Operation DESERT SABRE

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For more information, see: Gulf War.
See also: Operation DESERT SHIELD
See also: Operation DESERT STORM

While it had been hoped that the overall Operation DESERT STORM air campaign, and continuing diplomatic efforts, might cause the Iraqi forces to withdraw from Kuwait, the Coalition never seriously expected airpower alone to regain Kuwait. While "G-Day", the beginning of the major ground offensive, was officially on 24 February 1991, well after the January 17, there had been artillery and attack helicopter probes against the Iraqis beforehand, as well as small reconnaissance parties. These had the dual purpose of keeping the Iraqis off balance, but also providing valuable intelligence of how the Iraqis would react to various moves.

The Battle of Khafji also had taught lessons.

Still, especially for the main attack from the south, there was intense awareness of the Iraqi reputation for strong defense. One of the great unknowns is whether Saddam would order the use of chemical weapons, which the Coalition commanders had to assume.

Iraqi Defense

Iraqi Defensive Doctrine

The Iraqis did have complex defensive fortifications, although their desertions did not leave enough forces to man the lines. Their defensive doctrine reflected what worked against the Iranians in the Iran-Iraq War: [1]

  • Corps to defend an area 90 to 160 km wide and 50 to 80 km, divided into
  • divisional sectors 45 to 85 km wide and 20 km deep, split into
  • brigade zones 8 to 12 km wide and 7 to 5 km deep, with
  • battalion zones 3 to 4 km wide and 2 to 3 km deep.

"An Iraqi infantry division was expected to control a security zone along the front about 8 km deep. Most of the division's combat force was concentrated in an operational zone about 10 km deep. The divisional logistic and administrative area was concentrated in a more secure zone 2 km deep to the rear of the operational zone."

Each brigade and divisional strongpoint was arranged as a set of triangles, each apex manned by one of the three basic battalions of a brigade, brigades of a division, etc. They mined, trenched (sometimes with oil to set on fire), and wired the centers of the triangles, and wanted to lure the attackers into central kill zones. They often had their excellent South African G5 155mm howitzers preregistered on the kill zone.

Their unusual triangular formations, not used by other armies, were optimized for the use of earthmoving engineer equipment in the desert. That equipment constructed sand berms to channel attackers. Certain areas, however, were not actively defended, and the decision not to do so had internal logic. They had not expected a serious engagement in the Wadi al Batin, for a variety of reasons.

Reconnaissance in force on the main front

Before the main attacks, on February 19, the 2nd Brigade ("Blackjack") of the 1st Cavalry Division made a reconnaissance in force down the Wadi al-Batin, both to draw Iraqi attention, screen the VII Corps headquarters, and pound the Iraqi formations with "shoot and scoot" salvoes from their M270 multiple launch rocket systems (MLRS). [2] On February 20, however, they ran into prepared Iraqi positions, and directed A-10 aircraft against over 100 Iraqi artillery pieces.

The Wadi, less than 100 feet deep, is "a clearly visible terrain feature with reasonable trafficability, it offered a good attack route both to the Iraqis and to the Coalition forces. The Iraqis not only located infantry units on the sides of the wadi as flanking forces but also placed two armored and one mechanized Republican Guard divisions and two armored Army divisions just north of the point where the wadi opened up into flat desert. They were expected to be able to stop any attack up the Wadi al-Batin and would also serve as a theater reserve if the attack came elsewhere...However, the Iraqis did not anticipate a major attack in this area or further west. The terrain just west of the wadi they considered unsuitable for tanks, since there were lots of boulders and sabkhas of quicksand. Moreover, there were no roads in this area, and the Iraqis firmly believed that units trying to operate away from roads in the desert would simply get lost." Ironically, the desert natives depended on roads while the Coalition depended on GPS.

Marine probing of defensive lines

Another probe, not a feint but a reconnaissance prior to breaching, was made by units of I Marine Expeditionary Force (I MEF). Task Force Grizzly, built around the 4th Marine Regiment of the 1st Marine Division on February 22. Grizzly, and Taro, an second task for to the west, was a reconnaissance in force, covered by Marine 155mm howitzers, who were to probe for holes in the first set of barriers. [3] These Marine movements, however, since they were not a diversion as in the Wadi al Batin, created a potential problem with last-minute attempts by Mikhail Gorbachev to find a diplomatic solution. Grizzly slowed its efforts, but did capture seventy Iraqi prisoners who showed them lanes through the antitank mines. They did not know the structure of the antipersonnel minefield.

