Gulf War

The Gulf War, August 2nd, 1990 to February 28th, 1991, code-named Operation Desert Shield, August 2nd,  1990 to January 17th, 1991, for operations leading to the buildup of troops and defense of Saudi Arabia and Operation Desert Storm, January 17th, 1991 to February 28th, 1991, in its combat phase, was a war waged by coalition forces from 35 nations led by the United States against Iraq in response to Iraq’s invasion and annexation of Kuwait.

The war is also known under other names, such as the Persian Gulf War and First Gulf War.  The Iraqi Army‘s occupation of Kuwait that began August 2nd, 1990 was met with international condemnation, and brought immediate economic sanctions against Iraq by members of the UN Security Council. US President George H. W. Bush deployed US forces under the command of General Norman Schwartzkopf into Saudi Arabia, and urged other countries to do the same.  An array of nations joined the coalition, the largest military alliance since World War II. The great majority of the coalition’s military forces were from the US, with Saudi Arabia, the United Kingdom, and Egypt as leading contributors, in that order. Kuwait and Saudi Arabia paid around U.S. $32 billion of the U.S. $60 billion cost.

The war was marked by the introduction of live news broadcasts from the front lines of the battle.  The war has also earned the nickname Video Game War after the daily broadcast of images from cameras on board US bombers during Operation Desert Storm.

The initial conflict to expel Iraqi troops from Kuwait began with an aerial and naval bombardment on January 17th, 1991, continuing for five weeks. This was followed by a ground assault on February 24th. This was a decisive victory for the coalition forces, who liberated Kuwait and advanced into Iraqi territory. The coalition ceased its advance, and declared a ceasefire 100 hours after the ground campaign started. Aerial and ground combat was confined to Iraq, Kuwait, and areas on Saudi Arabia’s border. Iraq launched Scud missiles against coalition military targets in Saudi Arabia and against Israel.

On February 26th, 1991, Iraqi troops began retreating from Kuwait, after they had set 737 of its oil wells on fire. A long convoy of retreating Iraqi troops formed along the main Iraq-Kuwait highway. Although they were retreating, this convoy was bombed so extensively by coalition air forces that it came to be known as the Highway of Death.  Hundreds of Iraqi troops were killed. American, British, and French forces continued to pursue retreating Iraqi forces over the border and back into Iraq, eventually moving to within 150 miles of Baghdad, before withdrawing back to Iraq’s border with Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.

Land mines had been placed in areas around the oil wells, and a military cleaning of the areas was necessary before the fires could be put out. Somewhere around 6 million barrels of oil were lost each day. Eventually, privately contracted crews extinguished the fires, at a total cost of US$1.5 billion to Kuwait.  By that time, however, the fires had burned for approximately 10 months, causing widespread pollution.  The last oil well was extinguished by November,1991.

On February 28th, one hundred hours after the ground campaign started, President George H.W. Bush called for a ceasefire, and declared that Kuwait had been liberated. There were 292 casualties, 172 of which were KIA.