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12th Armored Division

The air campaign's effect was telling. According to selected EPW reports, in some divisions, up to half the personnel who had deployed to the KTO deserted. Selected senior officer EPW described very high (roughly 77 percent) attrition rates for tanks or wheeled vehicles in particular units. Not all units suffered attrition rates as high as this. For example, senior EPWs from other Iraqi units, such as the 50th Armored Brigade, 12th Armored Division, and the 8th Mechanized Brigade, 3rd Armored Division, reported lower attrition rates.

By 24 February 1991 Iraqi regular army units constituting the second echelon in Kuwait were directed to reposition themselves. Concealed by the dense smoke of the oil fires that were ignited beginning 21 February, parts of what was left of the second echelon of the Iraqi army -- 1st Mechanized Infantry Division, 3d Armored Division, 5th Mechanized Infantry Division, 6th Armored Division, the 10th Armored Division and the 12th Armored Division -- were in a movement toward Basrah.

As the ground offensive progressed, by 25 February 1991 Iraqi units' ineffectiveness became more clear. The Iraqi 12th Armored Division, in front of the 1st UK Armoured Division, was engaged with Coalition armored forces as it attempted to maintain a LOC for the 47th, 27th, and 28th Infantry divisions along the US VII Corps eastern flank.

On the first day of the ground campaign, movement of the Iraqi heavy reserve units was on the ARCENT intelligence "watch for" list as VII Corps passed through the breach and fanned out across the desert. No matter how good the data, intelligence analysis always involves a subjective reading of objective information: the G2's professional assessment of what the enemy will do. Good intelligence requires the G2 to put himself in the mind of the enemy, requiring leaps of analytical faith based on a foundation of facts. Intelligence therefore, is not a science but an art, a large part of which involves making correct assessments from partial or flawed data. American analysts had inadvertently switched the identities of four Iraqi heavy units. As those units entered the KTO or moved around inside the theater prior to the air operation, signals intelligence analysts picked up bits and pieces of unit call signs, movement orders, and other tip-offs that said, for example, that the 12th Armored Division was moving to a new but unspecified location. If imagery showed an armor unit moving or adjusting its positions at that time, the unit was labeled the "possible" 12th Armored. As more "hits" developed on the unit's identity, the "possible" identification hardened to a "probable," and might even be confirmed by another source. The units in question were the 12th and 52d Armored Divisions in one pair and the 10th and 17th Armored Divisions in the other.

Of the four misidentified units, the 12th and 52d Armored Divisions were most important to ARCENT because they were closest to VII Corps' breach. Late on February 24, intercept picked up orders to the 12th Armored Division's 50th and 37th Armored Brigades to move to unspecified blocking positions. Simultaneously, JSTARS detected 10 vehicles moving north along the pipeline road west of the Wadi al-Batin. It also detected a battalion-size convoy moving from the laager of what Stewart believed was the 52d Armored. Intelligence tracked the activity closely to determine whether the Iraqis would attempt an operational counterattack or simply move to block the US VII Corps' left-hook attack from the west. He owed that "key read" to Franks by midday on the 25th. Movement indicators in the two Iraqi divisional areas continued, reinforced by JSTARS-detected movement out of the Tawakalna laager toward Phase Line Smash.

Early on February 25, the Iraqis were not counterattacking. The 52d Armored, in conjunction with the Tawakalna, was moving less than a brigade out along Phase Line Smash. JSTARS had focused on these movements, calculating the precise number of tanks and armored vehicles, their direction, speed, and location along the phase line. The 12th Armored Division, the Americans believed, was occupying similar blocking positions west of Wadi al-Batin. None of these units, therefore, was a threat to VlI Corps' attack.

Late in the night of 25 February 1991, the American 2nd ACR encountered elements of the Tawakalna Division and the 50th Brigade of the 12th Armored Division. It destroyed the 50th Brigade then assumed a hasty defense and prepared to continue the attack against the Tawakalna at first light on 26 February.

Early on 27 February, after a night of intense fighting, the American 3rd Armored Division's 3rd Brigade moved through the 2nd Brigade, conducting a passage of lines while in contact with the enemy. Under a supporting artillery barrage, the American 3rd Brigade then attacked the Iraqi 12th Armored Division. After a sharp fight, the 3rd Brigade broke through the Iraqi defensive positions and drove into Kuwait. On 27 February 1991 the American 1st Infantry Division (Mechanized) overran the Iraqi 12th Armored Division and scattered the Iraqi 10th Armored Division into retreat.

In the early afternoon of 27 February 1991 The American 2d Armored Cavalry advanced east of COLLINS in a shamal. The regiment, screening in front of 1st Infantry Division, had just arrived from the mine belt along the Saudi border that it had breached the first day of the ground war. The cavalrymen had only a general idea of the enemy's position. The Iraqis had long expected the American attack to come from the south and east and were now frantically turning hundreds of tanks, towed artillery pieces, and other vehicles to meet the onslaught from the west. On the Iraqi side, unit locations were changing almost by the minute. As Holder's men neared phase line TANGERINE, 20 miles east of COLLINS, one of the cavalry troops received fire from a building on the 69 Easting, a north-south line on military maps. The cavalrymen returned fire and continued east. More enemy fire came in during the next two hours and was immediately returned.

Just after 1600 the cavalrymen found T-72 tanks in prepared positions at 73 Easting. The regiment used its thermal imaging equipment to deadly advantage, killing every tank that appeared in its sights. But this was a different kind of battle than Americans had fought so far. The destruction of the first tanks did not signal the surrender of hundreds of Iraqi soldiers. The tanks kept coming and fighting. The reason for the unusually determined enemy fire and large number of tanks soon became clear.

The cavalrymen had found two Iraqi divisions willing to put up a hard fight, the 12th Armored Division and the Tawakalna Division. The American regiment found a seam between the two divisions, and for a time became the only American unit obviously outnumbered and outgunned during the ground campaign. But, as the 24th Division had found in its valley battles, thermal-imaging equipment cut through the dust storm to give gunners a long-range view of enemy vehicles and grant the fatal first-shot advantage. For four hours the Americans killed tanks and armored personnel carriers while attack helicopters knocked out artillery batteries. When the battle of 73 Easting ended at 1715, the 2d Armored Cavalry had destroyed at least 29 tanks and 24 armored personnel carriers, as well as numerous other vehicles and bunkers, and taken 1,300 prisoners.

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Page last modified: 09-07-2011 02:46:49 ZULU