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By John Maclin
Houston Post, Pentagon Press Pool
February 28, 1991

WITH THE 3rd ARMORED DIVISION - Coming into Kuwait from the west after passing through Southern Iraq, it was easy to see the fight had been one-sided.

Combat elements of the 3rd Armored Division that participated in Wednesday night's rout of Iraq's once-elite Republican Guard passed through a field crisscrossed with tank tread marks. Helicopters of all sort patrolled low over the desert. Some of the passing aircraft fired a couple rounds across the desert in front of the convoy, just in case.

Just hours after President Bush had declared that US. military action would cease, the landscape bore mute testimony to the fact that there was little the division had not already destroyed. The convoy passed Iraqi tanks, fortified behind stout sand berms, which had nevertheless been demolished by American armor. Only the tracks of victorious Abrams and Bradley vehicles showed on the battlefield as the swiftly-moving American vehicles caught the Guard formations before they had a chance to deploy.

Here and there, smashed vehicles began to appear in the desert. One Iraqi tank had its turret blasted 50 yards away from its hull, the turret twisted and blackened, lying upside-down in the sand. About 100 yards away, an Iraqi armored personnel carrier was flattened as though a gigantic weight had dropped from the sky onto its turret. Its tracks were blown sideways and its body was several feet shorter than it should have been.

At the first line of heavily-defended fortifications, the carnage became more obvious. Here, Iraqi tanks had fought from within circular sand berms more than 6-feet-high. It hadn't been nearly enough protection. After the tanks were blasted inside the berms, they tended to tilt upwards at odd angles, some pointing almost straight up and out of the sand. With turrets often missing and the hulls just so much vertical, twisted, black metal, the tanks were difficult to identify.

Just past the tank fortifications was the logistics base the armor was apparently trying to defend. They were unsuccessful. Although many of the vehicles inside the truck park were undamaged, they had been abandoned. Prime movers, fuel tankers, lorries and fiat-bed trucks sat in their gigantic desert parking lot, stuck inside their sand garages and lost forever to the army that had brought them there.

Those trucks that had not escaped could be identified as trucks only because they sat next to others. The metal slabs, twisted and melted, were difficult to imagine as having once been anything but scrap metal. Despite the warnings from Military Police that there may be mines in the area, soldiers climbed atop one of the blasted lorries to pose for "I was there" photos snapped by their comrades.

The border between Iraq and Kuwait held another defensive line of sand berms and foxholes, many covered with corrugated metal and roofed with sandbags. These fared no better. In one of the berms, a motorcycle and sidecar, though undamaged, had been forced by a near-miss deeply into the sand berm and lay hopelessly imbedded in its wall.

Here the Iraqis had received some warning. Many vehicles had begun a retreat, but most appeared not to have gotten far. Evenly-spaced rows of five or six vehicles each stood immobile along the horizon, taken out in volley fire as they ran. The scene was repeated many times for miles.

By the 5th day, the 3rd Armored Division had run out of Iraqi enemies, but still faced the elements. Sandstorms grated against the windshield of our vehicle, the sky so gray from smoke and sand and the landscape so leaden in the weak sunlight, it was difficult to see where the land ended and the horizon began.

The explosions continued well into the last day, but they were the sounds of flames touching off ammunition within Iraqi tanks that had been burning since the battle ended. Oil fires continued to roar, adding their heavy smoke to the scene. It was over, but there were no signs of celebration among the troops as they collapsed into a weary watchfulness.


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