We had a briefing at 0730 this morning to attend. We drove what seemed like half the night from CBR team three's position to MarCent (Marine Central Command) Headquarters. It was approximately a two and a half hour drive south, we made it there about 0650. We never used lights so I had to drive with NVGs (Night Vision Goggles).
After getting to the HQ, I had time to catch a nap. After about 20 minutes, I opened up an MRE and had breakfast. MREs back In the late 80s and early 90s were not very good. There were 12 entrees in every case of MREs. They were beginning to phase out the lesser desirable ones and replace them with better ones, such as Chicken & Rice and Spaghetti & Meat Sauce. The lesser desirable meals were Dehydrated Pork Patties and Chicken A-La-King. I can't remember what I had that morning but I welcomed it. No microwaves so we ate it cold. Plus, Ryder had a good little stash of goodies in the back of the Humvee; Plain or Peanut M&Ms, Snickers, Butterfingers, etc. plus a case of sodas. We were going to need the sugar and caffeine to keep us going. I also had a few items from care packages so I was good to go.
At 0730 the meeting started. Ryder always took notes and I sat quietly in the back observing everything, trying not to fall asleep. I didn't have to be there, but curiosity got the better of me. There was a strong smell of coffee in the air and I kept wanting to get a cup but was just too tired to get up and get it. Radio traffic could be heard from a room in the back that looked like two or three people were monitoring.
Today, the battle plan for the ground war was being discussed among unit commanders of the 1st Marine Division lead by Lieutenant General Walter E. Boomer, the commanding general of I Marine Expeditionary Force (I MEF). Also in attendance was Major General James M. Myatt, Commanding General of 1st Marine Division, Brigadier General Thomas V. Draude, Assistant Division Commander, and several other subordinate commanders of 1st Mar Div. Another briefing would take place later that day with 2nd Marine Division commanders, but it was more of the same thing. Regardless, Ryder wanted to be at every meeting.
I'll never forget the first time I laid eyes on the battle plan map. I didn't know what all the symbols meant, but I saw where 2nd Marine Division would be positioned and the area of the minefield that we would be breaching. Once the meeting was over, I curiously walked up to the map to get a closer look. Ryder said, "Well, Corporal Lovell, what do you think?" "What do those symbols mean, sir?" I asked. He explained to me that the squares with an "X" inside represented Infantry Divisions. The squares with the oval inside represented Armored Divisions. The squares with both an "X" and an oval represented Mechanized Infantry Divisions. Above the squares would be a number of "x" symbols to indicate the strength in numbers for that particular division. Then he pointed where the Republican Guard and Iraqi Army Reserves were positioned. "Our focus is a full frontal attack straight up to Kuwait City with 1st Mar Div to our right and Tiger Brigade to our left, while at the same time the Army further to the west will head up north into Iraq and then east in a left hook attack to trap the Republican Guard and their reserves."
The Shell Game
General Schwarzkopf's plan for the ground offensive involved holding the Iraqi Army in place, and making a bold end run through Iraq. In order for this strategy to succeed, the Iraqis needed to believe that the Coalition ground assault would come across the Saudi/Kuwaiti border accompanied by a Marine Amphibious Assault from the Kuwaiti coastline. So we had to start playing the "shell game." While the U.S. Army's XVIII Airborne Corps and portions of the VII Armored Corps were moving west along with the French, other ground units were moving closer to the Kuwaiti border. These units intentionally made their presence known by conducting bold night reconnaissance patrols, artillery raids, and transmitting many radio messages. On the 23rd, one of our patrols encountered some Iraqis and another border skirmish followed.
Only 1900 sorties were flown today. This was about to change. As General Powell was discussing the difficulties in Battle Damage Assessment in a press conference today at the Pentagon, the skies were beginning to clear over Southwest Asia. Basra, Iraq's "second city," was being pounded from the air.
From the Iraqi Lieutenant's diary:
"Threatening weather. Time drags. We wait and watch. I am very afraid for my brothers. [redacted] is in Kuwait. [redacted] is in Fao and the nearby area. I am most afraid for [redacted]. In the name of God the compassionate and merciful... 'We have built bulwarks around and behind them and they see nothing.' (a verse from the Qur'an) O God, protect! O God, save us! The planes came back to bomb again. They were close and we could see them. If only I had wings."
The French had completely suspended air operations when the weather was bad. With the skies now clearing up, they resumed. French aircraft, along with American, British, and Italian strike planes, attacked a large naval base south of Kuwait City. Of the fifty SAM batteries that had protected this base, only three remained operational. With SAM threat virtually eliminated, the Allied aircraft attacked from fifteen thousand feet to avoid damage from the remaining AAA. They destroyed warships, facilities, and more anti-aircraft defenses. In a separate attack, the Allies lost another F-16. The pilot was recovered safely.
Bravo Two Zero - Day 2
At 2100, McNab and three of his men were on the move again. They headed off into the darkness to recon their area, leaving the other four commandos to guard their hiding place. McNab spent most of the night familiarizing himself with the area and their position. To his surprise, Andy found that the team was in a not-so-desolate area. The recon team came across plantations and buildings to the north and south. They found several Bedouin camps and two Iraqi anti-aircraft platoons with high-powered anti-aircraft guns setup within 300 meters of the hide site. This was much too close for comfort.
McNab also found the main supply road that would lead them to their objective. Andy and his men returned to their secured outpost well before dawn. Just as the night before, they settled in, waiting for darkness again. For the second night in a row, the team was unable to establish radio contact. McNab planned to return to the landing zone and rendezvous with the helicopter to replace their radio equipment and relocate away from the dangerous anti-aircraft guns.
"So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing."