From Pentagon Press Pool Feature Index      NEXT

BELOW, full text of article:


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 Karakas.

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 touch us."

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 pieces.

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."


Return to Top

Feature Index      NEXT