From Pentagon Press Pool Feature Index      NEXT

BELOW, full text of article:


By Fred Bayles
Associated Press, Pentagon Press Pool
March 1, 1991

WITH THE THIRD ARMORED DIVISION - Skies glowed orange along the horizon in Northern Kuwait Thursday as the 3rd Armored Division destroyed abandoned Iraqi tanks and fortifications following a five-day, 180-mile march through Iraq that gutted the once-proud Republican Guard.

The 3rd, one of several U.S. divisions that flanked Iraqi forces m a dash across the empty desert, destroyed hundreds of tanks and armored personnel carriers in 21/2 days of pitched battles that began inside Iraq Tuesday and and worked its way east into Kuwait

While armed combat ended with Thursday's cease-fire, elements of the 3rd continued to demolish remnants of the Republican Guard, blowing up tanks and weapons left behind by fleeing troops. While there was no official number, the division also took hundreds prisoners, many of whom hadn't eaten in days and surrendered readily to the advancing armored forces.

"A majority of these guys have been starving," said Cap! Tom Lewis, 27, of Winber, Pa. "They're glad it's over for them."

No official numbers were available for casualties among the 3rd Division, but at least two men were killed and six wounded.

The armored assault apparently caught Iraqi troops off guard, swinging in a wide flanking motion from the Saudi border around Iraqi forces and then assaulting them from behind. Many of the Iraqi fortifications were prepared for an attack from the south, while the 3rd's M1A1 tanks and Bradley Fighting Vehicles rushed in from the northwest.

The Iraqi fortifications were preparedfor an attack from the south, white the Third rushed in from the northwest.

The flanking movement began early Sunday when the armored convoys left secret bases in Saudi Arabia and crossed the Iraqi border unopposed. What followed was a 21/2-day dash across roadless desert through sandstorms and heavy rains.

The movement of hundreds of tanks and thousands of support vehicles, the largest military maneuver since World War II, went almost totally unopposed until division scouts made contact with Republican Guard units Tuesday afternoon. The convoys at times resembled a Wild West stampede as brigade-sized forces crowded into seven lanes of heavy traffic spread more than a mile across the desert floor.

At times the convoys sprinted ahead at 35 m.p.h., raising huge clouds of dust that dropped visibility to less than a quarter of a mile. At other times, there were long waits that looked like big-city commuter traffic as the convoys moved into single lanes to skirt minefields and sand berms.

The convoys also contended with heavy rains that churned the yellow sand into a rutted mess that trapped some trucks.

While screening forces from the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment skirmished with Iraqi patrols, the battle began in earnest late Tuesday afternoon when scouts from the 3rd surprised Russian-made T-72 tanks belonging to the Tawaklana, a Republican Guard division.

Several Iraqi tanks were destroyed in the initial skirmish, which quickly spread across the horizon as A-10 Thunderbolt n aircraft and Apache strike helicopters were called in to attack Guard units rushing to the battle.

The only reported casualty in the first skirmish was a Bradley personnel carrier destroyed by a point-blank shot from a T-72. The Bradley had apparently fired on the Iraqi tank, but the range was so close its TOW missiles failed to arm. The Iraqi tankwas immediately destroyed by avenging U.S. forces.

The battle continued into the night as artillery and multiple rocket launchers lit up the night sky. At least two Iraqi armored battalions were reported moving through the dark and were hit by artillery and helicopters.

"If you have any friends, send them up. We have plenty to keep them busy," one ground commander told a helicopter pilot by radio.

The battle, which began in a sandstorm, continued through the night of heavy rain as 3rd Armored Division units continued driving through Republican Guard forces toward Kuwait.

Some officers reported that elements of the Republican Guard were trying to flee around U.S. forces and retreat into Iraq. "If that's true it's great, but they're not going to make it," said Maj. Terry Thomas of Media, Pa.

The battle took the form of many scattered fights through Wednesday, as the tanks and Bradleys swarmed over Iraqi positions. Heavy firing continued throughout the day and into the night, despite overcast skies and intermittent rain. Many of the troops reported the Republican Guards were disorganized, without leadership or a battle plan.

"I never saw them return fire," said Capt. Jan Shadwick of Newark, Ohio. Commanders praised both their troops and equipment, particularly the TOW missiles.

"Every time we shot we got a kill,"said CapL Richard Turner, 29, of Panama City, Fla- "Our thermal sights gave us a big advantage. We could see them but they couldn't see us. We shot everything in our way."

Most of the major fighting took place at night, when the thermal sights were a clear advantage to U.S. troops.

Commanders credited their troops, equipment and training for the lopsided victory. "The plan worked, the equipment worked, and we couldn't ask any more from the soldiers," said Col. John Brown, 43, of Avondale, Ga.


Return to Top

Feature Index      NEXT