The total number of Allied sorties flown today was over seven thousand. However, many were returning from their mission still carrying their ordinance due to the inability of positively identifying their targets, particularly due to the weather worsening. There were restrictions on pilots to insure minimum civilian casualties.
The Italian Tornados (pictured here) flew their second mission of the war. A package of eight conducted an attack on Iraqi positions in Southern Kuwait. Due to the previous air-to-air refueling problem on day 1 of the air campaign, only four of the Tornados carried bombs and attacked their targets. The remaining four carried extra fuel tanks to refuel the attack planes. This proved far more successful than the previous failed mid-air refueling attempt with the American KC-135 and was therefore used for the remainder of the war.
The cloudy skies also hampered the Battle Damage Assessment (BDA) effort. Targets had to be positively identified as destroyed before they could be removed from the Air Tasking Order (ATO). The United states Air Force had chosen space-based satellite surveillance systems over advanced technology reconnaissance aircraft when they had retired the SR-71 Blackbird. That turned out to be a mistake as the only option left was to fly F-14s and F-15s on low-level recon missions. This was not only dangerous, but further reduced the number of attack missions that could be flown. The war was progressing, but the Scud hunt, aborted missions, and the lack of timely BDA were slowing the air war down to a crawl. The weather would be a factor for the weeks to come.
Despite the problems with obtaining timely BDA, a military briefer announced that "Allied bombers had thoroughly damaged Iraq's Nuclear research reactors and air defense network," and that the Iraqi "NBC capabilities had suffered a considerable attack." Coalition losses were increased to fifteen aircraft, nine of which were U.S. One of those aircraft was an F-15E piloted by Colonel David Eberly and co-piloted by Thomas Griffith. They were shot down in northern Iraq by one of three SAMs launched at them. Both pilots ejected and managed to evade the Iraqis for three days as they worked their way toward Syria. Their luck ran out at the border and they were both captured and sent to Baghdad for detention. Another A-6E was hit by AAA but managed to return safely to the carrier and land. The aircraft was so badly damaged that the Navy recorded it as a lost aircraft.
Nine more Scuds were launched into Saudi Arabia. Most of them were intercepted by Patriot missiles. The Scud hunt in Western Iraq appeared to be working. No Scuds were fired at Israel.
The First Artillery Raid
With the help of 1st Light Armored Infantry (LAI) Battalion, the 1st Artillery Battalion, 12th Marines conducted the first artillery raid of the war. They had been the first artillery unit to fire in the Vietnam War. Under cover of night, units from the LAI Battalion rolled forward across the desert. As they approached Kuwait, the 1st LAI vehicles spread out to provide a screen between the Iraqis and the vulnerable artillery units. Fox and Charlie Batteries rolled north behind the light armored vehicles. As they snuck forward a Remote Piloted Vehicle (RPV) was launched to search north of the border for targets. The Marine RPVs are designed to fly over enemy territory and relay real-time video back to a command post. These vehicles had both day and night vision capabilities but were not very effective in bad weather. Due to the cloud cover, the Marines were unable to locate any targets.
The Iraqis had become aware of the Marines' presence, either by radio traffic or by the RPV buzzing overhead. They launched their own RPV to search for Marines. Few people even knew about these drones back in the early 90s. And what was even more surprising was the fact that the Iraqi's had their own drones. Fortunately, the Iraqis had no better luck at seeing through the clouds. We knew they were out there somewhere and they knew we were out there somewhere, but just didn't know exactly where. The Iraqis struck first, blindly firing artillery rounds into the darkened desert. Around 0100 Fox Battery reported incoming rounds, and they sighted the Iraqi RPV. They were told to hold their position. Finally, around 0300, the Marine commanders decided to give up on locating targets with the RPVs and gave the order to fire on the predetermined secondary targets. Charlie Battery was out of range of their secondary target, but Fox Battery began firing at 0315, letting loose a barrage of artillery. Both batteries then quickly drove south to safety. This concluded the first artillery raid of the war. Many more would come.
Psychological Warfare and Propaganda
Leaflets like the one pictured here were dropped all over Kuwait and Southern Iraq as part of the psychological warfare operations during the Gulf War. They often had a message on the front and/or back. This one had a message on the back. The translated message was:
"Brother Iraqi Soldier...
have you ever considered
the power of the coalition forces?"
This illustrated Gulf War leaflet portrays the massive Air Power and bombing capability of the allied forces. This leaflet would usually be dropped following a limited bombing. The message informed the Iraqi forces that the bombing they just experienced was nothing compared to what would be coming if they were foolish enough to not surrender.
The Iraqi soldiers quickly learned that this was no idle threat. This would play a major factor in many Iraqi soldiers surrendering shortly after encountering a defeat in battles with Coalition forces. These were the seeds of victory.
From the Iraqi Lieutenant's Diary:
"The bombing and enemy raids began very early today. Air-to-ground missiles began to explode at 3:30 a.m. this morning. I am very worried for my relatives.
O God! Protect.
O God! Save us all."
On the Move
Back at the port of Al Jubayl, the last of the ships carrying vehicles that we had to offload had arrived early that morning. There were a large number of Bradly fighting vehicles (pictured here). Their units were already in country so there was no need for us to stick around and guard the equipment. With the air war well underway, things were starting to move at a much quicker pace. All essential combat personnel and vehicles were ordered to the front lines ASAP.
Therefore, we were finally packing up and being sent back to our teams. At first I thought we were going back to base camp to rejoin them at "Tent City," but learned that they had already left camp a few days ago to move up north. Without being in touch with any of them in the last 2 weeks, I had no idea where they were by now or what they had been doing. But I was eager to get back to them and start doing my real job.
We loaded our gear and climbed into the back of a five ton truck and started moving north. I can't honestly say I remember how long the drive was, but it probably took about two and a half to three hours. Five ton trucks don't move very fast, especially after you go off the main roadway. I believe we ended up some where in the vicinity of Kibrit (Abraq al Kibrit) which is about 50 miles southwest of Al Khafji. The reason why is that the 1st and 2nd Marine Divisions were in this area for the past few weeks as more and more units were joining up.
As we were reunited with our guys in CBR, we had a lot of catching up to do. But my reunion wouldn't last long. I was already being reassigned once again. I didn't like it, but what can you do? When I asked where I was going and what I would be doing, my sergeant didn't know. He just answered, "All I know is that you're going to be driving some Warrant Officer around." I thought to myself, "Why me? Why am I doing someone else's job? I'm not a chauffeur!" Little did I know, though, that my new role was much bigger than I anticipated, but it also carried with it a much bigger stress factor.
I said my goodbyes to everyone, not knowing when I would see them again, how often, or even IF I would see them again. Montero patted me on the back and said, "Keep praying for us." I remembered the prayer I promised to pray every day until God answered it. Would God bring the whole war to an end on February 15th?