I want to make this brief, as I have a bunch of papers to grade, but the war has been weighing on my mind a lot as of late and I thought I could get a few things off of my mind by writing this.
You can look up for yourself the blow-by-blow big picture stuff at places like here, but I want to give you my perspective.
For the record, none of these pictures are mine--I did not take a camera with me, as I did not want to be a "tourist". Maybe stupid on my part, but that's what I was thinking at the time.
On August 2, 1990, Saddam Hussein launched his invasion of Kuwait. I was stationed in Germany at the time and had seen some of the sabre-rattling he had been making earlier in the summer and thought to myself that this might be the next US military involvement.
I was a young lieutenant in a truck platoon in southern Germany with US VII Corps. We mostly hauled around ammo in Germany for training purposes and for whatever else they needed us to do in the last vestiges of the Cold War.
We drove M915 tractor trailers--a commercial vehicle that had been painted green. These were fun trucks to drive, though ours were very old and were not very useful off-road. We had a deuce-and-a-half truck, which was the standard US Army cargo truck since the 1960s and several CUCV's (civilian pick-ups painted green). We had no working radios, a .50 cal machine gun for the deuce, several M60 machine guns and everyone had an M16. Fortunately, we never used any of the weapons in the war, though we were threatened by other things.
Here was the M915:
At any rate, we had a few false alarms if we were going to be used or not for the growing conflict. We got the final word at the beginning of October that we were going to deploy with the US VII Corps, which caused a massive "hair-on-fire" effort to get our shit together, as we had not deployed as unit since WWII. I remember going through the pile of stuff in the basement of our barracks trying to figure out if the tow bars we had were from our trucks or several generations ago.
On Thanksgiving Day, 1990, we loaded up our stuff onto barges at Mannheim--my first 36 hour "day". The captain I was with was so exhausted that he almost fell asleep at the wheel while we were driving back to our post.
On Dec. 7th, we flew out of Germany. We stayed in these giant warehouses at the port of Dhahran until our equipment could arrive by boat. Later, when I heard that the one Scud missile had hit one of these and killed a bunch of our soldiers, I wasn't surprised, as they were sitting ducks. Also, the air raid sirens would go off randomly for fake attacks, to the degree that no one paid them any attention.
Life at port was OK, but the tension was weighing on my troops. We had one guy have a nervous breakdown and had to be shipped back to Germany. There were guy-gal problems between some of our soldiers (we had a number of females--most of whom I was proud to serve with) and a little racial tension broke out. But otherwise, it was sit and wait.
On Christmas Day, 1990, I took our first convoy out to our logistical base. My dumbass driver (I say that in good faith--he was a PFC hick from Indiana with whom I was about as close to for a friend as one can be with officer-enlisted) ran out of gas on the way, but thankfully we ran into a Marine convoy who saved the day (Semper Fi!).
One thing that is unique to the desert in that area from other deserts you might be familiar with is that it is not made of sand, but very very dry dirt. It is flat with no vegetation (usually).
We were there during the rainy season, so it misted nearly every day, allowing for grass to grow in the desert. It was pretty cool for most of the time until March, especially in the mornings.
We did not have any desert uniforms issued to us until we were on our way back to Germany in May for pictures. Instead, we had the camouflaged BDUs from Germany. We looked like bushes and would point this out at times, calling each other "shrub".
Once we got to where we were supposed to be (following many SNAFUs), we were in a perimeter in the middle of nowhere in the desert (on Saddam's far western flank) in a berm dug for us by the engineers. Our trucks were continually getting stuck in the dirt/muck and many broke down along the way. In one case, I came back from a mission to have the fenders on both sides of the truck simultaneously fall off.
Lot of stories I could tell here, but I want to focus on a few things. First, on January 17th, 1991, the bombs started to fall. I can remember standing in the desert watching the B-52s fly overhead and could sometimes see the glow on the horizon after we had dropped out bombs.
We used all sorts of munitions, including cluster bombs. Once we entered into Iraq, we had to be on constant lookout for unexploded bomblets. The ones I recall were baseball or softball size and were shiny silver metallic in color. We had a few idiots blow their hands off picking them up (not in my unit).
The ground war started in February, which from my vantage amounted to these giant long convoys of supply trucks trying to keep up with the combat units. Kind of amazing to see hundreds of vehicles going in columns through the desert. Unfortunately, my trucks kept getting stuck, but we made the best of it as we went.
We beat up on the Iraqis pretty quickly. There were many wandering the desert in search of someone to surrender to. They, for the most part, were hungry, tired and scared. I always felt bad for them.
Some of the soldiers in other units not so much. In one case, a unit had taken a dead Iraqi body and put it int heir refrigerated van, bringing it out for "comic relief". They were discovered and some punishment was meted out to those involved and their unit commander. Talk about dehumanization.
One of the hazards we faced in traveling in Iraq were mines and minefields. I was out with a driver in a M915 and we accidentally drove into a minefield. It was dark and there was no road to speak of (packed down dirt with no markers). The minefield was unmarked. We went in some distance before realizing where we were. We should have set one off and I'm not sure why we didn't. In fact, when I think back on it, we should have been killed,as our truck was unarmored. We stayed calm, I got out of the truck (verrrry gingerly) and I ground guided him out, making sure to step on the tracks we had made.
The other thing that sticks in my mind is taking a convoy down the "highway of death" a few days after it was reopened.
That's the image that bothers me all the time. Thousands of Iraqis were killed as their retreating convoy was hit by an air attack in the closing days of the war. Completely needless. They had no defenses. The vehicles you see in the above photos (and there were many) were stuffed with Iraqis who simply wanted to go home. As we pulled up, I stopped the convoy and got out with my NCO and walked a ways up the road to see if it was all clear. Just death and destruction everywhere. There was no real smell, just blown up vehicles and burned bodies.
I'm tearing up just thinking about it and seeing these images again.
When we got back to the trucks, wouldn't you know it, but a lot of my guys were going through the pockets of the bodies looking for souvenirs. Assholes. I yelled at them and made them put ID cards, personal photos and such back.
And that's my war. I was back in Germany by May--just as it was getting really hot. I stayed in for another few years and finally got out just as Bosnia was starting to heat up.
I was asked one time by one of my guys as to why we were there. I gave the standard BS response of "we can't have our allies attacked and invaded while we do nothing." What fucking bullshit. I regret saying that now, though I suppose I didn't know any better at the time (and yes, I voted for Reagan in my first election in 1984).
Now, I know better.