On 02 August 1990, Iraq invaded Kuwait. In the background of this invasion there were three basic causes for this action. First, Kuwait had been part of the Ottoman Empire from the 18th century until 1899 when it asked for, and received, British protection in return for autonomy in local affairs. In 1961 Britain granted Kuwait independence. Iraq revived an old claim that Kuwait had been governed as part of an Ottoman province in southern Iraq and was therefore rightfully part of Iraq. This claim led to several confrontations over the years and continued hostility.
Second, rich deposits of oil straddled the ill-defined border and Iraq constantly claimed that Kuwaiti oil rigs were illegally tapping into Iraqi oil fields. Middle Eastern deserts make border delineation difficult and this has caused many conflicts in the region. Iraq also accused Kuwait of producing more oil than allowed under quotas set by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), thereby depressing the price of oil, the main source of money for Iraq,
Finally, the fallout from the First Persian Gulf War between Iraq and Iran strained relations between Baghdad and Kuwait. This war began with an Iraqi invasion of Iran and degenerated into a bloody form of trench warfare as the Iranians slowly drove Saddam Hussein's armies back into Iraq. Kuwait and many other Arab nations supported Iraq against the Islamic Revolutionary government of Iran, fearful that Saddam's defeat could herald a wave of Iranian-inspired revolution throughout the Arab world. Following the end of the war, relations between Iraq and Kuwait deteriorated due to a lack of gratitude and acknowledgement of the Baghdad government for financial assistance and help in logistic support provided by Kuwait during the war and the reawakening of old issues regarding the border and Kuwaiti sovereignty.
On 07 August, President George H. W. Bush ordered the organization of Desert
Shield. The order prepared American troops to become part of an international
coalition in a war against Iraq that would be launched as Desert Storrm in
January, 1991. This was a decision to deploy US forces on a massive scale to
eject the Iraqis from Kuwait and protect Saudi Arabia. The lead unit for this
deployment was the VII Corps from Germany.
With the follow up announcement of President George H. W. Bush, in November to
deploy more units for a possible offensive, ARCENT put the final touches on
its ground plan. During the first 90 days of DESERT SHIELD, ARCENT coordinated
the reception and sustainment of a force equal to what had taken a year to
deploy during the Vietnam War. Their plan called for a deep, wide sweep into
southern Iraq. ARCENT's multinational combat forces consisted of two corps
headquarters (the XVIII Airborne Corps and the VII Corps), nine divisions
(82nd Airborne, 101st Air Assault, 24th Infantry (Mechanized), 1st Infantry
(Mechanized), 1st Cavalry, 1st Armored, 3rd Armored, 1st British Armored and
6th French (Light)) along with two armored cavalry regiments (the 2nd ACR and
Practicing techniques of low altitude engagement, the AH-64 helicopter teams ran fire drills without producing high dust signatures. They practiced and refined these techniques during company battle drills day and night. During the first week of January the AH-64 team practiced live fire night gunnery on the Pegasus Range, which had been built up out of the desert sands by the 8th Engineer Battalion.
After three months intensive training, the 1st Cavalry Division had been honed
into one of the most modern and powerfully equipped divisions in the Army. The
first glimpse of their capability came in December 1990 on the division's
Pegasus Range which had been built up from the sands of the Saudi desert.
Every M-1 tank and Bradley crew test fired their new weapons as part of the
new equipment transition training. Throughout this period, leaders of the
Division were planning and rehearsing the First Team's initial role in the
theater counterattack force - the force that would defeat any Iraqi attack
into Saudi Arabia.
On 11 January 1991, beginning to focus on offensive action, the 1st Battalion, 227th Aviation moved northwest to Tactical Assembly Area (TAA) Wendy, located in the vicinity of KKMC. For the 1st Battalion, 227th Aviation the war began during the day, on 17 January, in an attack against fifty Iraqi tanks crossing the border into Saudi Arabia. Shortly after departure, the mission was scrubbed without any direct engagement. The Iraqi tanks had chosen to withdraw rather than to fight. With the Division positioned at TAA Wendy, plans for the defense of Wadi al Batin and areas north of Tapline Road were refined.
Meanwhile, the air war began and other Allied ground forces began to reposition its units for the offense. The First Team began a calculated war of deception along the Saudi border. The goal was to reinforce Saddam Hussein's belief that the main ground attack of the Allies would come up the Wadi al Batin, a natural invasion route, causing him to reposition additional forces there. Units supporting and engaging in the deception which consisted of three major thrusts were:
On 23 January the 1st Cavalry Division began its methodical "creep" forward toward the border with the 1st Squadron, 7th Cavalry moving its ground and aerial screens. These efforts were rewarded by the capture of the first enemy defector. The final week of February was characterized by intense vehicle maintenance and unit training in preparation for the ground phase. On 01 February, the 1st Squadron, 7th Cavalry began pushing a platoon out to observe the Ruqi Highway as the Saudi border guards began to withdraw from their posts. In further preparation, on 04 February, the Division conducted hellfire gunnery at night on the VII Corps Jayhawk Range.
