Persian Gulf War
August 1990 - June 1991
7 August 1990 – President Bush ordered U.S. military aircraft and troops to Saudi Arabia as part of a multinational force to defend that country against possible Iraqi invasion. The Persian Gulf crisis was triggered on 2 August when Iraqi President Saddam Hussein invaded neighboring Kuwait with overwhelming forces and subsequently positioned assault elements on the Saudi-Kuwait border. On 6 August, the United Nations Security Council approved a total trade ban against Iraq. A major deployment, the largest since the Vietnam War, was underway for Operation Desert Shield that would include major units from all four services.
8 August – Major General Walter E. Boomer was promoted to the grade of lieutenant general and reassigned as Commanding General of I Marine Expeditionary Force.
15 August – Headquarters, U.S. Marine Corps announced the commitment of 45,000 troops to the Persian Gulf area. They consisted of elements of the I Marine Expeditionary Force to include units from 1st Marine Division and 1st Force Service Support Group (FSSG), 3d Marine Aircraft Wing (MAW), and 7th Marine Expeditionary Brigade (MEB). Also en route were elements of the 4th MEB to include units from 2d Marine Division and 2d FSSG, and 2d MAW. Additionally, Maritime Pre-Positioning Ship Squadron 2 (MPS-2) had been at Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean. The five-ship squadron contained 7th MEB’s equipment and enough supplies to sustain the 16,500-person force for 30 days. Ultimately, the Marines would comprise a portion of approximately 200,000 U.S. ground troops.
22 August – President Bush ordered the first mobilization of U.S. military reserves in 20 years and declared the call-up “essential to completing our mission” of thwarting Iraqi aggression in the Persian Gulf. Most of those summoned to active duty in the initial mobilization would be Army reservists.
24 August – The U.S. Embassy in Kuwait was ordered closed. Marine Security Guards were with approximately 100 U.S. officials and citizens transferred to the U.S. Embassy in Baghbad by the Iraqi government. They were among an estimated 1,000 Americans being held hostage in Iraq.
11 September – President Bush spoke at a joint session of Congress and was adamant about U.S. objectives in the Persian Gulf: Iraq must withdraw from Kuwait completely, Kuwait’s legitimate government must be restored, the security and stability of the Persian Gulf must be assured, and American citizens must be protected. The remarkable buildup of U. S. and allied military forces in Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf area and the blockade of Iraq would continue at full pace amid renewed statements of determination on both sides.
26 September – General Alfred M. Gray, Commandant of the Marine Corps, addressed a detachment of Marines in Saudi Arabia while touring Marine positions there and meeting with officials from Persian Gulf nations. He talked about a variety of topics ranging from relations with Arab countries to unit rotations, and challenged Marines to continue to do their jobs in the best way they know how. It was the first visit to Southwest Asia during Operation Desert Shield for the Commandant who was accompanied by the Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps, David W. Sommers.
8 October – The first fatal accident for Marines in Operation Desert Shield claimed the lives of eight when two UH-1N Huey helicopters crashed into the North Arabian Sea during a night training mission. The Marines were assigned to Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 164 for deployment.
10 October – The first unit-sized activation of reservists came when Marines from Combat Service Support Detachment 40 reported to Marine Corps Air Station, Kaneohe, Hawaii. The mission of the unit was to maintain and refurbish equipment left behind by I Marine Expeditionary Force as it deployed to Saudi Arabia to marry up with its pre-positioned equipment aboard Maritime Prepositioning Ship 3.
8 November – President Bush announced that he planned to add more than 200,000 U.S. troops to those already deployed in Operation Desert Shield in the Persian Gulf area. The number of Marines in the objective area would be doubled by the addition of II Marine Expeditionary Force units from the Corps’ east coast bases and the 5th Marine Expeditionary Brigade from California.
13 November – A second involuntary call-up of selected Marine Corps Reserve units began. Marines from 20 units of the 4th Marine Division and the 4th Marine Aircraft Wing reported to the 5th Marine Expeditionary Brigade at Camp Pendleton, California, for redeployment training.
