||Histories for 3rd Battalion, 9th Marines, INDIA Co. 1st Platoon
Task Force Papa Bear
As General Myatt moved north he received disturbing news from Colonel
Fulford. Prisoners captured by Task Force Ripper indicated that a counter-
attack was going to come from "out of the flames." A captured map confirmed
prisoner accounts. However, it was not conclusive and burning wellheads
existed along the division's entire front. Myatt sensed that the phrase meant the
attack would come from the Al Burqan Oilfield. In his analysis he saw the
oilfield as the only area capable of hiding a large enemy force. If correct, the
attack threatened to hit Task Force Papa Bear on the division's right flank.
Up to that point, Task Force Papa Bear had played a limited role as the
division reserve in support of Task Force Ripper's main attack. The task force
was to begin moving to its attack position at 0200, but Colonel Hodory set it
creeping forward in advance of the scheduled hour. At 0533 Task Force Papa
Bear crossed Phase Line Black and entered Kuwait in column formation led by
3d Battalion, 9th Marines, followed by the engineer task force (1st Combat
Engineer Battalion Detachment), 1st Tank Battalion, and 1st Battalion, 1st
Marines. By 0745 the task force reached its attack position.
Task Force Papa Bear remained at its attack position until 0905 when the
3d Battalion, 9th Marines, began breaching the first obstacle belt to the east of
Task Force Ripper's lanes. The obstacle belt consisted of a barbed wire fence
marking its forward edge, an anti-personnel and antitank minefield (120 meters
deep at that point) and a rear-boundary barbed wire fence. No cover existed to
protect the assaulting force, but the Iraqis chose not to defend this part of the
first obstacle belt. By 0940, the 3d Battalion, 9th Marines, completed its two
lanes and deployed into the desert beyond to establish the task force breachhead
2,000 meters deep by 3,000 meters wide. The 1st Tank Battalion followed and
moved north to secure the center of the breachhead. There, it began receiving
enemy artillery fire. Though sporadic, the firing continued against Company D
until the forward air controller with Company C, 3d Tank Battalion, Task
Force Ripper, spotted and destroyed the Iraqi observation tower. Colonel
Hodory followed 1st Tank Battalion with his command group and 1st Battalion,
1st Marines, which immediately turned southeast to cover the right flank.
Meanwhile, the engineer task force completed two additional lanes and moved
to the northern side of the minefield where it rearmed for the second breach.
During the next several hours Task Force Papa Bear gradually expanded the
breachhead while preparing to penetrate the next obstacle belt. The forward air
controller with 1st Tank Battalion directed a series of Cobra and Harrier strikes
against enemy tanks and positions near the proposed breach site. The air attacks
destroyed two tanks, two observation posts, a mortar position, and bunkers.
Meanwhile, fire support and scout teams from the 3d Battalion, 9th Marines,
began reconnoitering the second obstacle belt, but enemy direct and indirect fire
interrupted the attempt. Colonel Hodory countered with further air strikes by
a section of Cobras and four AV-8B Harriers. Under the direction of an OV-
10 FAC(A) the Marine aircraft destroyed another forward observation tower,
two more mortar positions, two T-55 tanks, and one bunker.
By 1205 all of Task Force Papa Bear's assault battalions and Colonel Hodory
with the "Alpha" command group were through the first breach. Colonel Hodory
moved north and completed arrangements for breaching the second minefield.
With Task Force Ripper getting ready for its swing west at Al Jaber, General
Myatt wanted Task Force Papa Bear quickly through the second belt. He needed
it to cover Ripper's flank, and to establish a breachhead large enough for the
landing of Task Force X-Ray before darkness made movement too risky. Yet,
the Iraqis were clearly alert and seemed determined to resist. This made a hasty
breach necessary and Colonel Hodory began consolidating and repositioning the
task force for the assault. At 1400 the task force combat trains were on the north
side of the first breach and ready to support follow-on Operations. By 1500, the
1st Battalion, 11th Marines, had completed its displacement to a new position
north of the first belt and began neutralizing Iraqi positions. Meanwhile, amid
sporadic artillery and mortar fire, 3d Battalion, 9th Marines, started deploying
for the assault on the second obstacle belt. As the Marines neared the minefield
they got their first sight of the burning wellheads of the Al Burqan Oilfield.
By 1320 everything was in place and Colonel Hodory sent the 3d Battalion,
9th Marines, against the second obstacle belt defended by the Iraqi 22d
Brigade, 5th Mechanized Division. The same problems with line charges
experienced by Task Force Ripper and Task Force Papa Bear's first breach
continued. At 1600, 3d Battalion, 9th Marines, obstacle-clearing detachments
successfully opened lane 2. The effort to clear lane 1 stopped when an anti-
tank mine knocked out an M-60A 1 roller-equipped tank. The tank blocked the
lane. Lane 1?s combat engineers began work on another lane while the
battalion's assaulting companies moved to lane 2 and started through. No sooner
had the first company penetrated the minefield than it engaged five T-55 tanks
attempting to withdraw and destroyed two. The assault force pressed on to
widen the breachhead. Then, enemy mortar fire fell on the advancing Marines
causing 10 casualties among a group clearing bunkers. While corpsmen treated
and evacuated the wounded, the 3d Battalion continued its assault on the 22d
Brigade's trenches. Assisted by AH-1W Cobras, artillery fire from 1st Battalion,
11th Marines, and organic 81 mm mortars, the 3d Battalion fought its way
through a strong antitank and mortar position. When the position fell, hundreds
of Iraqi soldiers began surrendering.
During the 3d Battalion's assault, 1st Tank Battalion moved through the
single open lane. At 1615 it swung east and attacked an enemy force consisting
of revetted tanks and dug-in infantry. Tracers crisscrossed the gray sky as
Marine units closed on the Iraqis. When the TOW company moved into position
on the battalion's right flank, it unhinged the Iraqi defense by destroying six T-
55 tanks. Company B's forward air controller directed a flight of AH-1W
Cobras against another group of tanks. Their TOW missiles accounted for an
additional eight T-55s. The Iraqi defense came apart. Company I, 3d Battalion,
9th Marines (attached to 1st Tank Battalion), no sooner reached the enemy
position than it became inundated by 650 Iraqi soldiers wanting to surrender. In
the gathering darkness, while Company I handled the prisoners, 1st Tank
Battalion pushed its antitank company into the oilfield as a screen. One of the
TOW-equipped HMMWVs no sooner got in position than it encountered a T-
55 whose crew still wanted to fight. Following a short engagement, the Iraqi
tank exploded in flames after a direct hit by a TOW missile.
At 1700 Colonel Hodory brought the 1st Battalion, 1st Marines, into the
breach. The battalion moved directly north where it encountered resistance.
Company B and a platoon of TOWs destroyed three tanks and three armored
personnel carriers in the fight. The company forward air controller directed a
flight of AH-1W Cobras and knocked out four armored personnel carriers.
Meanwhile Company A moved to the battalion's right flank where it engaged
enemy vehicles and infantry. Colonel Hodory then detached the uncommitted 1st
Battalion's Company D, which had just gone through the breach, to assist the
1st Tank Battalion with its prisoners.
Colonel Hodory moved into the breachhead with his "Alpha" command
group in trace of the 1st Tank Battalion. During the tank battalion's engagement
Colonel Hodory located the command post in the center of the task force
position. He kept the "Bravo" command group south of the minefield. From
there it coordinated the movement of units into the only functioning lane at the
time. Work on clearing additional lanes continued. The obstacle-clearing
detachments completed an alternate lane and the engineer task force moved to
the minefield and began work clearing two additional lanes. Work on lane 3
suddenly stopped when another M60A1 tank struck a mine.
By then it was getting dark. Colonel Hodory consolidated his position. He
turned over lane control to the regimental S-4 and moved "Bravo" command
group north to his location. He established a temporary enemy prisoner camp
on the north side of the breach. Continuing resistance, however, caused Hodory
to leave the logistics trains and the engineer task force on the south side. Papa
Bear's assault battalions remained where they were and completed the formation
of a breachhead into the Al Burqan Oil field. The 3d Battalion, 9th Marines,
occupied the left sector of Task Force Papa Bear's zone. The 1st Battalion, 1st
Marines, moved north into the oilfields to anchor the center of the line. The 1st
Tank Battalion faced east and the open desert on the right flank.
Though enemy resistance diminished, the area of the breakthrough remained
volatile. "Bravo" command group, traveling in a lightly armed AAVC7Al, no
sooner cleared the minefield than it came under fire from a T-55. A missile
fired from an accompanying HMMWV mounted TOW knocked out the Iraqi
tank. The assault battalions spent the next few hours sweeping their areas and
making final dispositions in a landscape littered with enemy bunkers, revetted
positions, and wrecked tanks, personnel carriers, and vehicles of all types.
Behind the task force, between the two obstacle belts, moved support units of
the 1st Marine Division as they took up night defensive positions in the gather-
ing darkness. To the north the burning wells belched great columns of flame
and smoke. The entire Al Burqan Oilfield seemed to be on fire and no one
knew what enemy force might be lurking there, if indeed any Iraqis remained
in the oilfield at all. Light from burning wells overpowered thermal sights and
smoke obscured the area. Growing concern about what lay in front of the
division prompted General Myatt to have Colonel Hodory push Papa Bear's
antitank screen several kilometers into the oilfield at 2100 that evening.
At 2330 General Myatt gave Task Force Papa Bear a new mission. Myatt
wanted to consolidate the division position before resuming the offensive. Like
a snake getting ready to strike, he began building combat power for the next
day's attack on Kuwait International Airport and Kuwait City. Myatt ordered
Task Force Papa Bear to defend east and northeast to cover the landing of Task
Force X-Ray and to protect the division's right flank until Colonel Howard got
all five artillery battalions repositioned in the morning. Once X-Ray and the
artillery were in place, General Myatt gave Colonel Hodory an "on order"
mission to continue attacking northeast.
As Colonel Hodory planned his new mission General Myatt reassessed the
tactical situation. For the most part the offensive had gone very much as
planned. The division had finished the day on planned objectives. Four artillery
battalions were already in position to support the continuing attack and Colonel
Howard planned to move the last battalion, 1st Battalion, 11th Marines, early
the next morning. During G-Day, the artillery fired 1,346 rounds, mostly rocket
assisted projectiles (RAP), in support of the task forces, yet ammunition supplies
were still plentiful.
G Plus 1, 25 February 1991: `Possible enemy attack'
At 0109 General Myatt saw the Iraqi maps captured by Task Force Ripper
and heard the statements by several captured officers that began to concern him
that a counterattack was imminent. However, for a time, he and his headquarters
staff continued to focus on the Jaber area--that was where the original
concentration of Iraqi artillery (and the greatest threat to the division) had been.
As the night wore on further intelligence reported an armor/mechanized brigade-
size force and an armor brigade to the northeast. If correct, the two brigades
were well positioned to strike the division's front and right flanks. Attempts to
confirm the location of the enemy units failed because of the flames and smoke
rising from the burning Al Burqan Oilfield.
Intercepts of Iraqi radio traffic soon convinced General Myatt that the enemy
was going to attempt something. He then alerted his commanders and reassessed
the division's defenses. The position was as well laid out as allowed by the
chaotic conditions of the previous evening. In front of Task Forces Ripper and
Papa Bear, Myatt had Lieutenant Colonel Myers establish a screen with LAVs,
antitank HMMWVs, and scout teams. The main line consisted of a series of
battalion battle positions. Commanders placed tanks and antitank weapons to
the front to favor their integral thermal and night vision devices.
General Myatt made adjustments to the division's defenses. He judged his
front to be thinly defended and lacking a sufficient antitank strength. He also
concluded that the division command post was too far forward in its location
just south of the thinly defended lines near the Emir's Farm. The placement of
the forward command post at that location reflected Major General Myatt's
belief that the commander should be as far forward as possible. There were
practical reasons as well. Brigadier General Draude wanted to have the
headquarters out of the fire sack between the two obstacle belts, and Myatt
wanted to be in the best location for organizing and launching the next day's
attack. Only Company C, 1st Battalion, 1st Marines, occupied that portion
of the line. General Myatt decided to reinforce Company C with the nearest
unit available, a LAV company from Task Force Shepherd. Accordingly, at
0645, Company B, Task Force Shepherd linked up with Company C in front
of division headquarters.
Few in the company expressed any joy over the assignment. After six months
in the desert, they wanted to get into the fight, but so far the war seemed to pass
them by. During the engagement of 29-30 January at OP 4, Lieutenant Colonel
Myers did not commit Company B until the end. On G-Day the company
scarcely fired a shot. Now, just as the division launched its final attack,
Company B got an assignment which promised little combat. Captain Eddie S.
Ray, the company commander, was so upset about the assignment that he
approached Brigadier General Draude and asked if the company could be
returned to the line as soon as feasible. General Draude understood Captain
Ray's frustration but advised him that the company was needed in front of the
division command post for the time being. As events turned out, Company B's
departure from Task Force Shepherd put it in position as the center piece in the
most important engagement fought by the 1st Marine Division during the war.
General Myatt made another fortunate adjustment to the division's defensive
lines. Concerned about what enemy units might be hiding in the Al Burqan
Oilfield, he ordered the 1st Battalion, 1st Marines, to conduct a reconnaissance
in force into the oilfield at first light. By waiting for dawn, Myatt hoped to
avoid friendly fire casualties. In the period of time necessary for Lieutenant
Colonel Humble to orient the division for the drive to the Kuwait International
Airport, General Myatt wanted a thorough probe of the oilfield, even though the
Iraqi attack had so far failed to develop. Other intelligence information coming
to division headquarters indicated that the enemy was building a sizable
counterattack force. At 0730, the 1st Battalion, 1st Marines, attacked into the Al
Burqan towards Gathering Center 4. It found movement difficult. A combination
of thick black smoke and morning fog reduced visibility to 200 meters and less.
Myatt decided to mass the fire from the five artillery battalions to disrupt
the attack before it got organized. The 11th Marines quickly responded.
Nevertheless, Brigadier General Draude found the time required to shift the
guns to be "agonizingly slow?. At 0753 when he received the order, Colonel
Howard had only one battery oriented to the area, but two brief orders from the
regimental fire direction center massed every available artillery piece against the
separated Iraqi brigades. Howard fired on the targets in sequence with the order:
"Regiment; four rounds DPICM or RAP as range appropriate; Time on Target,
0817" against the armored-mechanized brigade, and: "Regiment; four rounds
DPICM or RAP as range appropriate; Time on Target, 0820" against the site
of the armored brigade. As directed, at 0817 11 batteries from four battalions
fired on the first target. A barrage of 244 rounds fell on the Iraqi 22d Bri-
gade, 5th Mechanized Division. Three minutes later, 13 batteries from five
battalions shifted to the site of intelligence subsequently discovered to be the
Iraqi 15th Brigade, 3d Armored Division and fired a barrage of 496 rounds of
RAP and DPICM. The enemy did not immediately respond to the Marine
The Iraqi attack began from the east with a feint against the left flank.
followed by large-scale assaults against the right flank and center.
The first attack struck Task Forces Shepherd and Task Force Ripper at about
0515. To the Marines of Company D, Task Force Shepherd, the assault seemed
reminiscent of the engagement at OP 4. Under cover of an overcast and dark
night an Iraqi column made its way south towards Al Jaber guiding on a north-
south running power line. When Company D spotted the enemy vehicles they
opened a running fight, hitting the Iraqis with a combination of TOW missiles
and 25mm fire. Slowly moving south, Company D knocked out five enemy
tanks and one truck from the rear of the column. The main line of Task Force
Ripper engaged the column's front when it came in range. By 0620 the 3d Tank
Battalion's TOWs found themselves in an intense firefight with 20 vehicles and
an unspecified number of dismounted infantry. The TOW fire soon dispersed
the attacking force which ended the first Iraqi assault.
Meanwhile, Colonel Hodory on the division's right flank held an "orders
group" to discuss General Myatt's changes to the task force mission and the
possibility of an Iraqi attack. The meeting proved difficult to put together. Dense
fog enveloped the area and reduced visibility to 100 meters. Unit commanders
with their operations officers found getting to regimental headquarters an
arduous exercise. They groped through fog and smoke so thick that some never
got to the meeting on time and needed to be briefed separately. Consequently, the "orders group? took longer than intended.
The fog proved as much a problem for the Iraqis as it did for the Marines.
It disoriented the enemy force. Instead of striking Marine lines with mass, the
attack dissipated and drifted into Task Force Papa Bear. Some enemy units
collided with positions along the main line, some slipped past and moved into
the center of the task force. The first encounter surprised both sides. An enemy
force aiming for the 1st Battalion, 1st Marines, missed the Marine battalion and
kept driving until coming into contact with the task force headquarters.
