The left flank was secured.
The remaining two brigades of the 82nd Airborne Division, following the French advance, were tasked to clear and secure a two-lane highway into southern Iraq. This road, Main Supply Route (MSR) Texas, would be used to move troops, equipment and supplies supporting the corps' advance north. The 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) was scheduled to attack at 0500, but fog over the initial objective forced a delay. While the weather posed problems for aviation, indirect fire support missions continued. Corps artillery and rocket launchers fired on objectives and approach routes. Two hours later, the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) began its attack with its AH-64s, AH-1s, 60 UH-60s and 40 CH-47s augmented by the XVIII Airborne Corps' 18th Aviation Brigade and began lifting the 1st Brigade into what became Forward Operating Base (FOB) Cobra, 93 miles into Iraq and halfway to the Euphrates River. Over three hundred helicopter sorties ferried the troops and equipment into the objective area in the largest heliborne operation in military history.
The Iraqis were scattered and disorganized. By mid-afternoon, the number of EPWs increased. Chinook helicopters lifted artillery, ammunition, refueling equipment, and building materials into FOB Cobra to create a major logistics base and refueling point. By the end of G + 2 the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) had 380,000 gallons of fuel at FOB Cobra. This logistics base allowed the XVIII Airborne Corps to move infantry and attack helicopters north quickly to block Highway 8 and served as a springboard to move eight attack helicopter battalions and cavalry squadrons 200 km to the east to interdict forces fleeing on the Al Hammar causeway toward Al-Basrah on G + 3.
As the air assault began, the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) CSS assets started a 700-vehicle convoy north along MSR New Market, carved in the desert by the 101st Division Engineers, to link up with the CH-47s at FOB Cobra. As soon as the Division secured Cobra and refueled the helicopters, it continued its assault north. By the evening of 24 February, the Division had moved approximately 170 miles into Iraq and cut Highway 8. The first of several roads connecting Iraqi forces in Kuwait with Baghdad was closed.
At approximately 0700 hours, 60 UH-60 Blackhawks and 30 CH47D Chinooks carrying 1st Brigade's first air assault element climbed from the brigade's pickup zone in TAA Campbell. In just over an hour, the aircraft had safely deposited some 500 soldiers 93 miles deep into Iraq. The 1st Battalion, 82nd Brigade of Iraq's 49th Infantry Division had entrenched themselves just north of MSR Virginia. The 1/327th Infantry discovered the Iraqi battalion while clearing FOB Cobra in zone. A sharp firefight ensued. The Iraqi battalion commander surrendered once the 1/327th attacked his position. Upon his capture, the Iraqi commander was persuaded to use a bullhorn to convince his 300-plus soldiers to lay down their arms.
- Situation Report from the 101 st Airborne Division (Air Assault)
"In their movement across the line of departure, and whenever not engaging enemy forces, battalions of the 24th Infantry Division moved in 'battle box' formation. With a cavalry troop screening five to ten miles to the front, four companies, or multi-platoon task forces, dispersed to form corner positions. Heavier units of the battalion, whether tanks or Bradleys occupied one or both of the front corners. One company, or smaller units, advanced outside the box to provide flank security. The battalion commander placed inside the box the vehicles carrying ammunition, fuel, and water needed to continue the advance in jumps of about 40 miles. The box covered a front of about four to five miles and extended about 15 to 20 miles front to rear."
- US Army Center for Military History
The VII Corps' plan was a feint and envelopment, much like the overall theater strategy. The 1st Cavalry Division, still the theater reserve at th is point, would make a strong, but limited attack and feint along the Wadi Al-Batin, causing the Iraqi's forces to believe the main attack would come from that direction. While Iraq's attention was focused on the 1st Cavalry Division, the VII Corps commander would send two divisions through the berms and mines along the corps' east flank and the ACR, followed by two more divisions, around the Iraqi defenses on the corps' west flank. 1st UK Armoured Division was assigned the mission to pass through the breach created by the 1st Infantry Division and to attack the Iraqi armored division in its zone to prevent it from moving into the flank of advancing VII Corps. VII Corps planned to move considerable fuel and ammunition through the breach to a logistics site in the 1st Infantry Division (Mechanized) zone. Clearing the breach of enemy infantry and artillery was a priority so as not to interrupt either the passage of 1st UK Armoured Division or the Corps CSS assets.
Before the start of the VII Corps main attack, 2nd ACR swept to the west of the Iraqi obstacles and crossed into Iraq. AH-64 attack helicopters and artillery raids intensified across the VII Corps front. With the 2nd ACR leading on the corps west flank, 1st and 3rd Armored divisions crossed the line of departure and attacked north.
"A 2nd ACR 'Iron' Troop soldier recounted: 'That's one time I was really scared, when we crossed the berm. That was a really intense moment.' His was the first tank through, but fear of the unknown turned out to be fear of nothing."
- Soldier Magazine, June 1991
Breaching the mine fields posed more problems than enemy fire. By nightfall, the 1st Infantry Division had successfully breached about 50 percent of the enemy's obstacle belt and forward defenses, and captured several hundred EPW. During the night of 24 February, the 1st Infantry Division consolidated, repositioned artillery, and coordinated for the 1st UK Armoured Division's passage of lines through the 1st Infantry Division positions. Since the 1st UK Armored Division would not be able to clear the breach that evening, VII Corps halted the advance of the 1st and 3rd Armored divisions for the night. Across the VII Corps front, in-depth artillery fire against the enemy continued throughout the night.
On line from west to east, 1st Armored and 3rd Armored divisions followed the axis cleared by the 2nd ACR. In the center, 1st Infantry Division continued its deliberate breach of the Iraqi defenses by plowing through the berms. On the Corps eastern flank, the 1st UK Armoured Division prepared to pass through the 1st Infantry Division to attack the Iraqi tactical reserves.
Joint Forces Command - North
At 1600 hours 24 February, the 3rd Egyptian Mechanized Division, TF
Khalid and TF Muthannah began to attack Iraqi positions in Kuwait.
They encountered Iraqi fire trenches, minefields, barriers, and
harassing fires as they crossed the border in their zone. Saudi and
Kuwaiti forces began the offensive shortly after the Egyptians. The
Egyptians, concerned about an Iraqi armored counterattack, halted
their advance short of their initial objectives and established
blocking positions in sector for the night. They resumed offensive
operations at daybreak the following day. Meanwhile, the 4th Egyptian
Armored Division prepared to follow the 3rd Egyptian Mechanized
Division. The 9th Syrian Armored Division followed the Egyptian
Divisions as the JFC-N reserve and conducted screening operations with
one reconnaissance battalion on the right flank to tie in with
I Marine Expeditionary Force
I MEF began the assault at 0400, aimed directly at its ultimate
objective, Al-Mutl'a Pass and the roads leading from Kuwait City, 35
to 50 miles to the northeast. I MEF faced the strongest concentration
of enemy defenses in theater. The 1st MARDIV led the attack from a
position just west of the "elbow" of the southern Kuwait border. The
2nd MARDIV attacked 90 minutes later. Against sometimes stiff
resistance, the I MEF succeeded in breaching two defended defensive
belts, opened 14 lanes in the east and six lanes in the west, and
established a solid foothold inside Kuwait. These breaching operations
were successful because of detailed preparation, including
reconnaissance and mapping of obstacles, followed by extensive
training and rehearsals.
Most importantly, the I MEF diverted the attention of the Iraqi high command, which remained focused on Kuwait, largely oblivious to the enveloping threat to the west. At the end of the day, I MEF had captured more than 8,000 EPW and attacked 20 miles into Kuwait.
On the right, 1st MARDIV, led by TF Ripper and covered by the two TFs that had infiltrated earlier completed its breach of the two defensive belts. The division's after action report indicated they destroyed the older Iraqi T-55 and T-62 tanks with M60A1 tanks, TOW-equipped High Mobility Multi-Wheeled Vehicles (HMMWVs), and heavy artillery. The 3rd MAW provided both CAS and interdiction. There were several individual acts of heroism during this intense fighting.
Advancing north, the division bypassed Ahmad Al-Jabir airfield, opting to clear its buildings and bunkers later with infantry. Light Armored Infantry (LAI) screened the right flank of the division while Marines continued to clear the enemy in zone.
To the west, 2nd MARDIV, with the reinforced 6th Marines in the lead, blasted its way through the obstacle belts against moderate resistance. The leading regiment advanced in three battalion columns through mortar and artillery fire. The initial opposition came from Iraqi defenders dug in behind the first minefields. The Iraqis were silenced quickly by Marine infantrymen and tanks supporting the combat engineers. Here too, there were examples of heroism. A young Marine reserve combat engineer twice raced into the minefields to reprime a failed line charge while under small arms and artillery fire.
