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Histories for 1st Battalion, 7th Marines

1/7 Desert Storm Synopsis
It's long - but great reading if you were there. UNITED STATES MARINE CORPS 1st Battalion, 7th Marines 1st Marine Division (Rein), FMF Operation Desert Storm FPO San Francisco, California 96608-5512 OPERATION DESERT STORM 1ST BATTALION, 7TH MARINES MANEUVER SYNOPSIS The 1/7 commanders and staff meeting on G-1 ended with Colonel Mattis remarking, "Use fire support to the maximum extent possible and take care of your men." Staff and officers bid luck to comrades and returned to their sections and units to pass final word. Little remained undone. We donned MOPP suits at 1700, joking about odd sizes and finally receiving some clean uniforms. Earlier in the day Battalion Aid Station (BAS) had finished administering the botulism vaccine so with the nerve agent pretreatment tablets and the Cipro anti-biotic, 1/7 was prepared for Iraq's chemical threat. The Marines spent the rest of the evening trying to sleep, most to no avail. 1/7 moved from our Assembly Area as part of Task Force Ripper's (TFR) standard wedge formation at 0001 on G-Day. "The First Team" units deployed in a Battalion Vee with Team Mech on the left as base of movement, Team Tank on the right as main effort, and C Co behind 81mm Mortar Platoon as the center point of the Vee. The Main CP and Combat Train were in trace of C Co while the Jump Cp took up a forward position between lead elements of Team Mech and Team Tank to enhance control. Further forward, CAAT 2 had certain elements in front with the remainder easing down our fight flank. In trace of CAAT 2 on the right flank was CAAT 1 reinforced with Tow 3. 1/7 would remain in this formation until punching through the far side of the second enemy obstacle belt 34 kilometers inside Kuwait. The battalion linked up with Captain Donald Schutt and his Forward Air, Artillery, and Naval Gunfire (FAANG) vehicle, elements of Sergeant Thomas Ryan's surveillance and Target Acquisition Platoon (STA), and three of Captain Rick Mancini's tanks which had been uploaded with "Roller Dudes" and an Israeli mine roller approximately 1 kilometer southwest of the Kuwait border. FAANG and STA had moved across the border on G-1 as part of a TFR quartering party in order to recon and mark our route, secure the attack position, and ensure the tanks were uploaded with the correct engineer equipment. 1/7 crossed Phase Line Black, the Kuwait/Saudi Arabian border, at 0117, continued to move past Phase Line Purple, and arrived at the attack position without incident one hour earlier than expected at 0200. With H-hour confirmed, the Battalion began moving to the Line of Departure at 0515, crossing it a short while after. About 0600 Tiger 3 reported the minefield close to its front. In fact, the minefield was further forward than originally perceived. Teams Mech and Tank had to continue forward past Phase Line Saber to find the forward trace of the minefield. As the sun began to peek over the eastern horizon twenty minutes later, both Captain Craig Baker and Captain Mancini had popped a red star cluster indicating that they had found the minefield. Obstacle Clearing Detachments (OCD's) from both teams immediately began their breaching procedures, putting into effect those actions rehearsed hundreds of times in the previous months. Team Tank fired their MK58 single shot line charge to no effect. They attempted to prime it manually but could not do so. Captain Mancini then called one of his MK154 3 shot line charges forward. It fired once, had to be primed manually to detonate, then followed in trace of a mine plow the length of the first blast, and fired a second time to complete the breach. Repeating an event that would become routine by the end of G-Day, the OCD once again sent an engineer out to manually prime the charge. But when Team Tank fired the green and white star combination, signaling lane 4 clear, only 24 minutes had elapsed. The time was 0644. Initially, Team Mech seemed "good to go" for their assault breach on lane 3. Their one-shot line charge, aligned on a 010 degree azimuth, fired and detonated as advertised. But as Sergeant Scott Helms' M-60 Tank was half way through proofing the lane with an Israeli mine roller, he struck what we now believe was a double impulse mine. The blast luckily caused no casualties, but damage to the left tread and rolling arm was enough to create a mobility kill. Reacting quickly, Team Mech shifted 30 meters to the left, called up a three shot and fired another line charge. After priming manually to detonate, the tank with mine plow proofed the lane to the end of the blast waiting until another line shot, again manually primed, could clear the rest of the path of mines. Lane 3 was opened at 0707. Tiger 3 then passed through 1/7's assault breaches encountering no resistance to their front but reporting a possible position on their right flank. As 1/7 pushed through the breach on 3rd Tanks' heels, Team Tank established a support by fire position to the south while Team Mech prepared to envelop from the west. A recon by fire from Team Mech received no return fire, so 1/7 continued to attack forward. Shortly thereafter, TFR ordered 1/7 to hold at Phase Line Rapier in order to guard Ripper's right flank until Task force Papa Bear began effecting their assault breaches on TFR and 1/7's fight flank. The Combat Train attempted a re-supply of the MK154's, but we moved to BP 1 before it could be completed. The Battalion rejoined the Task Force Ripper formation at Battle Position 17 at 1050. Once again, the Battalion Commanding Officer had to rein in the maneuver elements and hold up the Battalion to permit other pieces of the puzzle to fall into place. Task Force Ripper reported that 3/11 was displacing and that the Task Force would not move without fire support. This halt gave us the opportunity to refit both Teams with MK154s and top off some of Team Tank's vehicles with fuel. Upon 3/11's fire cap, Task Force Ripper confirmed the time of attack as 1125, and 1/7 crossed the LD at 1136. Over an hour before, 3rd Tanks had called in on the defending Iraqi's a taste of hot Marine steel in the form of indirect HE and DPICM. Series Rick and Zeke, preplanned targets on the far side of the breach, combined to give the Iraqis a 22 minute, five hundred and fifty two round rain of terror. The targets in the series had been changed a number of times prior to G-Day in order to stay abreast of the situation. The target list was only completely solidified after a detailed review of available aerial photos by Sergeant John Fuery revealed an oversight in the location of the second obstacle belt. Sergeant Fuery's keen eye placed the second minefield 3 klicks to the south of our depicted graphics. His skill helped to play havoc on the Iraqis that morning. But 1/7 was to find that the Iraqis still had a bit of fight left. Moving from Phase Line Yellow, the LD, through Phase Line Rifle (1152), to the second Breach, 1/7 began taking light, indiscriminate 82mm mortar and artillery fire. Team Mech, Team Tank, Company C, and the Main Cp all reported incoming, passing "SNOWSTORM" on fire support nets. Only Team Tank was to fall victim to this sporadic fire. It certainly didn't seem sporadic to Staff Sergeant David Stefanko and Lance Corporal Craig Biernitzki in Alpha 21. Both were hit while moving forward with Team Tank's OCD. Luckily, neither sustained immediate life threatening injuries. Captain Mancini made a quick exchange of drivers with his AVLB, and continued forward to the minefield. Lance Corporal Biernitzki was medevaced to the Regimental Aid Station (RAS) from Battle Position 172. As the teams continued to converge on their respective breach sites, 1/7 took its first dose of enemy direct fire. As Team tank began its breach, they identified sporadic machine gun fire from their right flank. These direct fires were quickly squashed with main gun and 50 cal fire. In addition, two 82mm tubes were quickly silenced with the tanks' firepower. Simultaneously, Lieutenant Larry Herzog called an immediate smoke fire mission followed by a couple of VT missions on dug in enemy a few minutes later. Then Captain Mancini ordered his OCD into action. A23, commanded by Staff Sergeant Ernest Henderson, and a three shot line charge AAV following in trace, forged into the minefield. They fired two of their three to get completely through the field. Both had to be manually primed by an engineer. The engineer-marking vehicle fell in a bomb crater and another had to be called up. Even with all this adversity, Team Tank popped the green/white star combination just eight minutes after location the minefield signifying that the lane was clear at 1208. Team Mech faced much of the same adversity with a few additional twists. Team Mech's OCD moved forward and