At 0800 Colonel Hodory and his staff were still briefing late arriving
commanders when a T-55 tank and three Type-63 armored personnel carriers
emerged from the fog and halted about 50 meters from where Colonel Hodory
stood. The tank sat motionless with its gun perfectly sighted on Hodory's
command vehicles. It never fired. Instead, the brigade commander came forward
and surrendered to the astonished Marines. When questioned, he revealed that
his force made up part of the 22d Brigade, 5th Mechanized Division assigned to
attack the American right flank. When questioned further, he explained that he
no longer wished to fight nor did the group accompanying him. However, he
could not speak for those behind him in the fog.
As Colonel Hodory digested this information, the rest of the Iraqi force
began an attack on the task force command post with tank and automatic
weapons fire. The task force S-3, Major John H. Turner, saw that:
We had main gun rounds, machine gun tracers and even
5.56mm fire (from India 3/9) coming through the CP.
I remember hitting the deck for the first time during the
war and I saw tracers going through the CP from east
to west at knee height.
The headquarters countered with a combination of MK-19s, machine guns,
and light antitank weapons. In ten minutes, they destroyed or disabled one
enemy tank and several armored personnel carriers, and forced the Iraqis to
retreat into the fog.
Colonel Hodory notified commanders that headquarters was under attack by
a brigade-size force. He told 1st Tank Battalion to expect the Iraqi assault to
come in an easterly direction, parallel to the second obstacle belt. That
information required the 1st Tank Battalion, which had already faced north in
anticipation of resuming the division attack, to redeploy facing east. The
battalion commander, Lieutenant Colonel Michael M. Kephart, then called the
company commanders in for a meeting. However, the briefing had scarcely
begun when battalion headquarters suddenly came under enemy automatic
weapons fire. As bright yellow tracers cut across the Marine position company
commanders quickly returned to their units and the battalion prepared to first
contain the attack, then launch a counter-thrust. The first response consisted of
Dragon and light antitank fire from the dug-in Company I, 3d Battalion, 9th
Marines, attached to 1st Tank Battalion. Struck on its flank and startled by
American fire from the unseen unit, the Iraqi attack faltered. The tank battalion
used the opportunity to reposition its companies for a counterattack to the east,
Company D deployed on the left and Company C on the right. Colonel Admire
supported the tank battalion's drive by moving 2d Battalion, 3d Marines, to a
location adjacent to the second obstacle belt.
The 1st Tank Battalion redeployed to meet the enemy assault. The dense
fog and the limited capabilities of night-vision gunsights threatened even greater
confusion if any of the companies got out of position. The two companies
managed the movement without difficulty and once they got into position, 1st
Tank Battalion's counterattack began. A deep rumbling from engines and the
high-pitched squeaking of tank tracks replaced the sound of enemy fire as
Companies C and D moved forward on their 2,000-meter jab through the Iraqi
brigade. Marine tanks and antitank HMMWVs paused only long enough to sight
and fire on enemy vehicles. The TOWs were the first to get engaged and they
knocked out six enemy tanks. Lieutenant Colonel Kephart then switched the
TOWs north to guard the battalion's left flank and give the tanks a clear field
of fire. Company C destroyed more than 18 enemy vehicles. Company D
supported the main attack and destroyed whatever managed to get past Company
Not everything went smoothly for the Marine tankers. Corporal Motley, a
tank commander in Company C, spotted a T-55 and swung his turret at the
target. Giving orders to his gunner, Corporal Irwin, Motley shouted out the
target and type of main gun round to be fired: "Gunner, Sabot, Tank!" Irwin
attempted to fire the gun but experienced a misfire. Corporal Motley then
switched Irwin to the main gun's co-ax machine gun only to have that misfire,
as did his position's .50-caliber machine gun. Another tank then engaged the
During the course of the Iraqi counterattack the fog lifted. As it did, a
forward air controller in an OV-10 Bronco spotted a build-up of enemy armor
to the northeast. Marine fighter-attack aircraft took advantage of the improved
visibility and bombarded the Iraqi force. Seriously weakened, the enemy unit
fled. At about 1000, a second force began assembling to the southeast. The
clearing fog enabled 1st Tank Battalion's TOW weapons to swing into action.
Firing at extended ranges, they scored numerous tank and vehicle hits before
being joined in the attack by AH-1W Cobras. Major Turner saw from the
vantage point of Task Force Papa Bear's command post located "about 1,500
meters west of the battle, we could see enemy tanks and APCs bursting into
Struck simultaneously by air and ground fire, the Iraqis lost vehicles and
personnel. No further attacks developed, and by 1100 the 1st Tank Battalion
controlled the battlefield. Remnants of the enemy force soon surrendered or
withdrew north through the burning wells. In a fight lasting three hours, the
battalion had successfully stopped an attack by two Iraqi Brigades (the 501st
Brigade, 8th Infantry Division, and the 22d Brigade, 5th Mechanized Division).
The enemy lost 50 tanks disabled, 25 armored personnel carriers destroyed, and
300 prisoners taken. There were no Marine casualties.
At 1100, the 1st Battalion, 1st Marines, remained heavily engaged in a fight
of its own. Having departed its positions at 0730 to clear the Al Burqan Oilfield
through Gathering Center 4, the battalion proceeded slowly, moving north for
over an hour when, at 0915, it ran into the southern flank of an enemy force
counterattacking from the east. The engagement began when the 1st Platoon,
Company B, the battalion heavy machine guns' "Baker Team," and the 1st
Section, 4th Platoon, Antitank (TOW) Company, 1St Tank Battalion, came in
contact with mechanized infantry from the Iraqi 15th Mechanized infantry
Brigade, 3d Armored Division. All of Company B soon joined the fight and, by
0930, it destroyed three armored personnel carriers and captured 29 enemy
soldiers. The 1st Battalion resumed its movement north with Company B on the
left, Company A in the center, and Company D on the right. Companies A and
B fought several company-size enemy units during their drive through the
burning oilfields. Company D struck the 2d Battalion, 15th Mechanized Brigade
and captured more than 400 prisoners including an Iraqi battalion commander.