After clearing the first obstacle, the 6th Marines turned left and attacked the more heavily defended obstacles. Marine engineers used M-154 Mine Clearing line charges and M60A1 tanks with forked mine plows and rakes to clear six lanes in the division sector. Temporarily delayed on the right, the regiment pushed its battalions through the center and left breach lanes, turned and eliminated resistance on the right. Once through, the regiment advanced to its objectives, overrunning elements of the Iraqi 7th and 14th Infantry divisions. The 2nd MARDIV noted in its after action report that the regiment captured more than 4,000 EPW including the Iraqi 9th Tank Battalion with 35 operational tanks.
Having secured its objectives by 1400, the 6th Marines spread out and prepared for an Iraqi counterattack, while the remainder of the 2nd MARDIV passed through the breach lanes and assumed positions to its right and left. By nightfall, the bulk of the 2nd MARDIV had passed through the breach.
Iraqi troops had displayed dogged fighting qualities when attacked frontally, only to quickly surrender when flanked or attacked from the rear. By day's end, I MEF had overrun the Iraqi defensive line and eliminated the better part of three infantry divisions. As the Marines consolidated, CH-46s and CH-53s shuttled into landing zones, replenishing ammunition and picking up EPWs.
On the night of 23 February, Marines from Task Force Grizzly sought a path through the Iraqi minefields to secure a passage for the mechanized attack of the 1st Marine Division on G-Day. Unable to locate a path and with time running out, a staff sergeant moved forward with his bayonet, quietly probing for mines by hand and marking his path with luminescent chemical lights. Working feverishly, he opened a lane sufficient for two rifle companies to pass through and secure the far side.
- War Records
A key factor in the day's success was 3rd MAW CAS. AV-8Bs and F/A-18s orbited overhead, waiting for requests to support ground elements. AH-1s waited at holding areas behind advancing Marines, quickly popping up and eliminating Iraqi armored vehicles and strongpoints. Particularly effective at eliminating enemy tanks were the laser-guided Hellfire missiles carried by AH-1Ws, with target designation provided by spotters with front-line infantry.
As the lead elements of the 6th Marine Regiment fought their way through the enemy obstacle belts on the morning of G-Day, the strains of the Marine Corps Hymn could be heard above the sound of artillery, mortar, and small arms fire. Marines, many under fire for the first time, paused, glanced in the direction of the music, and smiled, unaware that their hymn blared from the loudspeakers of a US Army psychological operations unit attached to the regiment.
- Interview by 2nd Marine Division
The 1st Cavalry Division, as theater reserve, conducted feints into
the triborder area while standing by to assist JFC-N east of the Wadi
On 24 February, as ground offensive operations began, integrated
air, sea and SOF operations continued. While maintaining air supremacy
and continuing to attack selected strategic targets, air operations
increasingly shifted to interdiction and CAS, which represented more
than 78 percent of the combat sorties on 24 February. Even when
weather reduced the availability of direct CAS missions, interdiction
missions continued to isolate Iraqi forces in the KTO and attack the
JFC-E received fire support from the 1 6-inch guns of the USS Missouri and USS Wisconsin. The Navy continued strike operations, fighter cover, Gulf Combat Air Patrol (CAP), armed reconnaissance, countermine operations and surface surveillance missions in support of ground forces and the theater campaign.
Before dawn on 25 February, 4th MEB helicopters conducted an amphibious feint off Ash Shuaybah to hold Iraqi forces along the coast. Simultaneously, SEALs conducted beach reconnaissance and detonated charges to the south. Other Naval Special Warfare (NSW) units entered Kuwait City with returning Kuwaiti resistance fighters. These elements were to prepare to link up with Coalition ground forces entering Kuwait City later in the operation.
G + 1 (25 February) - Destruction of Enemy Tactical Forces
Enemy Actions and Disposition
As the ground offensive progressed, Iraqi units' ineffectiveness
became more clear. The Iraqi III Corps units had suffered severe
damage. CENTCOM assessed the Corps' 7th, 8th, 14th, 18th, and 29th
Infantry divisions, in the I MEF and JFC-E zones, as combat
ineffective and the Iraqi 5th Mechanized Infantry and the 3rd Armored
divisions of III Corps as badly mauled.
On the western side of III Corps, the 14th and 7th Infantry divisions in front of I MEF were combat ineffective. The 36th Infantry, 1st Mechanized Infantry, and the 56th Armored Brigade established hasty defensive positions south/southwest of Al-Jahra, northwest of Kuwait City. The Iraqi 3rd Armored Division was trying to hold blocking positions between Kuwait International Airfield and Al-Jahra.
On the eastern side of III Corps, the 18th and 8th Infantry divisions, in front of JFC-E, were assessed as combat ineffective, although they offered stiff resistance against JFC-E forces near Mina As-Sa'ud. The 29th Infantry Division, withdrawing to the east, also was combat ineffective.
The Iraqi 19th, 11th, and 15th Infantry divisions and three SF brigades in Kuwait City were assessed at full strength. These divisions continued to focus on an amphibious assault and prepare for military operations in Kuwait City.
The deep penetration of Coalition forces in the western side of the III Corps prompted several Iraqi battalion-size counterattacks from divisions along the flanks of the penetration. These units took heavy losses.
In the IV Corps area of western Kuwait, in front of I MEF and JFC-N, the Iraqi 20th and 30th Infantry divisions were assessed as combat ineffective by the end of the first day of the ground offensive. The 21st and 16th Infantry divisions appeared to be falling back to a defensive line south and west of 'Ali As-Salim Airfield. The 6th Armored Division, west of 'Ali As-Salim Airfield, was heavily reduced.
By the end of G + 1, five VII Corps infantry divisions, one in US VII Corps zone in the tri-border area, were in jeopardy of being isolated on the front lines. The 12th Armored Division, in front of the 1st UK Armoured Division, was engaged with Coalition armored forces as it attempted to maintain a LOC for the 47th, 27th, and 28th Infantry divisions along the US VII Corps eastern flank. From west to east in front of the VII Corps, the 48th, 25th, 26th, 31st, and 45th Infantry divisions were engaged by VII Corps armored and mechanized infantry divisions and rendered combat ineffective.
By the end of G + 1, the Iraqi forward corps were assessed as combat ineffective - no longer capable of conducting a coherent defense in sector. It was apparent the Iraqi corps commanders could not see the battlefield and did not understand the scope and intent of Coalition ground forces operations. The IV Corps could use forces in a limited counterattack, but was unable to offer more than isolated pockets of resistance. Iraqi front line forces had been outmaneuvered by the Coalition ground offensive. Baghdad Radio, at this point, reported that Saddam Hussein had ordered his forces to withdraw from Kuwait.
Army Component, Central Command
In the west, XVIII Airborne Corps continued to drive into Iraq to
interdict LOC and isolate Iraqi forces. The 82nd Airborne Division
followed the 6th French Light Armored Division along Phase Line Smash.
As the 82nd Airborne Division entered FOB Cobra, the 101st Airborne
Division (Air Assault) sent its 3rd Brigade on the deepest air assault
in military history. The 3rd Brigade air assaulted north from its TAA
along the Saudi-Iraqi border 175 miles to occupy observation and
blocking positions on the south bank of the Euphrates River, just west
of the town of An-Nasiriyah and a few miles north of the Iraqi air
base at Tallil.
In the early morning the same day, the 24th Infantry Division (Mechanized) moved toward its first major objective. At 0300 hours the 197th Infantry Brigade attacked Objective Brown, in the western part of the division sector. The brigade found hungry prisoners, dazed by the heavy artillery preparation. By 0700, the 197th secured its objective and established blocking positions to the east and west along MSR Virginia. Shortly thereafter, the 2nd Brigade, 24th Infantry Division (Mechanized) attacked Objective Grey, encountering no enemy fire and capturing 300 prisoners; it also established blocking positions to the east. 1st Brigade, 24th Infantry Division (Mechanized) continued northwest in the center of the division sector and attacked and secured Objective Red.
The 24th Infantry Division (Mechanized) had taken three major objectives and hundreds of prisoners against weak resistance from the Iraqi 26th and 35th Infantry divisions. By the end of the day, XVIII Airborne Corps had advanced in all division sectors, established an FOB, placed brigade-size blocking positions in the Euphrates River Valley, and taken thousands of prisoners.
On the VII Corps left flank, the 1st Armored Division resumed its attack shortly after daybreak and made contact first with units of the Iraqi 26th Infantry Division. While the division was about 35 to 40 miles from its objective, CAS strikes began, followed by attack helicopter strikes. As it approached the objective, artillery, rocket launchers, and tactical missile batteries delivered preparatory fires. When Division lead elements came into visual range, PSYOP teams broadcast surrender appeals. However, the Iraqis attempted to mount an attack, and a brigade of the 1st Armored Division reported destroying 40 to 50 tanks and armored personnel carriers of the Iraqi 26th Infantry Division in 10 minutes at a range of 2,000 meters.
"As troopers from the 82nd Airborne Division advanced to the valley, they were faced with a unique challenge. The commander of the 1st Battalion (Airborne), 505th Infantry, relates: 'The 3rd Brigade's mission largely was to secure Tallil Airfield and destroy enemy aircraft. A major concern in securing the airfield was the local civilians, many of whom were engaged in battling Saddam's army themselves. Our charter was to capture and destroy weapons. We had to be careful we didn't have any confrontations with the local peasants or with the resistance fighters. After a couple of days, you got to know who was who on the resistance fighters - who you could trust and who you couldn't. Soon, the area became a major treatment center for Iraqi refugees. ' 'We treated well over 1,000 civilians who were fighting with the resistance,'said a 3rd Brigade medical NCO. 'They were pretty messed up. I've seen every kind of combat wound that you could imagine - everything, it was there.'"
- Army Times, 21 October 1991
"A sergeant of D Company, 1st Battalion, 35th Armor, commented: 'At 2,800 meters, the tankers engaged tanks. I watched Iraqi tank turrets flip 40 feet into the air, and was dumbfounded. I was amazed by how much firepower we had, how much destruction we could do. It was a sobering thought.'"
- Army Times, 16 September 1991
During this attack, the two companies of 3/1 Attack Helicopter Battalion encountered minimal resistance in the form of T-55 tanks and BMPs, which they destroyed. The surprising aspect of this operation was that it was the first of many instances where hundreds of Iraqi soldiers ran out of their bunkers and attempted to surrender after seeing Army helicopters in their midst. Without the means to hold them, the aeroscout pilots played "cowboys" to the "herd" of Iraqi soldiers, hovering them into a tight circle until the lead ground elements of the Division's 1st Brigade arrived and secured them.
- Contributed by the US Army Aviation Center
Later in the night of 25 February, the 2nd ACR encountered elements of the Tawakalna Division and the 50th Brigade of the 12th Armored Division. It destroyed the 50th Brigade then assumed a hasty defense and prepared to continue the attack against the Tawakalna at first light on 26 February.
In the 1st Infantry Division sector, the 1st UK Armoured Division passed through the breach lanes the 1st Infantry Division had opened. While the 1st Infantry Division expanded the breach by defeating enemy brigades to the front, the British turned right to hit the Iraqi 52nd Armored Division. That easterly attack by the British marked the start of nearly continuous combat for the "Desert Rats" during the next two days.
Joint Forces Command - North
JFC-N, in the center, continued to advance. At approximately 0400
hours the Egyptian forces continued their breaching operations and
advanced towards their initial objectives. The Egyptian Corps had
secured a 16-square kilometer bridgehead, but their objective had not
been secured by the early hours of 26 February. TF Khalid continued
breaching obstacles and advanced toward its objectives early on 25
February. By the end of the day, the Saudis and Kuwaitis on the right
flank had seized their objective and consolidated positions. Other
units, including the 9th Syrian Armored Division followed and
supported. The Syrian reconnaissance battalion continued to screen
along the border between JFC-N and MARCENT.
I Marine Expeditionary Force
On G + 1, I MEF advanced against the fiercest resistance it
encountered during the ground offensive. In the 2nd MARDIV sector, an
Iraqi armored counterattack was repulsed by the 6th Marine Regiment
using a combination of CAS, artillery, tanks, and TOW missiles.
Attacked by aircraft as they formed for the attack south of Kuwait
City, the Iraqis were reduced to less than brigade strength by the
time they actually attacked the regiment. Attacking on schedule, the
2nd MARDIV, with the Tiger Brigade on the left, 6th Marines in the
center, and 8th Marines on the right, advanced against elements of the
Iraqi 3rd Armored Division and 1st Mechanized Division that had
assumed defensive positions on the high ground to the north and
northwest and in an area of buildings and fences known as the
"ice-cube tray". Weather combined with intense smog from burning oil
wells reduced visibility to a few yards. Fighting in near darkness,
Marine M1s of the 2nd Tank Battalion (supporting the 8th Marines) and
the Tiger Brigade, equipped with the M1A1 and enhanced optics, proved
particularly successful at engaging armor at long ranges. Other Marine
tank crews, in M60A1 tanks, relied on crew skill to outfight the
enemy. In the "ice-cube tray", tanks and infantry cleared buildings
and trenches at close ranges in the darkness, finally securing the
area after 2200 against stiff resistance.
On the right of the I MEF sector, the 1st MARDIV encountered a strong counterattack near the Al-Burqan Oil field which, at one point, was fought within 300 meters of the division CP. It lasted several hours, and involved close combat.
AH-1W and AV-8B maneuvered in con junction with tanks and LAV to overwhelm the enemy thrust. One FAC found himself controlling the simultaneous attacks of eight different aircraft. At times the fighting became so confused that Marine and Iraqi units intermingled. One Iraqi tank commander drove his tank up to the TF Papa Bear Command Post and surrendered. In the end, the attacking formations were destroyed. In this type of fighting, GPS and thermal imaging systems proved their worth, as did training and discipline. The final tally of the battle (according to 1st MARDIV) included more than 100 Iraqi armored vehicles destroyed and at least 1,500 EPWs. The 1st MARDIV completed consolidation of Ahmad Al-Jabir airfield and pushed to within 10 miles of Kuwait City.
Silver Star citation of a Marine Corporal: "The next morning [G + 11, the enemy counterattacked ... with tanks and infantry. Acting immediately and with no regard for his personal safety, the Corporal grabbed an AT-4 and moved forward through thick smoke and automatic weapons fire. Sighting a tank, he worked himself close to its right flank, fired, and single handedly destroyed the tank."
- I MEF Award Citation
With the Coalition ground advance well under way, a Navy amphibious
force made its final effort to convince the Iraqi command that CENTCOM
would launch a major over-the-beach assault into Kuwait. Beginning
late on 24 February and continuing during the following two days, the
Navy landed the 5th MEB, a 7,500-man force at Al-Mish'ab which was
attached to MARCENT as the I MEF reserve. An ATF also conducted strike
missions against Faylaka and Bubiyan islands, along with simulated
Marine helicopter assaults and artillery raids along the Kuwaiti
coast. Feints and demonstrations by Navy and US amphibious forces off
the coast tied down up to 10 divisions. Both the USS Missouri and USS
Wisconsin continued to provide NGFS for I MEF and JFC-E. The 4th MEB
remained afloat, ready for commitment. 4th MEB also conducted air
strikes against Faylaka Island and continued to carry out amphibious
feints along the coast at Bubiyan Island.
Coalition air forces flew a record number of sorties - 3,159, of which 1,997 were direct combat missions. Priority missions remained counter air, CAS, and interdiction. USMC air priority went to ground forces with second priority to targets further inside Iraq. In the early morning hours, Iraqi 3rd Armored Division elements, massing west of Kuwait International Airport, were caught in the open. Air strikes destroyed the force's counterattack potential, eliminating an obstacle to the rapidly advancing ground forces.
SOF conducted SR patrols that reported enemy dispositions. SOF liaison teams remained with Coalition units and continued to advise and support these forces in battle.
G + 2 (26 February) - Destruction of 2nd Echelon Operational Forces
and Sealing The Battlefield
Enemy Actions and Disposition
During this period, the massive exodus of Iraqi forces from the
eastern part of the theater began. Elements of the Iraqi III Corps
were pushed back into Kuwait City by I MEF and JFC-E. They were joined
by Iraqi occupation troops from Kuwait City. Iraqi units became
intermingled and disordered. During the early morning of 26 February,
military and commandeered civilian vehicles of every description,
loaded with Iraqi soldiers and goods looted from Kuwait, clogged the
main four-lane highway north from Kuwait City. To deny Iraqi
commanders the opportunity to reorganize their forces and establish a
cohesive defense, these forces were struck repeatedly by air attacks.
Although many Iraqis surrendered, some did not. There were several intense engagements, particularly with the Republican Guards. But by sunset on G + 2, Coalition forces had pushed hundreds of miles into Iraq; DIA assessments reflected that they captured more than 30,000 EPW; destroyed or rendered combat ineffective 26 of 43 Iraqi divisions; overwhelmed the Iraqi decision making process and rendered its C2 ineffective; and forced the Iraqi Army into full retreat.
Army Component, Central Command
XVIII Airborne Corps turned its attack northeast and advanced into
the Euphrates River Valley. With the 6th French Light Armored
Division, the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) and 82nd Airborne
Divisions protecting the western and northern flanks, the 24th
Infantry Division (Mechanized) led the Corps attack into the valley.
Weather became a factor at this point in the offensive; a dust storm
in the objective area kicked up thick clouds of swirling dust. The
24th Infantry Division (Mechanized) moved out at 1400, with three
brigades heading toward the Iraqi airfields at Jalibah and Tallil.
During these attacks, the 3rd ACR screened the division's southern and
eastern flanks and the 24th Infantry Division (Mechanized) encountered
its heaviest resistance of the war.
The Iraqi 47th and 49th Infantry divisions, the Republican Guard Nebuchadnezzar Infantry Division, and the 26th Commando Brigade stood and fought. The terrain gave them a clear advantage. Iraqi artillery and automatic weapons were dug into rocky escarpments. For four hours, the 1st Brigade of the 24th Infantry Division (Mechanized) received intense tank and artillery fire. The division reported that American artillery crews located enemy batteries with Firefinder radars and returned three to six rounds for every round of incoming, destroying six Iraqi artillery battalions.
In the dust storm and darkness, American technology gave the US forces a clear advantage. Tank, infantry fighting vehicle, and attack helicopter crews worked so well together that they could spot and hit Iraqi tanks at ranges over 3500 meters long before the Iraqis saw them. Precise tank gunnery, M-19 automatic grenade launcher fire from the fighting vehicles and armored personnel carriers, overwhelming artillery, rocket, and AH-64 support took the 24th Infantry Division (Mechanized) through the enemy armor and artillery units. This combination of superior weaponry and technique forced Iraqi troops out of their bunkers and vehicles. They surrendered in droves.
After a day and night of hard fighting, all three brigades of the 24th Infantry Division (Mechanized) were poised just south of the airfields. The 6th French Light Armored Division secured and cleared all of its objectives and moved to protect the theater left flank. The 82nd Airborne Division continued to perform rear area security, especially protection of the MSRs. The 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault)'s 3rd Brigade continued to interdict the main LOC between Baghdad and the KTO and planning began to move its 2nd Brigade to the east to secure FOB Viper and attack the North Al-Basrah road.
The XVIII Airborne Corps had achieved all its objectives; interdicting the LOC in the Euphrates River Valley, blocking reinforcement of Iraqi forces in the KTO, and completing the envelopment of Saddam Hussein's forces in southern Iraq and Kuwait.
VII Corps continued its deep envelopment into Iraq before turning right and attacking reserve units and continuing the attack to destroy the Republican Guards. CINCCENT directed VII Corps to accelerate the pace of its attack. The 11th Aviation Brigade's AH-64 Apaches made two attacks deep into Iraqi territory, one at 2100 hours, and the next at 0300 hours. These attacks destroyed significant numbers of Iraqi armored vehicles and, including air interdiction, extended VII Corps battle in depth to over 100 kilometers.
In the 3rd Armored Division zone, the division crossed Corps Phase Line Smash just after daylight, and attacked objective Collins, east of Al-Busayyah. With the capture of those objectives, VII Corps turned its advance to assault directly east into Republican Guards' strongholds.
As the attack east began, VII Corps presented in the northern part of its sector a front of three divisions and one regiment: 1st Armored Division on the left (north), 3rd Armored Division in the center, 2nd ACR and the 1st Infantry Division on the right (south). Farther south, the 1st UK Armored Division advanced on a separate axis into Objective Waterloo, and on to the junction of Phase Line Smash and the Corps boundary. The 3rd Armored Division pressed on, turning northeast, and hitting the Republican Guard Tawakalna Division. Late that night, the 1st Armored Division mounted a night assault on the elite enemy unit, and in fighting that continued into the next day, destroyed a substantial number of tanks and other vehicles.
In the early afternoon, the 2nd ACR advanced east through a sandstorm to Objective Collins. The regiment was screening in front of the 1st Infantry Division, which had just arrived after clearing the mine belt along the Saudi border. The Iraqis had long expected the American attack to come from the south and east, and were now frantically turning hundreds of tanks, towed artillery pieces and other vehicles to meet the onslaught from the west. On the Iraqi side, unit locations were changing almost by the minute. As the 2nd ACR neared Phase Line Tangerine, 20 miles east of Objective Collins, it received fire from a building on the "69 Easting," a north-south line on military maps. The regiment returned fire and continued east. They were met with more enemy fire for the next two hours. About 1600, the regiment found T-72 tanks in prepared defensive positions at "73 Easting." Using its thermal imagery equipment, the regiment destroyed every tank that appeared.
This was a different kind of battle from what Americans had fought so far. The destruction of the first tanks did not signal the surrender of hundreds of Iraqi soldiers. The regiment had found two Iraqi divisions willing to put up a hard fight, the 12th Armored and the Republican Guard Tawakalna divisions. The regiment found a seam between the two divisions, and for a time became the only American unit obviously outnumbered and outgunned during the campaign. But here again, thermal imaging equipment cut through the dust storm to give gunners a long-range view of enemy vehicles and grant the first-shot advantage. For four hours, the 2nd ACR destroyed tanks and armored personnel carriers while attack helicopters knocked out artillery batteries.
When this "Battle of 73 Easting" ended early in the evening of 26 February, the 2nd ACR reported they had destroyed at least 29 tanks and 24 armored personnel carriers, and had taken 1,300 prisoners. That night, the 1st Infantry Division (Mechanized) passed through the regiment and continued the attack east.
The evening of 26 February, the 3rd Armored Division attacked due east through an enemy reconnaissance screen and into the Republican Guards' Tawakalna Division. This attack, under extremely adverse weather conditions, was typical of the heavy fighting encountered by the VII Corps as it engaged Republican Guard Forces. These forces were heavily armored and occupied well constructed defensive emplacements. They had also prepared alternate positions which enabled them to reorient to the west to face the VII Corps attack. Even after extensive bombardment, most elements of the Tawakalna Division remained combat effective. Weather conditions continued to deteriorate and winds gusted from 25-42 knots. Heavy rain and blowing sand often reduced visibility to less than 100 meters. The ceiling was generally very low, and in the words of one senior armor commander, neither Army aviation nor air forces could fly."
"As the 1st Armored Division moved into the Euphrates River Valley and approached Al-Busayyah, the scene is described by members of the 6th Battalion, 6th Infantry: 'At 1500 meters, a T-55 with its turrets winging toward the advancing, US forces was spotted and destroyed, as were three others in rapid succession. We killed the tanks so quickly they didn't get a round off. A fifth tank trying to flee was taken out by an M1A1 main round. The turret flew through the air like a Frisbee. We moved up to the town expecting them to wave white handkerchiefs, and they started shooting at us.'
"'The word was they were going to have the white flags up.' a C Co, 6/6 Inf Bradley vehicle commander said. 'We stopped about 200 meters out, started scanning for white flags, didn't see any.' He spotted a machine-gun position in a building on the left flank, and the Bradley fired 60 rounds into it, turning the building into rubble and taking out the gun.
"The commander of the battalion's C Company, reported some Iraqi soldiers coming to the edge of the town with their hands up. 'My instructions to him were have them come out to you, do not take yourself into RPG range. Immediately after they waved their hands and some shirts, they dropped back behind fortifications and started shooting at us again, so we knew we were going to have to go in and get him.'
"The battalion commander pulled his forces back and ordered the 2nd Battalion, 1st Artillery Regiment to fire a 10-minute artillery prep on the town. He then sent three companies to the east side of town, a tank-heavy security element to the north end of town to catch escaping Iraqi, and a small assault team consisting of a platoon of Bradleys, two Armored Combat Earthmovers and a combat engineer vehicle to the south side of town.
"Once the forces were in position, the three companies opened up. Fire was lifted to allow the assault team to enter from the south. They were hit by small-arms fire and the engineer vehicle opened up. Its huge 165-mm demolition gun fired 21 rounds with devastating impact. 'That totally destroyed all the resistance in the town.'"
- Army Times, 16 September 1991
Later in the engagement, visibility improved enough to employ the division's Apache-equipped attack battalion. In the northern portion of the division zone where the 2nd Brigade operated, the timely arrival of the Apaches (guided by intelligence from JSTARS) caught an enemy mechanized infantry task force as it moved diagonally across the brigade's sector but outside of direct fire range. Their unit was evidently attempting to reinforce other elements of the Tawakalna Division. According to unit after action reports, this engagement resulted in the destruction of eight tanks and nineteen armored vehicles.
Farther south, the 1st UK Armoured Division fought a series of sharp fights with enemy units trying to withdraw. In the largest engagement, the "Desert Rats" destroyed 40 tanks and captured an Iraqi division commander.
Released from its theater reserve mission and attached to the VII Corps, 1st Cavalry Division (Mechanized) raced to the northern limit of the VIII Corps to help attack the Republican Guards.
"During battle, a Bradley scout observer in a screen line forward of an armored task force sustained severe wounds to the groin, legs, and right hand during an engagement with a T-72 tank. Two other crewman were wounded and the Bradley commander killed. Despite his wounds, the private evacuated other more severely wounded crewmen and returned to his vehicle to gather flares and a radio. Because his hand was badly wounded, he used his teeth to open a flare canister, signaled his location, and radioed a report to his platoon. Despite wounds and a burning T-72 in his immediate vicinity, the soldier continued to provide security and comfort to other wounded soldiers until relief arrived. During subsequent medical treatment, he repeatedly told medical personnel to treat fellow wounded soldiers first."
- 3rd Armored Division Award Citation
"The Iraqi vehicles were dug into defensive revetments that limited their fields of fire to the south and southeast. 'You could just see the top of the turret over the berm,' said a tanker. 'So I started shooting two or three feet down from the top. We were shooting sabot rounds right through the berms. You'd hit it and see sparks fly, metal fly, equipment fly.' 'We were told before the battle that you've got to hit 'em in a certain place. But, anything you shot 'em with, they blew up. Using sabot, we blew one turret out of the hole about 20 feet. It landed upside down, said an Abrams tank commander."
- Soldier Magazine, June 1991
The ARCENT commander's nightly situation report summed up operations on the evening of 26 February: "Impressive successes by VII Corps and XVIII Corps have also been accompanied by the challenges of an extremely rapid operational tempo and poor weather. Rain, low ceilings, and dense morning fog have limited close air support against enemy artillery and armor. Rain has also degraded trafficability of main supply routes at a time when rapid tactical advances have extended supply lines and increased sustainment demands. These conditions will not significantly hinder the attack and destruction of the RGFC."
- ARCENT Commander's Situation Report
The Iraqi command, belatedly realizing its forces in Kuwait faced entrapment, had issued orders to begin withdrawing. It was too late. The 2nd MARDIV began the attack at 1200. In a classic example of joint operations, the Tiger Brigade, with 3rd Battalion, 67th Armor in the lead supported by USAF and USMC aircraft, smashed its way to the high ground northwest of Al-Jahra, destroyed the remaining Iraqi resistance and cutting off further Iraqi retreat. Approaching Al-Mutl'a Ridge, the brigade found a minefield and waited for the plows to cut a safety lane. Once through the minefield, the brigade began to find enemy bunker complexes and dug-in armor units. They destroyed the enemy tanks and bunkers. Moving up and over Al-Mutl'a Ridge, the brigade destroyed many antiaircraft artillery (AAA) positions and began to consolidate its position.
"As the 1st Marine Division stepped off in the attack on G + 2, it immediately ran into Iraqi T-72 tanks. The smoke from burning oil wells and bad weather had combined to reduce visibility to only a few yards. Attempts to get close air support were thwarted by this absence of visibility. Out of the darkness emerged two Marine AH-1W's, flying at ground level. Knowing the dire need of the Marines on the ground, they had literally taxied along roads, twice passing under power lines to reach the forward units. Their Hellfire missiles quickly eliminated the Iraqi tank threat."
- I MEF Award Citation
The rest of the 2nd MARDIV reached Al-Jahra, overcoming the Iraqi rear guard dug in south of the city in quarries and dumps. The 6th Marines advanced into the quarry area, encountering stiff resistance from elements of the Iraqi 3rd Armored and 5th Mechanized divisions, some equipped with T-72 tanks. Elaborate bunkers were uncovered that housed brigade CPs, complete with kitchens and classrooms. 1st Battalion, 6th Marines advanced to the outskirts of Al-Jahra, the first Marine unit to reach Kuwait City. Relatively few prisoners were taken since the Iraqi rearguard chose to fight rather than surrender. Hundreds of civilians were encountered for the first time in the operation.
The 1st MARDIV ran into a desperate Iraqi armored defense centered on Kuwait International Airport. With TF Papa Bear in the center leading the attack, TF Ripper on the left, and TF Shepherd on the right, the division fought into the night of 26 February, assisted by 1 6-inch naval gunfire from the USS Wisconsin and Marine CAS. Darkness and intense smoke restricted visibility to only a few yards. TF Shepard was ordered to clear the airport while the other units held up, to ease coordination. The 1st MARDIV finally seized Kuwait International Airport at 0330, 27 February. I MEF After Action Reports reflect more than 250 destroyed tanks and 70 armored vehicles were counted in or near the airport, a testament to the final Iraqi stand. By early morning on 27 February, I MEF had secured all its assigned objectives. I MEF now awaited the arrival of JFC-E and JFC-N, which would liberate Kuwait City.
Joint Forces Command - East
Coalition forces continued operations well ahead of schedule,
meeting generally light resistance. TF Omar continued its attack in
the western sector reaching its objectives. The Qatari battalion
pressed forward and also secured its objectives south of Kuwait City,
as did TF Othman. The UAE motorized infantry battalion screened the
10th RSLF Mechanized Brigade's left flank. JFC-E was so successful
that its western boundary was changed twice, and it was given four
additional objectives. By day's end, preparations were made for a
Pan-Islamic force to enter Kuwait City on 27 February.
Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) and Army helicopters
from 160th Special Operations Aircraft Regiment (SOAR) recovered SF
teams from western Iraq. AFSOC PSYOP EC-130's flew numerous missions
dropping leaflets and broadcasting prerecorded messages for Iraqi
forces to surrender or be destroyed.
Despite the adverse weather, Coalition air crews continued the destruction of vehicles, artillery pieces and fortifications. Support of ground operations took on increased importance in an effort to destroy the Iraqi forces in the KTO.
As I MEF advanced, 3rd MAW fixed- and rotary wing aircraft continued to push forward. A large percentage flew interdiction missions as the MEF attempted to eliminate resistance before it could disrupt advancing ground units. Directed by airborne FACs, attack aircraft, some of whom flew from amphibious ships offshore, blocked the bottleneck formed by the Al-Mutl'a Pass. This action was instrumental in the destruction of major elements of the retreating enemy force.
G + 3 (27 February) - Destruction of The Republican Guards
Coalition forces pressed the attack on the night of 26 February and
pursued the Iraqi forces throughout 27 February against disintegrating
Enemy Actions and Disposition
By the end of G + 3, 33 Iraqi divisions were assessed by DIA as
combat ineffective. Only isolated pockets of Iraqi forces remained in
Kuwait. Most Iraqi Army units had surrendered, been destroyed, or were
retreating. Many retreating units abandoned their equipment as they
fled toward Al-Basrah. Coalition forces were involved in several brisk
engagements with the RGFC; however, these remaining RGFC elements were
operating independently and could no longer conduct cohesive
West and south of Al-Basrah, remnants of Iraqi operational and theater reserve forces attempted to defend against heavy pressure from the Coalition. Remaining elements of the 10th Armored Division linked up with the remains of the RGFC Al-Madinah Division just north of the Iraq-Kuwait border and attempted, unsuccessfully, to defend against advancing US forces. To the west of the city, elements of the RGFC Hammurabi Armored Division with scattered elements of RGFC infantry divisions continued to defend under heavy pressure from advancing Coalition forces. Some parts of these units succeeded in escaping across the Euphrates River. DIA estimates that upwards of 70,000 to 80,000 troops from defeated divisions in Kuwait may have fled into the city of Al-Basrah.
Army Component, Central Command
On the morning of 27 February, XVIII Airborne Corps was prepared to
continue its advance east toward Al-Basrah. But before the assault
could be resumed, the 24th Infantry Division (Mechanized) had to
secure the Euphrates River Valley by taking two airfields still in
Iraqi hands. Tallil airfield was about 20 miles south of the of
An-Nasiriyah and Jalibah airfield lay farther east, near the lake at
Hawr Al-Milh. The mission of taking these two airfields went to the
units which had ended the previous day in positions closest to them.
1st Brigade would support the 2nd Brigade's attack on Jalibah
airfield. The 197th Infantry Brigade, moving north, would take Tallil.
