January 17th to February 24th, 1991.
Tensions are on the rise between the Iraqi government and the United Nations. Iraq’s controversial invasion of Kuwait eventually results in the UN for the first time since 1950 permitting the use of force against an enemy. A massive coalition of multinational forces is prepared for war. This UN coalition includes over 600,000 American troops. The first major operation of the Persian Gulf War begins. From January 17th to February 24th a coalition air operation is performed. This is done in an attempt to gain air superiority, destroy strategic locations, and weaken the Iraqi military.
The operation is a success, the UN forces manage to down 35 enemy planes in air-to-air combat and destroy at least another 100 grounded aircraft. The UN aircraft, of which two-thirds are American, manage to disable the aerial capabilities of the Iraqi force.
After control of the sky is gained the UN aerial forces focus on targeting enemy facilities, weapons, ammunition, chemical and biological stores, Scud missile launchers, and a number of other important targets.
In the whole of the aerial operation, the UN suffered only 39 downed aircraft and destroyed 30% of Iraqi forces.
Around the same time, a coalition naval operation begins in the Persian Gulf. This includes several highly important American ships. The goal of the naval operations is to defeat the Iraqi naval forces, clear mines, and threaten an amphibious assault on Iraqi forces in Kuwait.
While several US ships, including the USS Tripoli and the USS Princeton, took damage from mines, in the end, most of the mines were cleared. The famed USS Missouri was fired upon, but thanks to the enemies’ poor aim and the help of a nearby British vessel the attack was thwarted.
The naval operation was also a success, and between the success of both operations, the path was prepared for a full invasion of Kuwait.
Author: Gabriel Smith, WAR Volunteer