Friday, April 14, 2017

Desert Voices: An Oral History Anthology of Marines in the Gulf War, 1990–1991

In August 1990, Iraqi military forces invaded Kuwait, a much smaller neighboring country that had focused its foreign policy on negotiation and compromise rather than military force; the large Iraqi invasion army quickly overwhelmed the small Kuwaiti armed forces. While Saddam Hussein calculated the military balance between Iraq and Kuwait correctly, he underestimated the willingness of the world community, especially powerful Western nations including the United States and Great Britain, to intervene on Kuwait’s behalf. His invasion subsequently set the stage for a military confrontation that was larger in scope than any similar confrontation since the Cuban Missile Crisis. Under President George H. W. Bush, the United States assembled a global coalition of concerned nations, first to defend Saudi Arabia against possible Iraqi aggression and then to eject Iraqi military forces from Kuwait.
The operation to protect Saudi Arabia was designated Desert Shield; the successive operation to free Kuwait was Desert Storm. The performance of America’s armed forces in this confrontation confirmed that they could not be successfully opposed in traditional military operations by military forces in the developing world.
The Gulf War had the largest deployment of Marines since the Vietnam War. It challenged the entire U.S. Marine Corps warfighting establishment: aviation, ground combat, and logistics forces. A generation of Marines put two decades of planning and training to the test in a desert environment the Marine Corps had not endured since the nineteenth century.
The Gulf War was a successful test of the Marine Corp’s air-ground task force concept, and the interviews in this anthology have been organized according to that concept. The first chapter consists of a long interview conducted with General Walter E. Boomer, commander of the I Marine Expeditionary Force and the senior Marine commander in the Middle East during the war, illustrating a broad view of the battlefield.
The second chapter contains interviews with the Marine aviators who supported the ground advance. The third chapter includes those Marines whose intelligence and logistical support made the attack possible. The fourth chapter includes interviews with the Marines on the ground who breached the defense of Kuwait and physically liberated Kuwait City.

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