• Chapter 45: “Keep Your Head Down”

    February 9, 2016
  • Battle Damage Assessment

    Another Scud was fired at Israel today. It was intercepted by a patriot missile, but portions of the damaged Scud fell to earth and injured 26 people.

    Twenty four hundred sorties were flown today, raising the grand total to more then 57,000. The 806th Bomber Wing-Provisional (BOW(P)) began flying B-52 missions over Iraq and Kuwait from Fairford, England. Marine Capt. Russell Sanborn of VMA-231 was captured after his Harrier was shot down over Kuwait.

    During Desert Storm, many critics questioned the military's intelligence gathering capability. Some argued that their estimates of Iraqi strengths were too high and others that the bomb damage estimates were inflated. Anyone who understands the difficulties of gathering intelligence on enemy strength and battle damage knows that it is an inaccurate science. The Coalition command tried to err on the side of caution. It is much better to fight a force that is smaller than you had anticipated than is to be surprised by a larger force. Post war studies revealed that the Bomb Damage Assessment had been optimistic regarding the amount of Iraqi equipment destroyed by airstrikes, yet the overall assessment of Iraqi ground unit combat effectiveness turned out to be quite accurate.

    Coalition military officers conducting the media briefings announced the first real estimates of the destruction of Iraqi equipment. 750 tanks and 50 of the 3200 artillery pieces were out of action. And finally, 600 armored personnel carriers (APCs) out of 4000 had been put out of commission. The assessment showed that less than 20% of the Iraqi equipment had been destroyed. Prior to unleashing his ground troops, Gen. Schwarzkopf wanted to eliminate close to 50% of Saddam's military equipment. The Air Force had many more days of work before the ground war would commence.

    From the Iraqi Lieutenant's diary:

    "Few air raids today. At about 2000 hours, while I was talking with a guard, a plane flew over us, very very low."

  • "Keep Your Head Down"

    Ryder and I were camping out at Romeo Five’s position tonight. They were positioned closer to the coast just north of Khafji about six miles from the border of Kuwait providing counter battery support for the Arab forces. While the radar is in operational mode, the generators must be running to provide power. You get used to the noise, but the generator is positioned as far away as we can get it from the shelter and south of our position, so that it won't interfere with being able to hear enemy movement.

    About 2200, we heard the sound of machine gun fire coming from our east. I grabbed my M-16 and  dove into a nearby foxhole. I fastened my flak jacket and the chinstrap of my helmet as I peered out into the dark night. A chorus of automatic rifles and smaller caliber machine gun joined the heavy machine gun fire that sounded like .50 caliber. We all thought that somehow the Iraqis had managed to form a sneak attack on our position. I could tell that it was a .50 caliber machine gun and other lightweight machine guns that were firing.

    I was totally caught off guard. I didn't expect to be attacked by the enemy without at least some warning. I remember the advice my dad gave me prior to being deployed. He said, “Keep your head down.” For the first 30 seconds I kept my head down. However, I couldn't resist but peek over the foxhole as I was expecting to see tracers crisscrossing the sky. I saw none, and we finally realized that the gunfire was coming from the direction of the Saudi unit about a half kilometer away. It was the Saudis firing, but no one knew what they were firing at. We kept our guard up for the rest of the night.

    The next morning, Ryder informed us that the 3rd Marines had received an erroneous report of Iraqis closing in on Khafji. That report apparently spooked the already jumpy Saudis, causing a few nervous trigger fingers.

  • History on Saddam, Part 5

    As Iraqi planes attacked Iranian airfields, Iraqi armored units launched a thrust across the Shatt al-Arab toward Khorramshar. Although Iran's army was in no position to fight, the local population put up fierce resistance. It took a month of unexpectedly heavy fighting before the city was captured on October 24. Iraq then tried to push toward the city of Abadan, 10 miles to the south, but despite several assaults, Iraqi forces failed to capture it.

    Once it became clear that the Iranian regime was not about to collapse, there really was nowhere for Saddam to go. Iraq's failure to take Abadan meant that it could not achieve even it's minimal aim of occupying the Eastern shore of Shatt al-Arab. Thus, soon after consolidating its hold on Khorramshar, the Iraqi army began to dig in, despite having penetrated only 45 miles into Iran. The conflict settled into a war of trenches and earthworks.

    Saddam was beginning to learn that he had grossly underestimated his enemy and overestimated himself. His inexperience in war, and his determination to direct the military objectives himself, would lead to failure after failure, and ultimately, desperation. He failed to learn from the great master of warfare, Lao Tzu that “There is no greater danger than underestimating your opponent.”  The price he would pay for waging a war he believed could be won in a few weeks, would end in a stalemate costing him billions of dollars; money he would owe to several countries around the world, including Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. 

  • A Bad Omen

    Leaflets like these were being dropped all over Kuwait as part of the Coalition's propaganda war. This particular one reminded the Iraqi soldiers of the long, drawn out war they fought with Iran that accomplished nothing except to put Iraq into huge debt. It cost the lives of many Iraqi soldiers, and those who were fortunate enough to survive it, were once again in harm's way with an even bigger war. And for what? The leafelt captured what the Iraqi troops had to be thinking deep down inside, even if they could not openly admit it. Below is the translation: 

    "I crossed the shore of the Shatt al-Arab as you wished, and I kept you on my head (an Arab compliment). With every attack (or offensive) I felt death at the door, and I feel that I am at my last breath, and I sigh deeply."

    The sign with a crow on it reads: "Shatt al-Arab", which is a prominent river separating Iraq from Iran. This is an obvious reference to the 8 year war with Iran. The crow is a regionally accepted symbol of an evil omen.

    “One's days were too brief to take the burden of another's errors on one's shoulders” 
    - Oscar Wilde
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