Welcome to the Jungle: America After Vietnam
                                       AP US History 2007
    Middle East

Yassi Sabahi

Author's Bio

Richard S. Lowry is an entrepreneur, consultant, and military historian. He served in the United States Navy Submarine Service during the Vietnam War, and participated in the development of the Apache Helicopter's Night Vision System. I n June of 2004, the Marine Corps Heritage Foundation awarded Richard a research grant and invited him to the Marine Corps Historical Center to research the events of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Operation Desert Storm

     "Wars may be fought with weapons, but they are won by men." [i] In his book The Gulf War Chronicles: A Military History of the First War with Iraq, Richard S. Lowry quotes these words of General George S. Patton, Jr. The comprehensive novel contains thorough accounts of the day-by-day military history of the Gulf War--Operation Desert Storm. Lowry presents the result of years of meticulous research while embracing the stories of specific battles and special missions. With an emphasis on the role of American soldiers, Lowry investigates the exact happenings of this major incident of late twentieth century United States foreign affairs.
     Lowry begins his chronology on January 17, 1991, the first day of the Gulf War and the launching of Operation Desert Storm, which he dubs "The Mother of All Battles." [ii] The recent end of the Iran-Iraq war left Iraq feeling thoroughly confident in its military capabilities and air defenses, but such perceptions were quickly shattered. The unprovoked Iraqi invasion of Kuwait sparked Coalition forces, led by the United States, to initiate war against the country and its leader, Saddam Hussein. While Iraq remained under its veil of self-deception, convinced it would "prevail in an embarrassing Coalition defeat," the United States military prepared for attack under General Schwartzkopf's Operation Desert Storm. [iii] It was the beginning of a new era of warfare--the Air-Land Battle. The first day of battle was meticulously planned "to be orchestratedˇ­[with] air superiority, timingˇ­ [and] tempo." [iv] New technology, specifically in the Air Force, was indisputably superior to Iraq's. Apache helicopters and Stealth fighters fired RADAR and GPS guided Tomahawk cruise missiles and Hellfire missiles with clear-cut precision. With the opening of the war, the little defense Iraq did boast--AAA or SAM radars-- collapsed, used as targets for the Wild Weasels' High-Speed Anti-Radiation Missiles (HARMs). Thus, the entire Iraqi air defense system collapsed, rendered useless the initial day of battle. During the first twenty-four hours, Coalition Air Forces successfully bombarded major targets including the Ministry of Defense Headquarters, the Presidential Palace Command Center, and the National Air Defense Operations Center. While the barrage of bombing disturbingly illuminated the dark morning skies of Baghdad, Coalition casualties remained astonishingly low. Iraqi counterattacks proved unsuccessful from the beginning; the first rocket attack missed its target, instead destroying the Field Mess of a Qatari encampment. Saddam utilized the inaccurate, Soviet-developed Scud missiles against Israel in an attempt to draw it into war and thus gain Iraq the support of other Arab nations. However, the United States quickly learned to intercept and destroy these weapons. Also, the Coalition magnified its attacks against Saddam's elite Republican Guard, drawing battle into the Kuwaiti Theater of Operations. Cloudy, poor weather lasted several days, hampering Italian missile attacks, Battle Damage Assessment, and Marine targeting efforts.
     A news conference at the Pentagon the night of January 23 featured Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney and General Colin Powell, who declared the conflict was progressing better than expected, but was nonetheless far from over. After presenting several videos and statistics, Powell pledged to the public, "We are going to cut [the Iraqi army] off, and then we are going to kill it." [v] Meanwhile, Iraqi leaders had given orders to dump Kuwaiti oil in the Gulf to shield against an amphibious assault. Their plan, however, backfired, forcing them to shut down the desalination plants that supplied water to their forces. Coalition forces attempted to burn off the oil, setting the offshore source ablaze and bombing Kuwaiti oil manifolds. Inferior air forces forced Saddam to try drawing Americans into land battle, a situation in which his forces could inflict severe casualties. On January 29, the Iraqi Army began an assault towards Coalition forces in the South. United States forces counterattacked with air strikes. During this first major ground engagement of the war, the Battle of Khafji, instances of friendly fire grew out of hand, resulting in the deaths of eleven Marines. While the battle held little significance to United States forces--General Schwartzkopf compared it to "a mosquito on an elephant"--the abandoned offensive spelled ruin for Iraqi leaders. [vi] Meanwhile, United States force set up along the border of Iraq and Iran to stop air, ground, and even naval forces from fleeing westward. Battle raged on through February as hundreds of sorties were flown out daily. Strikes against the Republican guard intensified; on February 10, there was an attack against them every three minutes. Meanwhile, the destruction of oil fields hindered Coalition forces and resulted in one of the "largest ecological disasters" of modern history. [vii] Also, though the Iraqis had entirely underestimated the power of United States forces, they understood the necessity of guarding themselves against the Marines and put up countless defenses along the coastline. On February 19, Iraqi forces attempted to enter Kuwait but faced with a thick hail of United States fire, quickly retreated.
     The following day, the Marines had prepared themselves to liberate Kuwait. As they carried out various reconnaissance missions, Apache helicopters and the Screaming Eagles joined them. Marine Hornets attacked the trench lines with Fuel Air Explosives (FEAs), which create massive, destructive fireballs and a consequent shock wave while sucking all the oxygen out of the air of the surrounding area. Soon after, the Marines advanced on foot for attack, armed primarily with rifles and bayonets. By February 23, the Battle Damage Assessment team estimated that "over forty percent of Iraq's Army equipment had either been destroyed or rendered inoperable." [viii] Bush had given Saddam an ultimatum to withdraw from Kuwait; ten minutes before the noon deadline, Saddam fired a Scud missile into Israel. Ground day arrived Sunday, February 24. While SEALS carried out a deception operation on speedboats, United States forces slipped behind the front line. Marine tankers faced Iraqi artillery, but countered with the immense magnitude of their firepower. From above, attack helicopters and Air Force A-10s rained down artillery. When Iraq returned fire around noon, there was a momentary fear of chemical weaponry. Battle continued to bombard the Iraqis; those who survived either fled or surrendered. Though seven M60 tanks, two AAVs, and an M1 tank had been lost to battle, the Marines suffered no more than one casualty, and eleven others wounded. Throughout this battle, air forces kept up their bombardment of Baghdad, meant to upset "command, control, and communications." [ix] The outcome of Ground day, topped by the events of the following day, provided Coalition forces with some optimism. The Marines had cleared Al Jaber airfield, while a British Brigade ran Objective Bronze, swarming the enemy. With more than three hundred tanks destroyed, Iraqis "were surrendering everywhere." [x] Lowry matches his description of "The Mother of All Battles" with his report of the subsequent day, January 26, which he calls "The Mother of All Defeats." [xi] As Iraqi forces advanced toward Kuwait City, Coalition forces began to close in on them. Under fire, the Iraqis attempted to retreat. The Advance Guard Battalion then received orders to get the Republican Guard under heavy attack. A uniformly orchestrated attack organized by General Franks then prepared to battle the Tawakalna Division of the Iraqi Republican Guard.
