Original article from 1991 recalls the start of the Iraq War

An article originally published in the Daily News in 1991 recalls how the first Iraq War was started and being reported at the time, as the US and allied forces launched Operation Desert Storm.

The first Iraq War was undertaken because Iraq had invaded its neighbor, Kuwait. The US and allies came together to defend Kuwait and push Iraqi troops back into its own territory.

General H. Norman Schwarzkopf led the campaign, as hundreds of US and allied air craft bombed Iraq for over 1000 missions day and night in the first 14 hours of the attack, with the intent to destroy Saddam Hussein’s military capabilities.

President Bush was telling reporters how he believed the attacks were going well and that the allies had control of the air space, even though both the US and UK had both lost a plane each during day one of the war. The US pilot was killed as his F-18 Hornet fighter was shot down, while the UK lost two air men from a Tornado fighter-bomber.

The French also took losses as four of its Jaguar fighter-bombers were shot at, but all crew made it back to base.

Defense Secretary at the time, Dick Cheney described the efforts so far as good, but was cautious to be too positive since he believed the allies would suffer more losses and casualties. Meanwhile in Iraq, local radio stations were claiming that the Iraq army had taken down 14 of the allies’ air craft. This was denied by the US.

The Pentagon confirmed that at least 1,300 US missions would executed in the first day alone. With focus on the air attack there were no reports of fighting on the ground, the NY Daily News reports.

The first air strike began just before daybreak, while a second strike came around half a day later. General Colin Powell, at the time, said that allied targets were the command centers of the Iraqi Army, as well as chemical and nuclear installations.

Western journalists who remained in Baghdad at the time of the attacks said that the initial strikes seemed to have been accurate and successful, leaving most of the city and civilian areas intact. Air raid sirens were being used in the city every time a new wave of attack came overhead. It was reported that mainly factories and army bases around the perimeter of Baghdad were the key targets hit, along with the Iraqi Defense Ministry which had been left in ruins.

Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party headquarters had been destroyed, along with an oil refinery on the Tigris River, a chemical plant and a telecommunications center. Military hangers nearby to Baghdad’s Saddam Airport were also destroyed, leaving the main airport intact.

As well as the air attack, there was a series of cruise missiles launched from allied navy ships stationed in the Gulf. Their aim was to destroy Iraqi military installations. However the allies received little fight back from Iraqi troops in the first few days of the war, with their main defense using surface to air missiles and anti-aircraft fire.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE