Remembering the Gulf War and Its Veterans
The news of Iraq’s invasion of its small, oil-rich Persian Gulf neighbor, Kuwait, was not taken mildly by the world. The world responded quickly in defense of Kuwait. There was outrage at Iraq’s swift invasion of its neighbor, whose military defenses were no match in any conceivable way. Of course, there was also the issue of oil, which was of deep interest to both sides, ironically for similar reasons.
Iraq invaded Kuwait precisely to get control of its expansive oil reserves. Iraq was bearing the burden of a very heavy debt that the country owed as a result of the long, brutishly bloody, and indecisive war that they started with their neighbor to the east, Iran, that went on from September 22, 1980, to August 20, 1988. Saddam Hussein had become the dictator of Iraq only a year before starting that war, and by 1990, he was desperate economically and brash enough to try a quick fix to his problems by invading Kuwait and taking over its oil supplies. The wealth from it would provide him with the needed cash to keep him in power at home.
The United States, the European Union, and many other countries went to work to try to help Kuwait. The United Nations imposed severe economic sanctions on Iraq and tried political pressures to get Hussein to remove his forces from Iraq. Still, by November 29, 1990, he had refused any and all calls for leaving Kuwait. The ultimatum was given to Hussein on that day to withdraw his troops by January 15, 1991, or face military action.
The American Secretary of State, James Baker, had been hard at work putting together a coalition of 34 countries to provide various forms of military troops and equipment to bring against Hussein’s huge army. Some 500,000 coalition forces from those 34 countries, but mostly from the U.S. and Britain, were immediately sent to Saudi Arabia to defend it from Hussein’s further threats to invade that country. Even with that many forces now settled and prepared on his southern border, Hussein refused to comply.
Just after midnight on January 17, 1991, the UN coalition forces under the command of General Norman Shwarzkopf, Jr., known to his troops as, “Stormin’ Norman,” ordered the beginning of military attacks on Iraq and the liberation of Kuwait. Saddam Hussein the next day went on Iraqi TV and made the claim that the “Mother of all battles has begun,” boldly predicting an Iraqi victory. The Coalition forces called the action simply “Desert Storm.”
Well, it took the coalition forces exactly 4 days to defeat Iraq’s very large and well-equipped military forces. Some 2,250 coalition aircraft of various kinds flew over 1,000 sorties helping to destroy Hussein’s defensive artillery, rocket, and radar stations and all of his air force bases. One of the great ironies of this very swift and short war was that Hussein ordered his remaining air assets to fly to his former enemy’s air bases in Iran to avoid being destroyed or captured.
U.S. Marine Corps, Army, and Air Force elements, along with British and other coalition forces, struck with lightning speed and thunderous force into Iraq and Kuwait. They, along with Kuwaiti forces, liberated Kuwait in a day. Hussein’s forces, in withdrawing from Kuwait, set many of the Kuwaiti oil wells afire, creating one of the more devastating environmental disasters in history, and causing many of the medical issues that Gulf War veterans continue to suffer from today.
What Hussein thought was going to be the “Mother of Victories” for Iraq was an unadulterated disaster. Iraq fell to the coalition forces in a mere 4 days from the beginning of the air attacks to the surrender of Iraq’s forces. In fact, it proved to be a historic victory for the coalition forces, succeeding in liberating Kuwait and in defeating one of the world’s largest armies.
The Gulf War was well planned and conducted by General Schwarzkopf and his other commanders, like General Colin Powell. It was so swift, so overwhelming, and so well conducted that it surprised everyone. The tank battles in the desert were epic and devastating to the heavily tank-dependent Iraqi armed forces. Ground troops moved forward so fast that Iraqi troops were surrendering in whole battalions along the way.
This event has come to be known to history as the Gulf War. When the troops came home from the Gulf War, they came home with their units, together, and they were greeted by the American people with ticker-tape parades and much celebration.
It is hard to believe that that was 30 years ago. Those young men and women who participated in that war are now in their 50s. They are the core of the VFW Posts of the future. They are slowly beginning to replace the old Vietnam veterans just as we have now replaced the veterans of WWII and Korea.
We salute and say, “Welcome Home” and thank you for your service to all of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard veterans who served in the Gulf War.Whizzco