Amphibious deception

A Marine brigade afloat in the Persian Gulf attracted great Iraqi attention, and fear of an amphibious attack. There was no such attack planned, but it was an extremely successful deception, and the brigade remained in reserve. Adding to the confusion were operations by U.S. Navy SEALs to set off noisemakers and simulated breaching explosives, to give the impression of an imminent landing.

Psychological operations

Coalition aircraft did not only destroy Iraqi troops, but participated in psychological warfare where B-52s deliberately bombed close, but not to hit, Iraqi field forces. [4] Schwarzkopf was immensely impressed by B-52's in Vietnam, and requested the coordinated use of bombs with leaflets before and after the raid, as with the Iraqi 7th Division in mid-February:

  • Before the raid
(front of leaflet)This is your first and last warning! The 7th Infantry Division will be bombed tomorrow! Flee this location now!
(back of leaflet) The 7th Infantry Division will be bombed tomorrow. The bombing will be heavy. If you want to save yourself, leave your location and do not allow anyone to stop you. Save yourself and head toward the Saudi border, where you will be welcomed as a brother.
  • After the raid
After the bombing, a second B52 leaflet was dropped which said, "We have already informed you of our promise to bomb the 7th Infantry Division. We kept our promise and bombed them yesterday. BEWARE. We will repeat this bombing tomorrow. Now the choice is yours. Either stay and face death, or accept the invitation of the Joint Forces to protect your lives."

Movement into Iraq and Kuwait

Major ground forces began to move on 23 February. Fixed wing aircraft had long been patrolling, attacking targets of opportunity, and bombing assigned targets, flying 900 sorties on the even of the attack.[5] Now, however, the beat of rotors joined the roar of jet engines as the 101st Airborne Division, commanded by then-MG Binford Peay, began flying its scout helicopters into Western Iraq. Three Americans were killed. 48 hours before the main attack, Coalition air concentrated on attacking the Iraqi forces discovered by the Blackjacks.

It was deemed politically essential that Arab forces actually liberate Kuwait City. Since the U.S. Marines had better engineer equipment and obstacle breaching techniques, they led the movement into Kuwait. As they moved through the first line of border defenses, two Saudi armored brigades and a pan-Arab brigade, the same Arab units that retook Khafji, entered Kuwait.

Helicopter-borne 1st Division Marines moved through the second break in the Iraqi defensive. Shortly after, they carried out their first medical evacuation mission. Originally, the 1st (MG Bill Keys) and 2nd Marine Divisions (MG Mike Myatt) were to attack in sequence, but, to give more of an opportunity to the pan-Arab corps, the Marines attacked in parallel. The 2nd Division attacked, successfully, at a point that appeared so well fortified that the Marines decided the Iraqis would not actively defend.

TF Grizzly opened lanes, with creative solutions such as one combat engineer using the antitank mines as stepping stones. Since he knew his weight would not set them off, he correctly guessed that this would let him avoid the antitank mines. This practice, however, did not get into Marine manuals of the future.

On the left hook by the XVIII Airborne Corps under LTG Gary Luck, the 101st's helicopters were joined in exploration by the westernmost regular unit, the 6th French Light Armored Division. With a brigade from the 82nd Airborne Division, they moved to take control of the key Al Salman air base in Iraq, a Scud facility and major Iraqi base. 101st Airborne helicopters were waiting for the weather to clear and let a full brigade move fifty miles into Iraq, setting up the first artillery base and helicopter Forward Area Refueling Point (FARP). Air assaults often are bounds from FARP to FARP.

Meanwhile, the main armored force of the VII Corps (under LTG Fred Franks), pan-Arab Corps, and, in the XVIII Airborne Corps area, the 24th Infantry Division were ready to move heavy forces into their target areas. In its preparation for the assault, MG Barry McCaffrey had taken the senior commanders of the 24th through an exhausting 36 hour command post exercise, which left them knowing their plans perfectly. Still, it was tiring; battalion commander Bill Chamberlain, a descendant of Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, victor of the Little Round Top engagement at the Battle of Gettysburg, and given the honor of taking the Confederate surrender at Appomattox, told McCaffrey: "Sir, I just want to sat I would rather be shot in combat than go through another Map-Ex." A fellow battalion commander agreed, "I, too, would rather see Bill shot than go through another Map-Ex." [6]

Exploitation

A few hours after the first penetration, CENTCOM learned the Iraqis had destroyed the desalination plant in Kuwait City, its only source of fresh water. This meant both that the Iraqis had to be evacuating and could be struck in a disordered retreat, and that there was urgency to get services working again for the Kuwaiti population.