14 November – Defense Secretary Richard Cheney authorized the call-up of 72,500 more National Guard and reserve troops in support of Operation Desert Shield. Added to authority already granted, the action raised the number of Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps selected reservists to 125,000 who could be on active duty at the same time. The call-up ceiling for the Marine Corps would be 15,000.
15-21 November – About 100 miles south of the Kuwait border, American and Saudi Arabian military forces participated in Exercise Imminent Thunder. The exercise included an amphibious landing by more than 1,000 Marines of the 4th Marine Expeditionary Brigade and tested the military’s ability to command, control, and coordinate air and ground forces. It included air-to-air mock fighter combat and close air support of ground forces. At the same time, only 25 miles south of Kuwait, another 1,000 Marines from the 1st Marine Expeditionary Brigade conducted field exercises ashore.
16 November – Admiral Frank B. Kelso II, Chief of Naval Operations, announced that ships would remain in the Middle East longer than the six-month limit established for Navy deployments. The decision of November 8th to send nearly 200,000 more troops to the Persian Gulf not only scuttled Defense Department plans to start rotating personnel home from the desert, but also bumped the subject of troop rotation off the Pentagon’s list of priorities.
22 November – President Bush addressed U.S. Marines, sailors, and British soldiers during his visit to Saudi Arabia. Standing before a crowd of more than 3,000 front-line forces, the president reaffirmed his resolve to see Iraqi strongman Saddam Hussein ousted from Kuwait. The President and Mrs. Bush then joined the Marines for a traditional Thanksgiving Day meal.
3 December – The Marine Corps was granted a new call-up ceiling of 23,000 reservists when Defense Secretary Richard Cheney gave the military departments authority to call-up 63,000 additional members of the National Guard and Reserves in support of Operation Desert Shield. Added to authority already granted, this action raised the number of Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps selected reservists to 188,000 who could be on active duty at the same time.
10 December – More than 24,000 Marines of the II Marine Expeditionary Force mustered on the parade ground at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, for a pre-deployment review by the Commandant of the Marine Corps and the Commander in Chief, Atlantic Fleet in what was the largest formation of Marines in modern history. Commanded by Lieutenant General Carl E. Mundy, Jr., the units included the 2d Marine Division, 2d Marine Aircraft Wing, 2d Force Service Support Group, and the 2d Surveillance Reconnaissance and Intelligence Group. The units would deploy to Southwest Asia in support of Operation Desert Shield through the month of December.
18 December – Rollout ceremonies for the Corps’ new M1A1 tank were held at the General Dynamics Land Systems Division in Warren, Michigan. The M1A1 “common tank” is outfitted to Marine Corps specifications with such features as ship tiedowns, a deep water fording capability, and position locating and reporting system capability. The tank would replace the aging M60A1. The 2d Tank Battalion based at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, would use the new tank in the Persian Gulf while other tank battalions would operate the M60A1s.
22 December – Secretary of Defense Richard B. Cheney visited the 1st Marine Division combat operations center in Saudi Arabia. He and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Colin L. Powell, were on a five-day trip to the Middle East where they met with deployed commanders, sailors, soldiers, airmen and Marines aboard ship and in the sands of Saudi Arabia. They expressed their support for the 300,000 men and women serving in the Persian Gulf area.
27 December – Company A from Marine Barracks, Washington, D.C., the oldest post of the Marine Corps, departed for Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, to join elements of the 2d Marine Division deploying for Operation Desert Shield. Marines from the barracks were last deployed in 1906 when a detachment was assigned to the expeditionary battalions sent to Cuba for pacification duty.
1 January 1991 – The strength of active duty U.S. Armed Forces was 2,340,354 of whom 197,764 were Marines. Almost half of the Corps’ active duty strength would be in the Persian Gulf area by mid-month.
12 January – After three days of solemn, often eloquent debate, Congress voted President Bush the authority to go to war against Iraq. The Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution allowed the U.S. to use all necessary means against Iraq if it did not withdraw from Kuwait by midnight, January 15th. It was the first time since August 7, 1964, when the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution was adopted, that Congress had voted directly for offensive military action.
