On January 17th, 1991, I had the watch in the operations tent at 501st MPs. Normally, it was nothing much more that sit in the command tent, drink coffee, and answer the radio if someone called.
There were several of us in there. I recall one of the privates commented there seemed to be a lot more jets overhead.
I’d expected that. The date the UN Security Council gave Saddam had come and gone. As if to confirm that, a message came over the radio. In a nutshell it announced that we’d begun a series of deep attacks into Iraq, and for local military commanders to assume a defensive posture.
I wish I could recall the exact message, or find a copy of it.
But what it meant was our bombers and fighters were hitting installations and troop concentration in Iraq.
“Go wake up the captain,” I told a private. “Tell him the air war has started.”
Our immediate concern was a counterattack from Iraqi forces. We’d been slowly getting stronger and stronger. Each passing day brought more troops and equipment. We now had adequate ammo for our weapons. The entire back half of our Humvee was filled with ammo for the M-60s, M-16s, and our pistols. We also had about a dozen grenades each, AT4s, and a couple of mines. I remembered telling one of my friends that if any of us got hit, it would be a glorious ending.
So with our strength up, and loaded for bear, it reasoned Saddam might try to even the odds with a gas attack delivered by his missiles or aircraft. We went into the trenches wearing our protective masks.
As the sun was rising, I heard thunder in the skies. I left the bunker and hunkered down in the trench. I figured if there was a war on, I wanted to take a look at it.
Overhead, a strike was heading in, and I caught jet contrails up high. their thunder echoed down out of the sky.
I pulled out my trusty old Kodak and took this picture.
We came out of the trenches about 8 AM, but stayed close.
No one seemed to know what was going to happen next.
Would Saddam fold?
Would he come south?
No one knew.
We got out of our MOPP gear, and went about our day. Everyone kept looking north as if they expected something to materialize in the distance.
But nothing ever did.
The clock was now ticking and we knew sooner or later we’d receive the go word.
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