It was also becoming obvious that the Iraqi forces in Kuwait, partially due to high rates of desertion, were considerably smaller than expected. [7].B-52 attacks, even aimed away from troops, terrified them and increased panic flight.

With the Iraqi evacuation and the successful movement of light forces in the west, the main attack started early, approximately 3 p.m. local time. As it entered, the 101st's attack helicopters were already destroying Iraqi trucks on highways in the rear area. Before long, VII Corps and the 24th Division had penetrated at least fifteen miles. The Marines had a longer fight at the second barrier line, but captured a corps headquarters and were taking so many Iraqi prisoners that they could only disarm them, point south, and tell them where to walk to POW camps. [8]

Battle of Burqan

Iraqi III Corps commander Salah Aboud Mahmoud, who was considered one of the more competent Iraqi generals to the U.S., and defied Saddam to save some of his troops at Khafji, was given command of Iraqi forces in souther Kuwait, and intended to do things the Marines did not expect. Specifically, he exploited the smoke produced by the Burqan oil field, which the Iraqis had set afire. The Marines, indeed, had a command post near the oil field, thinking it would protect them.

Captured documents gave a warning that the Iraqis might counterattack from the oil field, which complemented scout reports of an unusual amount of troop activity in and out of the field. Signals intelligence was also detecting Iraqi strength in the oil field, and MG Bill Keys, commanding 2nd Marine Division, redeployed quickly to meet an attack, expected in the early morning, from the oil field. Increasing the tension were what turned out to be false reports of chemical mines in the area. Myatt positioned TOW missiles s, with thermal sights that could see through the smoke, on his closest points to the field, and then called in artillery strikes. After the artillery lifted, the Iraqis came out of the smoke in force, heading for Myatt's command post. Attack and counterattack continued through the morning. Eventually, what proved to be the largest Iraqi planned counteroffensive of the war failed.[9] Mahmoud, incidentally, retained the respect of both sides,[10] and was one of the two officers Saddam sent to the cease-fire meeting.

Marine/Arab movement and Liberation of Kuwait City

On the 24th, the Marines jumped off at 0400, accompanied by an Army tank brigade. Kuwait City was closer than the VII Corps objectives, perhaps 35-50 miles although the defensive positions were stronger. The 1st Marines breached their objectives quickly and captured 3,000 Iraqis. 2nd Marine Division attacked at 0530, with the Army brigade, encountering opposition at a berm that was quickly cleared, but the minefields took longer to clear. [11] The first opposition came from a berm line and two mine belts. Marine M60A1 tanks with bulldozer blades quickly breached the berm, but the mine belts required more time; they were breached by 0615. Boomer's force established systematic phase lines to coordinate with the Arab forces. As they neared Kuwait City, these became well-marked highways. At the first phase line, they captured an entire Iraqi battalion, then fought for Al Jaber airfield and captured another 3,000. By the end of the day, over 10,000 unexpected prisoners, 20 miles inside Kuwait, became a significant logistical problem.

Schwarzkopf, never a fan of special operations troops, commended COL Jesse Johnson, the commander of overt United States Army Special Forces troops: SOCCENT, or Special Operations Command component of CENTCOM, who had been successfully keeping communications open with the Arab forces. Johnson also prepared, only if necessary, rescue missions in which the U.S., British, and French would retake their embassies.[12]

JSOC operations

A Joint Special Operations Command (MG Wayne Downing, commanding) group continued to operate in secret. Delta Force operators are known to have been SCUD-hunting.

SCUD hunting

When Delta is deployed, a U.S. Army Ranger unit usually goes with them, to provide quick-reaction support to Delta, and to do appropriate direct action raiding.[13] When the Rangers were not needed for the SCUD hunt, since if the missiles were found by Delta or British SAS, air attacks were usually called in, or sometimes sniper fire on explosive rocket components.