15 January – The V Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF) activated to assume missions and tasks assigned to I MEF prior to its deployment to Southwest Asia. V MEF would form, train, and deploy units to reinforce and replace those employed in the Persian Gulf area.
16 January – Operation Desert Shield became Operation Desert Storm as forces of the allied coalition launched an all-out air assault against targets in Iraq and occupied Kuwait in an effort to liberate Kuwait and enforce the resolutions of the United Nations Security Council. Overall, in the theater of operation, there were more than 415,000 U.S. troops and over 265,000 allied troops in the coalition.
21 January – Baghdad aired footage of captured allied airmen that included five Americans, two British, an Italian, and a Kuwaiti who appeared in their uniforms and spoke stiffly. Several of the prisoners had swollen, bruised faces. Marine prisoners were identified as Lieutenant Colonel Clifford M. Acree and Chief Warrant Officer Guy L. Hunter. Their OV-10 Bronco was shot down over southern Kuwait on 18 January.
29 January – The first serious ground fighting of Operation Desert Storm broke out when Iraqi troops mounted an attack into Saudi Arabia along a 40-mile front. Company and battalion-sized Iraqi units centered their efforts on Khafji, a deserted port city, six miles south of the border. Saudi and Quatari troops, supported by artillery and attack helicopters from the 1st Marine Division and aircraft from the anti-Iraq coalition, recaptured the town two days later. The fighting produced the first ground casualties of the war as 11 Marines were killed when their light armored vehicles were destroyed in a clash with Iraqi armored forces.
5 February – The Secretary of the Navy authorized the involuntary recall of up to 2,000 retired Marines who completed at least 20 years of active duty and who were under the age of 60. The retirees would be retained on active duty for as long as deemed necessary according to ALMAR 33/91.
13 February – As of this date, the allied air forces had flown more than 65,000 sorties in Iraq and Kuwait, with a total of 28 planes lost in combat – 19 from the United States and nine from allied forces. Of the 19 U.S. planes, four were Marine Corps aircraft - - three AV-8B Harriers and 1 OV-10 Bronco. Marine artillery units, using 155mm towed and 8-inch self-propelled howitzers staged a series of nighttime artillery raids over the heavily defended border of Kuwait.
13,16 February – The Marine Corps ordered an additional 1,758 Selected Marine Corps Reservists to active duty effective on these dates. The total number of Selected Marine Corps Reserves called up during Operations Desert Storm and Desert Shield was brought up to 24,703. With the advent of war in the Persian Gulf, President Bush authorized the Secretary of Defense to expand the callup of Marine reservists to include the Individual Ready Reserve. At the same time, the Marine Corps Reserve mobilization ceiling of 23,000 was hiked to 44,000.
14 February – As of this date, the active duty end strength of the Marine Corps was 200,248 which included reservists on active duty. It was the first time active duty end strength exceeded 200,000 since fiscal year 1971.
15 February – Captain Jonathan R. Edwards of Grand Rapids, Michigan, was the first Marine casualty of the Persian Gulf War to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery. He was killed on February 2nd when the AH-1 Cobra helicopter he was flying crashed in the desert. Major Eugene McCarthy of Brooklyn, New York, also died in the crash.
15 February – Allied commanders estimated that 30% of Iraq’s armor, 35% of its artillery, and 27% of its other armored vehicles were destroyed so far in the Kuwaiti theater of operations.
24 February – The I Marine Expeditionary Force and coalition forces began a ground assault on Iraqi defenses in the final chapter of Operation Desert Storm. Located just south of the Kuwaiti border along the Persian Gulf, the 1st and 2d Marine Divisions with its four main task forces – Ripper, Papa Bear, Taro, and Grizzly – stormed into the teeth of Iraqi defenses and convinced the defenders that it was the main effort of attack. Meanwhile, heavily armored allied forces attacked the Iraqi defenses in Iraq from behind. At the same time, Marine units of the 4th and 5th Marine Expeditionary Brigades afloat in the Persian Gulf pinned down large numbers of Iraqi troops expecting an amphibious assault. In 100 hours, U.S. and allied forces defeated the Iraqi Army.
