Three Rivers Veteran of 1990 Gulf War describes his experiences
At the break of dawn on August 2, 1990, Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein ordered his infantry and tanks to cross into Kuwait with the goal of taking over the small, oil-rich emirate at the tip of the Persian Gulf nestled between Iraq and Saudi Arabia.
Backed by superior firepower and troops battle-hardened by a decade fighting Iran, his plan initially succeeded. Iraqi forces including the elite Republican Guard overwhelmed Kuwait’s army, seizing strategic posts throughout the nation while airborne units and infiltrators captured the Dasman Palace, home of the country’s ruler, Sheikh Jaber Al Ahmed Al Sabah, who fled to Saudi Arabia along with his royal court.
Hussein then installed an Iraqi provincial governor to impose his will on the tiny country—smaller than New Jersey with a mostly foreign population of 1.6 million—while his soldiers and security forces proceeded to detain thousands of civilians and Western visitors, take over the media, and plunder medical and food supplies. It was anything but a “liberation” as Hussein touted his blatant invasion.
Under the leadership of president George H. W. Bush, the United States assembled an international coalition to expel the Iraqi conquerors from Kuwait and did just that in a ground war that lasted 100 hours.
As with any war, there were supporters and detractors, pros and cons, and no one could foresee exactly where it might lead or end.
In the minds of policymakers and the American people was another factor—the United States had experienced major military setbacks in recent times. The Vietnam War, which had dragged on for more than a decade, ended in defeat. More than 58,000 U.S. military personnel died in that bloody conflict, demoralizing and dividing the nation in the process. In 1980, revolutionaries in Iran held 53 members of the American embassy in Tehran hostage for more than a year. Under President Jimmy Carter, the United States launched a secret military operation to rescue them. The mission failed when Delta Force helicopters crashed and burned in the desert outside Tehran. Then, in 1983, 223 Marines on a peacekeeping mission in Beirut, Lebanon, were killed when a suicide bomber detonated a truck bomb at Marine barracks. Some cite the bombing as the first major incident in the war on terror.