While moving through the oil field, the battalion came abreast of an LAV
screen consisting of Companies A, C, and D, Task Force Shepherd. Because
of the thick smoke that often reduced visibility in that area of the battlefield to
less than 50 meters the two units maintained constant communications using 1st
Battalion, 1st Marines, tactical radio net. The frequent cross-checking
successfully avoided friendly fire incidents while the LAVs and mechanized
infantry maneuvered against the Iraqis. By 1600 the 1st Battalion, 1st Marines,
reached the planned limit of its advance astride the "03? grid line. From the 1st
Battalion, 1st Marines, Company B covered the battalion's left flank; Company
A occupied the center on Hill 114; while Company D, which continued to sweep
the area for prisoners, was to take position on Hill 127 covering the right flank
(which it did at 1900 that evening). Company D was tied in on the right with
1st Tank Battalion.
Both the 1st Battalion, 1st Marines, and the 1st Tank Battalion fought amid
dense smoke. Unable to employ close air support and artillery, their tactics
relied on TOW gunners using thermal sights. In spite of poor visibility, the 1st
Battalion, 1st Marines, destroyed about 43 enemy vehicles and captured more
than 500 prisoners. The battalion lost three Marines wounded when an RPG
exploded in front of a scout vehicle.'59
The drive by the 1st Battalion, 1st Marines, set off a chain of events. When
the 1st Battalion proceeded north it encountered Iraqi units moving across the
division front. The battalion halted the southern flank unit of a brigade-size
enemy force, fixed it in place, and ultimately destroyed it. The other enemy
units continued through the smoke and the fog, pivoted south, and, at 0930,
collided with the 1st Marine Division Command Post; Company C, 1st
Battalion, 1st Marines; and Company B, Task Force Shepherd (both companies
were reinforcing the forward command post). The first hint that something was
amiss occurred soon after Company B arrived. Commanded by Captain Eddie
S. Ray, the company had just gotten into position when one of its LAVs
suddenly fired into the fog. That caught everyone's attention. There had been
no radio communication and a quick check showed the firing to have been the
result of an accidental discharge. However, no sooner did the company
commander complete his investigation than 100 Iraqi soldiers appeared wanting
to surrender. Spooked by the 25min gun fire, their arrival at a location already
swept the previous day raised questions about what might be developing further
Out in the fog and smoke. At first, Marines around the command post could
only hear the low sound and rumble of moving tanks and vehicles. Then, the
smoke and fog suddenly lifted to reveal an attacking force consisting of five T-
55s, 33 armored personnel carriers, and some dismounted infantry.
A vicious firefight erupted as Company B, Task Force Shepherd, and
Company C, 1st Battalion, 1st Marines, along with Marines assigned to the
division forward command element, responded with TOW, AT-4, 25mm gun,
and automatic weapons fire. Burning enemy vehicles began to litter the
battlefield. After an hour of fighting the Iraqis withdrew into the fog. Marines
around the division command post breathed a sigh of relief, none more so than
the radio operators and staff personnel working inside the canvas headquarters
The Iraqis quickly reorganized. Fifteen minutes later, at about 1015, the
enemy launched a second attack against the command post. The attack again
withered under the intense Marine fire, now reinforced by several sections of
Sea Cobras firing TOW missiles. Repulsed, the Iraqis withdrew behind the
burning wells which obscured them from thermal sights.
At about 1100 much of the fog and smoke dissipated and the enemy launched
a third attack. On that occasion General Draude raised the side of the
headquarters tent to provide command element staff with a panoramic view of
the battlefield as Iraqi tanks and personnel carriers came under fire. Stopped
again, the enemy force disintegrated with the loss of 320 soldiers captured, and
two tanks and 27 armored personnel carriers destroyed.
As soon as Iraqi pressure eased against the command post General Myatt
repositioned the division for a resumption of the offensive. Task Force Papa
Bear bore the brunt of the attack and consequently needed more time to adjust.
At 1132 Task Force X-Ray flew to a landing zone adjacent to Task Force Papa
Bear's breach lanes. Myatt attached it to Papa Bear, and Colonel Hodory held
it south of the second obstacle belt until fighting ended in the 1st Tank
Battalion's zone. Then he moved it overland to establish battle position X-Ray,
a blocking position in the vicinity of the 1st Tank Battalion's previous location.
That secured the division's eastern flank while the tank battalion reoriented
north. Combat Service Support Detachment 11 moved into the battle area to
resupply the 1st Tank Battalion; 3d Battalion, 9th Marines; and 1st Battalion, 1st
Marines. As darkness fell Colonel Hodory brought up the engineers and logistics
trains to locations north of the obstacle belt.
As the division shook off the counterattack and redeployed further into the
Al Burqan Oilfield, the burning wells came to play a significant part in General
Myatt's tactical planning. Instead of bypassing the Al Burqan Oil field as
originally decided--scientists said the burning wells produced toxins that made
the area uninhabitable, thus it was seen as a barrier--the Iraqi attack proved that
a large unit could operate and survive there. General Myatt had to adjust the
advance of the division's right flank to encompass the oilfield. In effect, the
change put Task Force Papa Bear, the division reserve, on an axis of advance
through the oilfield that committed it to a series of engagements lasting the
entire day. The engagements turned out to be as frequent and as fierce as those
encountered in the main attack by Task Force Ripper.
The burning wells belched thick black smoke that completely obscured the
battlefield. Poor visibility concealed the three Iraqi brigades and enabled them
to attack without being detected. As a result General Myatt needed to ensure
the oilfield did not hide any more surprises. Rather than it being the barrier that
division staff figured the Al Burqan Oil field to be, the counter-attack showed the
area to be trafficable, an excellent tactical position in its own right. The Al
Burqan Oilfield became an objective to be seized.
The smoke affected all aspects of division operations. The division
operational plan needed good visibility, 23 percent or better of moonlight, for
night operations. However, by the end of the first day's operations, General
Myatt discovered that the blowing smoke obscured the battlefield during the day
and frequently rendered night vision devices inoperable. The inability to see in
the dark forced Myatt to abandon the idea of large-scale night operations. Also,
extensive smoke and cloud cover canceled out the use of fighter-attack aircraft
and made it difficult even for AH- 1W Cobras to operate. On the third day of the
ground attack, when the division moved into the heart of the Al Burqan Oilfield,
the task forces found themselves frequently plunged into virtual darkness when
wind shifts suddenly blanketed them under smoke too thick for sunlight to
penetrate. Gunnery Sergeant Cochran noted at the time that: "It was like being
in a black hole.?
G Plus 2, 26 February 1991
The dawn of G Plus 2 was not characterized by the persistent fog
encountered the morning before, and units quickly moved to their attack
positions for the assault. Reports were coming into division headquarters that
the Iraqi III Corps had received orders to withdraw. General Boomer did not
want the III Corps to get away and, as part of I MEF's two-division attack,
General Myatt directed Colonel Fulford to begin moving at 0654. Boomer
wanted both divisions to attack on line and Fulford's first task was to move his
task force north 10 kilometers to link up with the 8th Marines and the 2d Light
Armored Infantry Battalion of the 2d Marine Division on his left flank.
The battleground Task Force Ripper traversed was littered with enemy tanks
and vehicles. Some showed obvious signs of destruction from air bombardment;
other vehicles appeared intact but abandoned. However, some crews remained
with their vehicles and waited in ambush. As Task Forces Ripper and Papa
Bear advanced, each tank unit commander developed different policies for
dealing with this threat. In Task Force Papa Bear, 1st Tank Battalion shot at
everything. In Task Force Ripper, 3d Tank Battalion tested Iraqi vehicles with
long-range machine gun fire to see if the enemy responded. If it did, a tank
round or TOW missile followed and dispatched the Iraqi vehicle. The infantry
battalions led with their scout detachments, which used TOW thermal sights to
determine whether the enemy vehicle gave a "hot" or a "cold" signature. If the
Iraqi vehicle or tank had its systems turned on and registered "hot" as a result,
they engaged it. The frequent firefights interrupted the rapid advance with
numerous stops and starts.
By 0030 Colonel Hodory had Task Force Papa Bear positioned for the attack
on Kuwait international Airport. Again designated the division reserve
supporting Task Force Ripper, Papa Bear was not scheduled to begin its advance
until 0800. This gave Colonel Hodory more than an hour of daylight to establish
a column formation for the first part of the assault. He placed 3d Battalion, 9th
Marines, in the lead, followed by 1st Tank Battalion, the engineers, and the
combat trains. The 1st Battalion, 11th Marines, established a column of its own
to the west and slightly behind the Engineers. Papa Bear's formation did not
include the 1st Battalion, 1st Marines, stationed to the north in the Al Burqan
Oilfield. It remained there following its attack the previous day. It would stay
there until the task force began its advance then move west along a line of
power lines to join the main body when Papa Bear came abreast.'~
The movement took place as planned. After the 1st Battalion established
contact with Papa Bear and the task force cleared the Al Burqan Oilfield,
Colonel Hodory reformed the task force with 3d Battalion, 9th Marines, on the
right and 1st Battalion, 1st Marines, on the left. He placed 1st Tank Battalion
in the center, followed by the engineer task force. Moving north through clouds
of black smoke, at 1100, Papa Bear passed Phase Line Red. By 1300 it reached
Phase Line Diane where it stopped alongside Task Force Ripper. On the journey
north, the task force moved over a landscape littered with tanks, antitank and
antiaircraft guns, and vehicles of all types. Iraqi soldiers surrendered along the
The second phase of the movement to Kuwait International Airport did not
promise to be as easy. Though Marine commanders knew the Iraqis were
retreating, the area in front of the 1st Marine Division remained defended. The
1st Battalion, 7th Marines, found the enemy quite active. As the battalion waited
at the line of departure, CAAT 2 received sporadic small arms fire from a group
of buildings about 600 meters northeast of the battalion. Remembering the
previous day's ambush, Lieutenant Colonel Mattis struck back with everything
the battalion had. In a matter of minutes, artillery, mortars, machine guns, MK-
19 40mm grenades, and LAAW fire rained in on the Iraqis. Tracer fire snaked
into the buildings and explosions ripped them apart. When the smoke cleared the
buildings lay in ruins with their occupants dead or dying. The 1st Battalion,
1st Marines, adopted a less dramatic approach. Taking advantage of the waiting
period, the battalion launched a preemptive strike. Its ?Able Team" and TOW
section moved forward to clear the immediate area in front of the battalion. In
their assault they found 10 abandoned T-62s, 10 AT-12s, large quantities of
ammunition, and enemy soldiers wanting only to surrender.
