By Lynn Walker
San Diego Union, Pentagon Press Pool
March 1, 1991
WITH THE 3RD ARMORED DIVISION - Iraqi soldiers who surrendered
Thursday to American soldiers told their captors they had no
battle plans for confronting Allied forces because they had been
out of communication with their commanders since the earty days
of the aerial war.
The soldiers, interviewed by a 3AD NCO who speaks Arabic,
also said they were not armed with chemical weapons and had never
been directed to use the deadly gas on Allied forces.
The Iraqi soldiers said they had been waiting for the past
six weeks in tanks hidden by earthen benns to battle American
forces, although communication and supply routes had been destroyed
by aerial attack.
Their pattern of scattering Soviet-made tanks across the desert
floor was based not on military strategy but rather on an effort
to escape bombs unleashed on Kuwait and Iraq by U.S. and other
aircraft, an Iraqi captain told U.S. Army Sgt 1st Class Eddie
The captain, who was not identified because he feared reprisals
against his family, also told Karakas that he decided to surrender
to Americans rather than fight for the regime he despised and
a meager salary of about 70 dollars a month.
"The guy said it wasn't worth it," Karakas said.
"He got shot three times during the Iran-Iraq war, and he
said he just couldn't deal with this anymore."
The captain's statements support the beliefs of many military
commanders here that Saddam Hussein had no plan for an offensive
against Allied forces. "It was just a blur," said Brig.
General Paul "Gene" Blackwell, assistant commander
of maneuver for 3AD.
"We traveled 375 kilometers across Iraq in four days,"
said Blackwell. "We never let up on him. He never caught
his breath from beginning to end."
Soldiers in the division's 4th Battalion, 18th Infantry Regiment
said they caught one Iraqi tank unit "totally by surprise."
Freshly steamed rice was scattered on the ground as if Iraqi
soldiers had been startled by the attack.
"From the get-go it was total destruction," said
Spc. Donald Barker, 22, of Dallas, a gunner on a Bradley Fighting
Vehicle. "They didn't have the firepower to reach out and
The battalion of young soldiers, most of whom had never seen
combat, battled Iraqi tankers for more than 16 hours before declaring
victory over enemy units.
"When you go through this, your adrenalin is pumping,
your training kicks in and all you do is react," said Sgt
Amie Jones, 25, of Reidsville, Ga, who claimed the battalion's
first Iraqi tank with a TOW missile. Jones and other soldiers
in his unit attributed the victory in part to the sophisticated
weaponry that allowed them to fight at night.
"That's what was so beautiful," said Capt Charles
Porshee, 30. "They couldn't see us. It was like shooting
a blind man in the dark."
Across the desert of Eastern Iraq and Northern Kuwait Thursday,
Iraqi tanks and munitions trucks smoldered in the aftermath of
the 3-day ground war. By late Thursday, an incomplete count showed
3rd Armored Division had destroyed at least 160 enemy tanks and
captured 115 others. The division also destroyed 165 Armored
Personnel Carriers, more than 200 trucks, and 40 Field Artillery
Military commanders and soldiers alike expressed surprise
at the swiftness of the defeat by American and Allied forces.
"We waited for the worst," said Command Sgt. Major
Johnny McBee, "But it never happened."
Enemy soldiers sun-ended in droves, often cany-ing white bed
sheets to be certain they were spotted by U.S. forces. In their
pockets, many Iraqi soldiers carried the leaflets that showered
on them during the aerial atack persuading them to surrender
or be killed. Among the prisoners was a 14-year-old boy who said
he had been dragged from his home two weeks earlier and ordered
to fight, said Maj. Robert Leonard, 32, of Camp Hfll, Pa.
In contrast to Iraqi enlisted soldiers, many of whom were
barefoot with their feet covered by blisters, Iraqi officers
could be identified by their new leather boots.
Leonard said the fire of battle soon gave way to a form of
pity for the soldiers the division captured. "When we saw
the EPWs and the despair in their eyes, we almost had compassion
for them," he said. "I hate to see any soldiers treated
the way they were treated."
Iraqi soldiers clearly feared they would be executed by American
troops. "Anytime they were around our weapons they were
very fearful," Leonard said. "Every time we'd point
weapons in their direction, they'd raise their hands up high
as if to say, 'don't shoot.'"
Once they were fed and given water, the EPWs began to warm
to their captors. "They were elated to be released from
those bunkers," McBee said. "When we loaded them on
the back of the truck to send them away, they waved goodbye and
shot us peace signs."