The Ground War - Operation Desert Storm
There is much argument today about the Ground War phase of the Gulf War. Air advocates claim that the massive yet precise air war in fact defeated the Iraqi forces in Kuwait and that the ground campaign was merely "the great prisoner roundup". Conventional thought, however, recognizes that without forces on the ground it is impossible to hold territory, and engage the enemy on an individual level.
On 24 February 1991 the much feared Marine Divisions kicked off the ground campaign with a thrust into the heart of the Iraqi forces in central Kuwait. The Saudi and Muslim Joint Forces - East attacked up the Kuwaiti coast line. Meanwhile the U.S. 18th Airborne Corps and the French 6th Armored Division, making good use of their high speed and mobility, rushed into Iraq on the far left. See map.
These initial attacks rolled over Iraqi positions and on the 25th of February were followed up with the US VII Corps with the US 1st Infantry Division and the British 7th Armored Division attached.
In effect General Schwarzkopf had designed a strategy based on US doctrine which relied heavily on the flanking maneuver. (The flanking maneuver is a classic and reliable method of creating local superiority of power at a vulnerable point in the enemies line of battle.) Allied Forces occupied Iraqi front line forces while more mobile units encircles the enemy on the left, effectively cutting lines of supply and avenues of retreat. The movement proved to be highly effective and resistance by even battle hardened Iraqi units proved remarkably light.
The ground assault by the allies precipitated a general rout on the part of Iraqi forces positioned in Kuwait. There was basically only one highway out of Kuwait and that was the four lane desert highway that lead from Kuwait City to the Al Jahra' pass. As Iraqi resistance deteriorated the highway became jammed with every nature of vehicle laden with plunder from the Iraqi sack of Kuwait City. This highway was bombed, and thousands of fleeing Iraqis were killed and wounded.
Scenes of destruction of this "Highway of Death" were flashed by news services around the world. Eventually the mood in the Arab countries within the coalition became one of empathy for their brother Arabs on the highway - men they did not want to kill unnecessarily.
As coalition forces moved to completely cut off this last avenue of retreat, Allied leaders, including George Bush and Collin Powell determined that the Allied objective had been all but accomplished. The Iraqis had been turned out of their Kuwaiti conquest. On 28 February President Bush ordered the cessation of offensive military operations before the "Highway of Death" could be completely closed off. While the Iraqis and the Allies negotiated, the remaining Iraqi forces, including intact units of the elite Iraqi Republican Guard streamed out of Kuwait.