Ranger Run I

Looking for a mission, Downing told the company-sized Ranger unit that it could look for fixed targets to raid, which would help the Scud hunt. They found a communications relay station, about four miles from the Jordanian border, and attacked on the night of February 26. Besides pure disruption of communications, destroying the station might force Iraqis to stop using intercept-resistant fiber optic cables running through the relay station, and go to radio that could be more easily detected and located. It was possible that they might also capture Iraqi communications personnel with knowledge of operational procedures.

The raid had inconclusive results, and might have been more significant if mounted when the war were not coming to a close. They did destroy the communications facility and captured some documents, and no more SCUDs flew, but the cause and effect are not obvious.

Pursuit of the Republican Guard

Part of Schwarzkopf's concept of operations was not simply to oust the Iraqi Republican Guard units from Kuwait, along with lesser units, but to destroy the RG, the core of Saddam's offensive capability. While all CENTCOM elements had the RG as a priority target, the VII "Jayhawk" Corps (LTG Fred Franks, commanding) had the assignment of killing it on the ground.

Army officers still argue if Franks was too conservative or Schwarzkopf was too aggressive. Schwarzkopf constantly demanded Franks move faster, but Franks moved deliberately. To give a perspective, possibly through the filter of Army personalities and politics, Franks was promoted to a prestigious four-star post after the Gulf War, as did Luck and Yeosock. Schwarzkopf's deputy for operations, Yeosock, retired in the three-star rank.

The corps had been reinforced with a mechanized infantry brigade from the 3rd Infantry Division (attached to the 1st Armored Division), four field artillery brigades (42d, 75th, 142nd, and 210th), and the 11th Aviation Brigade. At over 142,000 soldiers, it was larger than the 116,000 of the XVIII Airborne Corps. As a "heavy" mechanized and armored unit, it needed a vast amount of supplies.[14]

Originally, VII Corps was to delay its attack until February 25, so the Iraqis would assume the main attack was the XVIII Corps coming from the west. To LTG John Yeosock, commanding Third United States Army, the headquarters commanding both corps, the Army had a different task than the Marines. While the Marines "planned a sprint to the gates of Kuwait City" supporting the Arab forces, the Marines also had a geographic and humanitarian objective. The Army, however, saw a "marathon", in which it had farther to go, and was "convinced it was about to lock horns with the premier fighting force in the third world."[15] Franks had planned a deliberate attack against the RG, and when Schwarzkopf stepped up the schedule, as the Iraqis collapsed before the Marines, it was more of a problem for Franks than for Luck. Luck's XVIII Corps was attacking into a less dense concentration of Iraqis, and in the manner of a reconnaissance in force rather than a deliberate attack.

Franks planned to fight the RG much as he would have fought a Soviet union, positioning in two parallel armored attacks, then concentrate his three divisions and swing into the RG. He had expected 2 days to fight the preliminary positioning and 6 days to destroy the RG.

VII Corps breaching operations

VII Corps did begin the accelerated action, attacking in parallel with the First Cavalry Division feint up the Wadi al Batin; the 1st Cav remained in CENTCOM reserve, not under Franks' control. On VII Corps' right, along the Wadi al Balin, the 1st Cavalry Division would make a strong, but limited, attack directly to its front.

The coordinated plan had 1st Cav attracting the enemy, while Franks cut through the static defenses on his right, and then sent two more divisions on an "end around to the left". The "end around was the main attack." Starting at 0538, 1st Infantry Division (MG Thomas Rhame, commanding), charged into Iraqi trenches, delivering an intense artillery preparation at 1440 hours, and then sent in the combat engineers.[16] If Iraqis would not surrender, the 1st Division tank plows and earthmover buried them alive, without American casualties. [17]. This cut lanes through the minefields, in preparation for the British 1st Armored Division (MG Rupert Smith, commanding).

There has been criticism of the burial of troops in trenches, but this was not widely considered a violation of the customary laws of war. Nothing would have been said had those same troops been buried by artillery fire, and they were offering resistance. The question is whether they could have been captured, also considering the need for speed in opening the breaches. Estimates of the number of Iraqi dead vary widely,[18] from one count of 44 to one journalist's comment "there could have been thousands". Connetta estimates the number was somewhere in the range of 250 to 600. According to Gordon and Trainor, "only several dozen bodies" were found by Iraqis. [19]

On the far left, 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment (COL Paul Holder, commanding), a brigade-sized formation, led the 1st (MG Ron Griffin, commanding) and 3rd Armored (MG "Butch" Funk, commanding) Divisions.