However, before attacks against the airfields could begin, a supply problem had to be solved. The 24th Infantry Division (Mechanized) had moved so fast in two days that fuel tankers were having difficulty keeping up. After halting during the night of the 26 February, the lead tanks had less than 100 gallons of fuel in their 500-gallon tanks. Replenishment fuel was with the brigade trains, but lead elements were not sure where to rendezvous in the desert. Through the initiative of a number of junior officers, the leaders managed to refuel the 24th Infantry Division (Mechanized) vehicles by midnight on 26 February. At 0600 27 February, 1st Brigade moved east; by 1000, Jalibah airfield was secured.
At 1200, the first XVIII Airborne Corps and 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) attack helicopter battalions closed on a new FOB Viper, 200 km east of FOB Cobra which had been secured by the 2nd Brigade, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) assaulting at 1000. Two attack helicopter battalions from the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) were first to the Al-Basrah causeway. Smoke from the burning oil wells reduced visibility to less than 1,000 meters, and it was so dark that the aircrews relied completely on thermal sights. The two battalions destroyed every moving vehicle on the causeway, scattering wreckage and blocking further movement. A second pair of attack battalions flew further north across the Al Hammar Lake and began engaging targets that had already crossed the causeway. With the last escape route now cut, most of Iraqi units were caught between advancing forces of the 24th Infantry Division (Mechanized), the VII Corps and the Euphrates River.
With the 24th Infantry Division (Mechanized) now oriented east after its northern advance, new phase lines were drawn between Tallil airfield and the Ar-Rumaylah oilfields west of Al-Basrah. From the line of departure east of Jalibah airfield, the 24th Infantry Division (Mechanized) advanced east, centering on Highway 8, and tying in with VII Corps to the south. Through the afternoon and night of 27 February, tankers, fighting vehicle gunners, helicopter crews and artillerymen destroyed hundreds of vehicles trying to redeploy to meet the new American attack or simply escape north across the Euphrates River.
In the VII Corps sector, the attack rolled east. VII Corps conducted a coordinated main attack against the three mechanized Republican Guard Divisions - the Tawakalna, the Al-Madinah, and the Hammurabi. As this operation began, the 1st Infantry Division, in the south of the Corps zone, conducted a night passage through the 2nd ACR, and immediately engaged the Iraqi forces. To the north, the 1st and 3rd Armored divisions attacked to the east and the 1st Cavalry Division attacked on the northern flank to prevent an Iraqi breakout in that direction. These attacks were closely synchronized combined arms and joint operations. CAS was first shifted deeper to attack the next expected targets. Waves of artillery and AH-64 battalions then were called in to fix the Iraqis and prevent them from maneuvering effectively against the approaching Americans. With the Iraqis set up, the massed maneuver elements of VII Corps struck one decisive blow after another. In other sectors, Iraqi elements broke and ran. Here, they stood and fought.
The battles begun the previous afternoon continued through the morning of 27 February as VII Corps divisions bore into Republican Guard units trying to escape or reposition. As the assault gained momentum, the VII Corps, for the first time, deployed its full combat power. The 1st Cavalry Division headed north to join the VII Corps assault. By 2100, the 1st Cavalry Division was in position on the extreme left of the corps sector, tying in with the 24th Infantry Division (Mechanized) across the corps boundary. Now the VII Corps could send five divisions and an ACR against the Republican Guard. From left (north) to right, VII Corps deployed the 1st Cavalry Division, 1st Armored Division, 3rd Armored Division, 1st Infantry Division (Mechanized), 2nd ACR, and the 1st UK Armoured Division. GPS receivers helped keep unit flanks aligned with one another and helped avoid friendly engagements.
Early on 27 February, after a night of intense fighting, the 3rd Armored Division's 3rd Brigade moved through the 2nd Brigade, conducting a passage of lines while in contact with the enemy. This demanding maneuver required extensive coordination in order to preclude inflicting casualties on friendly forces. The level of training and the high quality soldiers and leaders were crucial to the success of this maneuver. Under a supporting artillery barrage, the 3rd Brigade then attacked the Iraqi 12th Armored Division. After a sharp fight, the 3rd Brigade broke through the enemy's defensive positions and drove into Kuwait.
Late in the evening on 27 February, the 3rd Armored Division again employed Apaches under adverse weather conditions and struck deep into the rear area of the enemy 10th Armored Division. These attacks behind the Iraqi lines broke the continuity of their defense and forced them to abandon both their positions and much of their equipment. Together with attacks by the 1st Infantry Division, heavy frontal pressure from the 1st and 3rd Brigades of the 3rd Armored Division, supported by MLRS fires, forced front line enemy units to retreat directly into the disorganized rear elements. This combined arms operation prevented reorganization and completed the rout of the Iraqi 10th Armored Division.
The 1st Armored Division also fought remnants of the Tawakalna, Al-Madinah and Adnan Republican Guards Divisions. The 2nd Brigade, 1st Armored Division, destroyed 61 tanks and 34 armored personnel carriers of the Al-Madinah Division in less than one hour. The 1st Infantry Division (Mechanized) overran the 12th Armored Division and scattered the 1 0th Armored Division into retreat. On the south flank, the 1st UK Armoured Division destroyed the 52nd Armored Division, then overran three infantry divisions. To finish the RGFC destruction, VII Corps conducted a double envelopment involving the 1st Cavalry Division on the left and 1st Infantry Division (Mechanized) on the right. The trap closed on disorganized bands of Iraqis streaming north in full retreat.
The VII Corps pressed its attack farther east. The 1st Infantry Division (Mechanized) established blocking positions on the north-south highway connecting Al-Basrah to Kuwait City. In the early morning hours of 28 February, corps artillery units fired an enormous preparation involving all long-range weapons: 1 55-mm and 8-inch self-propelled artillery pieces, rocket launchers, and tactical missiles. Attack helicopters followed to strike suspected enemy positions. The advance east continued until offensive operations were halted at 0800, with VII Corps' armored divisions just inside western Kuwait.
Joint Forces Command - North
Egyptian forces closed on 'Ali As-Salim airfield. The Kuwaiti
Ash-Shahid Brigade and 4th Armored Brigade (RSLF) secured Objective
Hotel. Syrian units continued to handle EPWs for JFC-N. One Syrian
Brigade continued to secure the JFC-N LOC. Another Syrian Brigade,
screening the Saudi border moved northeast to Join the rest of the
division. A brigade size force entered Kuwait City and prepared to
occupy the western part.
I Marine Expeditionary Force
In the I MEF sector on 27 February, the 2nd MARDIV began the fourth
day of the ground war by holding positions and maintaining close
liaison with JFC-N units on the left flank. At 0500 27 February, Tiger
Brigade troops made contact with Egyptian units, and four hours later
JFC-N columns passed through the 2nd Marine Division. The Division
remained on Al-Mutl'a Ridge and Phase Line Bear until offensive
operations ended at 0800 28 February. To the east, 1st MARDIV
consolidated its area, clearing the last pockets of resistance from
near Kuwait International Airport and linking up with JFC-E units
advancing along the coast.
Two small, but symbolic, incidents occurred on this final day of combat. Twelve Marines from the 2nd Force Reconnaissance Company infiltrated into Kuwait City in the early morning darkness of 27 February, to be greeted by jubilant Kuwaitis and American flags waving from buildings, despite sporadic fire from Iraqi stragglers. In Al-Jahra, a Marine officer slipped into the city on the afternoon of 27 February to contact the Kuwaiti Resistance, which was battling Iraqi rear-guard forces and stragglers. After conducting a reconnaissance patrol of key facilities in the city in the company of six well-armed Kuwaiti resistance fighters, he found himself the guest of honor at a dinner celebrating the liberation of Kuwait.
Joint Forces Command - East
JFC-E's offensive actions secured final objectives south of Kuwait
City. Forward elements continued into Kuwait City and linked up with
JFC-N forces which were entering Kuwait City from the west. JFC-E
forces began to occupy the eastern part of Kuwait City.
Coalition air forces continued to provide air interdiction (AI) and
CAS in adverse weather. A-10s and F-1 6s flew from bases in Saudi
Arabia during the day while F-15Es and LANTIRN-equipped F-16s attacked
during the night. Carriers in the Gulf provided A-6s, A-7s and F/A-18s
to strike targets beyond the fire support coordination line (FSCL).
