A Game Boy Survived an Iraqi Bombing During the Gulf War

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The original. You know you wanted one. (William Warby)

Gaming consoles are powerful machines, but it's unlikely any end user has tested how much of a beating their Alienware, Xbox or PlayStation 5 can withstand. Nintendo equipment, no matter how many times you had to blow into the cartridge as a kid, is notoriously durable and has even survived being run over by a car.

The most durable of all video-game products has to be the original Game Boy. There are many reasons for this, but nothing can top the fact that a Game Boy survived being bombed during the 1991 Gulf War.

In August 1990, Iraqi troops under Saddam Hussein invaded neighboring Kuwait, overrunning Kuwaiti defenses in about three days. The invasion sparked a massive, worldwide backlash against the Iraqi regime and prompted the United States to start a massive military buildup in Saudi Arabia, both to deter further Iraqi aggression in the region and prepare for an operation to expel Iraq from Kuwait.

The Coalition was not playing games. Most of them, anyway. (U.S. Army/Staff Sgt. F. Lee Corkran)

The U.S. created a coalition of 35 countries to contribute to the United Nations-sanctioned massing of forces. Called Operation Desert Shield, this force waited months for the deadline for Iraq's withdrawal set in UN Resolution 678 to expire. Stephan Scoggins, then a U.S. Army registered nurse deployed to the Persian Gulf region with Desert Shield, brought his trusty Game Boy with him.

Scoggins would later write to Nintendo that his Game Boy was his "comforter, playmate and rejuvenator." Scoggins used the past tense in his letter to Nintendo because although he would survive the Gulf War unharmed, his Game Boy wasn't as lucky.

The day after Saddam Hussein's deadline to leave Kuwait expired, the coalition shifted to a new phase in the war, Operation Desert Storm. After seven months of waiting, on Jan. 16, 1991, the American-led coalition launched a massive aerial bombing campaign against Iraq and Iraqi forces in Kuwait.

Although the coalition hit Iraq hard and fast, with some 100,000 sorties over the course of more than 40 days and 40 nights. Iraq didn't stand idly by and be destroyed, however. It launched dozens of Scud missiles at coalition forces in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere. At one point, an explosive hit the barracks where Scoggins' Game Boy was stored, starting a massive fire and destroying everything -- at least, it appeared to destroy everything.

Scoggins recovered his Game Boy and sent it to Nintendo along with a letter, hoping to get a replacement. He reported that the handheld device, along with several Game Paks, were damaged in the attack. His letter, photos of the Game Boy and a reply from the game maker was included in an issue of Nintendo Power magazine. The techs at Nintendo got a big surprise when they turned it on.

We could not confirm that his top score survived. (Alvaro Marques Hijazo)

"When we received Stephan's Game Boy from the Middle East, we thought it was a goner. The back of the unit was in fair condition, but the front was charred and blistered from the heat of the fire. As an experiment, we popped in a Tetris Game Pak, plugged in a Battery Pak and flipped on the power switch. When we heard its distinctive 'Ping!' we couldn't believe it!"

Save for the A and B buttons on the control pad, which were melted by the fire, the Game Boy and Tetris both worked perfectly. The folks at Nintendo replaced Scoggins' Game Boy and Pak as a "Desert Storm courtesy." They put the damaged artifact in the Nintendo Store in New York City, where it can be seen today, still working perfectly, even 30 years later.

-- Blake Stilwell can be reached at blake.stilwell@military.com. He can also be found on Twitter @blakestilwell or on Facebook.

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