Operation Desert Storm is the well known operational code name for the military operations at the start of the Gulf War, now known as the First Gulf War. What many do erroneously tend to do is call the whole Gulf War “Operation Desert Storm” which is incorrect.
Operation Desert Storm started on the 17th January in the year 1991 and finished on the 28th February 1991, although the overall war did not conclude until 1995.
Prior to Operation Desert Storm
On the 17th July 1990 Saddam Hussein, the President of Iraq during this time, accused his affluent neighbours Kuwait of producing too much oil and of stealing oil from the Rumaila Oil Field.
Just over a week after Saddam makes these accusations the US Ambassador to Iraq tells Saddam Hussein that the US see’s this latest turn of events as an Arab matter and does not involve the United States. This move could partially have been because the United States, along with other western countries, had sold billions of Dollars worth of weaponry to Iraq.
On the 2nd August 1990 Saddam Hussein sent his armed forces into Kuwait in an act of invasion. This prompts President Bush (Senior George W Bush) to freeze assets of both Iraq and Kuwait while the UN sends out a statement advising Saddam to withdraw.
By August 8th 1990 Saddam Hussein had annexed Kuwait as part of Iraq, this move prompted the UN to advise the move to be invalid and more sanctions were placed on Iraq. The US started bolstering reserve forces for its army.
Towards late August the UN approves a resolution (678) for military intervention. This was followed up in November by another UN Security Council mandate approving military force if Iraq does not withdraw from Kuwait by 00:00 Eastern Standard Time on January 15th 1991.
On January 16th 1991 the Press Secretary for President Bush, Marlin Fitzwater stated “The liberation of Kuwait has begun…” this was the first US government statement that Operation Desert Storm had begun.
Operation Desert Storm Begins
The very start of Operation Desert Storm occurred at 2:38 am on the 17th January Iraqi time as a US Apache Helicopter attack started in Iraq. After this many US planes flew sorties over Baghdad and other areas of Iraq bombing military targets.
The coalition forces providing support under the UN mandate accounted for 34 nations and in total represented financial and military support.
Within hours of the first coalition strikes Saddam Hussein started using SCUD missiles to target Israel and nations supporting America. This meant that a third of all coalition sorties by aircraft were then used to search and destroy these missile launchers. Furthermore British Special Forces were covertly dropped into Iraq and used for search and destroy SCUD missile launchers. SCUD missiles were transported and launched on the back of specially designed trucks.
By the end of January 1991 there were roughly 956,600 coalition troops in the Gulf, of which around 500,000 were American soldiers. These troops were awaiting confirmation on whether there would be a land battle or not.
On February 6th 1991 King Hussein of Jordan decided to defect from the coalition and started supporting Iraq after verbally complaining about American bombing in Iraq. This was further compounded on the 13th February when the Americans bombed a bunker in Baghdad housing civilians and 300 civilians died.
The Iraqi Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz travelled to Russia on a mission to negotiate peace; this did not happen and on 22nd February the President of the US issued an ultimatum giving 24 hours for Iraqi forces to leave Kuwait.
On the 23rd February Iraqi forces did not leave Kuwait so the ground battle begins with forces from all coalition countries moving into Iraq and Kuwait. The battle was short lived as by the 26th February resistance fighters in Kuwait jubilantly advised they had full control of the capital Kuwait City.
The following day on the 27th February President George W Bush announced a cease fire was to come into effect from midnight Kuwait time, the Iraqi leaders accepted cease fire terms four days later.