The Middle East Jounal, Volume 51, Number 4, Autumn 1997 CORRECTING MYTHS ABOUT THE PERSIAN GULF WAR: THE LAST STAND OF THE TAWAKALNA by Stephen A. Bourque Stephen A. Bourque teaches at Moorpark College in Moorpark, California. This paper is based on the forthcoming book Jayhawk: The VII Corps during the Persian Gulf War, scheduled for publication by the US Army Center of Military History. A version of this paper was presented at the Twelfth Annual Ohio Valley History Conference, 17-19 October 1996. Unless otherwise noted, primary documents and unit after-action reports are located in the "VII Corps After Action Report" located at the Combined Arms Center Historical Archives, Fort Leavenworth, KS. Several myths about the Persian Gulf War still linger years after its conclusion. One is that the ground war was a relatively simple, high-tech campaign; another is that the air campaign essentially destroyed the Iraqi Army; and the third and most important is that the Iraqi Army did not fight, but simply surrendered at the approach of the coalition's forces. This paper argues that the Iraqi Army, and especially the Republican Guard, fought bravely but ineptly against the overwhelming combat power of a better trained and equipped US Army. This article attempts to dispel a number of myths about the way the Iraqi Republican Guard fought during the Gulf War of 1991. The Republican Guard has been President Saddam Husayn's premier striking force and one of the pillars upon which the continuation of his regime has depended. It was formed in the 1970s as a small force to defend the capital and the president. At that time, only men from Saddam Husayn's hometown of Takrit were eligible for membership. During the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq War, the regime opened the Guard to college students from throughout Iraq. Most of these recruits, who had enjoyed college deferments, had never been part of the grueling defensive warfare on the Iranian front. Trained only in offensive warfare, their high motivation was obvious in the decisive victory over Iran on the Faw Peninsula. The Iraqi High Command retrained, re-equipped and enlarged the Republican Guard so that by 1990 it had grown to three armored-mechanized divisions and five infantry divisions. The three armored mechanized divisions included the Tawakalna Division, which fought against the entire US 7th Corps as described in this article; the Medina Armored Division, which battled the 1st US Armored Division on the afternoon of 27 February 1991 west of the Al-Ruqta oil field; and the Hammurabi Armored Division, which fought against the 24th US Mechanized Division at Al-Tawr al-Hammar, on 2 March 1991, after the cease-fire. BACKGROUND TO THE US-REPUBLICAN GUARD BATTLE Coalition air forces began the war against Iraq on 17 January 1991. Using every variety of aircraft, from the French Mirage to the US B52, they subjected Iraqi military and civilian targets to one of the most intense air operations since World War II. By 24 February, in spite of the damage that air power inflicted on the Iraqi Army, Saddam Husayn had not ordered his army out of Kuwait. Air operations then took on a new character. In addition to continuing their raids deep into Iraq, Coalition pilots began to provide close air support to the Coalition's attacking ground troops. Using primarily A-10 Thunderbolt aircraft, these pilots joined with US Army attack helicopters and long-range field artillery in attacking Iraqi Army units beyond the range of front-line ground troops.1 After six weeks of air bombardment, the ground war between the Iraqi and the Coalition forces began on 24 February 1991 with an attack by the Coalition forces along a 350 mile front extending from the north at Tawr al-Hammar south to the Iraq-Saudi Arabian border. During the ground offensive against Iraq, the Allied Coalition was divided into two army-sized commands. In the east, in a sector that extended from the western Kuwait border to Kuwait City, was the Joint Forces Command (JFC) under HRH General Khalid bin-Sultan. This command consisted of three corps-sized commands: Joint Forces Command-North, US Marine Corps-Central Command, and Joint Forces Command-East. In addition, the JFC contained soldiers from Egypt, Syria, Saudi Arabia, and other Muslim forces from around the world. The army command in the western portion of the sector was the US 3rd Army under Lieutenant General John J. Yeosock. It consisted of two corps, the 7th and the 18th. The 7th Corps under Lieutenant General Frederick M. Franks, Jr. was composed of the 1st British Armored Division, the 1st US Armored Division, the 3rd Armored Division, the 1st Infantry Division, and the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment. During this phase of the ground offensive, the 1st Cavalry Division was the theater reserve force, working directly for General H. Norman Schwarzkopf, Central Command. By the afternoon of 26 February, the Coalition forces had advanced across southern Kuwait and had stopped on the outskirts of Kuwait City. Meanwhile, farther west in the desert between Al-Salman and Al-Nasiriyya, the unopposed US 18th Corps was heading for the Euphrates Valley. In the center of the Coalition's sector, Franks' 7th US Corps had penetrated the weakly held defenses of the Iraqi 7th Corps and had turned from north to east in anticipation of a climatic battle with Iraq's Republican Guards Forces Command (RGFC).2 On the US 7th Corps' right flank, the British 1st Armored Division continued to maul the Iraqi 7th Corps.3 In the center, the 2nd US Armored Cavalry Regiment led the 3rd US Armored Division and 1st Infantry Division towards the Iraqi Republican Guards. On the 7th Corps' left flank, the 1st Armored Division captured the large Iraqi supply installation at Al-Busayya (that stored food, water, medicine, fuel, repair parts, clothing, etc.) and then turned east, almost on line with the 3rd US Armored Division. The Tawakalna Mechanized Division of the RGFC was positioned about 25 miles west of the Kuwait border, located exactly in the center of the US 7th Corps' sector, The Tawakalna was probably the best division in the Iraqi Army. It had fought with distinction during the war with Iran and was one of the lead divisions in Saddam Husayn's invasion of Kuwait in August 1990.4 Its two mechanized brigades and one armored brigade were equipped with the most advanced equipment available in the Iraqi Army, including 220 T-72 tanks and 278 infantry fighting vehicles. On 25 February it had moved into a blocking position west of the Iraq Petroleum Saudi Arabia (IPSA) pipeline about 80 miles from Kuwait city. In spite of the air campaign, most of this division was in position and ready to fight when the US 7th Corps arrived on 26 February 1991.5 Neither the Iraqi nor the United States government has released the name of the Tawakalna division commander.6 Most likely he died commanding his forces in the futile effort to stop an overwhelming assault on his positions. Using US spot reports, situation reports, and analysis of destroyed Iraqi equipment, this article will attempt to examine the various phases of that battle, which consisted of several distinct, but integrated actions. Those included attacks on the security zone, the central zone, each of the Tawakalna's flanks, and against its rear area. The surprising shock of this massive attack from several directions ensured that the Tawakalna division had little opportunity to do anything but either surrender or fight and die in place. They chose the latter course.