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Tawakalna Division (Mechanized)

The heroic names of some of the Republican Guard units underscores their elite character. The Tawakalna Division derives its name from the phrase Tawakalna Ala Allah, which may be translated as "depending on God", or roughly "God help us" or perhaps even "In God We Trust." The phrase Tawakalna Ala Allah was used to designate a series of victorious campaigns that Iraq waged against Iran in the late 1980s, culminating in the conclusion of the war. The phrase Tawakalna Ala Allah figured in the crash of EgyptAir Flight 990 on 31 October 1999. The copilot who was suspected of deliberately pushing the aircraft into a dive is heard on the cockpit voice recorder tape saying in Arabic "Tawakalna Ala Allah."

On August 2, 1990 Iraq invaded Kuwait. The Hammurabi and Nebuchadnezzar Republican Guard Divisions attacked from the north down the Basra highway, while the Medina and Tawakalna Republican Guard Divisions attacked from the west across the Wadi al-Batin. The operation was planned in detail and well organized. The Iraqis had used four Republican Guard divisions to seize Kuwait. By early September 1990 these divisions had returned to their preinvasion locations in southeastern Iraq and less-capable Army divisions had been deployed to replace them.

At the tactical level, the Coalition's problem was one of how best to destroy the dug in Republican Guard. On 15 February 1991, just when the joint force air component commander (JFACC) staff thought it understood BDA rules, the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) muddied the water by reassessing the Tawakalna Republican Guard division at 74 percent combat effectiveness--26 percent greater strength than CENTCOM's estimate of 48 percent. DIA had derived its BDA using overhead and medium-altitude sensors. After analyzing only a single division, DIA forced ARCENT into increasing overall combat effectiveness assessments and changing their BDA kill criteria. The fault lay with DIA's dependence on overhead and medium-altitude sensors, which could only detect catastrophic kills, and on the fact that Washington did not have access to the aircraft videotapes.

New tactics involved directing the unique firepower of A-10s against exposed and vulnerable Republican Guard forces. A-10s employed initially against front line forces near the Kuwaiti-Saudi Arabian border. On 27 February 1991 the A-10 commanders prepared to attack the Republican Guard Tawakalna armored division. In attacking such a heavily defended area, A-10s flew in mass formations, in lieu of their usual two-ship formations. The A-10s mounted three days of wing-sized attacks against the division, with powerful results despite Iraqi efforts to dig their forces deeper under the desert sand and stepped up efforts at deception. The combination of massed attack and a unique airframe designed and manned by pilots trained in the art of destroying armor proved a major step forward for coalition air strikes against Iraq's Republican Guard.

On the eve of the Coalition ground campaign on 23 February 1991, surveillance satellites showed that the Guard's Tawakalna Division was moving slowly south, perhaps deceived by the First Cavalry's feint. Other Republican Guard divisions were doing little more to gird for action than uncovering their vehicles.

Iraqi leaders failed to anticipate the "left hook " and apparently did not realize the Coalition would invade into southern Iraq.Once the Iraqi leadership apparently did learn of VII and XVIII Corps ' advance from the west, the Republican Guard Tawakalna Mechanized Infantry Division was assigned a rear guard action to allow the Republican Guard Medina and Hammurabi Armored divisions to make good their withdrawal toward Basrah.

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.

In the American VII Corps' sector on 26 February the 1st Armored Division fired heavy artillery and rocket preparatory fires into A1 Busayyah shortly after dawn, and by noon had advanced through a sandstorm to overrun the small town. The 1st Armored Division pressed on, turning northeast and hitting the Tawakalna Division of the Republican Guard. Late that night the Americans mounted a night assault on the elite enemy unit and, in fighting that continued the next day, killed 30 to 35 tanks and 10 to 15 other vehicles.

In the afternoon of 26 February 1991, the American 3rd Armored Division pressed on, turning northeast, and hitting the Republican Guard Tawakalna Division. Late that night, the 1st Armored Division mounted a night assault on the elite enemy unit, and in fighting that continued into the next day, destroyed a substantial number of tanks and other vehicles. The evening of 26 February, the 3rd Armored Division attacked due east through an enemy reconnaissance screen and into the Republican Guards' Tawakalna Division. This attack, under extremely adverse weather conditions, was typical of the heavy fighting encountered by the VII Corps as it engaged Republican Guard Forces. These forces were heavily armored and occupied well constructed defensive emplacements. They had also prepared alternate positions which enabled them to reorient to the west to face the VII Corps attack. Even after extensive bombardment, most elements of the Tawakalna Division remained combat effective. Weather conditions continued to deteriorate and winds gusted from 25-42 knots. Heavy rain and blowing sand often reduced visibility to less than 100 meters. The ceiling was generally very low, and in the words of one senior armor commander, neither Army aviation nor air forces could fly. Under these conditions, the 1st and 2nd Brigades of the 3rd Armored Division simultaneously conducted a hasty attack against the 29th and 9th Brigades of the Tawakalna Division. Spearheaded by the division cavalry squadron and a tank heavy task force, supported by five battalions of cannon artillery and 27 MLRS launchers, the 3rd Armored Division succeeded in destroying numerous Iraqi armored vehicles and tanks in intense fighting. This action effectively destroyed the Tawakalna Division as a coherent fighting force. US artillery proved extremely effective in the a during this battle. Although Iraqi artillery was able to fire initially, it was targeted and rapidly suppressed or destroyed. Later in the engagement, visibility improved enough to employ the division's Apache-equipped attack battalion. In the northern portion of the division zone where the 2nd Brigade operated, the timely arrival of the Apaches (guided by intelligence from JSTARS) caught an enemy mechanized infantry task force as it moved diagonally across the brigade's sector but outside of direct fire range. Their unit was evidently attempting to reinforce other elements of the Tawakalna Division. According to unit after action reports, this engagement resulted in the destruction of eight tanks and nineteen armored vehicles.

On 27 February VII Corps conducted a coordinated main attack against the three mechanized Republican Guard Divisions - the Tawakalna, the Al-Madinah, and the Hammurabi. As this operation began, the 1st Infantry Division, in the south of the Corps zone, conducted a night passage through the 2nd ACR, and immediately engaged the Iraqi forces. To the north, the 1st and 3rd Armored divisions attacked to the east and the 1st Cavalry Division attacked on the northern flank to prevent an Iraqi breakout in that direction. With the Iraqis set up, the massed maneuver elements of VII Corps struck one decisive blow after another. In other sectors, Iraqi elements broke and ran. Here, they stood and fought.

As this operation began, the 1st Infantry Division, in the south of the Corps zone, conducted a night passage through the 2nd ACR, and immediately engaged the Iraqi forces. To the north, the 1st and 3rd Armored divisions attacked to the east and the 1st Cavalry Division attacked on the northern flank to prevent an Iraqi breakout in that direction. With the Iraqis set up, the massed maneuver elements of VII Corps struck one decisive blow after another. In other sectors, Iraqi elements broke and ran. Here, they stood and fought.

On 27 February 1991 the American 1st Armored Division fought remnants of the Iraqi Tawakalna, Al-Madinah and Adnan Republican Guards Divisions about 50 miles east of Al Busayyah.

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.

As of late 2002, the Tawakalna Division had been disbanded.

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Page last modified: 09-07-2011 02:50:37 ZULU