28 February – Operation Desert Storm ended when the cease-fire declared by President George Bush went into effect. I Marine Expeditionary Force had a personnel strength of 92,990 making Operation Desert Storm the largest Marine Corps operation in history. A total of 23 Marines were killed in action or later died of wounds from the time the air war was launched on January 16th until the cease-fire took effect 43 days later.
10 March – Five Marine prisoners of war were among the 21 POWs who arrived at Andrews Air Force Base, Washington, D.C. The Marine POWs were freed on March 5th and were transported from Iraq by an International Red Cross aircraft. They were: Lieutenant Colonel Clifford M. Acree, Major Joseph J. Small III, Captain Michael C. Berryman, Captain Russell A.C. Sanborn, and Warrant Officer Guy L. Hunter. The POWs were met by Secretary of Defense Richard Cheney and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Colin Powell. Also greeted by their families and thousands of other well-wishers, the POWs were then taken to the National Naval Medical Center, Bethesda, Maryland.
12 March – President Bush signed an executive order establishing a Southwest Asia Service Medal for members of the U.S. Armed Forces who participated in Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. The medal, designed by the Institute of Heraldry, depicts a desert and sea landscape on the front side with tanks, armored personnel carriers, helicopters, ships, and fixed-wing aircraft. It is suspended from a sand-colored ribbon incorporating the colors of the United States and Kuwaiti flags: red, white, blue, green, and black.
14 March – Euphoria in Kuwait rose with the return of the newly-liberated country’s emir, Sheikh Jaber Ahmad Al-Sabah, after a seven-month exile. The emir’s return brought hopes for democracy from the Kuwaiti people who endured Iraqi occupation.
14 March – Five Marines and two Navy prisoners of war, who returned to the U.S. four days earlier, participated in a press conference at the Bethesda Naval Hospital. Appearing sharp and confident, they fielded numerous questions from the press on the details of their capture and experiences as prisoners.
16 March – The Commandant of the Marine Corps, General Alfred M. Gray, presented the Prisoners of War Medal to the five Marine POWs from the Persian Gulf. The ceremony took place at the Bethesda Naval Hospital.
6 April – President George Bush signed into a law a Persian Gulf personnel benefits bill that increased imminent-danger pay, family separation allowance, group life insurance coverage, education assistance, child care, and family education and support services. The Persian Gulf Conflict Supplemental Authorization and Personnel Benefits Act of 1991 authorized $15 billion for Persian Gulf operations, $400 million for benefits for service members, and $225 million for veterans’ assistance.
15-18 April – Thousands of sailors and Marines were welcomed home by cheering crowds as they returned to their homeports from deployment to the Persian Gulf. They included more than 7,500 Marines of the 4th Marine Expeditionary Brigade that arrived at Moorehead City, North Carolina, and Marines of the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit that arrived at Camp Pendleton, California.
24 April – Five Marines who performed heroic acts in the Persian Gulf received Silver Star medals in ceremonies held at Camp Pendleton, California. Lieutenant General Walter E. Boomer, Commanding General of the I Marine Expeditionary Force presented the medals to: Staff Sergeant Daniel A. Kur, Sergeant Gordon T. Gregory, and Corporals Bryan R. Freeman, Michael S. Kilpatrick, and Bryan K. Zickefoose.
24 April – The I Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF) was welcomed home from Operation Desert Storm during ceremonies at Camp Pendleton, California. At the same time, V MEF, that was activated in January to assume the missions and tasks assigned to the deployed I MEF, deactivated.
8 June – Operation Welcome Home paid tribute to every service member who went to Southwest Asia in support of Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. Some 1,800 Marines, 14 pieces of major equipment, and 19 aircraft participated in the Desert Storm National Victory Parade in Washington, D.C. that was led by General H. Norman Schwarzkopf, Commander of the U.S. Central Command and Desert Storm forces. Marines from the I Marine Expeditionary Force and all its major subordinate commands marched in the parade reviewed by the Commander in Chief, President George Bush. In addition to the parade, Marines manned over 30 pieces of equipment on display for public viewing on the Mall in Washington. Two days later, over 1,700 Marines including about 650 reservists, marched down Broadway in New York City’s ticker-tape parade.
History and Museums Division
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