• Chapter 39: Battle Stations

    February 3, 2016
  • The USS Missouri

    While the Iraqis were licking their wounds from the Battles of Kibrit, Khafji, and Bubiyan, the Allied air forces were working hard at cutting off the Iraqis in Kuwait. Attack aircraft were destroying key bridges and then picking off the vehicles stuck in the backup. The Marines were concentrating on the Republican Guard. On this day, they flew five hundred missions against Iraq's "crack troops." By the end of the day, the tonnage of bombs dropped on Iraq and Kuwait had exceeded the entire amount dropped in World War II.

    The Navy and Marines were also busy at sea today. The Marines assaulted Faylaka Island. Just as Maradim, they found that the Iraqi position had been abandoned. After they destroyed everything of military value, they withdrew. The USS Nicholas led the USS Missouri (pictured here) closer to the Kuwaiti coast through mined waters using avoidance sonar. The battleship fired its 16" guns on a command and control bunker complex along the coast.

    Iowa class battleships were built during World War II. They became operational as the war was ending, and did not see any significant action. However, the North Koreans saw the violent side of the Missouri during the Korean War. She hurled 16 inch projectiles, the size of Volkswagens, over the horizon into enemy positions. After the Korean War, the Navy's strategy changed. The New strategy, which was centered on the Aircraft Carrier Battle Group, did not include battleships and they were all retired. Part of the Reagan administration's plan for a two thousand ship Navy was the modernization and reactivation of the New Jersey, Wisconsin, and Missouri. The battleships were outfitted with Tomahawk cruise missiles, modern day radar, air defense, and communication equipment. Now, the "Mighty Mo" was firing its 16 inch guns in anger for the first time since the Korean War.

  • Breaking it Down

    With each passing day. The U.S. Army's role in Desert Storm would increase. Roughly nine American Army divisions were moving into position for attack. In the next few posts I will be describing more and more events involving units within these divisions. For now, let me break down the Army's combat unit structure for those who are not very familiar with it.

    All armies use structure to facilitate command and control on the battlefield. Even William Wallace had officers who commanded bands of clansmen in the helter-skelter battles with the English. The Roman Legions perfected the most well known of military formations, the phalanx. Just as with any army thoughout history, the United States Army employs a structural hierarchy in all of its fielded combat units.

    There are many types of units: armor, infantry, cavalry, armored cavalry, mechanized infantry, parachute infantry, and others. These units differ in capability and mission but they all employ the same basic structure. They all have a basic building block: infantry uses the foot soldier, armor the tank. Several foot soldiers combine to form a squad. Pure infantry units have nine-man squads while mechanized infantry units have smaller six-man squads due to the seating capacity of a Bradley Fighting Vehicle. Because of its firepower, a single tank is the rough equivalent of an infantry squad.

    According to doctrine, "pure" units are built in threes from the lower echelon. So three infantry squads together become an infantry platoon and three M1 tanks form an armor platoon. As with anything in the military, nothing is ever straightforward. An infantry platoon needs leadership and communication capability so the platoon also has a command element comprising a lieutenant, a sergeant, an artillery observer, and a radioman. All field commanders, even green lieutenants, would like to have heavier weapons to help get them out of trouble, so a fourth Heavy Weapons squad is also part of the platoon mix. So then, a platoon contains three "pure" infantry squads plus some other stuff. The armor platoon satisfies the "other stuff" requirement by simply adding a fourth command tank.

    Three platoons are used to make a company. As with the lower echelon, it's really three platoons and some "other stuff." In the case of infantry and mechanized infantry, the other stuff is a mortar platoon. This gives the company its own mini artillery, which is always nice to have in a pinch. Tankers just have sixteen tanks in an armor company. They don't require any "other stuff."

    Again, three companies, and more "other stuff," are grouped together to form a battalion. An infantry battalion has an anti-armor company with HMMWV (High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle, a.k.a. Humvee), mounted TOW missiles and other anti-tank weapons like the hand-held Javelin missile and a Headquarters and Headquarters Company (HHC). The company Headquarters is the commanding officer and his staff. The Headquarters Company is a unit that provides security and support to the commanding officer and his staff. These two entities are lumped together into the HHC. Armor battalions have a command element, HHC for their "other stuff." Are you still with me? If not, then feel free to jump down to the next article in the post because it might not get any clearer.

