As the division trained for combat and moved forward to defensive positions near the Kuwaiti border, 2nd Marine Division staff began developing its operations plan. It was recognized that no matter what the division's objectives might be, or what mission might be assigned to it, the ability to move into Kuwait and to fix and defeat the Iraqi forces there would depend upon the ability to conduct a successful breach of extensive enemy minefields and obstacle belts.
The original plan for the MEF, as published by Headquarters, Marine Corps Forces Central Command (MarCent) on the 1st of January 1991, tasked the 1st Marine Division with conducting the breach of both Iraqi defensive lines in the area of Al Wafrah. After breaching the second defensive line, the 2nd Marine Division would conduct a passage of lines, become the point of main effort and continue the attack to the MEF objectives. A link-up operation with an amphibious landing on the coast near Ash Shuaybah was also a possible task for the division.
Based upon these tasks, the 2nd Marine Division made its plans, to include training for the complex maneuver of a passage of lines. A movement plan was designed to support an orderly and rapid passage through the breach created by the 1st Marine Division. Under this plan, the times, routing, and procedures of the division's regiments and other subordinate units were established.
As planning for the operation continued, some members of the division staff raised serious questions. The breach site selected was at one of the longest points between the two defensive belts, a distance of about 20 kilometers. This distance, coupled with a narrow front at the breach site, would restrict the movement of the 1st Marine Division through the second breach, and keep it in the zone between the defensive lines for an unacceptably long time. The 1st Marine Division's own plans called for a decision to be made, not later than 1300 on the day of the attack, whether the second breach could be accomplished before dark. If not, it would take up defensive positions for the night in the zone between the defensive belts, and the second breach would be made at first light on the following day. This could mean that the division might take 30 or more hours to penetrate both belts and establish the breaches, a long time to be a target to the indirect fire weapons employed by the enemy to cover his defensive lines. During this time the 2nd Marine Division would wait, perhaps under fire, in its attack positions, unable to influence the battle.
On the 22nd of January 1991, when the MEF staff held its sand-table exercise for both divisions, Major General Keys became convinced that the current plan had to be improved. He saw the area was not large enough for two divisions to maneuver, presenting too great a target. It would take too much time to get both divisions through the single breach site, and not enough combat power could be moved forward quickly.
A Double-Breach Plan
These issues were discussed by the division's staff, which was searching for a better solution to the breaching problem. The 2nd Marine Division was fortunate in having Lieutenant Colonel Howard P. Shores II attached as its 1st Marine Division liaison officer. Lieutenant Colonel Shores was an especially thorough officer, whose capacity for hard work gained him immediate acceptance among the 2nd Marine Division staff. He had been in Saudi Arabia since August, and had personally familiarized himself to much of the border area to the I MEF front, and was therefore familiar with the land and the trafficability of its various areas. This knowledge was put to use when the staff conceived a recommendation to execute a separate breach. Lieutenant Colonel Shores suggested the vicinity of the Umm Gudair oilfield. The area between the defensive belts was narrower, only 4 to 6 kilometers, allowing a more rapid advance through the belts. Trafficability to and through this area was considered to be excellent. There was ample room for positioning the division west of the border, prior to the assault.
A review of the enemy's dispositions and the MEF's objectives indicated that the creation of a separate breach site in this area would more rapidly accomplish the missions of both the division and the MEF. With the 1st Marine Division conducting its breach at the original site, it could link up with the amphibious task force (ATF), or seize any ATF objectives, if necessary. Over several weeks of planning, the designation of the MEF objectives changed several times. As finally set, they were as follows: MEF objective A, Al Jaber Airfield; MEF objective B, the key terrain south of Al Jahrah; MEF objective C, Kuwait City International Airport. These MEF objectives oriented the MEF ground units to the force mission to conduct "a supporting attack to fix and destroy Iraqi forces in zone; to prevent reinforcement of Iraqi forces facing Arab Corps in the west; and to establish blocking positions to preclude retreat of Iraqi forces from southeast Kuwait and Kuwait City." The double-breach plan would require that the divisions exchange zones as currently assigned; that is, the 1st Marine Division would be on the east, and the 2nd Marine Division would move around it to the west.
By the 2nd of February, it was decided that the 2nd Marine Division's breach would be conducted by the 6th Marines. General Keys and the regimental commander, Colonel Lawrence H. Livingston, had served together in Vietnam, and Keys had great confidence in Livingston's ability to perform under fire. Also, this regiment had the most training in breaching operations, and was therefore the most qualified for the task. It would be assisted in its work by the 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion's Task Force Breach Alpha, commanded by Major Gary F. Wines. This task force also had recently trained for breaching operations, and it was reinforced with additional engineering equipment. On the 3rd of February, Colonel Richard provided additional information and guidance. As previously planned, the 1st Marine Division would attack first and breach the Iraqi defensive lines. It would then take Al Jaber airfield. When the enemy deployed to counter this threat, the 2nd Marine Division would assault and make its breach. On emerging from the second minefield, the 2nd Marine Division would head north to become the point of the MEF main effort.
