Operation Desert Sabre
The ground campaign, initially designated DESERT SWORD and subsequently designated DESERT SABRE, began on 24 February 1991. When ground operations started in earnest, coalition forces were poised along a line that stretched from the Persian Gulf westward 300 miles into the desert. Two corps covered about two-thirds of the line occupied by the huge multinational force.
- The XVIII Airborne Corps, under Lt. Gen. Gary E. Luck, held the left, or western, flank and consisted of the 82d Airborne Division, the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), the 24th Infantry Division (Mechanized), the French 6th Light Armored Division, the 3d Armored Cavalry, and the 12th and 18th Aviation Brigades.
- The Vll Corps, under Lt. Gen. Frederick M. Franks, Jr., was deployed to the right of the XVIII Airborne Corps and consisted of the 1st Infantry Division (Mechanized), the 1st Cavalry Division (Armored), the 1st and 3d Armored Divisions, the British 1st Armored Division, the 2d Armored Cavalry, and the 11th Aviation Brigade.
- Three commands held the eastern one-third of the front.
- Joint Forces Command North, made up of formations from Egypt, Syria, and Saudi Arabia and led by His Royal Highness Lt. Gen. Prince Khalid ibn Sultan, held the portion of the line east of Vll Corps.
- To the right of these allied forces stood Lt. Gen. Walter E. Boomer's I Marine Expeditionary Force, which had the 1st (or Tiger) Brigade of the Army's 2d Armored Division as well as the 1st and 2d Marine Divisions.
- Joint Forces Command East on the extreme right, or eastern, flank anchored the line at the Persian Gulf. This organization consisted of units from all six member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council. Like Joint Forces Command North, it was under General Khalid's command.
General Schwarzkopf unleashed all-out attacks against Iraqi forces very early on 24 February at three points along the allied line. The main attack was designed to avoid most fixed defenses, drive deep into Iraq, envelop Iraqi forces from the west and attack and destroy Saddam Hussein's strategic reserve - Republican Guard armored and mechanized infantry divisions augmented by several other Iraqi Army heavy divisions. This wide left sweep was sometimes referred to as the " Hail Mary" plan.
- XVIII Airborne Corps attacked in the west and deep into Iraq to control the east-west lines of communication along Highway 8 and cut off Iraqi forces in the Kuwait Theater of Operations. In the far west the French 6th Light Armored and the 101st Airborne Divisions started the massive western envelopment with a ground assault to secure the allied left flank and an air assault to establish forward support bases deep in Iraqi territory. In XVIII Corps' mission of envelopment, the 24th Infantry Division had the central role of blocking the Euphrates River valley to prevent the escape north of Iraqi forces in Kuwait and then attacking east in coordination with VII Corps to defeat the armor-heavy divisions of the Republican Guard Forces Command.
- In the approximate center of the allied line, along the Wadi al Batin, Maj. Gen. John H. Tilelli, Jr.'s 1st Cavalry Division attacked north into a concentration of Iraqi divisions, whose commanders remained convinced that the coalition would use that and several other wadies as avenues of attack. VII Corps would conduct the main Coalition effort, attacking east of XVIII Airborne Corps and west of Wadi Al-Batin, driving to the north and then east to find, attack, and destroy the heart of President Saddam Hussein's ground forces, the armor-heavy Republican Guard divisions.
- In the east two Marine divisions, with the Army's Tiger Brigade, and coalition forces under Saudi command attacked north into Kuwait. These forces held the enemy's tactical and operational forces in place by breaching Iraqi defenses in Kuwait and encircling Iraqi forces in the heel of Kuwait and Kuwait City. Once Kuwait City was encircled and Iraqi forces were ejected or defeated, Arab-Islamic forces would liberate Kuwait City.
Iraqi forces, often isolated in static defenses for long periods, were steadily demoralized by air and psychological operations along with the harsh conditions Accordingly, many Iraqis lost the will to resist by the time the ground operation began.
- In 100 hours of combat XVIII Airborne Corps moved its lead elements 190 miles north into Iraq and then 70 miles east. By the time offensive operations were halted, XVIII Airborne Corps had completed its advance into Iraq, cutting off Iraqi retreat and helping with the Republican Guard's final destruction. The 24th Infantry Division with the 3rd ACR continued its attack to the east to block enemy withdrawal and completed the elimination of the Republican Guard.
- In ninety hours of continuous movement and combat, VII Corps achieved impressive results against the best units of the Iraqi military. Franks' troops destroyed more than a dozen Iraqi divisions, an estimated 1,300 tanks, 1,200 infantry fighting vehicles and armored personnel carriers, 285 artillery pieces, and 100 air defense systems, and captured nearly 22,000 men. At the same time, the best Iraqi divisions destroyed only 7 MlA1 Abrams tanks, 15 Bradleys, 2 armored personnel carriers, and 1 Apache helicopter. And while killing unknown thousands of enemy troops, VII Corps lost 22 soldiers killed in action. Due to the speed of the allied advance, the VII Corps began its attack ahead of schedule early in the afternoon on the twenty-fourth. Penetrating the minefields to their front, U.S. soldiers overran Iraqi positions within a few hours. The Iraqi troops-tired, hungry, and physically and psychologically battered-began surrendering in droves. The next day the 1st Armored Division quickly crushed the Iraqi 26th Infantry Division as VII Corps pivoted to the east. The 24th Infantry Division's heavy armor moved rapidly to exploit the initial air assaults of the 101st and 82d Airborne Divisions. Linking up with the 101st battle positions, the 24th Division moved the 200 miles north to the Euphrates River by noon on the twenty-sixth, blocking the Iraqi retreat. In the most decisive actions of the war, the VII Corps, moving directly east with three heavy divisions abreast, attacked the elite Iraqi Republican Guard units. Late in the afternoon on the twenty-sixth, the VII Corps hit elements of the Tawakalna Division in the battle of 73 Easting. In quick succession, the 2d ACR, 1st and 3d Armored Divisions, and the 1st Infantry Division smashed through the Tawakalna Division. Overwhelming the enemy with accurate tank fire and assisted by deadly Apache helicopter gunships, the VII Corps hit the Medina Division in the early afternoon of the twenty-seventh. At Medina Ridge, an attempted Iraqi ambush of the 1st Armored Division ended with the destruction of over 300 enemy tanks.
- During four days of combat Tiger Brigade task forces destroyed or captured 181 tanks, 148 armored personnel carriers, 40 artillery pieces, and 27 antiaircraft systems while killing an estimated 263 enemy and capturing 4,051 prisoners of war, all at a cost of 2 killed and 5 wounded.
The battles of DESERT STORM soon wound down against crumbling resistance. With the VII Corps poised to crush the remainder of the Republican Guard units, only the declaration of a cease-fire saved the Iraqis. When offensive operations ended, the Coalition faced the beaten remnants of a once-formidable foe. Coalition ground forces, with tremendous support from air and naval forces, had defeated the Iraqi Army. Coalition armies stood on the banks of the Euphrates River, stretched across the Iraqi and Kuwaiti deserts and patrolled a liberated Kuwait City.
Defense Department Documents
- Chapter 8 THE GROUND CAMPAIGN Report to Congress on the Conduct of the Persian Gulf War
- THE WHIRLWIND WAR
- XVIII AIRBORNE CORPS IN OPERATIONS: AN ANNOTATED CHRONOLOGY
- CMH GULF WAR BIBLIOGRAPHY
- GULF WAR DOCUMENTS (GULFLINK)
- GULF WAR PHOTOGRAPHS
- OPERATIONS DESERT SHIELD AND DESERT STORM KEY PERSONNEL LISTS
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