An Understanding of the Persian Gulf War



            The seven-month long Persian Gulf crisis may seem now a distant memory; however, soldiers still recapitulate the events of the war with lament. On the other hand, there are some who feel that the situation was handled as it should be- quickly, professionally, and positively. Christopher A. Corall, a soldier from operation Desert Storm, has honored me with a first-hand interpretation of the anxieties that filled the soldiers of Iraq. Below is a description of exactly how the soldiers felt before, during, and after the war.

            The Persian Gulf War was a battle to suppress Saddam Hussein. He had risen in Iraq and wanted to make his country “complete.” In 1990 Saddam had taken Kuwait in nearly four hours and controlled nearly twenty-four percent of the world’s oil supply. He had plans of taking Saudi Arabia next, so the United States rose to protect Saudi Arabia and to free Kuwait from Hussein’s power. A deadline was set on January 15, 1991, for all Iraqi forces to leave Kuwait- unfortunately the deadline was ignored. During this period of time, anxiousness grew in America and soldiers became boosted.

Saddam Hussein
Photo Courtesy of Grolier Online

            During my interview with Mr. Corall, I asked him to explain how the soldiers felt during the outbreak of the war; he replied, “I actually won the lottery we had going among ourselves when the war would begin. You could feel the tension and see the increased activity on the airbase.” It became obvious then that the United States had to take action. Operation Desert Shield became active- an operation that flooded the Middle East with American units. Shortly after the American troops began to build up, tensions rose to their climax; operation Desert Shield became operation Desert Storm and thus started the Persian Gulf War.


Tank
Photo complements of
http://www.tomtownsend-toyland.com
            While American soldiers occupied the Middle East, there were many concerns. Iraqi forces had extensive experience of warfare. They had only just concluded a successful eight-year campaign against Iran; while our coalition of troops, at most, could be declared “rusty.” The most recent battles the British, Egyptians, and Americans had fought in weren’t of the particular skill required in the war. Omani was perhaps the only country in the Gulf States that approached any sizable amount of combat experience. However, that’s not to say that Iraq possessed the specific knowledge needed to win the war. In all their experience they had mainly positional fighting learned from wearing down Iran forces. Desert Storm was, in large part, a mobile war- Iraq’s experience did them little good. Of Iraq’s 545,000 troops in the Kuwait Theater of Operations about 100,000 were killed. The United States and its coalition did such a superb job many soldiers were proud of the job they did. Mr. Corall stated- when asked how he felt the war was handled- that it was handled “almost too well. I actually felt sorry for some of the Iraqis.”


            Conditions in Iraq only grew more tense and rigid while coalition troops lingered, such tensions wore on the U.S soldiers. Mr. Corall explained what kind of jobs he was expected to do, saying, "[he]…launched and recovered aircraft; rendered safe aircraft and explosive ordnance damaged while attacking Iraq; cleared unexploded ordnance from buildings, bunkers, and airfields; destroyed enemy explosive ordnance; recovered enemy explosive ordnance for intelligence exploitation; planned recovery operations; planned force protection, to name a few.” Most were mainly jobs of officers; however, cadets were often piled with extensive amounts of daily jobs to accomplish as well.

            While in cities, Americans had to adapt to the unfamiliar cultures of the Middle East; Mr. Corall elaborated to me “the significantly difference lifestyle of the Arabs compared to the Americans- the clothing and the customs. [He] was invited to eat with some Arabs and observed their customs. You couldn’t expose the soles of your feet while seated, and you could only use your right hand to eat or pass something.”


Large Gun
Photo courtesy of
http://images.encarta.msn.com

            Time was crawling to a close as the seventh month of Desert Storm was coming to an end. Due to the larger coalition of troops and superior technological weapons, Saddam Hussein was defeated. Overall, nearly 250,000 individual bombs and missiles were dropped or fired during a period of forty-two days in the war. Such horrible conditions in Iraq and surrounding countries really reflected an unknown perspective in the soldiers’ minds. Mr. Corall shared insight that he and fellow soldiers held after the war, saying, “I can’t see how someone would look forward to going to war- the misery and destruction that it brings. As soldiers, you train to wage war but you hope that day never comes. I didn’t relish the idea but I had a duty to do and men to supervise.”

Soldier Shooting A Large Gun
Photo courtesy of Grolier Online

            War changes people, for the better, and for the worse. Many soldiers had to come home with the knowledge they lost their friends in battle; they were the lucky ones…after all not all soldiers have the joy of seeing their family again. Mr. Corall explained to me that there is a good impact on each individual soldier emotionally. He said that because of the war he feels “…a greater appreciation for the love of [his] family, the freedoms of [his] country, and the responsibilities that go with both.”

            After my research and wonderful interpretation from my interviewee, I now walk with a greater understanding of what life truly is like on the battle front. No amount of plain paper can provide the mind set that a soldier can. The input you benefit most from is in the solemn memories seen locked behind veterans’ eyes. Speaking to a living representation of valor is everything as opposed to the lifeless papers of a newsroom. Mr. Corall spoke of his newly found appreciations as well as his newly found responsibility, had I heard that out of context, I might think that I understand it; however, only after hearing him speak to me do I know precisely what he means.


For More Information on the
Persian Gulf War, Please Visit:


Key Events in Iraq and U.S. Relations

frontline: the gulf war

Library of Congress / Federal Research Division / Country Studies / Area Handbook Series / Kuwait


This web page was created as Junior Project at Brunswick High School (Fall, 2004)