At 1330 the division sat immobile as task force commanders and regimental
operations officers (S-3s) met with General Myatt and division forward staff to
finalize plans for the attack on the Kuwait International Airport. Myatt ordered
TF Ripper to seize the highway northwest of the airport and establish blocking
positions to support Task Force Papa Bear's drive to isolate the airport from the
south. Task Force Shepherd was to skirt the east side of the airport and seize
the highway system to the northeast and secure the division's right flank and
isolate the airport from the east. Once it had the airport surrounded, Task Force
Taro was to move north by truck convoy and secure the airfield complex. Task
Force Grizzly remained at Al Jaber. Following this meeting, the task force
commanders returned to their units and held their own "orders groups. " Some
units shifted position as commanders made minor adjustments to their
formations. General Myatt directed the maneuver battalions to hold their lead
elements at Phase Line Margaret until cleared to move to Phase Line Green.
It was about 1400 when 2d Marine Division units linked up with the left
flank of the 1st Marine Division. The initial meeting proved the problems
commanders faced contending with the fog and blowing smoke. As the flank
elements of both divisions came within sight of each other, poor visibility caused
some AAVs carrying 1st Battalion, 8th Marines, to mistake the AAVs of 1st
Battalion, 5th Marines, as Iraqi vehicles. Firing their .50-caliber machine guns
at a range of 1,000 meters into the battalion's combat train, the 2d Marine
Division AAVs closed to within 500 meters before seeing they were firing on
Marine vehicles and returned to their zone.
The advance of Task Force Ripper ultimately exposed its right flank. With
1st Battalion, 7th Marines, heavily engaged in clearing the obstacle belt, at 1620
Colonel Fulford asked General Myatt to launch Task Force Papa Bear's attack.
Ten minutes later Papa Bear crossed Phase Line Diane. Visibility deteriorated
As the task force moved into the same weather conditions confronting Task Force
Ripper's Marines. Unit commanders found themselves fighting problems
generated by circumstances and the environment as much as they did the enemy.
The position location and reporting system (PLRS) suddenly went out when the
master station relocated to keep pace with the rapid advance. Normally,
operations officers used the global positioning system to cover periods when
PLRS failed to work; however, it also failed. Commanders immediately returned
to standard desert navigation techniques using compasses and constant odometer
checks. That worked to a point. Papa Bear's advance took it into the heart of the
Magwa Oil field (which made up the northern part of the Al Burqan Oilfield)
complex of wells, over-ground pipes, and power lines. Frequent twists and turns
got the task force around most obstacles but challenged navigational abilities.
Unfortunately, smoke, blowing sand, and darkness obscured terrain features,
making progress slow and halting.
Task Force Papa Bear remained channeled by the burning wells and above-
ground pipelines. Colonel Hodory organized the task force into two columns.
The 3d Battalion, 9th Marines, made up the balance of the left-hand column and
spearheaded Papa Bear's attack. The task force headquarters followed in trace.
The right-hand column consisted of the 1st Battalion, 1st Marines, followed by
the 1st Tank Battalion. Colonel Hodory placed the engineer task force behind
the 1st Tank Battalion.
In order to cover TF Ripper's flank, the columns pressed forward. They
bypassed numerous abandoned Iraqi positions and saved time by directing
surrendering Iraqi soldiers towards follow-on units. At 1730 the 3d Battalion,
9th Marines, arrived at Phase Line Margaret and soon after encountered the
obstacle belts. The battalion found two barbed-wire belts in front of it instead
of one. Breaching operations began and, unopposed by the enemy, the 3d
Battalion's combat engineers quickly cleared lanes through the two belts. At
about 1800 the battalion completed its passage of the belts and started moving
toward an agricultural area just south of the airfield perimeter road.
That proved to be the last Iraqi defensive position between Task Force Papa
Bear and the Kuwait International Airport. Occupied by elements of the Iraqi
20th infantry Regiment, 3d Armored Division, the position consisted of a
complex of bunkers and fighting positions supported by armored personnel
carriers and tanks. Most defenders chose not to fight and the sporadic resistance
scarcely hindered the 3d Battalion's advance. However, the near-zero visibility
and the sandstorm combined to make progress difficult and slowed its movement
to a crawl around the wells, pipelines, and the occasional oil lakes. It took the
battalion until 2300 to locate and cut through the perimeter fence of the airport
to establish a small breachhead.
The right-hand column experienced similar conditions. At about 1815, 1st
Battalion, 1st Marines, crossed Phase Line Margaret and began its attack east
toward a radio station located next to the perimeter road. Smoke obscured
everything. Only TOW thermal sights provided a view of what lay ahead.
Slowly the battalion felt its way north and into an area containing numerous
tanks and armored personnel carriers manned by crews determined, for once,
to resist. Several firefights developed as Marine and Iraqi vehicles exchanged
tank and machine gun fire. Leaving burning Iraqi vehicles behind, the battalion
brushed aside opposition, bypassed surrendering soldiers, and pressed north to
the obstacle belt.
No sooner were they past the barbed-wire and minefield than lead elements
of the 1st Battalion saw two enemy vehicles through their thermal sights. The
Iraqis attempted to flee west at high speed only to be stopped when TOW
missiles slammed into their vehicles. Two of the Iraqis died in the explosions
and the dazed but surviving six passengers surrendered. They were all officers.
Later, when closer to the airport, an armored personnel carrier bolted from
concealment in an attempt to get to the highway. A TOW missile hit and
disabled the vehicle and it stopped between the 1st Battalion and task force
headquarters. Instead of surrendering, the survivors dismounted and began
shooting. Marines from Company D returned fire, killing them. The incident
turned out to be the battalion's last firefight. At 2200 the 1st Battalion, 1st
Marines, reached the radio tower and established positions alongside the airport
The 1st Tank Battalion initially followed 1st Battalion, 1st Marines.
