The Allies' deception continued on CNN. This deception was to make the Iraqis concentrate their defenses in particular areas. The two main areas that we wanted them to concentrate their defenses at were the Saudi/Kuwaiti border, where the 1st and 2nd Marine Division of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force (I MEF) buildup was, and the Kuwaiti coastline. The coastline is where some 31 amphibious ships carrying the assault echelons of both the 4th and 5th Marine Expeditionary Brigades (MEB) and the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU). Together this amphibious force made up the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force (II MEF). All this was done while hiding the movements of Coalition forces further to the west. This meant that me and my fellow marines would have to plow through the toughest Iraqi defenses since we were basically telling them where we were attacking from.
To help pull this deception off, the Coalition command encouraged the media to publicize the Marines' practice of amphibious landings code named "Imminent Thunder." The media watched and recorded the Marines sweeping ashore from their ships in the Persian Gulf, Tap Line Road (the only major road running east to west through Northern Saudi Arabia). This highly anticipated amphibious attack was an illusion, an elaborate ruse concocted by Gen. Schwarzkopf’s planners to conceal our real intentions: a roughly 150-mile sweep west by Coalition ground forces into Iraq that cut off supply lines and retreat for many Republican Guard troops.
“They bought it 100 percent,” said Bill Allison, a history professor at Georgia Southern University in Statesboro and author of “The Gulf War, 1990-1991.” He compared the deception to that used by Allied forces during World War II for the D-Day landing on Normandy Beach in 1944. “Even after we’d landed in Normandy, they kept believing we were going to land in Calais for three weeks or so,” Allison said.
Iraq reacted by building large-scale coastal defense fortifications manned by as many as six infantry divisions - the 2nd, 11th, 18th, 19th, and two unidentified formations, and either the 5th or 51st Mechanized Divisions acting as a reserve, depending on where the assault took place. According to intelligence reports, Iraq also dumped oil into the Kuwaiti coast. The Saudis confirmed it, but the Iraqis blamed Coalition bombing as the cause. The real reason was to defend the coast against the highly anticipated beach assault. They were going to set the oil on fire as the Marines conducted the landing assault. They also had electrical powerlines running into the water to try to electrocute them. Of course, they had the usual beach fortifications such as land mines, anti-armored vehicle obstacles, coastal guns, batteries, mortars, and artillery, and thousands of Iraqi troops.
Despite the buildup and the intent to use the Marine amphibious assault as a disguise, USNAVCENT (U.S. Navy Central Command) ordered the amphibious force to plan for a real assault north of Ash Shuaybah that would seize the port facilities in the town, destroy the Iraqi forces in the immediate area and pin down the remainder of the Iraqi forces on the coast.
The "Big Red One"
The U.S. Army's 1st Infantry Division, the "Big Red One," last fought in the desert in World War II when they helped the British defeat Erwin Rommel and the Germans in North Africa. As part of the VII Corps, the division deployed 1-4 Cavalry to their Forward Assembly Area (FAA), Junction City. Junction City would be the jumping off point for the Big Red One's move into Iraq. Junction City was located just north of the town of Hafir Al Batin and Tap Line Road. The Cavalry squadron dug in and established a stationary screen. Once the area was secured, helicopter units of 1-4 Cavalry were deployed to bolster the screen.
Just as Colin Powell had warned, the Coalition Air Forces were working at "cutting off" the Iraqis in and around Kuwait. On the 25th, air attacks intensified on supply depots, bridges, critical roads, and artillery.
From the Iraqi Lieutenant's diary:
"The raids stopped today and then started up again after sunset. Leaves had been suspended but were granted again. But that doesn't help me because only 5 percent are given leave. The important thing is that they've begun again. I sent a letter to my relatives and was so worried I forgot to ask about my children and about [redacted] and [redacted] and my sister, but I said hello to everybody. I ask God to protect them all."
Bravo Two Zero - Day 4
McNab and his men advanced forward through the night. Their westward trek moved them farther away from enemy patrols and up into higher elevations. A bitter-cold, harsh wind blew directly in their faces as they marched forward into the moonless, black night. One of the men, Stan, was suffering from hypothermia and dehydration. Another, Vince, was limping. He had hurt his leg during the wild battle earlier in the day. The group pressed onward slowed by their debilitated comrades.
Just before midnight, Andy McNab heard aircraft approaching from the north. He placed his hand on Vince's shoulder and said that the group was going to stop and attempt to make radio contact with the aircraft. The commandos made radio contact with an American aircraft for only a moment. They were not able to relay their position or situation before the aircraft was out of range. Their brief radio encounter lasted less than a minute. When Andy turned to move out, he found that three of his fellow commandos, Chris, Vince, and Stan were gone. Apparently, Vince had misunderstood Andy's order to stop. The three men continued to plod forward. Andy's patrol was now reduced to five men.
At first light, McNab and his remaining men found cover and stopped to rest for the day. Since being discovered the previous afternoon, they had fled eighty-five kilometers on foot. The men wanted to continue their flight, but it would be too hazardous to move in the light of day. They hunkered down in the cold, wet snow and tried to stay warm.
By late afternoon McNab and his men were suffering severely from the cold. They were starting to recognize symptoms of hypothermia setting in. Soon they would all be unable to go on. With over an hour of remaining daylight, McNab and what was left of his squad, resumed their flight to safety. They moved throughout the night, trying to move northwest toward Syria where there was higher ground. However, there was a piercing cold wind, rain, and snow so they veered to the north to stay under the snowline. As they did, they encountered a large concentration of Iraqi troops. They veered back and up into the mountains until they could stand the cold, bitter wind no longer. As they continued to zigzag north and northwest, they had only traveled ten kilometers closer to the border. As daylight approached, they found a dry spot that sheltered them from the wind and the enemy's eyes. They would continue their trek at nightfall.
“You have power over your mind - not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.”
― Marcus Aurelius, Meditations