49th Infantry Division
At approximately 0700 hours on 24 February, 60 UH-60 Blackhawks and 30 CH47D Chinooks carrying the 101st Airborne Division's 1st Brigade first air assault element climbed from the brigade's pickup zone in TAA Campbell. In just over an hour, the aircraft had safely deposited some 500 soldiers 93 miles deep into Iraq. The 1st Battalion, 82nd Brigade of Iraq's 49th Infantry Division had entrenched themselves just north of MSR Virginia. The 1/327th Infantry discovered the Iraqi battalion while clearing FOB Cobra in zone. A sharp firefight ensued. The Iraqi battalion commander surrendered once the 1/327th attacked his position. Upon his capture, the Iraqi commander was persuaded to use a bullhorn to convince his 300-plus soldiers to lay down their arms.
During the Gulf War the envelopment and destruction of Republican Guard units was a high priority of Coalition planners. On 26 February the XVIII Airborne Corps units turned their attack northeast and entered the Euphrates River valley. With the French and the American 101st and 82d Airborne Divisions protecting the west and north flanks, the American 24th Division spearheaded Luck's attack into the valley. The first obstacle was the weather. An out-of-season shamal in the objective area kicked up thick clouds of swirling dust that promised to give thermal-imaging equipment a rigorous field test through the day. After refueling in the morning, all three brigades of the 24th moved out at 1400 toward the Iraqi airfields at Jabbah and Tallil. In these attacks the 24th encountered the heaviest resistance of the war. The Iraqi 47th and 49th Infantry Divisions, the Nebuchadnezzar Division of the Republican Guard, and the 26th Commando Brigade took heavy fire but stood and fought. The 1st Brigade took direct tank and artillery fire for four hours. For the first time in the advance the terrain gave the enemy a clear advantage. The 24th Division troops found Iraqi artillery and automatic weapons dug into rocky escarpments reminiscent of the Japanese positions in coral outcroppings on Pacific islands that an earlier generation of 24th Infantry Division soldiers had faced. But Iraqi troops were not as tenacious in defense as the Japanese had been, and the 24th had much better weapons than its predecessors. American artillery crews located enemy batteries with their Firefinder radars and returned between three and six rounds for every round of incoming. With that advantage, American gunners destroyed six full Iraqi artillery battalions. In the dust storm and darkness, American technology gave the US forces a clear advantage. Tank, infantry fighting vehicle, and attack helicopter crews worked so well together that they could spot and hit Iraqi tanks at ranges over 3500 meters long before the Iraqis saw them.
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