On 05 February the 1st Squadron, 7th Cavalry reported nine vehicles moving north, in front of the screen. An AH-1 Cobra Helicopter, on the screen, received small arms fire from dismounted personnel near a desert observation tower. The Cobra returned fire with five rockets, scoring two direct hits, but not destroying the observation tower. On the 07 February the 1st Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery fired a Copperhead round and made a direct hit on the observation tower and destroyed it.
On 10 February the 1st Battalion, 227th Aviation moved North of Hafar al
Batin to AA Bart. Although plans had been made to conduct screening
operations, none were flown as part of the continuing plans of deception that
the 1st Cavalry Division would be the main ground attack of the Allies.
Task Force 1-5 moved north in a "diamond" with the cavalry fighting vehicles of the Scout Platoon on point, followed closely by Bradleys of Alpha Company leading and centered, tanks of Bravo Company on the left, tanks of Delta on the right and Bradleys of Charlie Company trailing. Tucked into the interior of the formation were two platoons of the 8th Engineers and Vulcan and Stinger Teams from the 4th Battalion, 5th Air Defense Artillery. Howitzers from the 3rd Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery remained positioned at the berm, where it would soon fire over five hundred rounds in support of Task Force 1-5.
Task Force 1-5 moved out, past the berm for a distance of 10 kilometers where Alpha Company made contact. The Bradleys instantly established a base of fire, while the tank companies raced forward. The Task Force struck savagely, destroying an enemy battalion in minutes. A-10s of the Air Force swept away over one hundred Iraqi artillery pieces entrenched and not observable from the ground positions. Task Force 1-5 started taking prisoners.
Then the strike turned ugly. Artillery rounds struck while the scouts and Alpha Company were collecting prisoners. Suddenly, rounds were falling on the Engineers and Alpha Company was taking direct hits. The scouts also took fire. Task Force 1-5 quickly regained firepower superiority while Charlie Company moved up to help with the prisoners. Shortly before 1400 hours, the artillery laid down a smoke screen to cover the orderly withdrawal south to join the Division to prepare for the subsequent series of final attacks. The enemy had drawn blood, killing three members of Task Force 1-5 during the battle.
After thirty-eight days of continuous air attacks on targets in Iraq and
Kuwait, the commander of the Allied Forces, General Norman Schwarzkopf
unleashed all-out attacks against Iraqi forces very early on 24 February 1991.
Aviation crew chiefs went to work by flashlight to ready the helicopters that
would fly into killing range of the Iraqi 27th and 28th Infantry Divisions. On
that day, the mission of the 1st Cavalry Division was to conduct a "feint"
attack up the Wadi al Batin, again reinforcing the illusion that it was the
Allies main ground attack.
Because VII Corps expected to employ a sixth major maneuver force, the 1st Cavalry Division, which began the war as a reserve force of General Schwarzkopf, it was intended to provide them with additional artillery support when they were committed. The Corps plan called for the 1st Cavalry to be committed on the left flank of the Corps, somewhere in the vicinity off the 1st Armored Division, they brought with them a little extra something, the MLRS battalion from the 142nd FA Brigade.
In the early afternoon of 24 February 1991, the Division initiated Operation QUICK STRIKE. The 3rd Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery, reinforced by "A" Battery, 21st Field Artillery MLRS, laid down heavy fire in support of the 2nd "Blackjack" Brigade's "feint" attack up the Wadi al Batin. Blackjack moved out at approximately 1700 hours in a move north in a limited attack to fix the focus of the enemy on the Wadi.
Night fell as the rain and sand whipped the armor of the advancing wedge. Blackjack fought to the fire trenches of the enemy. The oil-filled trenches, hundreds of meters long and placed in two staggered rows. blocked progress up the Wadi. They overlapped so that the only way through the burning trenches was around the ends and into enemy prepared kill sacks.
The trenches of burning oil created half burned hydrocarbon vapor that caused the primary chemical detectors, used to alert possible chemical attacks by the enemy, to trigger false alerts. All those burning oil wells caused so many nuisance alarms that detectors adjustable for sensitivity were set to very high threshold levels and alarms from non-adjustable detectors were disregarded by the tankers in the interest in getting on with the war.
