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Dan Rush

Another portion of my book "Fitatakron"

3 posts in this topic

Chapter Ten

“Troubles in Transition. Triumphs in the lab.”

Post Vietnam naval aviation 1975 – 1990

   “I hear the military is working on a new weapon called the cruise missile. Now this missile, they say, can be fired from San Diego, follow all the major highways across the United States and hit home plate at Yankee Stadium. I have a better idea though…instead of blowing our enemies up? We’ll just give the missile the ability to speak New Yorker and then our enemies will have to commit suicide because the missile annoyed them to death.”

Johnny Carson

The Tonight Show, 1977

     The post Vietnam US Navy between 1973 and 1981 was a service in confusion and reduction. To say that the Navy under Admiral Zumwalt was being led by a retarded monkey is being too kind, it was Zumwalt who started to seriously bring “social change” and “outside social politics” where they have never belonged. It was Zumwalt who started encroaching women towards serving on combat ships, who relaxed disciplinary policies, who’s bizarre and brainless programs, including allowing the growing of beards, caused near all out revolts on several ships. But it was also Zumwalt’s lax attitude towards drugs that made a serious impact…the Navy was rampant with drug use in the post Vietnam era, especially among the aviators.

     After 1973, a flood of Navy pilots walked away from their cockpits for the airline industry as planes like the AD-1, A-4, F-8 and many early F-4 Phantoms were being phased out. The pilots who remained in active service, who were veterans of the air war over Vietnam were bound and determined to never see a war that that again. A whole cadre of these pilots were on the cusp of becoming Carrier Captains, Carrier Air Wing Commanders, and Carrier Battle Group Commanders and their advancement to these powerful positions of influence was sped up in the manpower deprived US Navy of the 1970’s

     Like MacArthur before him, who saw the importance of the carrier in the nuclear age, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld (SECDEF under the later years of Nixon and through the Ford administration 1974 -1977 took the lessons of the Vietnam War with a grave seriousness. The Soviets and world communism had been given a big boost by the failure and incompetent leadership in the last war. Rumsfeld was perhaps one of the very few who gave the Vietnamese due respect for how they conducted their war…”If there’s anything we could learn from the Vietnamese, it would be the art of deception, they were masters of it. Any future war is going to have to be fought with deception, trickery and good old fashioned back stabbing.” It was Rumsfeld who gave the green light to such weapons as the cruise missile, the Stand off Attack Weapon, the Tacit Rainbow and advanced laser research. Rumsfeld reasoned that future wars past Vietnam would involve aggressive uses of technology, smart weapons that could be fired from thousands of miles, computers against computers and no more planes flying through heavily defended hamlets stuffed full of SAM’s and AAA guns. The days of “B-17’s over Raidensberg for an orgasm of chest medals and cave man grunts” were over.

     One key event which defined the new era of long range smart weapons was the 1967 six day war in which the Israeli destroyer Eliat was sunk by an Egyptian warship on October 21st firing Soviet made Styx anti-ship missiles. Up to that point the United States had no anti-ship missile capability, certainly nothing technologically proficient to equal the low-tech Styx missile. The Navy brass commissioned a program in 1968 to develop an all around missile capable of sub-surface, surface and air launch capability. The missile had to be portable, self-guiding, low signature and able to fly in at near water surface level while containing the raw power required to seriously damage a target vessel. Feeder bids were extended to civilian contractors in 1970 and in 1972 McDonald Douglas aircraft won the bid to design and build what would become “Harpoon”.

     The AGM-84 was the US Navy’s first long range anti-target missile since the Regulas and Regulas II submarine and surface ship missiles of the 1950’s and for the Navy, the Harpoon represented a quantum leap in technology and diverse lethality. The same missile could be adapted to all three navy platforms as easily as switching a few chips and pulling a few adapter plugs, a big savings over having to store three different variants of the same missile class.

A-6E TRAM Intruder armed with 4 Harpoons.

     What was not known until recently was a secret project under the Harpoon program that started in 1976 called “Mephisto” the Mephisto Harpoon was armed with an electronics package instead of a warhead and its’ purpose was to be “a noise screamer”. The electronics package contained radio and radar frequency transmitters blasting electronic output to be picked up by purpose. It was a tactic that harkened back to the opening of Pearl Harbor attack or the use of Aluminum flake by the Germans off Dover, England. It was a simple military principle dating back to Chinese warrior philosopher Tsun Tsu, “Make the enemy see you to his front as you overwhelm him at his rear.”

Jimmy Carter was actually good?

    Much has been said about James Earl Carter who was President from 1977 to 1981 and most of it has been cuss words. His handling of the Iran Hostage Crisis, the fall of El Salvador to communist rebels, his anti- nuclear weapons policy, the national recession coming on his watch coupled with the effects of the OPEC oil embargo of the mid-1970’s all congealed in 1980 to make him look like a buffoon. And yet people forget he had been a nuclear submarine officer and as a devout Christian he hated war.

     Carter was convinced that the next major conflict with the Soviets would not be over Europe but over the Persian Gulf. The nightmare scenario of a Soviet backed state suddenly cropping up near the vital international waterway of the Straits of Hormuz and having control over access to Middle East oil was a constant war gaming topic at institutions like the US Navy War College in Newport Road Island. Carter, like FDR before him, was heart and soul a believer in Naval power projection. You couldn’t have an army if you didn’t have the facilities required to attain and maintain air dominance and sea control. Carter looked at the post Vietnam US military and found the Air Force too fat, the Army too stoned, The Marines too underequipped and the Navy a wreck. His solution was a complete overhaul of the military to make it leaner and technologically meaner and it would start with the Navy.

      Carter selected Admiral Thomas Hayward to become Chief of Naval Operations in 1978 a good choice considering Hayward was a combat veteran of Korea and Vietnam and an exceptional test pilot who had flown up to his selection every fixed wing aircraft in the Navy’s inventory up to the early model YF-17 which would become the new F-18 Hornet. Hayward and the man he proceeded, Admiral James Holloway, were both proponents of what eventually became the “Combined Joint Forces initiative” which would standardize many operational tactics and C3 procedures among the armed forces, especially with special operations. This integration began as a result of a 1977 inquiry from then CIA director Admiral Stansfield Turner to Chief of Staff US Air Force General David Jones concerning the Air Force’s development of the ALCM (Air Launched Cruise Missile)…

“Request feasibility of adapting Air Force ALCM’s for use as reconnaissance vehicles for National Security requirements and the needs of National Defense Policy as needs may require.”

    Up to this point in 1977-1978, the US Navy and Air Force were working on two separate cruise missile systems for long range land attack. The Navy’s Tomahawk was to be a sea surface and sub-surface offensive weapon while its’ much bigger cousin the ALCM was to be a bomber based deep strike weapon for the Air Force. Turner presented the concept of using cruise missiles for recon to both Holloway and Hayward during a meeting of active and retired CEO’s in November of 1977. Hayward was the one who suggested taking the development one step further; writing in the Navy periodical Proceedings the following January…

    “The cruise missile offers far more opportunity for expanded capability in air warfare than we may believe. I see the day coming soon when cruise missiles will deliver more than a single warhead, perhaps being capable of delivering multiple weapons against multiple targets, many which will be heavily defended, thus reducing the losses we so grievously endured in Vietnam.” 

     Thus between the US Navy and the US Air Force would come about a program called “Tacit Rainbow” which would revolve around the Air Force ALCM system. It was a unique and rare collaboration between the two long antagonistic services, especially with the feelings of the late 1940’s still seething among the eldest members of the brass set.

The AGM86 Air Force ALCM

      The focus which drew both the Air Force and the Navy together was the known and well documented heavy defenses around Eastern block Warsaw Pact states in Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Poland and Romania. Should the flag go up in Europe and Warsaw Pact forces start to move into the Fulsa Gap; these Pact airbases would serve as the Soviet’s front line staging bases for helicopter and ground attack aircraft as part of the Soviet combined arms doctrine. Part of this doctrine would be to deploy the high and fast flying MIG 25 Foxbat which would pursue NATO bomber aircraft and provide top cover for the Soviet ground invasion below. CIA Chief Turner informed the Air Force and Navy Chiefs that the Soviets were developing a new long range version of the SA2 Guideline; this one with phased array instead of traditional Fan Song radar sets. This new ability would allow the Soviets to direct multiple Guideline missiles from a single radar site.