F/A-18sand A-6s from Bahrain and forward-based AV-8Bs attacked targets
and responded to requests for CAS in Kuwait. AH-64s and AH-1Ws
provided close-in fire support for ground forces. Some aircraft flying
combat missions were damaged and lost to AAA and IR missiles as
deteriorating weather conditions forced aircraft to fly at lower, more
The 3rd MAW, still pushing AH-1W attack helicopters and attack aircraft to Marine ground units, shifted its main effort to the north, along the main highway from Kuwait City to Iraq. Joining in the effort were AV-8Bs flying from the USS Nassau (LHA 4) in the Gulf, the first time in Naval history that attack aircraft had conducted missions from an amphibious ship. Behind I MEF's lines, heavy lift CH-53s and medium lift CH-46Es shuttled back and forth between ground combat units and logistics bases, carrying supplies forward and returning loaded with enemy prisoners, who were shuttled to Coalition EPW compounds.
SOF recaptured the American embassy in Kuwait City as other coalition forces liberated the city and linked up with Kuwaiti Resistance forces and helped clear key government buildings. Naval Special Warfare units took the former Kuwaiti Police Headquarters and captured numerous documents depicting C2 of the Iraqi-supported terrorist campaign.
G + 4 (28 February) - Offensive Operations Cease
Army Component, Central Command
By the time offensive operations were halted, XVIII Airborne Corps
had completed its advance into Iraq, cutting off Iraqi retreat and
helping with the RGFC's final destruction. The 24th Infantry Division
with the 3rd ACR continued its attack to the east to block enemy
withdrawal and completed the elimination of the RGFC. The 82nd
Airborne Division continued to clear objectives Red, Gold, and Orange.
The 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) continued operations along
Highway 8 while securing FOBs Cobra and Viper and interdicting the
North Al-Basrah road.
When offensive operations ended at 0800 28 February, the 24th Infantry Division (Mechanized) lead elements stood along a phase line only 30 miles west of Al-Basrah. The division established a hasty defense along the appropriately named phase line "Victory," and there the XVIII Airborne Corps advance ended.
In the VII Corps sector, VII Corps continued to attack early on 28 February to destroy elements of remaining Iraqi divisions west of Al-Basrah. 1st Armored Division attacked and secured Objective Bonn. 3rd Armored Division cleared Objective Dorset after meeting stiff resistance and destroying more than 250 enemy vehicles, then pursued remaining enemy elements towards Objective Minden. The 1st UK Armoured Division attacked to the east to clear Objective Varsity, encountering limited resistance. After attacking across the zone and destroying RGFC remnants, the VII Corps established blocking positions with the 1st Infantry Division and 1st Armored Division along the Al-Jahra/AI-Basrah MSR. 1st Cavalry Division, 1st Armored Division, 3rd Armored Division, and the 2nd ACR secured their objectives and cleared positions short of the Corps limit of advance, which was the MSR between Al-Jahra and Al-Basrah.
In 90 hours of continuous movement and combat, VII Corps achieved devastating results against the best units of the Iraqi army. VII Corps reported destroying more than a dozen Iraqi divisions; an estimated 1,300 tanks, 1,200 fighting vehicles and APCs; 285 artillery pieces and 100 air defense systems; and captured nearly 22,000 enemy soldiers. At the same time, the corps had extremely light casualties and combat vehicles losses.
After defeating the enemy, VII Corps focused attention on humanitarian operations as did other US units. US forces ensured that Iraqi citizens, including Iraqi military personnel, were treated compassionately and with dignity. To do this essential services were restored as quickly as possible. For example, VII Corps humanitarian support included treating almost 30,000 Iraqi civilians in military health care facilities, supplying over a million meals, and reopening the health clinic and school in Safwan. In addition, VII Corps protected 12,000 Iraqi refugees in Safwan and at a camp near Rafhah, built a camp north of Rafhah that would hold 30,000 refugees, and provided transportation for refugees who chose to leave Iraq.
The ground campaign's results were impressive. The round offensive
lasted 100 hours and achieved all of CINCCENT's objectives. US and
After cessation of hostilities, most ground unit intelligence
sections sent teams of soldiers to walk the battlefields and more
accurately assess the number of enemy armored vehicles damaged, or
captured. Information from these teams was sent to CENTCOM. The
CENTCOM Joint Intelligence Center analyzed the numbers reported from
the field and in many cases validated them with imagery or other
sources of intelligence. Analysis and correlation of data was
completed by 18 March 1991. The final numbers of enemy vehicles
estimated by CENTCOM as destroyed or captured by Coalition forces
during the entire Operation Desert Storm campaign were 3847 tanks,
1450 armored personnel carriers, and 2917 artillery pieces. It is
important to note that these numbers are estimates only. (Chapter VI
contains additional information on BDA evaluations.)
Final CENTCOM estimates were that only five to seven of their 43
combat divisions remained capable of offensive operations and an
estimated 86,000 prisoners had been captured (64,000 by US forces).
The combined Coalition forces-ground, air, naval, special, and
supporting forces - had won one of the fastest and most complete
victories in military history.
However, no examination of the ground campaign would be complete if
it dealt solely with assembly of forces and support structure in the
theater of operations and the execution of the battle plans. The
foundation of Operation Desert Storm was laid in the immediate
aftermath of Vietnam. Developments within the US military were set in
the context of the US-Soviet conflict and focused on combat operations
in central Europe against a massive, armor-heavy threat. Programs
begun in the mid-1970s reorganized the armed services on a volunteer
basis, began to revise doctrine based on maneuver warfare, revitalized
the noncommissioned officer and officer education programs, and
formulated a long-range modernization effort. These and other steps
combined to create the most capable land force in US history. It was
this force that defeated one of the largest armies in the world - with
more than 43 committed divisions and 10,000 items of combat equipment.
One hundred hours of ground combat was too short a period to form
comprehensive judgments about specific strengths or shortcomings. Much
evidence remains anecdotal. In addition, the theater, the enemy and
the global political situation were unique. Nonetheless, the Operation
Desert Storm victory was unquestionably enabled by many years of
thought, realistic planning, new doctrinal concepts, new unit designs
and structures, an investment strategy for equipment modernization,
and a training strategy for all components. The following observations
reflect the essential elements of the land force's success.
Quality people are the single most important requirement for US
forces. Without capable, motivated young men and women, technology
alone will not be decisive. Good leadership and training are essential
to readiness. Well-trained forces are confident in themselves, their
leaders, and their equipment. The leaders of Operation Desert Storm
were developed through a combination of practical experience and
formal instruction. US combat units were led by seasoned professionals
at every level - platoon sergeants with 10 years' troop duty; company
commanders, developed through progressive assignments for six years to
prepare them for command; and battalion commanders with 17 years'
service behind them, much of it in tactical assignments. Operation
Desert Storm was rapid, successful, and cost relatively few American
casualties because US forces maintained high levels of combat
readiness in peacetime.
The systematic evolution of doctrine before Operation Desert Storm
served the land forces well. Service doctrines that stressed maneuver
warfare fundamentals, coupled with joint doctrine for air, land, and
maritime operations under a unified commander were a significant
advantage. Operation Desert Storm was a clear demonstration of the
overwhelming effectiveness of joint and combined operations
synchronized by sound doctrine and experienced leaders.
The proper balance of land forces - light, airborne, air assault,
armored, special operations and amphibious, along with appropriate
combat support (CS) and combat service support (CSS) Active and
Reserve, gave the Coalition the range of capabilities necessary to
defeat Saddam Hussein.
Modern weapons systems and technology, in the hands of well-trained
and well-led forces, provide the critical edge in modern combat. US
ground forces had equipment that enabled them to decisively defeat the
Iraqi forces. Moreover, US forces were trained to maximize this
equipment's effectiveness. Tough training, technological superiority,
and continued modernization are crucial to ensuring the lethality of
the smaller forces of the future.
The weather and terrain conditions, on balance, favored Coalition
victory. As demanding as the climate was, Coalition forces were
well-equipped and supported. Iraqi forces, often isolated in static
defenses for long periods, were steadily demoralized by air and
psychological operations along with the harsh conditions Accordingly,
many Iraqis lost the will to resist by the time the ground operation
began. The combination of austere terrain and desert weather coupled
with extended periods of reduced visibility let US forces exploit the
advantages of long-range weapons and all-weather, day-night sight
systems. In many instances, this provided the crucial edge for success
and contributed to the low casualty rate.
Joint and combined exercises, security assistance, and
military-to-military contacts produced valuable relationships and
infrastructure within the region that contributed to the creation of a
militarily effective Coalition. Many US military leaders were
accustomed to operating with Arab and other Islamic forces, and thus
were adept at modifying US operational practices to accommodate other
nations' requirements. The US doctrine, strategy, and tactics,
developed originally in response to the Soviet threat to Western
Europe, stressed maneuver warfare based on continuous operations,
flexibility, agility, initiative and synchronization, attributes that
served Coalition commanders well as they planned and executed the
ground operation against Saddam Hussein. Years of cooperation and
combined operations with in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization
(NATO) smoothed integration of European allies into the operation. In
the end, the Coalition executed an integrated campaign that combined
the combat power of each Coalition partner. Although CINCCENT did not
exercise total control over all Coalition forces, unity of effort was
achieved through careful and systematic coordination.
