The Gulf War, also known as Operation Desert Storm, began on August 2, 1990 when Iraq invaded Kuwait. The United Nations authorized coalition forces from a number of nations, led by the United States, to respond to this invasion. This invasion also led to immediate economic sanctions against Iraq. The United States began immediate deployment of military forces to Saudi Arabia and several other nations followed suit.
After the Invasion
It wasn’t long after the Kuwait invasion that Saddam Hussein began to verbally attack the United States and their support of Saudi Arabia. The US quickly launched a defensive operation known as ‘Operation Desert Shield’, which went into effect on August 7, 1990. On August 9th, things took a different turn when Hussein declared Kuwait the 19th province of Iraq, assigning his cousin, Ali Hassan Al-Majid, to the position of military-governor of Kuwait.
The United States had already dispatched two groups of naval ships (built around both the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower and the USS Independence). These forces were in place and ready in the Persian Gulf by August 8th. Soon after, the US deployed both the USS Missouri and the USS Wisconsin battleships to the region, along with 48 USAF F15s. Once they arrived, they began 24 hour surveillance over the Saudi Arabia-Kuwait-Iraq border(s) in an effort to thwart any additional military advances by Iraq.
Battles of the Gulf War
On January 17, 1991, a widespread aerial bombing operation began. Over 100,000 sorties were flown by the coalition and 88,500 tons of bombs were dropped. The coalition’s goal was to destroy the Iraqi air force and their anti-aircraft facilities. Most of the sorties were launched out of Saudi Arabia, but six came from coalition aircraft carriers located in the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea. Missions followed in an attempt to also destroy Iraq’s command and communication facilities.
The third phase targeted actual military targets in Iraq and Kuwait such as scud missile launchers, naval forces and facilities dedicated to weapons research. In over 100,000 sorties, the coalition forces lost only 75 aircraft – only 44 of the 75 were a result of Iraqi action.
Iraq responded by firing scud missiles into Israel. Over the course of the war (seven weeks), they would send a total of 42 Scud missiles into Israel. US President Bush was able to persuade Israel to refrain from responding to these bombings noting that it could prompt Arab nations to withdraw from the coalition – or worse, join Iraq. Fear of Syria and Jordan joining Iraq against Israel was also noted a distinct possibility should Israel use their air space to attack Iraq. In return, the coalition vowed to use Patriot missiles in Israel’s defense if they refrained from retaliation.
Several battles and intense ground campaigns also ensued throughout this brief war which ended with the liberation of Kuwait on February 27,1991 – six months, three weeks and five days after the war began. The Gulf War was the first time in history that live newsfeeds from the front lines were able to be seen on television – earning the nickname ‘Video Game War’.