Al Busayyah

A1 Busayyah, a town approximately 80 miles inside Iraq, and a major Iraqi logistics base, was the immediate objective of VII Corps. Franks halted about 20 miles inside the border, concerned that the two armored divisions had gotten too separated fro the 1st Infantry Division. For the day, VII Corps rounded up about 1,300 of the enemy.[20]

Franks chose to wait for daylight to pass the British through the breaches, as they had not trained with night vision equipment. Franks was already concerned about the "fog of war", in that there had already been a "friendly fire" incident between the 1st and 3rd Armored Divisions. U.S. troops were trained for night operations, and it was assumed by many that the British capability should have been known through NATO exercises. Perhaps Franks' worst decision, however, was not to tell the volatile Schwarzkopf that he had deliberately paused; Schwarzkopf, on looking at the maps at 0800 the next morning and finding VII Corps had not moved, "he exploded...Schwarzkopf demanded to know why the VII Corps forces were not deep in Iraq. Schwarzkopf had been angry before but now his frustration was boiling over." [21]

Yeosock calmed Schwarzkopf, who was also angry with the lack of progress by the Egyptians. It is fair to say that Franks and Schwarzkopf, both thoroughy competent generals, had basically incompatible styles.

At approximately 0635 hours, an E-8 Joint STARS radar aircraft spotted an Iraqi brigade moving toward the town. It was a very modest force to stop multiple divisions led by an armored cavalry regiment. Without any source of intelligence, the Iraqi brigade commander, from one of their better formations, the 52nd Armored Division, set up a blocking position against what he believed was a light force. He may have thought he was meeting the light French division on the extreme west of the XVIII Corps area, and had no idea that he was blocking a heavy corps. Nevertheless, A-10 antitank aircraft found them first, and then 2nd Armored Cavalry finished the job. Prisoner interviews showed that the Iraqis were stunned that Coalition forces were not bound to roads [22].

Griffith and the 1st Armored Division, however, moved deliberately. Rather than attack the base with aircraft and surround it with a small force, Griffith received Franks' permission to bombard Al Bussayyah overnight, and then take it in the morning, with the full division. Only a small force actually defended it, and this again angered Schwarzkopf, who ordered Fransk again to destroy the RG. At 0522 hours on the 25th, 2nd Armored Cavalry again was probing to find the RG, scouting its position for the divisions following him. A last-minute check showed that the change of the 2nd Cav's movement had not been conveyed to the British, and a fratricide incident was narrowly averted. [23].

When Schwarzkopf and Yeosock talked at noon on the 24th, Schwarzkopf said Franks' progress would be acceptable if he could accelerate. Schwarzkopf was extremely pleased with the XVIII Corps and the Marines, and faced the political problem that the Marines were positioning so they could reach Kuwait City before the Egyptians. [24] Schwarzkopf pleaded with Khalid, his counterpart, to save him from letting the Marines into Kuwait City.

Within the hour, Schwarzkopf learned that an American rear area force had taken the bloodiest Scud hit of the war. He also heard radio broadcasts that the Iraqis were ordering their troops out of Kuwait [25] Finding VII Corps not moving fast enough to satisfy him, he adjusted the corps boundaries so the 24th Infantry Division, in XVIII Corps, could pressure the RG from the West. He also gave Franks control of the 1st Cav.

All day and night on the 26th, Franks hit the RG.

Battle of 73 Easting

On the afternoon of the 26th, Holder's cavalry encountered fire on a line marked 69 Easting on a map.[26] The plan had been for them to stop at 70 Easting, but H.R. McMaster, the captain leading Eagle Troop. Eagle, in the lead, encountered an Iraqi 18th RG Brigade from the Tawakalna Division at about 1600 the cavalrymen found T-72 tanks in prepared positions at 73 Easting. Eagle and Iron Troops took no casualties, but Ghost troop had lost one man. The regiment used its thermal imaging equipment to deadly advantage, killing every tank that appeared in its sights. Three cavalry troops had destroyed a brigade, in principle more than three times its size. [27]

The Tawakalna Division may have been assigned as the sacrificial rear guard to allow two other RG divisions, the Medina and Hammurabi Armored divisions to withdraw toward Basra.[28]

This action was quite asymmetrical in the size of the forces involved, but not a huge battle in the broader context of the war. Nevertheless, it has become widely studied and discussed, for a number of reasons. It was the first land battle in which the American fighting vehicles had recorders on their sensors and weapons controllers, which produced computer-readable files[29] that could feed "what-if" simulations and virtual reality training based on actual combat. It was also featured in Tom Clancy's nonfiction book, Armored Cavalry.[30] McMaster has risen in the army with the unusual combination of his combat record here and elsewhere, as well as a reputation as a theorist and historian[31]; he has just been selected as a brigadier general after, among other things, commanding the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment in the peace operations resulting from the Iraq War.