     That day, the 2nd armored Cavalry Regiment fought the Battle of 73rd Easting. Facing a desert sandstorm, Captain McMaster's Eagle Troops was ordered to attack against the Republican Guard as far as the 70 th Easting, but during conflict they were unable to halt until they reached the 73rd Easting. Upon Iraqi retaliation, which lasted another four hours, the troops fought. Without aircraft support, they managed to either kill, wound, or capture an army of more than twelve hundred Iraqi soldiers. Facing a brigade of the Tawakalna Division, Coalition forces launched Dragon's Roar, a battalion combat formation with all tanks lined fifty meters apart. Apache helicopters hovering overhead, the troops advanced firing. The battle was the largest armor battle of all time, and engaged the Dreadnaught, Demon, and Devil Brigades of Coalition forces. The Coalition was triumphant; the armored tanks proved their vitality while the troops proved their skill and preparation. According to Lowry, two factors thrust this otherwise evenly matched battle to our advantage: first, the skills, training, and determination of the American soldiers, and second the superiority of United States military technology. At the Kuwaiti International Airport, the 3 rd Brigade intelligence officer reported the defeat of the Tawakalna Republican Guard Mechanized Division. The following day, the Battle of the Bloody Heels consisted of little more than the immediate surrender of the Iraqis. Their officers had cut Achilles tendons to prevent desertion, but after the officers fled north the soldiers were left powerless to flee. The 2 nd Brigade's tankers then fought the Battle of Medina Ridge, demolishing sixty-one tanks and five anti-aircraft systems. Back in Kuwait City, the United States Embassy was finally returned to America. As the war drew closed, United States forces tested a new "Bunker Buster" on two final sorties sent out intended for Saddam. General Powell contacted General Schwartzkopf and ordered a cease-fire at eight the following morning, making it a "hundred hour war." [xii] The remains of the Hammurabi Division of the Republican Guard engaged United States troops at the Battle of Rumaila--or Battle of the Junkyard--the last battle of the war. On March 3, with the Safwan airfield in Iraq secured, General Schwartzkopf held the Safwan Cease Fire meeting with the Iraqis. After the initial negotiations regarding Prisoners of War, the leaders agreed to establish a ten-kilometer buffer zone between front lines and to end all air operations in Iraq. Also, Schwartzkopf demanded Iraqi Generals to provide all knowledge of minefields in Kuwait. International Red Cross volunteers provided care for POWs, who were then sent home aboard their "freedom flight." [xiii]
     Describing experience hunting for the truth in books concerning the Gulf War, Lowry arrives at the conclusion that "authors that published quickly paid very little attention to details, or the facts." [xiv] He expresses a desire to discover the truth about the Gulf War through a scrupulous and accurate portrayal of history. His meticulously researched book--equipped with a lengthy bibliography--delves deeply into the details of the battles of the Gulf War. A veteran of the United States Nuclear Submarine Service during the Vietnam War, Lowry shows an intense interest in military history. His day-by-day accounts differ from more broad historical works, nonetheless, because of the emphasis on minute military aspects. Not only does he include comprehensive battle accounts, explained in military time and accompanied with diagrams, but he also provides descriptions of weaponry, such as the Daisy Cutter, and military transport, like the EF-111 Ravens, EA-6B Prowlers and EC-130 Compass Call Aircrafts.
     Lowry's motives for compiling this information, however, seem to extend beyond the desire for historical fact and in depth military reports. Though he began accumulating information from the time of the Gulf War, requesting military publications, periodicals, and government records, Lowry did not decide to publish his research until "after the murders of 9-11." [xv] Even the book's title, referring to the Gulf War as the "first" war with Iraq, directly denotes the influence of the "second" war. In a final reference to political principles, Lowry defines the political environment of Iraq such that the "meanest, nastiest, tyrant succeeds to power," further explaining that if Saddam had been removed from power, an "equally despicable despot" would have taken his place. [xvi] Despite any validity of his statement, his rash judgment and unsound reasoning render his logic questionable. Also, Lowry is arguably very patriotic--brimming with jingoistic zeal. A proud and self-proclaimed "eleventh-generation American," Lowry stresses American superiority. [xvii] His report of the Battle of the 73rd Easting concludes with his thoughts: the battle was more-or-less evenly matched, but the superiority of United States soldiers and technology resulted in the swift defeat of Iraqi forces. He ascertains that "the United States truly has the finest military in the world," and identifies United States soldiers as "committed to fight for, and dieing if need be, for the cause of freedom." [xviii] Lowry then relates the story of released POW Troy Dunlap, and his bold "USA #1" sign; however, celebrating his sign contradicts Lowry's claims that the soldiers fought steadfastly for the cause of independence. Liberty may be considered a just cause for war--proving national superiority is certainly not.
