Monday, August 07, 2006

Sixteen Years Ago Today

Five days after Iraq invaded Kuwait, the 7th Marine Expeditionary Brigade and other U.S. military units entered Saudi Arabia as part of Operation Desert Shield to help defend that country against a possible invasion. A week later the Marine Corps committed 45,000 troops to the operation.

Operation Desert Shield became the largest deployment of U.S. forces since the Vietnam War. The operation lasted until 16 January 1991, when Operation Desert Storm began with air strikes. The ground war started on 24 February, when the 1st and 2nd Marine Divisions moved from Saudi Arabia into Kuwait. The 4th and 5th Marine Expeditionary Brigades were used as decoys to keep numerous Iraqi troops tied up waiting for an amphibious landing that never came. Four days later, Kuwait was free, and President Bush called a cease-fire.

"I can't say enough about the two Marine divisions. If I use words like brilliant, it would really be an under-description of the absolutely superb job they did in breaching the so-called impenetrable barrier. . .Absolutely superb operation, a textbook, and I think it'll be studied for many, many years to come as the way to do it." -- General H. Norman Schwarzkopf, USA, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, 27 February 1991


92,990 Marines participated in the two operations, almost 25% of the total American forces used. 24,703 Marine reservists were called to active duty during this time. The U.S. only lost 766 men and women during the Gulf War, 50 of which were Marines. In contrast, there were 85,000 Iraqi casualties and 175,000 Iraqis were taken as prisoners of war.

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