• Chapter 29: A Great Big Desert

    January 24, 2016
  • Bunker Busting

    According to reports from the latest briefing we attended late in the day today, the Allies flew more than two thousand sorties today under clear skies. The Air Force resumed its "bunker busting." Two thousand pound precision-guided bombs were dropped on many hardened aircraft shelters. The bombs penetrated the reinforced concrete roofs and detonated inside the hangers, gutting the interior. I included a picture of an air plane hanger at Al Jaber airfield in Kuwait as an example. About the same time, it was rumored that Saddam was so upset with his Air Force commanders that he relieved them of their commands, as well as their lives.

    After waiting anxiously for the skies to clear, Captain Jay "Guinness" Stout was assigned his first strike mission in a week. Guinness flew one of four aircraft in the attack. Their target was a complex of buildings in Kuwait City thought to house the Iraqi Army's III Corps forward headquarters. Stout's executive officer from VMFA-451, Major David "Dip" Goold, led the attack and Lieutenant John "Kato" Marion was Guinness' wingman. Bill "GQ" Buckey rounded out the strike as Dip's wingman.

    Each of the four F/A-18s dropped their 1,000 lb. bombs on the complex from fifteen thousand feet, scoring direct hits. The attack killed a general and several staff officers. Fearing a follow-on attack, the Iraqis abandoned the facility.

    Meanwhile, I also learned from the briefing that three Iraqi F-1 Mirage planes ventured across the Saudi border. I guess the newly appointed Air Force commander was under pressure to be more proactive in the air in an attempt to turn the tide. AWACS controllers picked up the enemy aircraft. Captain Ayhed Salah Al-Shamrani of the Royal Saudi Air Force was given the task of intercepting the intruder. Captain Shamrani approached the Iraqis and attacked. He shot down two of the aircraft and the third fled north. The Captain instantly became a hero to the Saudi people.

    From the Iraqi Lieutenant's Diary:

    "The raids began early. They began at about 2:30 a.m. today and have continued heavily without a let-up. I heard news that Bassorah has been bombed heavily. May God have come to help my relatives; I am very worried about them. How I want to see them and find out how they are! God is beneficent. Where are they now? God only knows. Ahhhhhhhhh!"

  • Sea Battles

    Meanwhile, reports we got from a military briefing from CENTCOM (U.S. Central Command) informed us that Allied naval forces were slowly closing the vice on the Iraqis in the Persian Gulf. The Iraqis were being squeezed down into a smaller and smaller area. This morning, Intruders from the USS Roosevelt (CVN-71) sank a Zhuk patrol boat and seriously damaged a minelayer. Shortly after noon, the USS Curts (FFG-38) was ordered toward Kura Island, fourteen miles off the coast of Kuwait, to attempt to capture the defending Iraqis. With the mine watch doubled, the Curst steamed into the area at twenty knots, dodging mines and enemy aircraft. At 1252, Navy SEALs, supported by helicopters and the Curts, assaulted the island and boarded the minelayer that had been disabled earlier in the day. One of the SEALs, whose name is withheld, said, "These people were hurting and thinking about abandoning the ship when we showed up. We tried to help them expedite their decision. There were fifty-one total Iraqi prisoners taken, twenty-two from the ship, and twenty-nine from the island."

    Other Coalition partners were involved in the operations to clear the Persian Gulf waters of enemy ships. A Saudi naval vessel sank an Iraqi mine-laying ship with a harpoon anti-ship missile. As the battle raged at sea, the naval war was taken up river when a U.S. Navy air attack on Iraq's Umm Qasr naval base resulted in four damaged ships.

  • Bravo Two Zero - Day 3

    In mid afternoon, a young shepherd boy peered over the lip of a wadi, looking for some of his sheep that had strayed off. Instead of sheep, he looked Andy McNab straight in the face. The young Iraqi stood and ran yelling in the direction of the anti-aircraft platoon.

    All the commandos knew immediately that they had been compromised. They had to flee as quickly as possible. SAS Commandos are true professionals. They methodically checked their equipment. They drank as much water as they could and stuffed themselves with chocolate. Military chocolate was very different from normal bars. Its intended use was as an emergency food source. These emergency ration chocolate bars were made to be high in energy value, easy to carry, and able to withstand high temperatures. They then filled their canteen, packed up only the essential equipment, and made one last effort to establish radio contact. In three minutes, they were ready to go. They headed out of the wadi with more than an hour of daylight remaining. If they could steal away into the darkness, they would return to the rendezvous point and relocate to a safer location. If only they could last until darkness.

    McNab and his men moved west out of the wadi then turned south into the flat wasteland. Their safe retreat only last about ten minutes. Two Iraqi APCs and a truckload of infantry were bearing down on them. The commandos hit the dirt. One of the APCs came dangerously close and one of the men fired a Rocket Propelled Grenade (RPG). The RPG streaked across the desert with a loud WHOOSH! The explosion shattered one of the APCs tracks. The vehicle was not destroyed, but could no longer move. Both APCs opened fire with their large caliber machine guns and the infantry poured out of the truck, The Iraqis fired wildly, not knowing exactly where their enemy was or how many they were.

    McNab and his seven comrades were now lying in the center of the flat Iraqi desert, with nowhere to take cover. They were seriously outnumbered and outgunned. They were facing two powerful armored vehicles and what looked like an infantry platoon. The situation looked dismal. McNab had few options left.

    All eight commandos went on automatic. They threw all reason and caution aside and let their training take over. They attacked into the Iraqi force: charging in short relays, dropping and firing, and charging forward again. Another RPG turned the truck into a fireball. When they were within fifty meters of the enemy, the second APC retreated. Mark and another commando attacked the disabled APC. The Iraqis inside had left the ramp door wide open and they lobbed a grenade into the back of the vehicle killing all that were inside. Much to the commando's amazement the remaining Iraqis retreated leaving at least fifteen dead and scores of wounded behind.

    After only a few short moments, the surviving APC began to move cautiously forward again toward McNab and his men. The commandos picked up their gear and ran westward. Astonishingly, none of McNab's men had been wounded in the initial encounter. Two more trucks filled with approximately forty infantry joined in the chase. The commandos fired and retreated, fired and retreated, hoping they could stay alive until darkness fell. Two Iraqi Land Cruisers joined in the hunt next. McNab and his men continued to fight a hasty retreat until they finally slipped away into the darkness.

    For the next several hours, McNab and his men played a "cat and mouse" game with the Iraqis. As time passed, the commandos moved farther and farther away from their hunters. They turned south in a feint and finally headed west toward Syria. A one hundred sixty kilometer walk to safety lay ahead.

  • An Unquenching Thirst

    Since leaving the port, I had not had any time to sit down and write a letter. At least none that I can remember. However, I do have a letter that was written to me today and mailed the next day. It was from my dad. It starts out like the typical letter, "How's everything going?" "I hope you are doing Ok." etc. He then talks about what's going on back home and how everyone is doing. He mentioned writing a previous letter that I don't have any more. Many of the letters I wrote home were damaged from rain and so I burned them in the desert. His first letter must have been among those that were damaged.

    Dad let's me know that if there is anything that he can get for me, to let him know. He also asked if I can write back and let him know where I am. "I don't suppose you can tell me where you are over there, can you? That is a pretty big desert over there, nothing but sand and not much trees. Everyone here says to tell you hi and stay well. Don't kick too many butts, save some for the rest."

    I know I wrote him back but I don't have the letter. I know I must have mentioned that I really couldn't share any information about my positions or what I was doing unless it was something that had already taken place. Besides, I was literally all over the northern Saudi Arabian desert going to and from the Saudi/Kuwait border as we moved radar teams from one position to another and attended various military briefings on a daily basis in various locations. Yes, it was a big desert, and I was a small person on the map. Oh, How I thirst. Not a thirst for water, but an unquenchable thirst for a righteous victory in this great big desert!!

    "You should not see the desert simply as some faraway
    place of little rain. There are many forms of thirst."
    William Langewiesche
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