fired a single shot line charge and came up empty handed. The shot was a complete dud unable to be manually primed. The three shot line charge came forward and Team Mech continued to drive on. They fired the three shot, primed it manually, and proofed through the length of the blast exploding a mine on the way. They then fired another two, which did not explode in an attempt to clear the last 10 meters of the field. Finally, Captain Craig Baker made the cal and ordered Sergeant Carlos Graham to proof the rest of the way with out the benefit of a reassuring line charge blast. Lane 3 was breached, proofed, and marked by 1225. Tiger 3 effectively passed through both lanes. At this point hundreds upon hundreds of Iraqis sporting white flags began converging on the breach sites, especially lane 3. Captain Baker punched Lieutenant Jim Head's platoon through to secure the far side, then ordered Lieutenant John Andersen's infantry and Lieutenant Brent Wilhoyt's engineer platoons to attempt to herd the EPW's back through the breach. In the process, lieutenant Wilhoyt uncovered a cache with numerous RPG's and blew it in place. The overwhelming numbers of EPW's began to bog down Team Mech's advance. At 1221 the Jump CP called Captain Stan Snock for a platoon (Lieutenants Ord's) from Company C to take charge of the EPW situation by moving them 300 meters south of the breach and handing them over to Company B 1/5, the Task Force Reserve. The volume of EPW's becoming even larger and the number of units in such a small space compounded the confusion on the ground. The Jump CP seized control by calling for all units to remount and dispatching elements of the Combat Train to relieve the line companies of their task. All elements were directed to bypass and point the EPW's south. Meanwhile, Team Tank had followed in trace of 3rd Tank Battalion through breach lane 4 and pushed 2 1/2 kilometers out on our right flank, moving beyond our boundary with Task Force Papa Bear. They uncovered numerous bunkers and more EPW's. Off to their right flank, they with CAAT 2 engaged two tanks and destroyed them. The Jump reined them back, directing them to bypass all EPW's and move to a support by fire position south of the Emir's Farm. As Team Tank with CAAT 2 was establishing their position, the rest of the Battalion prepared to kick off the attack at 1400. Team Mech and Company C were to envelop from west to east, basically straddling Phase line Hickock, with Team Mech as the main effort. Groups of artillery targets were fired during the conduct of the second breach so the area had already been softened up a bit for the maneuver elements. As they wheeled around to the north, Team Mech called for, and then soon thereafter checked fire on A8C and A9C due to the number of EPW's fleeing the orchard. They moved to a position 1700 meters from the western edge of the farm and dismounted. Team Mech called for an 81 smoke mission. The initial rounds landed short, but adjustments were quickly made and smoke soon helped cover the void between the dismounted Grunts and the western edge of the Farm. The companies swept the area uncovering north/south running bunkers on every successive row of trees and captured approximately 200 EPW's. Eventually, elements called their tracks up, remounted, and rejoined the Battalion at Battle Position 172. As the companies swept forward on foot into the Farm sweating under their MOPP suits, Team Tank, CAAT 2, and FAANG were sowing destruction upon any enemy sighted. Captain "Ghost" Schutt in FAANG and 2nd Lieutenant "Grizz" Sullivan, the FAC with Team Tank, engaged bunkers, rocket launchers, tanks and trucks with Cobras firing Hellfire and TOWs, annihilating anything that posed a threat. Team Tank and CAAT 2, providing the direct fires from tank main gun, 50 Cal and TOWs, rounded out the destruction. Bunkers, APC's, more tanks. Nothing could escape our fires. As action in the Emir's Farm was winding down, Team Tank received orders to move to Battle Position 172 and wait for the remainder of the Battalion to rejoin. Throughout the engagement at the Emir's Farm, streams of EPW's continued to flow south. Battalion elements simply put their Kuwaiti translators on bullhorns, directed the EPW's south and continued the attack. When elements broke free from their positions in and around the Farm and followed Team Tank to Battle Positions 172, all hands were awestruck by the ominous pall of smoke emanating from over 50 wellhead fires in the Al burqan Oil Field. Commanders whose senses were sharply focused found that the rumbling from the burning played tricks on their hearing, sounding almost like columns of armored vehicles approaching our right flank. Eyes 1, 1stLt Fran Fitzpatrick, confirmed the lack of enemy on our flank. At BP 172, the Battalion formed in our standard Battalion Wedge with Team Tank as POME and BOM, Team Mech on the left, Company C on the right. Behind Team Tank was the Jump, 81's, Main CP, and Combat Train. CAAT 2 screened to the north and east with CAAT 1 behind also screening to the east/right flank. 