General Powell called General Schwarzkopf at 2230 local time in Saudi Arabia on the 27th, and after a short discussion, ordered Schwarzkopf to cease fire at 0500 the next morning. Earlier in the day, Schwarzkopf's commanders had told him that they needed until the end of the 28th to destroy the Republican Guard. While slightly disappointed that the VII and XVIII Corps would not have enough time to finish the job, he was relieved that there would be little potential for American casualties.
Meanwhile, looking towards a possible future mission, 2nd Mar Div commander General Keys tasked the assistant operations officer, Lieutenant Colonel Jan C. Huly, to prepare the division to continue from its present positions up northeast to the coast. The ports in this area could be used for resupply of the division or of Army forces to the west. With the Tiger Brigade continuing to hold the area and block the road from Al Jahrah, the rest of the division could move north and east to the area of Bubizan Island. Accordingly, the division operations section prepared and sent an order to the 6th and 8th Marines to attack and clear zones to the coast to the vicinity of Al Urthamah and the port of Al Dohah commencing at 0900 on G plus 4, 28th of February. The time was later changed to "on order." But in the early morning hours of the 28th of February the order was received from I MEF to cease offensive operations at 0800 of that day, and the division cancelled its order to clear the zones.
Upon finishing the call with Powell, Schwarzkopf immediately called Generals Horner, Yeosock, Boomer, Admiral Arthur, and his special operations commander, Major General Wayne Downing. His message was the same to each commander: "Keep attacking-do as much damage as you can-but be prepared to stop all offensive action at 0500..." A few hours later, Powell called again to change the cease fire to 0800. Powell added, "That makes it a hundred hour war."
General Boomer gave all Marines the following order in the early morning hours of February 28: "Cease all offensive operations effective 0800. Remain in current positions and assume defensive posture. Wartime rules of engagement remain in effect. Be prepared to resume offensive operations. Forces are allowed to defend themselves."
There was celebration everywhere. Commanders could barely keep their Marines under control and decided to just allow them to let off some steam and enjoy the moment. But soon afterward we would be reminded that there are still pockets of resistance and mines and unexploded ordnances everywhere. We were not out of danger just yet.
With the reversion to defend in zone, the division's offensive operations in Desert Storm came to an end. However, there was still work to be done. As the 1st Marine Division withdrew to Saudi Arabia, the 2nd LAI Battalion occupied that Division's zone. Over the next few weeks there would be several reports of shootings by unidentified Arabs. Frequently these were simply shots fired into the air by Kuwaitis celebrating their new freedom and the holy month of Ramadan. In some instances, however, rounds were deliberately fired at Marine positions and vehicles. We were told to be on alert for snipers and Iraqi resistance.
"Highway of Death"
We held our defensive positions along the southern suburbs of Kuwait City from Kuwait International Airport to Al Jahra in the west. In the last hundred hours we had destroyed or captured over one thousand enemy tanks and more than five hundred Armored Personnel Carriers (APCs). We were now holding over twenty thousand Iraqi prisoners.
With the 3rd Battalion, 67th Armor, now in position on the Mutlaa Ridge, 2nd Marines and the Tiger Brigade could end our long exertions of this day. The area we now controlled was the scene of great destruction and death. We had put an end to what had begun earlier by the attack aircraft of the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing. A tightly-packed column of thousands of damaged and abandoned vehicles, military and civilian (stolen from the citizens of Kuwait), stretched down the road for close to two miles, filling all six lanes and overflowing onto the sides of the road for hundreds of meters. This scene, soon known as "Death Valley" or "Carnage Road," became one of the most familiar images to come out of the conflict. All of the soldiers and Marines who saw it were impressed by the devastation caused by modern weaponry.
While visiting with Tiger Brigade along the "Highway of Death," General Boomer expressed his disgust at what the Iraqis fleeing Kuwait City had attempted. He told a CBS News reporter, "In addition to being incompetent, they were thieves as well as murderers." I got to see what he meant first hand as we all took turns visiting the stretch of highway that we were ordered to fire upon. It was amazing how much damage had been done with our artillery and air strikes. The highway was littered with vehicles as the Iraqi cowards were taking anything they could get their hands on and fleeing for their lives. These cowards, who came in to this small country and terrorized its civilians, making them fear for their lives, had the tables turned on them. But they were not just trying to retreat under orders to obey the UN Council's resolutions. They were also looting the city. I saw valuables such as Rolex watches, gold and silver jewelry, TVs, etc. everywhere. These were property of the Kuwaiti citizens who did absolutely nothing to deserve the months of hell that they endured, only to have one last slap in the face by being robbed of their belongings.
There are some that say this was a merciless slaughter of a defeated army just trying to abide by the UN resolution and withdraw peacefully from Kuwait. Well, to those who believe that, I can only say that these were not soldiers who were surrendering. Had they surrendered they would have been taken prisoner and freed after the war. They had been instructed the only acceptable way to surrender and live and they chose not to do that. They chose to fight, steal and kill, until they realized they were out of time and that a superior force that meant business was on their front lawn calling them out. A retreating army in wartime is an army that can regroup and attack from a far more advantaged position, so it is good military strategy to attack your enemy during their weakest moment until they do surrender. I will also say that there is a difference between retreating and withdrawing according to the UN Resolutions and the Allied demands. They were by no means withdrawing peacefully or lawfully. They violated just about every law of warfare there is. One of the principles underlying laws of war is that "People and property that do not contribute to the war effort should be protected against unnecessary destruction and hardship." The Iraqis had shot up the town in anger against the Kuwaitis and were looting like criminals. Then they were trying to "get out of town" before they could be stopped. And robbery is not a peaceful action. Besides, looting was the smallest evil and cruel act that they committed against the Kuwaiti people. So anyone who feels sorry for these dead Iraqis are feeling sorry for the wrong people. Feel sorry for the victims, the citizens, not the soldiers who came to kill.
I have to admit though, it was a totally gruesome sight and some images were sickening and haunting. The phrase, "I wouldn't wish this upon my worst enemy," came to mind, however, the Iraqi army at that time was beyond my worst enemy. There were dead bodies everywhere, some burnt to a crisp. One particular image that sticks in my mind is of an Iraqi soldier who was still inside his vehicle and burned to death. I could tell the grimacing look on his face as he bore the pain of being consumed by fire. I saw body parts scattered around. It was enough to make your stomach churn. But after seeing evidence of their greedy, and evil deeds, no one felt sorry for them. In our minds they got what they deserved. They fled Kuwait City, not as soldiers, but as criminals attempting to flee the scene of their horrendous crimes. And it didn't end well for them. Everyone was equally angered by the amount of loot, taken from Kuwaiti homes and businesses, which was evident in virtually every vehicle. One Marine, familiar with the Koran, recalled the verses:
"As for the Paradise to come, it shall be theirs who seek neither glory
in this world nor evil. The righteous shall have a blessed end.
He that does good shall be rewarded with that which is better.
But he that does evil shall be requited with evil."