(From a videotaped interview by the VII Corps Public Affairs Office)
Joint Forces Command - North
JFC-N ceased offensive operations, secured enemy locations in their
area, and consolidated positions. Elements of the Egyptian Ranger
Regiment secured the Egyptian Embassy and the 6th Brigade, 4th
Egyptian Armored Division began clearing the western part of Kuwait
City. The 3rd Egyptian Mechanized Division screened north from its
position at Al-Abraq.
I Marine Expeditionary Force
The final day of the ground offensive found I MEF in defensive
position outside of Kuwait City. In the 2nd MARDIV sector, the 6th and
8th Marines had spent the previous night planning to attack into
Al-Jahra to seize the key Kuwait military bases in the area and secure
the northern road. Liaison had been established with the Kuwaiti
resistance, now in control of most of the city, to ensure that Marines
and resistance fighters would not fire on one another. However, when
offensive operations ended, the Marines remained outside the city as
planned. 1st MARDIV consolidated its positions. I MEF assisted the
passage of Arab-Islamic forces into Kuwait City. The 3rd MAW, ordered
to stand down, provided helicopter support, moving supplies and
logistics to forward units, and flew CAP over the MEF sector. During
the ground offensive, 3rd MAW had flown 9,569 sorties in support of
Marine and Coalition forces, 8,910 of which were fixed-wing sorties in
support of the advancing ground troops.
Joint Forces Command - East
JFC-E ceased offensive operations and consolidated south of the
Seventh Ring Road in Kuwait City. TF Victory of the Saudi SF secured
the Saudi Embassy. One battalion-size task force entered Kuwait City
and remained near the Sixth Ring Road. Royal Saudi Marines occupied
Mina As-Sa'ud. Other JFC-E forces continued to clear enemy in their
Summary of the Ground Campaign
When offensive operations ended, the Coalition faced the beaten
remnants of a once-formidable foe. Coalition ground forces, with
tremendous support from air and naval forces, had defeated the Iraqi
Army. Coalition armies stood on the banks of the Euphrates River,
stretched across the Iraqi and Kuwaiti deserts and patrolled a
liberated Kuwait City.
The ground campaign was clearly a success and the final, crucial
element in a decisive Coalition victory. The Coalition forged an
effective fighting force, destroyed much of the Iraqi army, and
liberated Kuwait while sustaining light casualties. This overall
victory was achieved through detailed planning and bold, aggressive
execution. Coalition air forces rapidly achieved air superiority in
the KTO and set the stage for the Coalition ground forces' dramatic
envelopment, destruction of the combat effectiveness of the Republican
Guards and defeat of Saddam Hussein's forces in detail. This is not to
say Coalition forces executed flawlessly, or always operated strictly
according to the dictates of established doctrine; but they showed
great professionalism and often improvised brilliantly. Finally, the
enemy's limitations and aspects of the weather and terrain each
contributed at times to ultimate Coalition victory.
A soldier from the 3rd Armored Division's A Troop, 4th Squadron, 7th
Cavalry was asked if it was worth it. "Gut level? Yeah it was worth
it. and for all those people back home that supported us, who believed
in us, we did it for them."
The ground campaign's results were impressive. The round offensive lasted 100 hours and achieved all of CINCCENT's objectives. US and Coalition forces:
After cessation of hostilities, most ground unit intelligence sections sent teams of soldiers to walk the battlefields and more accurately assess the number of enemy armored vehicles damaged, or captured. Information from these teams was sent to CENTCOM. The CENTCOM Joint Intelligence Center analyzed the numbers reported from the field and in many cases validated them with imagery or other sources of intelligence. Analysis and correlation of data was completed by 18 March 1991. The final numbers of enemy vehicles estimated by CENTCOM as destroyed or captured by Coalition forces during the entire Operation Desert Storm campaign were 3847 tanks, 1450 armored personnel carriers, and 2917 artillery pieces. It is important to note that these numbers are estimates only. (Chapter VI contains additional information on BDA evaluations.)
Final CENTCOM estimates were that only five to seven of their 43 combat divisions remained capable of offensive operations and an estimated 86,000 prisoners had been captured (64,000 by US forces). The combined Coalition forces-ground, air, naval, special, and supporting forces - had won one of the fastest and most complete victories in military history.
However, no examination of the ground campaign would be complete if it dealt solely with assembly of forces and support structure in the theater of operations and the execution of the battle plans. The foundation of Operation Desert Storm was laid in the immediate aftermath of Vietnam. Developments within the US military were set in the context of the US-Soviet conflict and focused on combat operations in central Europe against a massive, armor-heavy threat. Programs begun in the mid-1970s reorganized the armed services on a volunteer basis, began to revise doctrine based on maneuver warfare, revitalized the noncommissioned officer and officer education programs, and formulated a long-range modernization effort. These and other steps combined to create the most capable land force in US history. It was this force that defeated one of the largest armies in the world - with more than 43 committed divisions and 10,000 items of combat equipment.
One hundred hours of ground combat was too short a period to form comprehensive judgments about specific strengths or shortcomings. Much evidence remains anecdotal. In addition, the theater, the enemy and the global political situation were unique. Nonetheless, the Operation Desert Storm victory was unquestionably enabled by many years of thought, realistic planning, new doctrinal concepts, new unit designs and structures, an investment strategy for equipment modernization, and a training strategy for all components. The following observations reflect the essential elements of the land force's success.
Quality people are the single most important requirement for US forces. Without capable, motivated young men and women, technology alone will not be decisive. Good leadership and training are essential to readiness. Well-trained forces are confident in themselves, their leaders, and their equipment. The leaders of Operation Desert Storm were developed through a combination of practical experience and formal instruction. US combat units were led by seasoned professionals at every level - platoon sergeants with 10 years' troop duty; company commanders, developed through progressive assignments for six years to prepare them for command; and battalion commanders with 17 years' service behind them, much of it in tactical assignments. Operation Desert Storm was rapid, successful, and cost relatively few American casualties because US forces maintained high levels of combat readiness in peacetime.
The systematic evolution of doctrine before Operation Desert Storm served the land forces well. Service doctrines that stressed maneuver warfare fundamentals, coupled with joint doctrine for air, land, and maritime operations under a unified commander were a significant advantage. Operation Desert Storm was a clear demonstration of the overwhelming effectiveness of joint and combined operations synchronized by sound doctrine and experienced leaders.
The proper balance of land forces - light, airborne, air assault, armored, special operations and amphibious, along with appropriate combat support (CS) and combat service support (CSS) Active and Reserve, gave the Coalition the range of capabilities necessary to defeat Saddam Hussein.
Modern weapons systems and technology, in the hands of well-trained and well-led forces, provide the critical edge in modern combat. US ground forces had equipment that enabled them to decisively defeat the Iraqi forces. Moreover, US forces were trained to maximize this equipment's effectiveness. Tough training, technological superiority, and continued modernization are crucial to ensuring the lethality of the smaller forces of the future.
The weather and terrain conditions, on balance, favored Coalition victory. As demanding as the climate was, Coalition forces were well-equipped and supported. Iraqi forces, often isolated in static defenses for long periods, were steadily demoralized by air and psychological operations along with the harsh conditions Accordingly, many Iraqis lost the will to resist by the time the ground operation began. The combination of austere terrain and desert weather coupled with extended periods of reduced visibility let US forces exploit the advantages of long-range weapons and all-weather, day-night sight systems. In many instances, this provided the crucial edge for success and contributed to the low casualty rate.
Joint and combined exercises, security assistance, and military-to-military contacts produced valuable relationships and infrastructure within the region that contributed to the creation of a militarily effective Coalition. Many US military leaders were accustomed to operating with Arab and other Islamic forces, and thus were adept at modifying US operational practices to accommodate other nations' requirements. The US doctrine, strategy, and tactics, developed originally in response to the Soviet threat to Western Europe, stressed maneuver warfare based on continuous operations, flexibility, agility, initiative and synchronization, attributes that served Coalition commanders well as they planned and executed the ground operation against Saddam Hussein. Years of cooperation and combined operations with in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) smoothed integration of European allies into the operation. In the end, the Coalition executed an integrated campaign that combined the combat power of each Coalition partner. Although CINCCENT did not exercise total control over all Coalition forces, unity of effort was achieved through careful and systematic coordination.
(From a videotaped interview by the VII Corps Public Affairs Office)