Here I am, the chauffeur, I thought. I was introduced to a Warrant Officer, not revealing his name, but his call sign was "Ryder." "Welcome to Hell, Corporal Lovell!" He said. I responded, "Hell, sir?" He didn't elaborate. He simply said, "We're going to be on the move constantly and get very little sleep if any at all, so what I want you to do is try to get some rest whenever possible." "Yes sir," I answered.
Ryder had been in country since August, and if you ask me, was about as paranoid as they could get. You'll soon see why. Being around him night and day was going to be the "Hell" that I would have to endure. Not only is war Hell, but Ryder was too. I had to go through Hell twice! I was not the first person to drive him around. He drove people crazy, so they kept rotating new drivers in every month or so. If you ask me, he was the one doing the driving; driving people over the edge.
Ryder wasn't the only Warrant Officer assigned to our Counter Battery Radar teams, and I wasn't the only one plucked from my team to escort them around during the war. We had six CBR teams, each broken down into two groups of three with a Warrant Officer assigned to each group. I came to realize that we were the security for each group. We were always told that we couldn't rely on having security assigned to us if a war broke out and that we would have to provide our own security. I always thought they just meant having a fire watch throughout the night with marines taking shifts. Each radar team was operating with a minimum number of marines so that we could have enough radar teams to provide counter battery support for all of 1st and 2nd Marine Division. That meant the radar teams would only have about 6 to 8 members each. They already had to take shifts during the night for radio watch so this allowed them to get more rest. Not me, though. I got roughly 2 hours sleep each night. Sometimes I could take a short nap during the day, depending on where I was and what we were doing. I'm including a picture of the Humvee I drove. It was not the four door hard covered ones that you typically see these days. Mine wasn't designed for what I was going to be doing, but they later modified the top to mount an M-60 machine gun. During the ground war, which starts late February, Doc and I would take turns on the M-60 and driving.
We would lead the teams into their individually assigned positions and provide a security screen between them and enemy troops. For that reason, we had to constantly monitor the radio. Ryder wanted to do most of the monitoring himself. My call sign was Echo Four Lima. My pay grade was an E-4 (Echo Four) and the first letter of my last name was L (Lima) so that's where my call sign came from. I'm having trouble remembering the name of the other Warrant Officer, but I think his call sign was "Wolf." Some time later, and before the ground war started, I decided to change my call sign to something cooler, but I'll reveal that when the time comes.
Ryder was definitely right about constantly being on the move. We were always moving from one radar team to another to make sure they were taken care of logistically with ample supply of fuel, food (MREs), water, batteries for field phones, etc. We also had a Navy corpsman assigned to our group. We would move "Doc," as we called him, from one team to another as he would check on team members for any medical concerns they had for the next few weeks until the ground war began, then he rode with us.
Other than providing security and logistics, we were going to briefings every day throughout the day. I'll mention specific ones in future posts. Ryder never wanted to miss any information, and in way, that was a benefit to me because I had access to a lot of information most people in the war didn't have access to. I had a secret security clearance which allowed me to attend these meetings with Ryder and see how the planning and briefings were conducted. It made feel a part of something special so I didn't mind my new role all that much.
Iraqis Attack Marines
Iraqi Commandos from the 36th Division, consisting of one hundred fifteen men supported by artillery, attacked a 1st Marine Division recon unit at a police post (OP-6) located near the top of what is known as "the heel." The heel is part of the Saudi/Kuwaiti border that begins to turn north, 60 miles west of the coast. The area was originally occupied by members of the Arab EPAC (Eastern Province Area Command) along with 1st Mar Div's recon unit and LAI (Light Armored Infantry) forces. But the Arab EPAC was moved closer to the coast where they would initiate their attack when the ground war started.
The remaining eighteen recon marines repelled the attack and withdrew from the post when a concentrated artillery barrage was expected. The Iraqi attack initially was well executed. Some Iraqis had come around behind the marine positions and had them outnumbered and in a three-point cross fire. For some reason, the Iraqis did not try to overrun the position.
There are two possibilities the Iraqis cut off their attack. First, EPWs (Enemy Prisoners of War) that crossed the line earlier that morning reported that their entire company intended to surrender that night. When the company found out that the Marines occupied that post rather than Arabs, they changed their minds and the Iraqi fire was only to cover their retreat. EPWs throughout the war would report hearing rumors about Marines. They would have rather surrendered to Arab forces than the Marines, fearing the worst treatment by Marines. One EPW even said he was told that "Marines were vicious animals and would sometimes kill and eat their enemy." A surrender sounds probable, however, I find it difficult to believe they were surrendering because of the way they advanced. It was not done so in a way that would indicate this was a surrender. As I mentioned yesterday, leaflets were dropped all over Iraq and Kuwait as part of a war propaganda, but also to instruct the Iraqi soldiers the proper way to surrender. I included a picture of one here for you to see. The message on the back was instructing them to remove the magazines from their rifles and sling them over their left shoulder with the muzzle facing down. Any tanks or armor had to have the turrets facing up and in the opposite direction. The fact that they had come around from behind and basically had the marines surrounded, does not indicate to me they intended to surrender. Here is the translation:
"To Seek Refuge Safely the Bearer Must Strictly Adhere to the Following Procedures: Remove the magazine from your weapon. Sling your weapon over your left shoulder muzzle down. Have both hands raised above your head. Approach the Multi-National Forces position slowly, with the lead soldier holding this document above his head. If you do this, you will not die"
The second reason I can imagine is that this force fully intended to overrun this position but one of the five Iraqis killed in the action was the unit commander. Lacking leadership, the Iraqi force would then withdraw in confusion. In my opinion, this was most likely a reconnaissance force probing their positions and had no intentions other than harassing the Marine unit with intermittent fire. However, it is perplexing as to why a force that had overwhelming superiority and an excellent position did not pursue the engagement. It could have been a massacre.
The First Rescue
The Allies downed two more Iraqi planes while losing three more of their own aircraft. One of the American losses was a Navy F-14 Tomcat (pictured here) that had its tail blown off by a SAM while it was conducting a photoreconnaissance run. The pilot, Lieutenant Devon Jones, and the Radar Intercept Officer (RIO), Lieutenant Lawrence Slade, managed to eject safely before the plane went in. Somehow the pilot and the RIO became separated and Lieutenant Slade was captured. The pilot managed to evade the Iraqis and activated his rescue beacon. Two patrolling A-10s piloted by Randy Goff and Paul Johnson, picked up his signal, radioed for help, and circled the area until an Air Force Special Operations helicopter arrived. Just as the helicopter was approaching the downed pilot, the A-10 noticed an Iraqi truck headed directly toward the pilot and his rescuers. The A-10s rolled in and obliterated the truck with their 30mm cannon. Lieutenant Jones was picked up and flown to safety.
Several more Scuds were launched today at Riyadh and Dhahran. Patriot missile sites intercepted at least two of the Scuds and none of them inflicted any damage. For the second day, no Scuds were launched at Israel. U.S. officials stated that despite more than 8,000 sorties in five days, elusive mobile Scud missile launchers remained a threat.
Air raids continued to pound Iraqi positions throughout the day and night. Iraq says it has scattered prisoners of war as shields at allied air targets.
From the Iraqi Lieutenant's Diary:
"Few enemy raids today. Our military communiques say that the enemy has bombed most of the regions and provinces of Iraq with planes and missiles. I am constantly gripped by anxiety."
“Courage is the most important of all the virtues because without courage,
you can't practice any other virtue consistently.”
― Maya Angelou