     The Navy shared their development of the Harpoon “screamer” with the Air Force and suggested the ALCM system be adapted to perform the same function but with an additional capability….dropping bombs or firing rockets. The ALCM modification would be designed to circle or loiter about the target, putting out noise, dropping bombs on one or two targets and forcing the Warsaw Pact to send men and materials on wild chases, leaving them vulnerable to a fast, low flying assault from a different direction.

          The Navy’s bomblet carrying Tomahawk (BGM-109D) was a still distant but eventual reality however Air Force Chief General Jones proposed another concept around the ALCM. While the Air Force ALCM would serve as a good platform for both an electronic and an ordinance deception role; it had two major drawbacks…..cost and numbers. Each ALCM cost in total, including modification costs, 1,160,000.00 dollars a pop. When the estimates and needs for deployment were calculated, the costs out weighted the practicality. Still the first “screamer ALCM” (without bomblet capability) was test launched from a B-52 above Edwards Air Force Base in early September 1979 and showed its capability against several variants of Soviet Ground to Air missile and Ground to Air radar directed gun arrays. The ALCM screamer and the Navy Tomahawk screamers seemed to be coming at just the right time as the Ruling Palavi family in Iran were deposed in 1978-79 by a hard line Islamist revolt led by a long exiled cleric living in France named Ayatollah Rohollah Khomeni. The Palavi’s were placed back in power in 1954 by help from the CIA after they were ousted in a popular coup by the elderly Prime Minister Siad Mosedeque and while the Shah of Iran wasn’t by any means the best person to oversee Iranian affairs; so long as he was anti-Communist, America would over look his “faults”

       Jimmy Carter had one disastrous weakness in his presidency, stupidity when it came to foreign policy and an almost absolute belief that America was the chief causer of all woe in the world. He banked on supporting the Ayatollah because as Carter was a religious man, so too was the Ayatollah…certainly no fault in that, in Carter’s view, because the Shah was nothing if not secular and even atheist. Jimmy Carter is not a Christian by any measure, he is a rotten “universalist” (God is every faith) which is why he still believes that the 1979 Camp David Accords was a model for bringing Muslims, Christians and Jews under one roof. A policy belief which is nothing if short on intelligence. As a result of Carter allowing the Shah to be overthrown, he also single handedly destroyed the CIA intelligence base in Teheran as Iranian links were soon found out and shot, put into prison and shot, their families were raped, then shot or they fled Iran in fear leaving an instant intelligence vacuum. The result from which would play out in the next few months on American television.

November 4th,1979 and why Desert One failed.

    Another confusing question is why with all the anti-Americanism now rampant in Iran after the fall of the Shah did Jimmy Carter allow the continued existence of the US Embassy in Teheran, especially after Carter gave both support and shelter to the Palavi family? What was he thinking? Now I didn’t say Jimmy Carter was ever 100 percent smarter than the average bear, and he was not on many things.

    On the morning of November 4th 1979, radical Islamic students from Teheran University stormed the walls of the US Embassy and over ran the compound so swiftly that the staff didn’t have time to completely destroy the thousands of files, documents, dispatches and messages collected over who knows how many years…including files of Iranian contacts who worked for the CIA. Where they did try to shred some files; skilled Iranian tapestry weavers carefully put many of the documents back together…a skilled feet of visual acuity.

     The over-confidence Carter and his administration had in thinking they could weasel talk themselves out of a prolonged situation, quickly diminished by mid-December. The administration refused to give up the Palavis to the Islamic maniacs and eventual Shah Rheza died from cancer and was buried in Egypt.

Early US Naval war planning contingencies Nov 1979 to June 1980.

     From the first moments of the crisis, the US Seventh Fleet, primarily the forward deployed carrier battle group centered around the old USS Midway (CV-41) was poised in the Indian Ocean within hours distance from the Persian Gulf choke point, the Hormuz Straits. Midway’s Battle Group Alpha was at that time the premiere sledgehammer ship of the Pacific force, her crew were Asiatic veterans, the majority of her pilots seasoned Vietnam era combat pilots including her battle group commander Admiral William McShane who served in both the later half of Korea and through the Vietnam conflict.