Kuwait-Basra highway

There is a highway that extends from Kuwait City, to Safwan on the Kuwait-Iraq border, and then on to the major port of Iraq, Basra. The highway was both a supply line to the Iraqi troops in Kuwait, and an exit back to Iraq. When Iraqi troops began to evacuate Kuwait, Coalition aircraft blocked movement on the road by wrecking both ends, and then repearedly attacked stranded vehicles.

Bush was being pressured by Saudi Arabia and Iraq to end the killing, partially because neither Arab country wanted a complete collapse of Iraq, with the potential of a radical Shi'ite state breaking off and declaring its independence. An assistant to Schwarzkopf said the rules were:[32]

  • No harm would come to any Iraqi who left his vehicle and offered to surrender
  • Those fleeing in tanks, trucks, or any other vehicle with military applications would be considered legitimate targets.

According to the BBC, while Iraq had said it was withdrawing, it still refused to accept the UN resolutions. Allied forces bombed them from the air, killing thousands of troops in their vehicles in what became known as the "Highway of Death". [33]

Were the fleeing Iraqis hit hard? Yes. Was it an overt war crime? No. Was it disproportionate use of force on a broken force, but with the potential that force might again be effective? There is no simple answer. Gordon & Trainor suggest that the Iraqis on the highway might have been talked out of their vehicles.[34]

This example, as well as the bombing of the al Firdos bunker, have consequences that go beyond this war alone. By and large, the American public saw Desert Storm as relatively bloodless, and there was no public reaction as there was to television news coverage of both U.S. and Vietnamese casualties during the Vietnam War. Here, the media, with minimal censorship, provided real-time battlefield reports independent of military control. Gruesome photos of the so-called "highway of death" undermined support for continuing the war, and those were pictures of the destruction of a brutal enemy force. What should we expect when the bodies are those of our friends and relatives?

There are no simple answers, even if the killings of Iraqis on the highway were totally licit from a Just War standpoint. The incident, however, deserves careful reflection.
When live media reports combined with information from other high-tech sources begin to communicate the horrific shrieks and terrifying sights of death and mutilation as it happens to a loved one in combat, the political pressure to terminate hostilities at almost any price may become inexorable.[35]

Cease-fire and dispositions

While destroying the Republican Guard had been an objective, political considerations picked an arbitrary time for a cease fire, after 100 hours of ground combat. The political considerations were affected by many factors, including U.S. domestic public opinion about casualties on both sides, and Arab countries that still wanted Iraq to remain as a balance to Iran.

While CENTCOM did extensive operational planning before the invasion of Kuwait, and there certainly were discussions of the Iraqi problem at White House level. Gordon Brown, CENTCOM’s chief foreign-policy advisor admitted, "We never did have a plan to terminate the war.[36]

Deciding when to stop

Schwarzkopf, according to Gordon and Trainor, recognized that it might be necessary to subordinate the destruction of the RG to other objectives. Among considerations in Washingon were "protecting the United States military against the charge of brutalization and holding down American and Iraqi casualties." Schwarzkopf said he was sometimes unsure, when talking to Powell, if the position was Powell's own, that of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, or that of the National Command Authority (i.e., Bush and Cheney). [37]

At 1545 hours on 27 February, Schwarzkopf and Powell spoke, and Powell liked Schwarzkopf's proposal.
So here's what I propose. I want the Air Force to keep bombing those convoks backed up at the Euphrates where the bridges are blown. I want to continue the ground attack tomorrow,drive to the sea, and totally destroy everything in our path. That's the way I wrote the plan for Desert Storn, and in one more day we'll be done. Do you realize if we stop tomorrow night, the ground campaign will have lasted five days? How does that sound to you: the Five-Day War? — Schwarzkopf, p. 469
Powell called back a few hours later, and said there was tension in Washington about the killing, and even Britain and France were asking how long it would continue.
The president is thinking about going on the air tonight at nine o'clock and announcing we're cutting it off. Would you have any problem with that?[38]

Schwarzkopf said that his "gut reaction" was that doing so would save American lives. While not every Iraqi resource had been destroyed, they were ineffective as a military force. Powell caled back to explain that there would be three hours of fighting after Bush's announcement, so it would be a "hundred hour war".

