GULF WAR: 25-YEAR ANNIVERSARY
Stars and Stripes
By God we’ve kicked the Vietnam syndrome once and for all!”
When President George H.W. Bush finished a speech with those words on March 1, 1991, the U.S. was flush with the completeness of its victory in Iraq—an overwhelming air campaign, a 100-hour ground war whose speed and domination left even veteran tankers breathless and a Middle Eastern ally grateful for an American rescue.
The U.S. had just won the Cold War in Europe. Now it had prevailed in a hot war in the Middle East, while taking few casualties and establishing American dominance among one of the world’s most important regions. Above all, the war was popular at home, its troops welcomed back warmly.
American power appeared to be at its zenith.
Yet where some saw victory, others saw a job unfinished. And where some in the Middle East thanked the U.S. for its help, others thought it was time for the Americans to go home. The seeds of the next war in Iraq were planted in part in 1991, and future victories there would prove much more elusive.
Timeline of the Gulf War
Iraq invades KuwaitAug. 2, 1990
Iraqi soldiers seize control of Kuwait and threaten to raze the nation if not left alone. The U.S. responds by sending the aircraft carrier USS Independence to the Persian Gulf.
Bush takes a standAug. 5, 1990
President George H.W. Bush, during a press conference held regarding the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait just days prior says, "This will not stand. This will not stand, this aggression against Kuwait."
Plans drawn for counterattackSept. 18, 1990
Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf (pictured above) asks Army planners to begin work on ground offensive.
U.N. resolution 678 passedNovember 29, 1990
The U.N. Security Council authorizes use of "all means necessary" to eject Iraq from Kuwait. Iraq is given a deadline of Jan. 15, 1991 to withdraw all forces from the neighboring country.
U.S. arrives in forceDec. 6, 1990
First ship carrying VII Corps equipment arrives in Saudi Arabia. Days prior more American forces, namely these troops from the 6th Marine Regiment, began trickling into the region.
Peace talks failJan. 9, 1991
U.S. Secretary of State James Baker meets with Iraqi Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz in Geneva in an unsuccessful effort to find a peaceful solution.
Congress passes measuresJan. 12, 1991
U.S. Congress authorizes use of force in Iraq. "May God bless and guide us and help us in the fateful days that lie ahead," said House Speaker Thomas J. Foley during the session.
Desert Storm beginsJan. 17, 1991
American-led forces launch an air attack against Baghdad, marking the beginning of Operation Desert Storm. President Bush declares, "The liberation of Kuwait has begun."
Up in flamesJan. 22, 1991
Iraqi forces set fire to Kuwaiti oil wells. Here, the fires rage outside Kuwait City in the aftermath of the Iraqi retreat from the area.
Saudi Arabia invadedJan. 29, 1991
Iraqis seize Saudi town of Khafji. Twelve U.S. Marines are killed in action protecting the town. They were the first American combat casualties of the Gulf War.
Khafji liberatedFeb. 1, 1991
U.S. and Saudi troops recapture Khafji in what is known to be the first sustained ground-fighting operation lead by the coalition.
Coalition fights in SaudiFeb. 24, 1991
U.S. and coalition forces invade Iraq and Kuwait. In the first 10 hours of the invasion, coalition troops take more than 5,000 prisoners, many who surrendered without a fight.
Strike kills 28 AmericansFeb. 25, 1991
Iraqi Scud missile strikes American barracks near Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, killing 28 U.S. troops.
Saddam fleesFeb. 26, 1991
Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein orders withdrawal from Kuwait. U.S. aircraft kill nearly 1,000 Iraqis on the Highway of Death.
Medina RidgeFeb. 27, 1991
In the largest tank battle in U.S. military history, 1st Armored Division troops defeat Iraqi Republican Guard at the Battle of Medina Ridge.
Cease fireFeb. 28, 1991
President Bush announces cease-fire, saying "Kuwait is liberated. Iraq's army is defeated." This marks the official end of the Gulf War.
Iraq surrendersMarch 1, 1991
Coalition and Iraqi commanders negotiate the final cease-fire in Safwan, Iraq, ending one chapter in the still ongoing conflict in the Middle East.