Meanwhile, far to the west, the VII Corps and the XVIII Airborne Corps had
already begun a deep strike into Iraq. After being postponed three times, the
1st Battalion, 227th Aviation launched early in the damp, cold dawn of 25
February without close air support. The mission was composed of sixteen AH-64s
to concentrate fire power on the prime target areas.
Enemy resistance stiffened and they refused to yield. The enemy reacted as anticipated. Iraqi divisions focused on the movements of the First Team along the Wadi. It caused the Iraqi Forces to concentrate in the direction of the Wadi, tying down four Iraqi divisions, leaving their flanks thin and allowing the VII Corps to attack virtually unopposed and conduct a successful envelopment of Iraqi forces to the west.
The engagements of the Blackjack Brigade during the deception had destroyed elements of the Iraqi 12th Armored Division, 25th, 27th, 28th, 31st and 41st Infantry Divisions and a Corps artillery group. With the main attack in the west proceeding better than expected, the Brigade was ordered back at noon. In heavy rain, the brigade returned to Saudi Arabia to refuel its vehicles and prepare to launch into the final assault with the rest of the 1st Cavalry Division .
In parallel with the ground thrust, the Division carried out the air assault
portion of QUICK STRIKE as planned. Passing over the berm and over the 2nd
Brigade, the pilots of the 1st Battalion, 227th Aviation could make out
tankers below waving and cheering the "tank killers" on. Moments later, eight
Iraqi soldiers held up tattered white flags. Bravo Company's "Grim Reaper"
scouts landed their OH-58s to watch them until members of the 2nd Brigade
could round them up and collect them. Meanwhile, the 1st Battalion, 227th
Aviation was hitting the enemy hard, destroying tanks, trucks, mortar and
artillery pieces, fuel tankers and soldiers.
The Iraqis, fearing the main effort was about to be launched, set fire trenches ablaze in front of the 2nd Brigade. The smoke, combined with the uncertain tactical situation, made a recovery of the downed AH-64 by a CH-47 Chinook too risky. The helicopter was destroyed in place with the launching of two Tube-launched Optically-tracked Wire-guided (TOW) missiles in order to prevent the possible salvage and analysis of secret, onboard weapon systems by any enemy country.
The 1st Battalion, 227th Aviation regrouped and made two more runs against the Iraqis before they were relieved by the 1st Battalion, 3rd Aviation Regiment. The tally for the day was thirty one bunkers, one tank, three howitzers, five trucks, a radar site and two grateful survivors.
Having fulfilled its assigned mission of deception, the 1st Cavalry Division
was ready the following day when General Norman Schwarzkopf issued the
command; "Send in the First Team. Destroy the Republican Guard. Let's go
home". From the approximate center of the allied line, along the Wadi al
Batin, the 1st Cavalry Division, led by Major General John H. Tilelli, Jr.,
attacked north into a concentration of Iraqi divisions, whose commanders
remained convinced that the Allies would use the Wadi al Batin and several
other wadies as avenues of attack.
At each of four sites, twenty four parallel columns of vehicles pulled up,
halting alongside a fueling point where a support soldier manned a fuel hose.
As each vehicle came to a stop, a crewman vaulted out, grabbing the refueling
hose and jammed it into the filler tube. Engines stayed running; the whine of
fifteen hundred horsepower turbines rose above the shouting exchange of the
soldiers and the desert wind. An entire company refueled every fifteen
minutes. As endless lines of armor continued to file in; DISCOM continued to
pump. By the end of the refueling operation, DISCOM had pumped 400,000 gallons
of fuel into 6,100 vehicles headed into the desert of Iraq.
By the early morning hours of 27 February, the combat units of the 1st Cavalry
Division had made good progress going through the 1st Infantry Division
breach and moving up the left side of VII Corps' sector. By mid afternoon,
after a high-speed 190 mile (306 Km) move north and east, slicing into the
rear of the enemy, General Tilelli's brigades joined in with the 24th Division
across the VII Corps' boundary. The dust storms had cleared early in the day,
revealing the most awesome array of armored and mechanized power fielded since
World War II.
On 27 February, the 1st Battalion, 227th Aviation moved north across the Saudi Arabia - Iraq border as an element of the ground war. The aircraft stopped to refuel at Objective LEE, then continued northeast in Iraq to AA John. Upon arrival the aircraft remained on standby and were not committed to battle.
On 28 February 1991, one hundred hours after General Norman Schwarzkopf had
initiated the ground attack, President George Bush ordered a cease-fire. In
the one hundred hours of battle before the cease-fire went into effect, the
Iraqis had 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
The units of the 1st Cavalry Division established defensive positions where
the ceasefire had stopped their attack and then expanded north to "Highway 8",
clearing bunkers and looking for enemy equipment and soldiers. The 1st
(Ironhorse) Brigade stretched through the historic Euphrates River Valley.
