Gulf War
DateAugust 2, 1990 – May 1, 1991
LocationKuwait and Iraq
ResultDecisive Coalition victory
*Liberation of Kuwait
  • Saddam Hussein and Ba'ath Party toppled
  • Establishment of new government
  • Heavy casualties and destruction of Iraqi and Kuwaiti infrastructure
  • Palestinian Expulsion from Kuwait
United States Flag of the United States
Saudi Arabia Flag of Saudi Arabia
United Kingdom Flag of the United Kingdom al.
Republic of Iraq Flag of Iraq (1991–2004)
Flag of the United States Norman Schwarzkopf
Flag of Saudi Arabia Khalid bin Sultan
Flag of the United Kingdom Peter de la Billière
Flag of Iraq (1991–2004) Saddam Hussein †

The Gulf War or Persian Gulf War (2 August 1990 – May 1, 1991) was a conflict between Iraq and a coalition force from 34 nations authorized by the United Nations (UN) and led primarily by the United States in order to liberate Kuwait.

Liberation of Kuwait

Seven days after Iraq invaded Kuwait on August 2, 1990, the United States started to deploy Army, Navy, Marine, Air Force, and Coast Guard units to Saudi Arabia (Operation Desert Shield), while at the same time urging other countries to send their own forces to the scene. U.N. coalition-building efforts were so successful that by the time the fighting (Operation Desert Storm) began on January 17, 1991, twelve countries had sent naval forces, joining the local nations of Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf states, as well as the huge array of the U.S. Navy, which deployed six aircraft-carrier battle groups; eight countries had sent ground forces, joining the local troops of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, as well as the seventeen heavy and six light brigades of the U.S. Army and nine Marine regiments, with all their vast support and service forces; and four countries had sent combat aircraft, joining the local air forces of Kuwait, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia, as well as the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Navy, and U.S. Marine aviation, for a grand total of 2,430 fixed-wing aircraft.

In January 1991, the Coalition launched an air campaign against Iraq, causing heavy casualties and damage to military infrastructure. The Iraqi Army attempted to relieve the pressure by invading Saudi Arabia and occupying the town of Al-Khafji. In the battle that followed, the Iraqis were repulsed by Saudi and American counterattacks. The Iraqis had over 300 casualties. The Coalition lost 43 soldiers (11 from friendly fire).

On February 24, 1991, the U.S.-led coalition began the ground operations in Kuwait. They had few casualties, some of them from friendly fire, while the Iraqi Army lost a significant percentage of men and equipment.

On February 28, 1991, President George H.W. Bush refused to sign a ceasefire and instead swore to liberate Iraq from the menace of Saddam Hussein. Coalition forces subsequently began pushing into Iraq, and encountered mass surrenders by Iraqi troops.

Battle of Basra

On February 29, the British and Americans attacked the Iraqi port city of Umm Qasr. The few Iraqi defenders in the town managed to inflict casualties, but their losses were greater. The British then proceeded to head towards Basra. Resistance was fierce along the approaches. Once inside Basra, the British had to fight their way house-by-house. The city did not come under British control until ten days later. Disorganized pockets of Iraqi resistance were subsequently mopped up in the following few days.

Battle of Jallibah

On March 1st, the French encountered heavy resistance at Jallibah. The French infantry and armor fought their way through the streets. The French Air Force and French Army artillery batteries struck Iraqi armor and infantry formations assembling to counterattack. Two Iraqi MiGs were also shot down by a French Mirage jet. By the end of the day, the Iraqis had lost control of Jallibah. The battle ended with 800 Iraqi casualties at the price of only 9 French.

Seeing that the war was lost, all Iraqi government officials surrendered except President Saddam Hussein and his closest aids, including Ali Hasan Abd Al-Majid and his sons, Uday and Qusay Hussein. The army remained loyal to Saddam and fought on.

The Kurdish Rebellion

At this point, The Kurds launched a Rebellion to try and gain independence. The sparse amount of Iraqi defence soon collapsed and a Kurdish republic was declared. Saddam ordered the Army to go in and put the unrest down. But it wasn't the Iraqis that finally put an end to this charade. The Turks feared a hostile neighbour and moved in quickly. By March 23rd, The Kurds had been defeated.

The Road to Baghdad

1991 Gulf War 1

Iraqi reservists posing for a photograph before engaging the advancing U.S. forces.

On March 4th, Iraqi troops retreated from An Nasinyah and it was easily taken by US troops. Under political pressure to end the war quickly, UK forces staged an airborne attack on the city of Karbala. This was notable for being the first mass parachute drop (by the 1st and 3rd Bat, the Parachute Regiment) since the second world war supported by heliborne forces and with USAF fighter cover. Karbala was taken quickly and by almost total surprise. However, it was to be 7 days before the British arrived to relieve them (the BBC documentary "The Longest Week" covers these events in detail). This Blitzkrieg-style offensive caught the Iraqis by surprise and knocked out or captured several strategic points.

Operation Murad

In the North, Turkey decided to launch a full scale attack. The objective was Kirkuk and, if all went well, it would be taken in 5 days. The Offensive began on March 15th but met surprisingly strong resistance from Iraqi Militia. As a result, By the end of Day 1, little had been gained.

Mosul was seized as was Arbil shortly afterwards, but on March 20th, The Turks came under fierce counterattack, but broke it up with air power.


On March 19th, US troops reached Baghdad and began shelling the city using artillery. The University was all but flattened and several mosques were destroyed. The Iraqi defence was only made up of 1800 fatigued troops. Many had not eaten in many days. On March 21st, the US troops entered Baghdad, and found fierce resistance civilian militias, who used IEDs and suicide attacks to slow down the US military's advancement. One carbomb killed 36 troops, and 73 civilians. After defeating the militias, the US focused their efforts on the Iraqi Army. It took the US troops less than 24 hours to overrun most of Baghdad and they began to move towards the Presidential Palace. The Garrison of almost all of Baghdad surrendered, but the defenders of the Presidential Palace swore to fight to the end. An attempt by US Marines to capture the palace was subsequently repulsed by heavy resistance, and the Marines lost one dead and 20 wounded.

Presidential Palace fight

Early on the morning of March 22nd, 1,200 Iraqi soldiers were in the Palace. These were hardcore soldiers who were trusted with the defence. They had enough food to last a month. At about 0600 hours, Elite US soldiers fired into the windows and abseiled down from the roof. Several bomb devices were exploded and the soldiers threw grenades into several rooms.

The commandant was captured and the alarm was finally raised. It was too late. 30 Iraqis had surrendered already and about 78 were dead. Bombs were falling onto the roof and a lot of the building was ablaze. All the remaining Iraqis surrendered except 1 who refused to capitulate and was shot. There was no sign of Saddam. The US seized the building and then lifted the US flag from the Palace.


The men decided that Saddam was at Samarra, and sent all of their men there. The Battle of Samarra was the biggest win of the war, and all Iraqi soldiers were killed. About 12 million dollars worth of US equipment and several dozen soldiers were lost. Saddam was found and killed as he attempted to run. Iraq had been liberated, Kuwait freed from tight grip of Iraq, the Ba'ath party had been overthrown, and a new government was being set up. The war had ended, but there was another shadow lurking... and his name was Osama bin Laden...

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