    Three battalions and some "other stuff" make up a brigade. Brigades usually have all sorts of "other stuff." And finally, three or more brigades are used to make a division, and you guessed it, "other stuff."  If I haven't lost you yet, I probably would by trying to explain what a regiment is so I won't bother. Just know that a regiment is pretty dang big, with some "other stuff." An army Corps contains anywhere from two to five divisions, and when you put two to five Corps together you have a Field Army.

    If you followed me along with all of that congratulations! But wait, there's more. A "pure" armor battalion would have forty eight tanks. A 'pure" mechanized infantry battalion would only have Bradley Fighting Vehicles and "pure" infantry would have no armored vehicles at all. Many battlefield commanders decided to trade units with each other to have a mixed capability, trading one of the mechanized infantry companies with an armor company. This resource sharing became popular during the Gulf War and were called Teams.

  • The "Eyes" at Night

    Cavalry troops from the 24th Mechanized Infantry Division now occupied a line of outposts about three kilometers south of the Iraqi border (Phase Line RAZOR). The Victory Division's sector started to the northeast of the Saudi town of Rafha and extended approximately forty kilometers to the east. Ten platoon sized fighting positions were strung along PL RAZOR; smaller listening and observation posts were sprinkled between PL RAZOR and the Iraqi border. Apache and Kiowa helicopters maintained watch over the forward American positions.

    Division helicopters were venturing north to the border and videotaping suspected Iraqi air defense and artillery positions with their high-powered, day/night vision systems. In addition, Captain Frank Moreno and his Long Range Reconnaissance and Surveillance teams were inserted at night to monitor Iraqi patrol posts.

    The 1st Infantry Division increased in size of its forward-deployed units on this day. General Rhame established a special forward Task Force under the command of Brigadier General Williams G. Carter. 3rd Battalion, 37th Armored Regiment (3-37 Armor) and 1st Battalion, 5th Field Artillery (1-5 Artillery) were brought forward to supplement the line established earlier by the 1st Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment (1-4 Cavalry). These forward combat elements were designated "Combat Command Carter." CC Carter immediately established a stronger screen along the Saudi frontier to protect the forward assembly area of the Big Red One. As part of this screen, 1-4 Cavalry's helicopters continued to patrol the border.

  • The Pioner RPV

    The Iraqis continued to launch Scuds. Two more were launched today. One was intercepted over Riyadh. The Patriot missile destroyed the Scud but the warhead fell to earth and exploded. The impact caused twenty nine injuries. The second Scud was launched at Israel but fell short in Jordan.

    Twenty seven hundred more sorties were flown, raising the Desert Storm total number to forty four thousand. B-52s continued to pound the Republican Guard as part of the day's operations. One of the attacking B-52s developed mechanical problems and crashed at sea while returning to base at Diego Garcia. Three of the six crewmembers ejected and were recovered safely, while the other three were unable to get out of the crippled aircraft. Captain Jeffry L. Olson, First Lieutenant Jorge I. Artegga, And First Lieutenant Eric D. Hedeen were killed in the crash.

    For the second day in a row, the USS Missouri launched an RPV (pictured here), which flew over enemy positions, and relayed live television images back to the "Mighty Mo's" gunners. They found and destroyed an Iraqi artillery emplacement, antiaircraft radar, and a surface-to-air missile launcher.

    From the Iraqi Lieutenant's diary:

    "Few air raids today. The pain I've been having all the past 6 months has returned. I am sad. In the last 5 days I've eaten only a few dates and boiled lentils. What have we done to God to endure that? I have no news of my relatives. How can I, since I don't know what is happening to me.

    What will become of me? What is happening to them? I don't know. I don't know. God protect them. How I miss my children. I know that [female's first name redacted] is very, very frightened. What happens to her when she hears the planes and missiles? I don't know.

    P.S.: 3 February 1991 at 2100 hours. While I was writing these lines, another air raid occurred."

    “Courage is grace under pressure.”
    ― Ernest Hemingway

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