• Chapter 49: A Desert Wasteland

    February 13, 2016
  • Steel Rain

    One of the few major geographic features in the area is the Wadi-al-Batin. The Wadi is a dry riverbed that is several thousand meters wide and rises 20 to 50 meters from the floor to the ridges, on either side. The Wadi originates in the Rumaila oil fields West of Kuwait and stretches Southwest along the Iraq/Kuwait border into Saudi Arabia. The Wadi continues southwest for at least another 80 km in Saudi Arabia. Approximately 40 km inside Saudi Arabia is the town of Hafir-al-Batin and King Khalid Military City, a major Saudi military facility.  As inept as the Iraqi command may have been, they could at least read a map.

    If one were to stand in the Wadi-al-Batin at the junction of the Saudi Arabian-Kuwaiti-Iraqi borders, there would be trackless desert in all directions. There are a few, if any, terrain features from which to navigate for at least 50 km. A barren wasteland stretches for hundreds of kilometers, to the west and northwest into Iraq. The Iraqi army could not venture far from the few roads and tracks in southern Iraq, without getting hopelessly lost. Thus, the Iraqis never considered the Americans foolish enough to attempt an attack through the wasteland of southern Iraq.

    The Wadi-al-batin, on the other hand, was a highway straight into Iraq to the rear area. A successful Allied offensive up the Wadi would cut off the Iraqis in Kuwait. The Wadi was also a road into the Saudi heartland, an excellent route for an Iraqi counterattack. So the third and final piece of the Iraqi strategy was focused along the Wadi.

    The best of the frontline troops were dug-in near the Wadi, about 20 km inside Kuwait. Other armored and mechanized units were positioned along the Wadi, and the Republican Guard was positioned in Northern Kuwait and Southern Iraq. They were deployed to counter attack down the Wadi. For extra measure, the Iraqis had two infantry divisions dug-in along the Iraqi border to the west of the Wadi-al-Batin. These were the most western Iraqi fortifications. To the west of these divisions lay hundreds of kilometers of undefended desert sprinkled with few Iraqi outposts.

    Such were the Iraqi defenses. They had Kuwait completely encircled with an army half a million strong. After analyzing these defenses, Gen. Schwarzkopf found another opportunity for deception. He had already positioned the 1st Cavalry Division in the Wadi-al-Batin, and on the 13th of February, Captain Hampton Hite and Alpha Battery, 21st Field Artillery headed north just before dusk. Ten MLRS launchers drove 20 km to the western edge of the Wadi. As day faded into night, 120 rockets were unleashed at eight Iraqi artillery units and an infantry company further up the Wadi. The battery ripple launched its rockets, one every three seconds. All 120 rockets were in the air and headed down range within six minutes! Within seconds, more than 75,000 bomblets were raining down on Iraqi targets. This attack, and others like it, lead the surviving Iraqis to label this lethal downpour as “Steel Rain.”

    Alpha battery stowed their launchers and raced South passed a second MLRS battery from VII Corps. As Alpha Battery passed, the VII Corps battery fired a second volley of rockets into the Iraqi positions. The war’s first full-scale MLRS raid was now in the history books.

  • Ready For War

    Meanwhile, soldiers from the Tiger Brigade that were attached to 2nd Marine Division began to make custom modifications to their older M113 vehicles. They covered the large flat sides of the M113s with wire mesh to provide additional protection against enemy RPGs. All of the Brigade's vehicles were loaded for combat. The Tiger Brigade was ready for war. The US Army would not have any problem navigating through the desert of southeastern Iraq because they were equipped with the Global Positioning System (GPS). This system is comprised of several navigational satellites and portable receivers that enable a soldier to fix his position on the earth to within a few feet. The Wadi was not needed for a navigation. But the Iraqis did not know this. General Schwarzkopf and his staff wanted to make the Iraqis believe that they had second-guessed the Allied strategy. Within the next few days the 1st Cavalry would not only reinforce the Iraqi belief that the attack was coming up the Wadi, they would conduct a frontal attack, as the Iranians had done. This would convince the Iraqi command that they had prepared the proper defenses and placed their forces in the correct positions along the Wadi. Meanwhile, far in the West, the XVIII Airborne Corps was almost in position to sweep unopposed into Iraq.

    The Allies were becoming more aggressive all along the front. Each day there were more artillery barrages, probes into Kuwait, and air attacks on frontline Iraqi positions. The missions were not only increasing in number, but magnitude as well. Even the Kuwaitis were getting in on the act. On the 13th, Kuwait Gazelle attack helicopters (pictured here) returned to Kuwaiti airspace, attacked, and destroyed two Iraqi tanks-SWEET REVENGE!

  • Continued Air Strikes

    Another 2800 sorties were flown on the 13th. The air war had clearly shifted to Battlefield preparation. Seven hundred attack missions were flown over Kuwait. Another 200 airstrikes were aimed at the Republican Guard. The Allies were hitting the Republican guard with as many as 30 B-52 sorties a day. "Tank-plinking" missions killed 85 armored vehicles on the night of the 12th through 13th February. Tank plinking is a term that was given by pilots during the Gulf War to describe the use of precision-guided munitions to destroy artillery, armored personnel carriers, tanks, and other targets. The Allies' priorities continue to be the destruction of armor and artillery in the Kuwait Theater of Operations (KTO) and the destruction of the Hammurabi Division of the Republican Guard.

    While the main Allied air assault was shifting toward Kuwait, Baghdad was still being attacked regularly. At 0400, F-117's bombed the Al Jamila and Al Jadreih neighborhood telecommunications centers, The Palace of Conferences, and a command bunker in Baghdad. In addition to being used as a military command and control facility, the command bunker was being used by senior Baath Party officials as a refuge for their families. Over 100 civilians were killed when the bunker took two direct hits.

    The facilities at Al Khanjar were nearing completion so much so that General Boomer moved us forward and established his 1st MEF command post on the gravel plain. Lonesome Dove airstrip (pictured here) was open to support 21 helicopter squadrons and C-130's continue to ferry supplies into "Khanjar International."

  • Moving On Up

    There was no entry for the Iraqi Lieutenant's diary today. In the next few posts he talks about an undisclosed illness he is suffering from. I'm thinking he probably went to a field medical hospital or perhaps was visited by an army field medic.

    I got a letter from my brother-in-law, James. He mentioned how he had been worried about me and wanted me to know he had me in his prayers. He continues, "I have really come to realize what a great person you are. I'm really proud of you. For serving our country and defending the freedom of Kuwait people. But then again I wish someone else could have gone instead of you. When the war started I really wanted to go myself (still do). Every single person I know stands behind you guys 100%.

    I've been trying as best as I can to comfort your sisters and mother. They love you very much, and are very emotional right now. Keep your head down and your heart and mind strong. The Lord is on your side."

    I responded right away with a letter. I won't share the whole thing, but I end it with the following:

    "I know you are doing what you can to comfort my sisters and mother and I really appreciate that. Let them know that I am doing fine. I've gotten so close to God, I fear no enemy. I really believe that I'm coming home all in one piece. I think God has a lot in store for me in my future and I'm looking forward to it."

    I also wrote a letter to my grandmother today at 3:30 pm after we moved up north a little closer to the border and prepared to stay.

    "Hi grandma! I hope you're doing well. I haven't been sick a single day I've been here, thank God. No sinus problems either. My nose may get stuffy or runny every now and then, but not much. I made a tape yesterday. All of one side. I'm sending it to you first. I'm going to try to send more.

    We moved up north today. Northwest actually. They say we're about three and a half miles from the border. That's the closest I've been so far. By the 21st the ground war should start (They kept pushing the date back hoping the weather would improve but it did not). After that we will be moving into Kuwait from the west. We moved up around the bottom of Kuwait and turned north around where Kuwait curves upward. I just finished digging my fighting hole. It's about 12 feet long, 3 1/2 feet wide, and 4 feet deep. It would be deeper, but I hit hard ground.

    Anyway, I'm probably going to send my tape with this letter. P.S. Linda, thanks a million for my care packages. I love my favorite aunt."

    “If you want to make sure a person knows you are thinking of them...tell them” 
    ― Mark W Boyer
  • [nxs_button text='< Chapter 48' destination_articleid='1084' destination_url='' destination_js='' destination_target='_self' colorzen='nxs-colorzen nxs-colorzen-c12-dm ' scale='2-0']