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52nd Armored Division

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.

By late morning of 25 February 1991 Joint Forces Command North had made enough progress to allow the American VII Corps and Marine Central Command on the flanks to resume their advance. That afternoon and night in the American 1st Infantry Division sector, the Americans expanded their mine breach and captured two enemy brigade command posts and the Iraqi 26th Infantry Division command post, with a brigadier general and complete staff. Behind them, the British 1st Armored Division made good progress through the mine breach and prepared to turn right and attack the Iraqi 52d Armored Division.

On 27 February 1991 on the south flank, the 1st UK Armoured Division destroyed the 52nd Armored Division, then overran three infantry divisions. The British 1st Armored Division attacked eastward through the 48th Infantry and 52d Armored Divisions and remnants of other Iraqi units trying to withdraw north. This attack marked the start of nearly two days of continuous combat for the British, some of the toughest fighting of the war. In the largest of this series of running battles, the British destroyed 40 tanks and captured an Iraqi division commander.



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