• Chapter 41: Moving Right Along

    February 5, 2016
  • "First Team"

    The Coalition Air Forces continued to isolate the Iraqis in and around Kuwait. Two thousand sorties were flown, mostly against Republican Guard and bridges over the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. U.S. and British aircraft demolished the Bridge of the Republic, in downtown Baghdad. It was estimated that one third of Iraq's critical bridges and eighty percent of its oil refineries were already in ruin.

    As the Allied air raids continued, the 1st Cavalry Division crept closer to the border berm near Wadi-al-Batin. Remember what a "team" is? If not, let me refresh your memory real quick. A team was the hybrid battalion that consisted of a mixture of elements. For instance, a mechanized infantry battalion consisting of only Bradley Fighting Vehicles would trade one of it's companies for an armor company with an armored battalion that only had tanks. This would give the mechanized infantry division two mechanized infantry companies of Bradley Fighting Vehicles and one armored company of tanks and vice-versa. The 1st Cavalry Division became known as the "First Team."

    The "First Team," or 1st Cavalry Division, was born in the early 1920s out of the Wild West's 5th, 7th, and 8th Cavalry Regiments. The 1st Cavalry Division became a "modern" Army division in 1943 when they dismounted to fight in World War II. In the South Pacific, they started their long string of "firsts." They were first in Manila, and at the end of the war they were first in Tokyo. They conducted the first amphibious landing in Korea and fought all the way to the North Korean capital to become first in Pyongyang. In 1965, they continued to be the Army's innovative force when they became the first Air Mobile Division. The helicopter-borne cavalry was perfectly suited for fighting in the Jungles of Southeast Asia, so they became the first fully committed division in the Vietnam War. If you saw the movie "We Were Soldiers," with Mel Gibson, you saw the introduction of cavalry units being deployed to the front lines using UH-1 Huey gunships.

    The 1st Cavalry Division fought gallantly in the jungles of Vietnam, beating back the Tet Offensive. Next, they were first in Cambodia. After the Vietnam War, they were transformed again to become the first triple-capability division. They abandoned some of their helicopters and established an armored brigade and a mechanized infantry brigade to supplement their remaining airmobile brigade. In 1975, they became a modern day armored division and were the first to field the AH-64 Apache helicopter, the M2 Bradley Fighting Vehicle, the Multiple Launch Rocket System, and the HMMWV (Humvee).

    First Team's Task Force 1-7 Cavalry was closer to the enemy than any other Army unit; 1-7 drew its line in the sand across the Wadi-al-Batin. 1-7s Bradleys dug in, over a kilometer apart, along a line seventy kilometers long. The Division's long range surveillance detachment built sunken, invisible bunkers and manned these isolated outposts along the border itself. 1st Cavalry Division helicopters got into the fight while flying reconnaissance along the border. Just before 1700 on this date, a 1-7 Cavalry AH-1 Cobra helicopter flew over an isolated Iraqi observation tower. The Iraqis opened fire. The pilot returned with five 2.75" rockets. Two of them were direct hits.

  • Iraqi Air Defense Status

    The Iraqi air defenses were not yet completely destroyed. Occasionally, they would fire on attacking aircraft. Most of the anti-aircraft fire was shot wildly into the air. But on this date, the U.S. Navy suffered another aircraft loss. Lieutenant Robert J. Dwyer was killed when his F/A-18 was shot down by what is presumed to have been just plain bad luck. For Lieutenant Dwyer the concept of "small plane-large sky" did not protect him.

    By the end of January, the Allies had been successful in stopping Iraqi aircraft that were fleeing to Iran. American combat air patrols had intercepted several planes along the Iranian border and shot them down. The Iraqi pilots stopped attempting to flee and the combat air patrols were dramatically reduced. Today, the Iraqi pilots must have felt it was safe to once again attempt to race to safety. Ten more Iraqi aircraft darted across the border to Iran. The next day, however, the U.S. Air Force resumed its combat air patrols and two F-15 Eagles caught four Iraqi jets attempting to flee. The fighters shot down all four: two SU-25s and two MIG-21s.

    From the Iraqi Lieutenant's diary:

    "I woke up this morning to the sound of enemy air raids. I quickly put on my uniform and ran to the trench. I had my helmet on. Thank God, the raid ended. In the afternoon I went to wash up inside an armored troop carrier. I washed quickly because these vehicles are usually targets for aircraft."

    POW Status:

    Andy McNab, Stan, and Dinger were finally transferred to a military prison after undergoing nine days of repeated interrogations and torture.

  • History on Saddam, Part 1

    Some time during my stay in the Gulf, I managed to get my hands on a copy of a very interesting and informative book written by Judith Miller and Laurie Mylroie called, "Saddam Huessein and the Crisis in the Gulf." It was published in late 1990. I'll be sharing excerpts from the book in the next few days as I believe it is interesting to know the enemy we were up against; although I didn't finish the book until some time late March. I've included a picture of the back of the book here because the front part is missing.

    "To Saddam, the Iraqis had bled and died in Iran in a war, albeit one he had started, that had protected the sheikdoms from subversion and conquest by the non-Arab Persians. For Gulf Arabs, life had continued relatively uneventfully. True, the Gulf states had supplied money and arms for his war. But not nearly enough, Saddam told his colleagues and diplomats after the ceasefire."

    Saddam would vent his frustration to America's ambassador, April Glaspie, about the cost Iraq paid in blood. "Who else was there to protect the Gulf states against Iran? Who else would have fought a ground war to stop Iran? Would you have been able to lose 10,000 men in a single battle one week, and then turn around and lose another 10,000 the next week without concern that public opinion might force you to change your policy"

    According to the book, Iraq was deep in debt financially and the country was broke. "At the start of the war, Saddam had $30 billion in cash on hand; by war's end, according to Marshall Wiley, who heads the U.S.-Iraq Business Forum, Baghdad owed the world more than $70 billion, about half of that to Gulf states."

    The prime ministers of the Arab Cooperation Council (ACC) assembled in Baghdad to mark the group's first anniversary on February 19, 1990. "A regional organization consisting of Iraqi, Yemen, Jordan, and Egypt, the ACC had been established after the Iraq-Iran war to promote economic and security cooperation among Iraq's close allies." He surprised everyone at the meeting by demanding the U.S. withdraw its ships from the region. It was Saddam's belief that America was the lone, unchecked super power now that America had won the cold war. He feared that America would be a powerful ally to Israel. He warned the Arab states that Israel might attack the Arabs in the next five years: "We can see the bright lights of holy Jerusalem. Thus the signs on the path of liberating Jerusalem are clear."

    This was Saddam's stance publicly, however, privately his concern was really on money. "At a closed session of the summit, one prominent diplomat recalled that Saddam stated that not only did it not matter whether the Gulf states were willing to forgive his debts, but that he also needed more money: 'I need $30 billion in fresh money,' Saddam told fellow Arab leaders." He continued with a threat: "Go tell them in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf that if they don't give it to me, I will know how to take it." But that didn't go over well with everyone. "Egyptian President Hosmi Mubarak, not a man known for outbursts, was said to have replied angrily, 'I won't be a party to extortion.'"

    Sources would later report that Saddam sought after $27 billion from Kuwait, but Kuwait replied that they did not have that amount of money available. On July 10, 1990, Gulf oil ministers met in Jidda to discuss Iraq's demands. The two largest violators of OPEC quotas, Kuwait and United Arab Emirates, agreed under pressure from Iran, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia to abide strictly by their quotas. In the weeks following, Iraq would continue to focus more and more on pressuring Kuwait to pay the money they believed was owed them for fighting on their behalf. Iraq was accusing Kuwait of continually violating its quotas and stealing Iraqi oil from the Rumaila oil field which both countries shared. With tensions continuing to build between Iraq and Kuwait, one can only wonder why the warning signs were not clearly visible in time to prevent an all out war.

    “What you do makes a difference, and you have to
    decide what kind of difference you want to make.”
    ― Jane Goodall

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