Jayhawk! The VII Corps in the Persian Gulf War by
Stephen A. Bourque. Published in 2002 by the Center of Military
History (http://www.army.mil/cmh-pg), 103 Third Avenue, Fort
Lesley J. McNair, Washington, DC 20319.
We airmen sometimes play down the roles of other services
in joint missions. The dazzling display of airpower during Operation
Desert Storm drew much attention to the stealthy F-117, the plucky
A-10, and the veteran B-52. To be sure, the Army basked in the
praise directed at the capabilities of the M-1 Abrams tank and
the M-2/M-3 Bradley fighting vehicles, and the high-mobility
multipurpose wheeled vehicle (HMMWV) became the darling of several
civilian new-car lots. Despite all that praise and backslapping,
one never truly appreciates the trip "there" unless
one has a common frame of reference. Enter Stephen A. Bourque's
historical coverage of the Army's VII Corps in the Gulf War.
Bourque sits the reader right next to key VII Corps leaders,
providing firsthand impressions and views of events on the front
and in the tactical operations centers of the corps, division,
Most striking about this book is its ease of reading. One
doesn't have to be an expert on Army doctrine, tactics, and jargon
to appreciate Jayhawk! The author does a fantastic job
of walking the reader through some VII Corps history, background
of deployment exercises, and evolution of AirLand Battle doctrine
before launching into the record of the corps's deployment and
And what a read it is! Unless people have "been there,
done that," they can't fully appreciate the scale and complexities
involved in assembling, moving, and controlling 145,000 moving
parts (i.e., individual soldiers) and supporting equipment. Bourque
guides us step-by-step through receiving the initial notification,
preparing for deployment, deploying and arriving in-theater,
moving to assembly areas, and finally jumping off to war into
My deployment exercises and operational experiences with the
1st, 3d, and 5th Infantry Divisions, US Army Europe, and with
the 12th Aviation Brigade all helped color my reading of Jayhawk!
Bourque hits it dead-on, capturing in great detail the steps
individual soldiers must take to prepare and deploy equipment.
Moving an Air Force combat wing is nothing like moving an Army
brigade. His commentaries on the trials and tribulations of the
corps's senior leadership help bring a human side to what can
easily seem an impersonal deployment machine.
But it's not until VII Corps launches into Iraq that the reader
fully appreciates what its troops went through. For these soldiers,
the 100-hour war was just that: 100+ hours, perhaps with an hour
or two of sleep, of enduring the sharp staccato of combat in
seemingly endless seas of sand. Bourque clearly tells the reader
that the "Desert war in 1991 was not the clean, high-technology
conflict portrayed by the news media. It was dirty, confusing,
and bloody" (p. 315). He also investigates breakdowns in
communication and staff actions as fatigue finally takes hold
at the end of the ground action (p. 380). Few airmen can fathom
a mission lasting more than 30 hours, during which a stop at
the club, a shower, and a few hours' rest may await the combatants;
for VII Corps's soldiers, few had more than a catnap while they
slogged forward each day in some of the wettest weather Iraq
had to offer from February 23 to March 1, 1991.
Naturally, Bourque trumpets the outstanding capabilities of
the Army's equipment, the soldiers' training and leadership,
and the ways that this synergy overcame a capable foe. Time and
again, he digs into historical records to dispel the impression
that the Iraqi army just put down its weapons and surrendered.
On the contrary, at times-such as the Battle of 73 Easting (pp.
32544)-the Iraqi army put up a formidable defense. If the
Iraqis had been better prepared through training and leadership,
the toll in coalition lives may have been significantly higher.
Using combat records, Bourque also questions airpower's effectiveness
against Iraqi tactical units, tossing aside the Air Force's claim
that airpower won the Gulf War. Although he does not discount
the Air Force's participation (the A-10 was an aircraft the Iraqi
army didn't like to see), Bourque points out that several Republican
Guard units-one of the key targets of the Gulf War-moved without
much, if any, interdiction from the air during the entire war.
In fact some units were at or above 70 percent of their effective
strength when they engaged VII Corps at the start of the Battle
of 73 Easting. It was the corps's soldiers who ultimately destroyed
several of these units. According to an Iraqi battalion commander
from the Tawakalna Republican Guard Division, "When the
air operations started, I had 39 tanks. After 38 days of the
air battle, I had 32 tanks. After 20 minutes against the 2nd
Armored Cavalry Regiment, I had zero tanks" (p. 364).
Indeed, citing VII Corps's records, Bourque points out that
although the Iraqi army feared the A-10 and B-52, they were in
shock over the Apache helicopter. Negotiations to hold the cease-fire
talks at Safwan Airfield nearly came to a standstill until a
flight of Apache helicopters flew low overhead during the discussions.
The Iraqi delegation quickly agreed to terms for the cease-fire
site, knowing from very recent experience that a flight of four
Apaches could destroy an entire battalion of Iraqi armor in minutes
I have only two criticisms of this book. First, Bourque glosses
over the psychological effects of the previous four weeks of
aerial bombardment. Some of the Republican Guard units were relatively
unaffected, but other frontline forces had been beaten up by
air attacks and were not effective in countering the American
ground forces. Overwhelming ground-combat power may have administered
the finishing blow, but many of these frontline Iraqi troops
were ready to give up, seemingly firing only token shots of resistance
so they could surrender with honor. Second, although it was not
incumbent upon Bourque to address other American and coalition
ground operations, one may get the impression that VII Corps
won the Gulf War by itself. Jayhawk! is an excellent story
of VII Corps in the war, touching on the progress of other units
as the tale unfolds. But the reader must keep in mind that VII
Corps was indeed an important chess piece-but only one of several
on General Schwarzkopf's sandy chessboard.
I strongly recommend Jayhawk! as a must-read for all
airmen, especially those whose jobs take them to work with Army
units. Bourque captures valuable combat lessons and illustrates
the fine tether that holds command relationships together. Finally,
he reminds us that even in these days of push-button technology,
ground war will still be dirty, confusing, and bloody. We all
would do well to march a day in these combat boots.
Maj Paul G. Niesen, USAF