       Midway would be the longest deployed carrier during the crisis, being on station the first 119 days and again during the last 100 of the 444 total days the hostages were in captivity. McShane and his staff submitted contingency plans to strike the Iranians in the straits to prevent them from trying to take over the vital waterway and close the oil rich Persian Gulf states from international commerce. The Iranians before the fall of the Shah had taken the Island of Arak in the straits which Oman bitterly complained was long and rightfully its territory. McShane suggested a plan to sucker the Iranians into attacking an Omani vessel which would require an American response and give the Navy open pretext to ravage the Iranian navy and military bases in the straits thus denying the Iranians control or use of the vital choke point.

     In hind sight of almost 40 years now since the embassy takeover, there had never been a better opportunity to smash radical Islam than how weak and tenuous the hold of the Islamist was on Iran between 1979 and 1981. Bold action might have fatally fractured the Iranian military, stiffening the back bones of those still loyal to the Shah and weakening those of men who didn’t want to find themselves on the losing side of a civil war. With Iran still in deep economic and political crisis and with Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein making ever more aggressive moves against long disputed territory on Iran’s Western boarder. Things were ripe for a reversal of fortunes and futures….then again there were the 52 hostages.

    Hostages and prisoners had never stopped the United States from bold actions before. Our prisoners of war during World War II, Korea and Vietnam did not stop the United States from using force to destroy the enemy. In a 1980 interview with Dick Cabbot, former President Richard Nixon said what sounds harsh but in reality was cold hard truth…

    “The attack on our embassy, any embassy of any country, is a direct assault upon our own soil. You attack an embassy and it is a state of war and right now we are in a state of war with these maniacs and I’m sorry to say that the hostages are expendable. You ask what I would do? I would mine their harbors, sink their ships, wipe out their planes and decimate their military and if they refused to let our people go? Then I would unleash hell on them until such time as they communicate a request for surrender. You never waste time negotiating with maniacs, you kill them or you punish them.”

      If Richard Nixon did anything correct during his entire presidency it was that he understood when and how to apply force and take risks. Bombing Hanoi in December 1972 to force North Vietnam back to the negotiations table in Paris was daring and indeed it put the lives of American POW’s at great risk for reprisal but it had to be done. Unlike Nixon, Carter had the brains for action but not the guts and the only time he deployed any guts…his plans came to nothing but disaster.

Desert One: The failure that failed from the start.

     Operation Eagle Claw (better known as “Desert One”) was the 1980 attempt by the United States to rescue the 52 hostages at the American Embassy in Teheran. Though noble a goal…it was if anything a ridiculous suicide mission doomed to fail from conception because at that point in time the United States military was a post-Vietnam mess in transition and too much was going against any fraction of success. The services at that point were so woefully separated by interior politics, differences in equipment and culture that any notion of “Joint Operations” was a comical joke. The green berets couldn’t talk to the Navy Seals because their radios were incompatible. A Navy Seal couldn’t call in an Air Force strike package because the Air Force regulations didn’t permit it. In such an environment how could anyone dare to conceive an idiotic plan like the one Carter signed off on? Because it was 1980 and Carter faced re-election in the midst of a disastrous economy and a crisis that made him look increasingly stupid. So for political expediency, he killed 8 men…..yes, Carter killed those men as surely as he pulled the trigger on them.

      The model for this daring attempt was the 1976 Israeli raid on Entebbe, Uganda led by one of the country’s most daring and intelligent commanders, Yanitan Netanyahu (Brother of the current Israeli Prime Minister). Operation Thunderbolt however was no where near the right model for a plan to send commandoes into an armed city, with no surety of where the hostages were, after driving for hours from a desert airstrip where for some lack of forethought or just plain ignorance…no one took into account the climitary effects of blowing sand on aircraft engines.

    The Navy’s role in the operation was to provide top cover against the Iranian air force and ferry the H-53 Super Stallion helicopters to a launching point where they would embark to the Desert One staging base for eventual use in the operation. The plan, in simplistic form was as follows…

  1. The H-53’s would fly from Desert One to a staging base (Desert Two) where they would wait for a whole day before CIA agents in Teheran arrived with trucks to take the assault force into Teheran. The force would assault the Embassy, kill the Muslim fanatics, round up the hostages and meet the arriving H-53’s at a nearby sports stadium where they would fly to an airbase captured by Army Rangers and everyone would fly out on C-151 cargo planes. The Navy would cover the whole operation and if the Iranians wished to meet Allah, they would be rewarded. Mission done, hostages saved, Jimmy Carter wins re-election….Booyah!

However….things went swiftly to hell on the 24th of April 1978. To be simplistic…

  1. Army Rangers blew up a passing fuel truck with a LAW rocket. Now the Iranians would have a nice burning torch in the desert to tell them….”Hi, we’re here!”

  2. A passing passenger bus was halted by the ground force on the makeshift Desert One landing field and the entire bus was taken prisoner.

  3. The H-53’s coming from the carriers off the coast of Iran quickly found out what fine sand can do to an aircraft engine. Of the H-53’s which began the mission, only five of them arrived at Desert One. There was no possible way the mission could continue since it was now woefully behind the time schedule (Americans ARE NOT Israelis!) A request to abandon the mission was sent to Carter and 2.5 hours later he ordered the abort. Then things went from “Hell” to “Super hell”

  4. At 3:35am on the 25th of April 1980, one of the H-53’s collided with a C-130 refueling craft and they both violently exploded. The force in their haste to escape left classified gear and documents and five working helicopters behind. Two of them today fly with the Iranian Navy as “Trophies of Victory”

     Desert One was a horrendous disaster for the United States even after coming behind the so called “Miracle on Ice” at Lake Placid Placid a few months earlier. It was a sure sign to  many Americans that the country was abysmally failing and to her enemies a sign that America was weak and incapable; a sign the Russians exploited to the fullest when they invaded Afghanistan in December of 79 and got Carter to buy the SALT II treaty that favored the Soviets more than the Americans. It was the death nail on Carter’s whole presidency, which limped to the slaughter of November 4th, 1980 as Ronald Reagan all but swept Carter in every state.

 

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Donald Rumsfeld has been the recipient of a lot of crap, but I think the man was a visionary.  The war he wanted to prepare the military for in the mid-1970's is the war we are fighting in the 21st century.

 

I agree, Jimmy Carter was not all bad.  He was an honest and hard working man, but he was an idealist and that clouds logical thinking and sound judgement.  His foreign and domestic policies left so much to be desired.   Ultimately, this lead to him being labelled as our worst president, the title he held until the past few years.

 

 

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Air/Land Battle 2000

The Video Game war.

 

 

     “When I am called to be a diplomat for my country, I practice diplomacy. When I am called to be a soldier for my country, I make sure we win by force first then by diplomacy.”

 

General Buster Glossen

US Air Force Commander of Campaign planning

US Central Command 1991

 

      The one man responsible for unleashing a lot of hell upon the Iraqi military from January 17th to February 28th 1991 was Air Force General Buster Glossen. The veteran F-4 pilot who flew combat missions in the mire that was Vietnam learned one important lesson from that disaster of a conflict…don’t fight half ass war. What was fortunate for the All volunteer and highly trained US military force that now stood poised to be loosened was that the President himself had been a combat pilot. George Bush was the last World War II generation president and he too knew what “half assed war” was like, seeing how Korea and Vietnam went under Democrats like Harry Truman and LBJ, Bush was determined to make Desert Storm short, decisive and extreme in its violence. Glossen was the man Bush would rely on to bring the full weight of America’s technological military colossus down upon the enemy with one primary goal….limit American casualties.

 

     Glossen wrote the Storm attack doctrine, defining the missions and exact purposes for both the Air Force and the Navy/Marine componants and with “Big Norman” hanging over the whole operational planning; no one dared to start complaining about “Service pride” or being “deprived” of vane gloriousness and Hollywood style attentions. This was no place for “tribal warfare” to start rearing itself up.