1/7 moved out of Battle Position 172 to attack Al Jaber Airfield, MEF Obj A, at 1630. Indirect fires had been turned off at 1600 by higher authority due to the presence of so many enemy units converging on the Al Jaber area. They were assumed to be surrendering. We proceeded cautiously with 1/5 on our left. We crossed Phase Line Cannon at 1645 and continued. Moving forward we uncovered tanks in revetments, bunkers, and the debris from aerial dropped cluster munitions. As we turned left to attack from northeast to southwest, the sun began to get very low on the horizon and the smoke became even thicker. CAAT 2, commanded by 1st Lieutenant Chris Woodbridge, moved off to the right flank of Company C (northern flank of the Battalion) as we changed direction. Tank main guns could be heard firing at tanks in revetments. The CAATs engaged tanks to the northeast making some impressive long-range kills. We stopped just shy of Phase Line Mace, orienting south/southwest on the Al Jaber Airfield and tying in with 1/5 on our left. With Al Jaber cut off, the Battalion then moved into a defensive perimeter. Eventually over 150 prisoners, taken during the attack on Al Jaber cut off, the Battalion then moved into a defensive perimeter. Eventually over 150 prisoners, taken during the attack on Al jaber, were herded down to the Combat Train where they had made arrangements for the EPW's security. The rest of the evening was spent awaiting an expected fuel re-supply that never occurred. Luckily, the wind was in our favor and didn't blow the blackness upon us. The refueler came from CSSD in early morning of G+1, all vehicles were refueled, and all elements restocked. Later that morning, Task Force Ripper passed word to detach our TOW platoon and immediately send them to the vicinity of the Emir's Farm to repel an attack on the Division CP. The Division Commander retained one section throughout the duration of the War. Lieutenant Dennis Harkins with his platoon minus rejoined us the next morning after destroying three enemy tanks, four personnel carriers, four trucks and enemy in four bunkers, thus neutralizing the threat to the Division CP from the east. G+1 The relief in place with 3/7 went smoothly, though later than anticipated. 1/7 moved form its positions around the airfield as soon as it could. Around 1530, day seemed to turn into night. The wind was changing direction and the sun had vanished. By 1800, Marines could literally not see hands in front of faces. With CAAT 1 screening 1/7's left front, the Battalion pressed forward in a wedge formation with Team Mech at the point, Company C on the left, and Team Tank on the right with CAAT 2 screening the Battalion's right front. The Battalion's mission: move into the attack position at 1530 and be prepared to clear in zone the next. G+2 Twice during the night 1/7 received reports from outside the Battalion to go to MOPP Level 4 due to gas. Both times, after dispatching monitor and survey teams and conducting detection operations with the CAM and M256 Kits, the all clear was sounded. Due to a combination of smog and smoke from the burning Burqan Oil Field to our southeast, visibility was at times limited to less than 200 meters and day became night. Nonetheless, the thermal sights of the CAAT and FAC Teams picked up the slack and provided excellent early warning and intelligence as the Battalion moved northward crossing the LD at 0630. Shortly into our movement a large unmapped quarry appeared in 1/7's zone blocking our northward path. Coordination was immediately made with Tiger 3 (3rd Tank Battalion) on our left and the Battalion shifted westward, temporarily into their zone, in order to bypass the obstacle. With main gun tank turrets over watching the quarry the Battalion shifted to a column as it pressed forward. Lead elements from CAAT 2 and Team Mech reconned by fire with machineguns, and AH-1 Cobras reconned the area from the air in addition to providing additional flank security. Having received no enemy fire from the ground and also an "all clear" call from the air, 1/7 believed the quarry abandoned. However, as fate would have it, it wasn't. At 1130, the Battalion found itself engaged in two simultaneous firefights with CAAT 1, CAAT2, Team Mech, and Team Tank forward, and the Combat Train in the rear. As the lead elements of the Combat Train moved forward in trace of the Battalion, small arms fire was received from the quarry, an ambush. Two MK-19 vehicles traveling with the Combat Train immediately moved in and returned fire. Marines in AAV's and HMMWV's dismounted under enemy fire, quickly gained firing positions, and aggressively engaged the enemy. Under the cover of Lance Corporals Craig Forsythe and Sean Lentini, 2nd Lieutenant James Welborn moved in and destroyed one of two BTR 50's with a single LAAW shot. The second BTR 50 was destroyed moments later as Private First Class James Wommack, Lance Corporal Robert Hart, and Sergeant Josefo Elisiara provided cover for 1st Lieutenant David Raynor and Lance Corporal David Castleman who fired one LAAW and on AT-4 shot respectively. Simultaneously, a section from Mobile Dragons Platoon responded to the firefight and likewise aggressively engaged the enemy. With Lance Corporals Eric Hamilton and Harry Horn effectively suppressing the enemy with M203 grenade launchers, Lance Corporal James Grier closed in and destroyed the only remaining machinegun bunker with a single Dragon shot. As the firefight raged, Company C received a frag order over the radio to assist. Dismounted Company C swept through the quarry and destroyed the remaining threat with superb support from its AAV platoon's guns. Upon clearing the quarry Company C, Mobile Dragons, STA and the Combat Train remounted and continued moving northward with the rest of the Battalion to its Limit of Advance (LOA). Upon reaching the LOA the Battalion stopped to await further orders from Task force Ripper. Sporadic small arms fire was taken by CAAT 2 from a small built up area 600 meters northwest of the Battalion. The "Chicken Force", as one Marine called it, was immediately engaged with 50 cal, MK-19 and LAAWS. Additionally, 60mm and 81mm mortars as well as "danger close" artillery fires were bought to bear on the enemy. The sporadic enemy small arms fire ceased. Moments after the indirect fires stopped, darkness once again engulfed the day as clouds of black smoke rolled over the Battalion around 1510. "GAS, GAS, GAS", was called over Battalion TAC 1 seconds after Task Force Ripper reported gas at their position. 1/7 Marines calmly donned and cleared their masks while the NBC Officer, Chief Warrant Officer Larry Snyder, once again went to work and tested our area for contamination. After negative readings were observed the "all clear" call was given by Lieutenant Colonel Mattis, and the Battalion prepared to continue its attack. At 1530 the Battalion crossed the Line of Departure. Almost immediately CAAT 2 became engaged with 2 T-54's and 1 T-62 Tank. The T-54's were engaged at minimum range (70 meters) and destroyed by lance Corporal Peter Ramsey. The T-62 was engaged north of the T-54's and destroyed by Lance Corporal Sweeney. Visibility was less than 200 meters. Again the Thermal Optical Sights of the TOW and Mule were the eyes of the Battalion. At 1530, as the Battalion pushed forward, an extensive wire obstacle (three bands of double strand concertina) oriented west to east and parallel to Phase Line Margaret was sighted by CAAT 1. Upon receiving the "go ahead", Team Mech and Team Tank moved forward to breach the obstacle. Through the smog two tanks appeared less than 200 meters north of Phase Line Margaret. Both were immediately engaged and destroyed by main gun tank fire. While Team Mech proceeded to open three lanes, 50 cal fire from AAV's, tanks, and CAAT Teams rained the ground opposite the obstacle providing cover for the Combat Engineers. Of the four line charges Team Mech fired none exploded as advertised. One line charge was shot from a MK154 and the tow rope broke. The other three line charges were fired by a three shot. All had to be manually primed. Despite the slight delay three lanes were rapidly opened by Team Mech. Team Tank fired two line charges from a MK154 also. Neither line charge exploded as advertised, but after manual priming both blew successfully. Two additional lanes were thus opened by Team Tank. Sergeant Vance Dorn of A24 plowed through both lanes to ensure no mines were present. The Battalion pressed forward at 1612. A large quarry lay in the eastern portion of our zone. It is important to note that every known quarry and enemy position in 1/7's zone of action was hammered with preplanned fire support to weaken and destroy all possible threats. The Battalion bypassed the quarry and occasional mines to the northwest while reconning by fire. No enemy was sighted nor fire received. North of the quarry CAATs 1 and 2 engaged several BTR-50's with TOWS. No enemy fires were received. With visibility still marginal, the Battalion continued its attack toward Kuwait City with the mission of cutting off Kuwait International Airport (MEF Obj C) form the west. At 1730 as the Battalion approached its LOA, Team Tank destroyed on T-59 130mm artillery piece still oriented towards eastern beaches. Numerous bunkers were sighted. Team Mech dismounted and cleared the Battalion's front up to the LOA. 700 meters south of Kuwait City the Battalion occupied a blocking position 400 meters west of Kuwait International Airport. Security was established and defensive positions were dug as the Battalion sat ready in the smog and total darkness. At 2300 a patrol from Team Mech lead by Sergeant Charles Eckhoff pressed through the darkness and into the city to scout the area for enemy activity. Six hours later the patrol returned having made no enemy contact in its movement into the city. Thermal optics from all capable vehicles were active all night. Numerous sightings of civilian vehicles in and around the city were observed but no enemy contact was made. G+3 As the sun rose Kuwait City stood amazingly in front of the Battalion. Because of restricted visibility the day prior many of the Marines didn't fully comprehend just how close we were. Company C awoke to fine four fully functional but abandoned ZPU 23-4 AAA Guns directly to their front. Blowing horns and random shots could be heard throughout our position as jubilant Kuwaitis waved Kuwaiti, British, and American flags in celebration of their liberation. Great pride was written across the faces of our Sailors and Marines. Remarkably we made it with no deaths and only minor injuries. At 0800 CSSD-17 linked up and conducted a fuel, water, and ammunition re-supply and 1/7 held in its blocking position for the remainder of the day. Our presence sent a definite message. 1/7 found itself in a strange position as several EPW's turned themselves into us so they would not be killed by Kuwaiti Resistance Forces. We were now protecting the Iraqis. Some however did not want our protection. As Company A 1/7, our detached infantry company with Tiger 3, was conducting a sweep in zone; they came across 4 wounded Iraqis. While Cpl Kerry Lee was searching one of them, the Iraqi lunged at Cpl Lee, and was instantly killed by the Marine standing cover for him. Overall our BDA was 19 T-54/55's, 18 T-62's, 2 T-72's, 2 82mm Mortar Positions, 1 Radar Dish, 17 Trench Systems, 2 BMP's, 1 APC, 1 Astros Launcher, 2 531's, 16 BTR 50/60's, 1 T-12, 1 MTLB, 1 OP Tower, 6 Artillery Pieces, and the uncovering of well over 2000 EPW's. G+4 The big news is spread throughout the Battalion swiftly; a cease-fire goes into effect at 1000. Nevertheless, the Battalion continued its normal routine. Five wounded EPW's were helo medevaced from 1/7's BAS by CH-46's to a rear area hospital. A Marine from Company C, Lance Corporal Gomez, was struck by a stray round in the upper arm and slightly injured. As Lieutenant Colonel Mattis reminded everyone "It ain't over til the fat lady sings, and I'm the fat lady, and I ain't sung yet." The Battalion subsequently moved further south of the city to avoid possible terrorism and stray fire for celebrating Kuwaitis. No further enemy contact was made by the Battalion. Our comrades from Charley Engineers were detached at this time in order to commence destruction of enemy equipment in zone. Shipmates since March 1990, we hated to see them go. On G+7 1/7 mounted up and with Task Force Ripper began its southward movement towards Saudi Arabia. Our mission was complete. We would be home soon!

Posted by Doug Schaefer
Apr 05 2003 03:20:46:000AM

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