     Lowry's book was well accepted for its fluency of facts and information. In his review, W. J. Rayment expresses appreciation for Lowry's elaborate understanding of " the most understudied victory of modern times." [xix] Rayment is especially admiring of the specific information provided, including the appendices such as the list of United States soldiers lost during Operation Desert Storm. Another review, from Metro West Lifestyles Magazine valued the book's insights and its looks at small, special operations. Recognizing the relevance of the book, the review comments on its application to recent times, and even comments on the lack of "justifications for military spending" within Lowry's text. [xx] While the book certainly was successful in its ambitious undertaking--investigating the specific military details of Operation Desert Storm--it thus lacked much depth of understanding or analysis of the war's events and its causes or effects. Also, a certain unwarranted degree of patriotism taints the book with a partiality that may be cause for reservations. In spite of this, Lowry is truly skilled for his ability to weave the maelstrom of facts into an engaging and narrative-style book.
     Lowry implies the victory of Operation Desert Storm in Iraq to be the mark of a new era of military capability. The Gulf War featured many "firsts" of battle, among them, the conflict itself being the first "four-dimensional war," now including air warfare. [xxi] To Lowry, the technological gap between Iraqi and United States forces represents the difference between old and new machinery and weapons of war and thus their capabilities. Also, the involvement of United States military in foreign affairs establishes a trend, which soon recurs as the second war with Iraq. The war also marked a change in typical warfare, emphasizing the tactics of timing, precision, and sophisticated technology. Never have so many soldiers escaped the fatality of war as United States troops did during the Gulf War--a positive outlook for the future.
     This era marked the beginning of increased United States involvement in foreign affairs. A nation originally based on the concepts of isolationism, the United States took a more militarily active role in foreign affairs after emerging triumphant and unilaterally powerful at the end of the Cold War. The swelling powers of the United States led it to unofficially assume the role of "the enforcer" in International affairs. Current issues of American involvement include the war on Iraq, in which Lowry predicts, "winning the peaceˇ­ will be very difficult." [xxii] Meanwhile, self-involvement in foreign affairs not concerning the United States is quick to trigger a battle at home, where debate rages fiercely over the issue.
     Though the Gulf War was a relatively short war--lasting little over a month--its influence has lasted well beyond its time. Ushering in a new era of warfare, the war also changed the nature of international relations. While Lowry was victorious in his own battle of crafting a book encompassing the chronology of the Gulf War, the triumph of Operation Desert Storm is less concrete. Little is known of what the future holds in store for the United States and the Middle East, but as Lowry predicts, "the next chapter of the Gulf War is about to unfold." [xxiii]


[i] Lowry, Richard S. The Gulf War Chronicles: A Military History of the First War with Iraq. Lincoln: iUniverse, Inc., 2003, (intro). [ii] Lowry, Richard S. 1. [iii] Lowry, Richard S. 10. [iv] Lowry, Richard S. 2. [v] Lowry, Richard S. 29. [vi] Lowry, Richard S. 47. [vii] Lowry, Richard S. 61. [viii] Lowry, Richard S. 90-1. [ix] Lowry, Richard S. 122. [x] Lowry, Richard S. 138. [xi] Lowry, Richard S. 140. [xii] Lowry, Richard S. 200. [xiii] Lowry, Richard S. 216. [xiv] Lowry, Richard S. x (preface). [xv] Lowry, Richard S. (back cover). [xvi] Lowry, Richard S. 219. [xvii] Lowry, Richard S. (back cover). [xviii] Lowry, Richard S. 1, 174. [xix] Rayment, W. J. "Book Review: The Gulf War Chronicles." The Gulf War. http://www.indepthinfo.co m/iraq/book-chronicles.shtml. [xx] Metro West Lifestyles Magazine. "The Gulf War Chronicles." Reviews. March, 2004. http://www.gw chronicles.com/bookreviews.htm. [xxi] Lowry, Richard S. 2. [xxii] Lowry, Richard S. 223. [xxiii] Lowry, Richard S. 223.

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