Supply had become an issue, as well as soldier fatigue in around-the-clock fighting. If the ground war had lasted longer, General Schwarzkopf would have had to halt the advance to fill forward operating bases. On the morning of 27 February, as VII Corps prepared to complete the destruction of the Republican Guard Forces Command, 1st and 3d Armored Division tanks were almost out of fuel.[39] Typically, a M1 Abrams tank, in action, must refuel every 8 hours.

Refueling becomes complex, because fuel is not only needed for the tanks and other combat vehicles, but for the fuel trucks, and their escorts, bringing the fuel to the fighters.

Status of forces when the guns went silent

When the cease-fire ordered by President Bush went into effect, CENTCOM had very nearly destroyed the Iraqi ground forces. The Iraqis lost 3,847 of their 4,280 tanks, over half of their 2,880 armored personnel carriers, and nearly all of their 3,100 artillery pieces. Only five to seven of their forty-three combat divisions remained capable of offensive operations. In the days after the cease-fire the busiest soldiers were those engaged in the monumental task of counting and caring for an estimated 60,000 prisoners.[40]

The combat units came close to overrunning their supply lines. Tanks and tracked vehicles moved faster in the desert than supply trucks on roads. Helicopter movements needed exquisite planning of leapfrogging with Forward Ammunition and Refueling Points, generally spaced no more than 98 miles apart, that being the practical range of a CH-47 Chinook helicopter carrying a fuel bladder as a sling load. [41]. There are several helicopter configurations that optimize their ability to transport fuel into FARPs, but there will be a delicate balance of the number and type of helicopters committed to fuel transport, as opposed to those available for combat operations. While a FARP technically covers both fueling and rearming, the closer the FARP to the enemy, the more likely it is to be restricted to fueling.[42]

Arranging the Cease-Fire

Schwarzkopf and Powell had discussed memorable means ways to conduct the cease-fire talk, such as using the deck of the battleship USS Missouri, which was in the theater, and having the Iraqis sign on the same deck where the World War II Japanese surrender had taken place. This simply turned out to be impractical, between getting the battleship to a convenient place, and then flying all relevant delegates to it.

The next choice was Jalibah air base, which had the symbolism of being 95 miles inside Iraq, making it obvious the Iraqis had been defeated. It was initially approved, but, on the evening of February 28, CENTCOM learned that Jalibah was littered with unexploded ordnance and was simply too dangerous a place to hold talks.

Next, Safwan, two miles inside Iraq, was suggested. It was quickly discovered, however, that no Coalition troops happened to be there, but Iraqi troops were. Schwarzkopf thought VII Corps was physically occupying Safwan. The annoyed Schwarzkopf directed Yeosock to make a show of force at Safwan and "encourage" the Iraqis to vacate. They did.

It was now necessary to work out the details of the signing. The Iraqis proposed to send two three-star generals not known to Schwarzkopf, Sultan Hashim Ahmad, deputy chief of defense staff, and Salah Abud Mahmud, commander of the now defunct III Corps that had fought at Khafji and in Kuwait. [43]

The Agreements

According to a Bush administration official, "Norm went in uninstructed...the generals made qn effort not to be guided. It was treated as something that was a military decision, not to be micromanaged."[44]

Schwarzkopf directed the Iraqis that the first condition was accounting for POWs, followed by the return of remains, giving the locations of minefields and WMD bunkers, etc. The Iraqis agreed, although the issue remained open if Iraq had detained any Kuwaiti civilians.

According to Schwarzkopf, the Iraqis were generally agreeable, but had one request: "You know the situation of our roads and bridges and communications. We would like to fly helicopters to carry officials of our government into areas where roads and bridges are out. This has nothing to do with the front line. This is inside Iraq." Schwarzkopf, who said the Iraqis had accepted the other U.S. points, thought this was reasonable and replied, "As long as it is not over the part we are in, that is absolutely no problem. So we will let the helicopters fly. That is a very important point, and I want to make it sure that it's recorded, that military helicopters can fly over Iraq."