The 6th Marines, as the lead element of the division, would move through the breach in six lanes. In its initial assault and breaching operations, the regiment would be temporarily reinforced by the 1st Battalion, 8th Marines. The regiment would expand the breachhead line in preparation for the arrival of the rest of the division, which would move through the minefields when called forward. The 6th Marines would remain in the division's center, with the 8th Marines coming into position on the right, along the joint boundary with the 1st Marine Division. The Tiger Brigade, with its heavy armored strength, was specially chosen to move on the division's left flank, which was the most exposed to an enemy armored counterattack. This boundary was shared with coalition Arab forces, which actually operated farther to the west, leaving this flank open. Also, this position would allow the brigade to move rapidly to block any retreat of Iraqi forces to the west. The 2nd Tank Battalion, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Cesare Cardi, was assigned as the division's reserve; with its newly received M1A1 tanks and its Antitank (TOW) Company it would be able to react rapidly and aggressively to any threat.
Tank companies were attached to the infantry regiments to give them an extra armored "punch." Companies B and C of the 4th Tank Battalion were assigned to the 8th Marines. The 8th Tank Battalion, under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Michael D. Cavallaro, was assigned to the 6th Marines; Company A was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marines, and Company C was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 6th Marines. Company B and Headquarters Company, 8th Tank Battalion, served as the reserve for the 6th Marines.
The units of the 2nd Assault Amphibian Battalion, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Robert L. Williams, were also divided among the division's elements. The battalion's 248 AAVs provided needed mechanized lift to the two Marine regiments and the combat engineer task forces. Company B, 1st Assault Amphibian Battalion, was attached to the 1st Battalion, 6th Marines; Company B, 2nd Assault Amphibian Battalion, was attached to the 2d Battalion, 2nd Marines; Company B, 4th Assault Amphibian Battalion, was attached to the 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines; and Company D, 2nd Assault Amphibian Battalion, was attached to the 1st Battalion, 8th Marines. A provisional General Support Company was formed and attached to the combat engineers. The Headquarters and Service Company of the battalion was placed in general support of the division.
My 2nd Artillery Raid
Scout helicopters from Combat Command Carter's Delta Troop-Scout Weapons Team (SWT)-encountered an Iraqi wheeled, armored recon vehicle patrolling just north of the berm. The scout immediately destroyed the enemy vehicle with a TOW missile. CC Carter's mission was two-fold. They were not only tasked with defending the division's assembly areas, they were to ensure that the enemy commanders facing them did not receive reports that the 1st Infantry Division was massing to the south. Just as with this recon vehicle, any Iraqi patrol was quickly eliminated and all Iraqi forward outposts were systematically destroyed.
Because we had been pulled from our usual position to provide counterbattery fire support in the re-taking of Khafji, I missed out on a few artillery raids. I found out on this day about a raid that took place on the 2nd of February when we went to check on Romeo Two. Pacman was there too. He told me that one Marine was killed and two others were injured in the raid. I never knew who they were. I've included a map showing all the places that we hit with the numerous raids we conducted from late January until the 23rd of February. As you can see, we were all over the Saudi/Kuwaiti border.
We had another raid today. It was a little different than the previous one. We provided fire support for 11th Marines during the raid. Nothing particularly exciting happened that I would share. I didn't get shot at or anything. Still, the raids were the most exciting things I had been involved in up to this point, except the ambush we got from the advancing Iraqis on the 29th of January. I don't think they'll be doing that again any time soon.
I wrote a letter to Carlos today. He is the eleven year old boy from Virginia that wrote me. I don't have that letter of course so I can't remember anything about it, but he and his mom wrote me back, which I don't get until March. I don't have a lot of time to write so I'm sure it was pretty short. I was always on the move and we can't use any lights at night to see, so I can only write during the day.
My time spent with Task Force Taro was short lived. We were never really a part of the Task Force officially. Ryder just liked to nose his way in to things when he could. I didn't mind it because it kept us busy and I got to do a lot of things that I wouldn't have normally been able to do. Task Force Taro is a 1st Marine Division Task Force and since the operational plan had been changed so that the two divisions were breaching the minefields and obstacles in separate locations, we would not be able to participate with them anymore. I had to say goodbye to Pacman as he would be attached to the 11th Marines in 1st Marine Division from here on out. Would I see him again? I hoped so.
From the Iraqi Lieutenant's diary:
"Few air raids today. I stayed alone in the shelter. Worried about the bombing.. worried about hunger.. worried about water..."
“Never let the future disturb you. You will meet it, if you have to,
with the same weapons of reason which today arm you against the present.”
― Marcus Aurelius, Meditations