From Armor Magazine, May-June, 1991 Armor Index      NEXT

Shooting Blind Men in the Dark
1st Lt. Bill Armstrong, 3AD PAO


A combination of better training, troop discipline, and an overwhelming technological advantage moved the soldiers of 3rd Armored Division's Co. A, 4th Battalion, 18th Infantry Regiment swiftly through Iraqi trench lines in the allied ground offensive. And when the smoke cleared, the mechanized infantry soldiers of Alpha Co. discovered some shocking facts about their "elite Republican Guard" opponents.

SFC Marvin Rutherford, a platoon sergeant with Alpha Co., was among the first in his company to encounter enemy forces. Two pairs of Bradley Fighting Vehicles bounded forward, protecting each other during the advance through Iraq, toward Kuwait, in the early hours of the morning on Feb. 27.

"We saw a missile coming toward us, " Rutherford said. "At first, we thought it was a flare coming down, but it kept coming closer and closer."

The flare turned out to be an anti-tank missile. Rutherford's gunner, SPC Donald Barker, shot the missile down 200 meters shy of its destination.

For Rutherford and his men, the fight was just beginning. "We didn't know what we had gotten into. They had tanks in the trench lines and they were hard to see. Again, my gunner got on them and we started whipping HE (high explosive), TOWs, and AP on them." The battle proved to Rutherford and his men that a Bradley could kill both T-62 tanks and thinner-skinned armored vehicles.

Not far from Rutherford's platoon, CPT Charles Forshee engaged an Iraqi tank while backing up his own Bradley. The Alpha Co. commander's crew then killed a T-62 tank, in addition to two armored personnel carriers, by firing their TOWs and 25-mm main gun.

Forshee looks back on the battle as one of no contest. "We killed stuff that was blind to us," he said. "Shooting blind men in the dark."

SPC Barker attributes the victory, in part, to superior vision capabilities. "We had such an advantage over them with our thermal sights, it seemed like they couldn't even see us," the 22-year-old gunner said.

And with first light came mass surrender. The Iraqi troops wanted no misconception of then" intent. "They carried large white sheets or sleeping mats or anything that was white, and just walk en masse," said SFC Michael Jones, another Alpha Co. platoon sergeant. As the enemy prisoners of war came closer to the victors, the U.S. troops began to question some of the things they had heard about their "elite" opponent. "They were scared, really scared," said SPC James Singleton, an infantry soldier. "One group looked like they had been digging through garbage cans because they had pieces of our food here and pieces of it there. The guys that we took looked like they had been planning their escape for quite a while."

Starvation and a lack of adequate clothing were common among the captured Iraqis, according to PFC James Barnette. "Most of the EPWs we picked up didn't have shoes. They had blisters on their feet the size of their thumbs. One of them

told our first sergeant it had been two or three days since he had food or water, and there's little to nothing of them there. It's like grabbing somebody who's been starved to death." MAJ Robert Leonhard, who was in charge of the battalion's combat training, felt some pity toward the Iraqi soldiers, who had been immersed in combat with his men just a few hours before.

"We could see in their eyes despair. The immediate response was fear, either fear of the unknown or fear that they were going to be executed," Leonhard said.

"Our soldiers were very careful, obviously, but very compassionate at the same time."

Not one soldier of Alpha Co. was killed during the battle. The men in their Bradleys were able to kill three T-62s, three PT-76 amphibious light tanks, and nine armored personnel carriers, despite several pockets of resistance.

SSG Thomas Gregory, an Alpha Co. squad leader, admits that Iraqi troops may have had the advantage of being combat veterans going into the fight. But he points out, "They have never met a force with such technology that rolls them up like that."

Gregory adds that tough training gave his squad the edge in battle. "We found them with their pants down. All of their equipment was stocked, but it wasn't loaded. "

On March 4, as the soldiers of Alpha Co. stood in formation on a barren, sandy plain in central Kuwait, MG Paul E. Funk pinned the Bronze Star for valor on the chest of Forshee, the company commander.

But he made it clear to the formation that every soldier standing there could be considered a hero.

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