Trained for a Cold War fight in the forested hills of Germany, American tankers needed a new plan before deploying to the Middle East in 1991.
They called it the Death Star, a brigade-sized tank formation that stretched as far as the eye could see. It would go on to roll through the Iraqi desert and devastate everything in its path, most notably an Iraqi Republican Guard force during the Battle of Medina Ridge.
Now retired and reflecting on their accomplishments during Operation Desert Storm, the men behind the Death Star — the commanders and tankers of 2nd Brigade, 1st Armored Division — credit its successes to their Cold War training in Germany and the Army’s ability to reinvent itself on the fly.
“This Army that came out of the European experience was really a damn fine organization,” said retired Gen. Montgomery C. Meigs, the brigade’s former commander.
The Berlin wall had fallen and the Soviet bloc was crumbling in late 1990, yet American soldiers were still patrolling the West German border and training for possible invasion. Tankers of the 2nd Brigade, based in Erlangen, prepared for an invasion from Czechoslovakia, its four battalions responsible for holding off the enemy until reinforcements from the U.S. could arrive.