 

     Desert Shield and Storm came at a rocky point in America’s history. Reagan was gone and so too were the lavish budgets the military had enjoyed from the previous administration. Bush had inherited an America rolling into another recession, drunk on the apparent victory (short lived) over Soviet Communism (Russia never died) and the people wanted their “peace dividend” rebate checks. Cuts to the military were on the horizon and they would be large cuts; especially upon the Navy. Desert Storm was every service’s chance to prostitute itself before the American people, a “look what we can do.” talent show not unlike the end of World War II with the dawn of “The Bomb”

 

    Norman Swatzkopt understood this all to well and as theater commander he wasn’t going to stand for “tribal crap” which would certainly get a lot of men worthlessly killed. One of the biggest tirade blow-ups Stormin Normin had to deal with was outgoing Marine Commandant Paul Kelly and his desire for an amphibious (Inchon) landing on the shore of Kuwait City. According to the general’s biographer, Norman dressed Kelly down after the burley Marine General failed to take no for an answer…”I am not sending men into a meat grinder just so you can make another John Wayne film and add “Shores of Kuwait” to the Marine Corps Song…get out of my damn office general!” It was one of the few times people saw the 6 foot 2 Stormin Norman so pissed.

       Buster Glossen produced the operational planning for the air campaign and submitted it to Swarzkopt on December 12, 1990 and nicknamed his plan “Swamp rat bullseye” a corruption of the phrase Luke Skywalker uttered in the Death Star raid planning session in the first movie. The plan was first divided into specific phases…

 

Phase 1: Neutralization of the Iraqi Defense communications network.

Phase 2: Neutralization of the Iraqi anti-air defense SAM network.

Phase 3: Neutralization of the Iraqi Air Force.

Phase 4: Establishment of Air Supremacy over the battle zone.

Phase 5: Progressive weakening of the Iraqi military in Kuwait by interdiction of supplies.

Phase 7: Progressive destruction of Iraqi armored forces.

Phase 8: Support of land counter-invasion of Kuwait.

 

        Glossen plotted “maximum violence” against Iraq on the first night, a blow designed to decimate the first three Phases and give the coalition air superiority within the first six hours. The Gulf War would be the real baptism of fire for the American cruise missiles and for an entire shift in traditional air warfare. This time missiles, not men, would go downtown and sew chaos into the enemy. The US Navy had perfected the Tomahawk cruise missile from the early concepts of the “screamer hawk” deception missile of the 1980’s. Now the Tomahawk would attack multiple targets or loiter high above the battlefield waiting for a signal to go hunting. The Gulf War was the quarter videogame turned deadly and efficient.

 

      Each service had a defined purpose, roll and moment of execution at each phase in the over-all operation. The Navy would execute the majority of fight cover and CAP missions and strike targets south of Basra including performing SEAD (Suppress Enemy Air Defenses) operations over Southern Iraq and Kuwait. The Navy’s cruise missiles would perform the bulk of the deeper SEAD strikes in and around Baghdad proper. The F-117-A Stealth fighter would make its’ first combat deployment, assigned the task of hitting Iraq’s “central command C3 headquarters and other vital government facilities within the well defended Iraqi capital city. For the first few weeks, the Iraqi army itself would escape direct attack as the coalition would concentrate on first starving the entrenched army of vital materials before slowly overhauling it with missiles and bombs.

 

     The air campaign against the Iraqi network of entrenched guns and stationary SAM sites (SA-2 majority) would fall to “stand off weapons” except when it came to disabling runways. That dangerous job would go to the British built “Panava Tornado” squadrons and their runway denial bombs called “Durendal”. The Durendal bomb was a rocket assisted 2,000 pound penetrator bomb that plowed itself under the runway asphalt and threw up large amounts of soil on concrete upon detonation that would render a runway useless beyond swift repair. The problem was that the Panava, like the US Navy’s A-6 and A-7 attack jets, was a “slow mover” when weighted down with ordinance and vulnerable to the latest Russian made, radar aimed air defense guns. The Panava would be the most shot down aircraft of the short war.