Numerous oilfield pipelines obstructed its route and there were frequent halts
and detours as the battalion moved to get past these barriers. Occasionally,
Iraqis bypassed by the 1st Battalion, 1st Marines, and fired on the Marine tanks,
but the engagements which ensued always left the enemy's vehicles destroyed
and burning. The congested area and appalling visibility was an unnerving
experience for the tankers. Second Lieutenant James D. Gonzales, Company C,
3d Tank Battalion, later wrote:
It was an obvious chokepoint, kind of like the
classic ambushes you learn about in school. We could
go forward, or back out the way we came.
Unfortunately, the entire 1st Marine Division lay behind
us, so going back was not an option. Eight-foot berms
to our right and a dense orchard on our left, left us with
only one option: push forward down the narrow road to
?Move out, Red. Take it slowly and keep an eye on
those trees. They've got bunkers in there," the 1st
Platoon commander called out over the net.
Not only were there bunkers--but bunkers filled with
ammo. One tank had just pumped 100 .50-cal rounds
into one twenty minutes earlier and it was still burning
I watched as 1st Platoon crept its way down the
road. They were at great risk and everyone knew it. We
were all tense, maybe the most thus far. What lay
ahead? They could really hurt us right here. Oh well,
everything was going good so far.
All of a sudden: BOOM! BOOM! Two bright
flashes followed by massive secondary explosions lit up
the sky. My heart dropped through my stomach. Both
explosions came from near the head of the column.
An ambush! They got us!
"Speak to me, Red! Red, speak to me! What's going
on up there?" Skipper tried to sound calm but couldn't
hide his concern. Silence. It must have been our tanks.
"Red! Red! Speak to me!" More silence.
Oh God! I can't believe they got us. I wanted to
throw up. It was all so unbelievable. Would we be next?
Still, no response.
"Any Red element, any red element, this is Gold.
What's going on up there?"
"Roger, Gold, this is Red. Destroyed two enemy
Thank God! Trucks! Oh, that's right. We had all
forgotten about the last intel report which mentioned a
parking lot along our route toward the airport.
As resistance collapsed the battalion completed the last kilometers without
further enemy interference. The 1st Tank Battalion had reached its battle
position alongside the airport perimeter road on the task force's right flank by
By midnight, the 1st Marine Division had achieved its primary objective,
cutting off the Kuwait International Airport. Enemy resistance had collapsed.
It only remained for Task Force Shepherd to move into position for the final
push to physically occupy the airport itself. Behind the mechanized task forces,
Task Force Grizzly succeeded in taking Al Jaber in a dawn attack by 2d
Battalion, 7th Marines. The infantrymen cleared the buildings. "With minimal
vocalization they quickly secured their objective," Sergeant Grow observed.
Task Force Grizzly spent the day carefully clearing every bunker in the
complex. At 1500 Colonel Fulks felt satisfied the airfield was clear and
announced I MEF Objective A secure. Even before the declaration, however,
combat service support personnel arrived and installed a forward air refueling
G Plus 3, 27 February 1991
It took Task Force Shepherd three hours to find its way through the darkness
and reach the airport perimeter. Shepherd first moved south on the coastal
highway, then west along the perimeter hard-surface road to approach the airport
from the south side. As the LAVs moved in, Colonel Hodory relocated the 3d
Battalion, 9th Marines, to positions outside the fence-line, thus clearing an area
for Task Force Shepherd's assault. Observation of the airport with thermal sights
revealed enemy activity, but it was not until 0330 when Task Force Shepherd
neared the 3d Battalion's former position that the Iraqis reacted. RPGs and
machine gun fire caused the night to come alive with bright yellow-orange
tracers and the flash of explosions. Moreover, the LAVs suffered no casualties
or vehicle hits and the firing gradually subsided.
Myers ordered the two companies on line. At 0430 the attack began in
complete darkness with Company A on the left and Company C on the right.
Company A immediately engaged an armored personnel carrier, destroying the
vehicle and capturing three Iraqi soldiers. However, the company also
encountered antipersonnel mines and stopped. Mines could be seen all around
the company, and little else. Visibility started deteriorating when another wind
shift brought in clouds of black smoke from the oilfield. To Lieutenant Colonel
Myers, the poor visibility coupled with the mines and the unknown enemy
situation, posed an unacceptable risk to the Marines. With the enemy clearly
routed he felt there was nothing to be gained by pressing the attack at that
moment. He therefore halted Task Force Shepherd until dawn and recommenced
the attack at about 0615. Thirty minutes later, Marines of Company A raised the
United States flag and a replica of the Marine Corps colors from flag poles in
front of an airport terminal that later became the division headquarters. Task
Force Taro arrived about 0800 and Colonel Admire met with Lieutenant Colonel
Myers, after which 2d Battalion, 3d Marines, commenced clearing and security
operations. They captured more than 80 Iraqi soldiers in and around the airport.
At 0900 General Myatt with the forward command post arrived and set up
operations. Fighting had ceased across the division front, so Myatt and his staff
immediately aimed at minimizing casualties to both sides. He ordered units not
to advance any farther, but to conduct a thorough reconnaissance of their
respective zones for stragglers, mines, and anything that might be of intelligence
value. At 1615 General Myatt passed the well-received order downgrading the
MOPP level to zero. For the first time in days, Marines of the division climbed
out of their cumbersome, heavy, and, by then, oil-blackened suits.
G Plus 4, 28 February 1991
At 0647 on 28 February General Myatt directed division units to cease all
offensive operations. An hour later came even better news. Myatt directed that
NAPP and CIPRO pills were no longer to be taken. To many in the division
the discontinuation of the pills was the first tangible evidence the fighting was
over. The threat of chemical and biological weapons that had loomed since
arrival in August and September thankfully had ended.
Posted by Danny Rodriguez
Jul 11 2003 03:33:13:000AM