Iraqi LTG Ahmad then said something Schwarzkopf, in retrospect, thinks he should have questionedL "So you mean even helicopters that are armed can fly in Iraq skies, but not the fighters? Bechase the helicopters are the same, they transer somebody —"

Schwarzkopf agreed, but wrote,
In the following weeks, we discovered what the son of a b**** had in mind: using helicopter gunships to suppress rebellions in Basra and other cities. By that time it was up to the White House to decide how much the United States wanted to intervene in the internal politics of Iraq...grounding the helicopter gunships [would have little effect]] compared to the Iraqi divisions that never entered the Kuwaiti war zone.[45]

References

  1. "Mine and Countermine Operations in the Gulf War", Sappers Forward! Combat Engineer Professional Understanding
  2. U.S. News & World Report (1992), Triumph without Victory: the History of the Persian Gulf War, Random House p. 284
  3. Gordon, Michael R. & Bernard E. Trainor (1995), The Generals' War: The Inside Story of the Conflict in the Gulf, Little, BrownGordon & Trainor, p. 346
  4. Friedman, Herb, The Strategic Bomber and American Psyop
  5. Schwarzkopf, H Norman, Jr. (1992), It Doesn't Take a Hero, Bantam p. 447
  6. USN&WR, pp. 282-283
  7. Gordon & Trainor, p. 351
  8. Schwarzkopf, p. 454
  9. Gordon & Trainor, pp. 364-468
  10. Pollack, Kenneth M. (2002), Arabs at War: Military Effectiveness, 1948-1991, University of Nebraska Press pp. 260-261
  11. Schubert, Frank N. & Theresa L. Kraus, Chapter 8: One Hundred Hours, The Whirlwind War: The United States Army in Operations DESERT SHIELD and DESERT STORM, Office of the Chief of Military History, Department of the Army pp 180-183
  12. Schwarzkopf, pp. 464-465
  13. Bolger, Daniel P. (1999), Death Ground: American Infantry in Battle, Presidio
  14. Schubert & Kraus, p. 176
  15. Gordon and Trainor, p. 275
  16. Gordon & Trainor, p. 379
  17. Schubert & Kraus, p. 179
  18. , Appendix 2: Iraqi Combatant and Noncombatant Fatalities in the 1991 Gulf War, The Wages of War Iraqi Combatant and Noncombatant Fatalities in the 2003 Conflict, 20 October 2003, Project on Defense Alternatives Research Monograph # 8
  19. Gordon & Trainor, p. 383
  20. Schubert & Kraus, p. 179
  21. Gordon & Trainor, pp. 380-382
  22. Gordon & Trainor, p. 385
  23. Gordon & Trainor, p. 389
  24. Schwarzkopf, p. 456-457
  25. Schwarzkopf, p. 450-462
  26. Schubert & Kraus, p. 189
  27. Gordon & Trainor, pp 390-392
  28. Federation of American Scientists, Medina Division (Armored)
  29. Christenson, William M. ; Zirkle, Robert A. (September 1992), 73 Easting Battle Replication--A JANUS Combat Simulation, Institute for Defense Analyses, ADA257266
  30. Clancy, Tom (1994), Armored Cav, Berkley Trade
  31. McMaster, H.R. (1998), Dereliction of Duty: Johnson, McNamara, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Lies That Led to Vietnam, Harper
  32. USN&WR, pp. 395-396
  33. BBC News, Ground War 1991
  34. Gordon & Trainor, p. 476
  35. "21st-Century Land Warfare: Four Dangerous Myths", Parameters: 27-37., Autumn 1997
  36. Garrard, Mark (Fall 2001), "War Termination in the Persian Gulf: Problems and Prospects", Aerospace Power Journal
  37. Gordon & Trainor, pp. 423-424
  38. Schwarzkopf, p. 469
  39. Schubert & Kraus, p. 205
  40. Schubert & Kraus, p. 201
  41. FM 3-04.111 (FM 1-111) Aviation Brigades. Field Manual 3-014. Department of the Army (21 August 2003).
  42. Sheiffer, Matthew J (Winter 2003). "Hot Aircraft Refueling — Second to None!". Quartermaster Professional Bulletin.
  43. Schwarzkopf, pp. 472-483
  44. Gordon & Trainor, p. 444
  45. Schwarzkopf, pp. 488-498