On July 17, 1990, Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein
accused Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates of flooding the world
oil market. Specifically, he accused Kuwait for stealing oil from
a disputed supply, the Rumaila oil field which ran beneath both countries,
and thus waging "economic war" against Iraq. On August 2,
1990, Iraqi military forces invaded and occupied Kuwait.
U.S. involvement in the situation was immediate,
as Sheikh Jaber Al Sabah, the Emir of Kuwait, met with then-Secretary
of Defense Richard Cheney to request U.S. military assistance, and
President George Bush condemned Iraq's actions. While U.S. military
commanders and strategists formulated offensive plans, the United
Nations passed a resolution calling for military action if Hussein
did not withdraw his forces by January 15, 1991.
Iraq ignored all demands, and in response, a coalition of UN forces
began immediately to build in Saudi Arabia. On January 12, Congress
granted President Bush the authority to wage war. Hostilities
commenced on January 17, as the 36 members of the coalition forces,
under the direction of American General H. Norman Schwarzkopf, initiated
an air campaign to disable Iraq's communications, air defenses, and
early warning radar installations. Millions of Americans were glued
to their television sets as CNN broadcast images of the air attack
in Baghdad -- the beginning of the first "live" television
The resulting coalition campaign, which would come to be known as
Desert Storm, mainly involved Air Force units, with strong support
from the Navy, included strategic aircraft sorties against installations
in Baghdad as well as other military targets. Terms like "SCUD"
and "Patriot missile" became household words.
After five weeks of air and missile combat, ground troops began their
campaign in Kuwait. On February 27, coalition forces entered Kuwait
City, forcing Iraq to concede a cease-fire after only 100 hours.
On March 3, General Schwartzkopf sat down with the Iraqi military
and dictated the terms for the cease-fire. Allied forces would remain
in defensive positions in the area of Iraq they currently occupied.
Iraqi forces would be allowed to leave this area, but would not take
any of their equipment or supplies. In addition, no aircraft would
be allowed to operate in an area near U.S. forces, and other flights
were strictly limited. On March 6, President Bush addressed Congress
and announced the liberation of Kuwait, and on March 8, U.S. forces
began touching American soil for the first time in months.
The Gulf reunited the American people and the military, helping to
mend the wounds from the Vietnam War. Returning service members were
welcomed back and faith in the military's effectiveness was restored.
Still, the war was not without controversy -- friendly fire accounted
for almost a third of the over 200 Americans killed, raising doubts
about the advances in military technology.