Immediately after the cease fire and the cessation of hostilities, the
Division units began their assessment of battle damage and the round-up of
scattered enemy soldiers.
On 04 March the Division began a thorough battle assessment. During the battle assessment phase, it was revealed that fighting a war in the desert highlighted a number of concerns common to Bradley Vehicles and Abrams Tank Systems. The Army had difficulty establishing an effective parts supply distribution network in the Persian Gulf, Although the Army shipped large quantities of parts to the Persian Gulf area, combat units experienced problems obtaining repair parts through the established logistics system. For example, logistics personnel from the 1st Cavalry Division indicated that about 60 percent of the parts they were authorized had zero balances by the end of the war. To compensate for the inability of the established system to provide needed parts, combat units had to search logistics bases for needed parts, to trade with other combat units, or to take parts from other vehicles. According to some Army personnel, the inability to replenish parts reserves could have impeded sustained combat operations in a longer war.
In addition, friendly fire emerged as a major concern in the desert, but not
from the majority of hand held weapons as in past wars. A significant number
came, in part, because gunners were able to acquire targets at longer ranges
than they were able to positively identify targets as friend or enemy. Damage
assessments revealed that 23 Abrams were destroyed or damaged in the Persian
Gulf area. Of the nine Abrams destroyed, seven were due to friendly fire, and
two were intentionally destroyed to prevent capture after they became
disabled. Similarly, of the 28 Bradleys destroyed or damaged, 20 were due to
friendly fire. Moreover, weapon system capabilities were not optimized because
the range of the weapons were greater than the ranges of the sighting
On 07 March, as part of a symbolic early redeployment of troops, the Executive Officer (XO) and fourteen of the personnel from the 1st Battalion, 227th Aviation, departed with the advance party for Ft. Hood, Texas. No one really thought they would send the main body of troops quickly home, but on 09 March, a day after the 1st Brigade moved north to secure highway 8, nine hundred 1st Cavalry Division Troopers left the battlefields for home. They stepped off their fleet of chartered aircraft to be met by a large crowd of family members and well wishers. Called a "symbolic redeployment", it made good the pledge of President Bush to return the troops as fast as possible.
On 09 and 10 March the 1st Battalion, 227th Aviation supported demolition operations of abandoned equipment and undamaged Iraqi equipment. On 13 March, the remaining 17,000 troopers still in the war areas of the desert, in a stately column of armor, passed through the berm, no an obstacle no more impressive than a spoil of a snowplow. In the following days, the 1st Cavalry Division moved south into Saudi Arabia and its new home, AA Killeen. named after the major town adjacent to Ft. Hood. AA Killeen was located on the plain of the Wadi al Batin, just west of Hafer al Batin. There on the plain of the Wadi al Batin - the division began to prepare for their redeployment home.
Things began moving faster now. It was time to put the tracked vehicles aboard trucks for the trip south to the port for cleaning. All vehicles would be "scrubbed" in Dhahran. Soon as the vehicles left, soldiers were picked up and they left AA Killeen and the Wadi al Batin. Few, if any looked back. The destination of the convey was a sprawling, white concrete high-rise apartment complex at Kohbar in Dhahran. Built for someone who had never decided to move in or rent out, the deserted buildings with air-conditioning, running water and toilets, were perfect for a redeploying army.
In reflecting on their accomplishments of the Gulf War as they prepared to go
home, it was recognized that, operating in the background, the Division
Support Command and the 13th Signal Battalion constantly met an unprecedented
logistical and communications requirements.
At last the day had come, when duffle bags were locked for the last time and piled onto a staked truck, the last cool Saudi Pepsi went down and the last farewell was said to buddies. The trooper moved to the airport for their final staging for their flight home. All cheered as the wheels of the aircraft left the runway at King Fahd Airbase. By now, the passengers, perhaps a bit groggy knew they were on the way home. After 18 hours, a familiar sight of grey green, criss-crossed with trails and patches of caliche clay, swung into view, the plane touched down to a smooth landing on Robert Gray Airfield and everyone knew that they were home.
During Operation Desert Storm, the First Team accumulated several new
Even as they began their redeployment, returning to the United States, the
1st Cavalry Division was already setting the stage for the first of a series
of reorganizations that would enable the emergence of a new contingency force,
that was "ready to deploy anywhere in the world on a moments notice."
At Battery Park, the parade formation turned into Broadway, a wide red carpet.
There on Broadway, under a sunlit snowstorm of paper, the 1st Cavalry
Division Band, lead by Bandmaster Sgt. First Class Gary Flake, took the Big
Apple by storm when they played the swaggering melody of the division song,
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