 

      Another weapon making its debut in the Gulf War was the AGM-84D SLAM (Stand off Land Attack Missile) the air launched variant of the Harpoon cruise missile designed for buildings, hard targets and primary air defense sites like radar and SAM installations. It had a video guidance package and a loiter laser package which meant it could be guided by the mother aircraft’s FLIR pack to a target or by a ground Special Forces unit with a portable laser package, the whole point being that the attacking aircraft could stay safely out of the line of fire while the missile did the killing.

 

 

AGM-84D SLAM’s mounted on an A-6 Intruder.

 

The Difference between Iraq and Vietnam

“Not your daddy’s VC”

 

    As much as both Saddam Hussein and the American Democrats wanted to make the Gulf War like Vietnam, the differences between the wars were too obvious. The Iraqis were not the Vietnamese, where the Vietnamese showed exemplary diversity, craft and tactical genius; The Iraqis were rigidly controlled by a maniacal political regime that infested every level of the military command structure. Saddam was well known for killing successful commanders who got too popular for their own good, one such case being a popular Iraqi general during the Iran/Iraq war who was nicknamed “The Rommel of Iraq” for his successful armored infantry campaigns on the Faw Peninsula. Saddam had the general killed because he had more press coverage than the leader. Thus the Iraqi army fell victim to the ridged Soviet style doctrine of “Too many chiefs and only one Indian” there was simply no room for improve or adaptation against American battle tactics.

 

     The last time I looked at a map, Iraq has no jungle. Seems the Democrats in America see a Vietnam like jungle everywhere in the world; which would actually be a victory for global warming. The Vietnamese were aided by their natural terrain and over a thousand years worth of battle hardiness as a unified people. Iraqis are not the original Babylonians but a goolosh of tribals and ethnics thrown together thanks to World War I. The Iraqi Army of Saddam’s day could count on less than ten years total combat experience and even then the Iraqi military was a force held together more by fear and the secret police than any national loyalty. We watched how swiftly the Iraqis have collapsed on their own when they faced off against ISIS in 2013. The Iraqis, unlike the Vietnamese, had no help from their native soil, or let’s just say dust. You can’t hide SAM’s very well against khaki dirt…doesn’t work very well. Most Iraqi armor wasn’t painted the desert khaki of the American armor, much of it came and still bore the Soviet green paint of the European Cold War front. Once again…green does not blend well with khaki dust.

 

     Unlike the Vietnamese who learned very quickly that Soviet SAM site construction was inherently stupid; the Iraqis used the Soviet clover style SAM placements by the book….which made it easy for the coalition to bomb the sites out of existence al la cluster munitions. And while the Vietnamese infantry learned to blend into their environment, the Iraqis followed Soviet infantry and armor doctrine exactly; the problem being that Soviet war doctrine works well on the plains of Europe but sucks in the desert. The Iraqis also did not attempt to close swiftly to engage face to face as the Vietnamese did so skillfully, thus limiting the effective power of US air strikes. The Iraqis stayed put where they dug their trenches and that’s where a majority of them died.

 

     No…this wasn’t like Vietnam at all unless you want to compare what happened to the Iraqis to what happened to the North Vietnamese army during their abysmal 1972 Easter offensive in which they got totally slaughtered by US air power. You could say that the Gulf War would be a textbook prelude to what would happen if North Korea decides one of these days to go all out in a massed suicidal invasion of the South. No, the Gulf War was not even close to Vietnam.

 

 

The Opening Shot

45 Minutes after midnight

Gulf Time 17 January 1991

Eastern Mediterranean

 

     Most people who know the open story of the first night of the Gulf War will tell you that an over-land assault by the US Special Operations group equipped with hellfire carrying Apatche gunships began Operation Desert Storm by hitting the far stationed Iraqi air defense radar network on Iraq’s Western boarder. Not so.

 

    A lone B-52G bomber based out of Loring Air Force Base in Maine called “Bizzee Lizzee” (Named After the pilot’s wife Elizabeth Ann Schofield) approached the southern West coast of Israel after receiving the “grace to proceed” by an IDF air controller in Giled (Gil-ed). At 0045 hours, Lizee’s bomb bay doors were opened and in quick succession; four air force ALCM cruise missiles were launched for Baghdad armed with transponders, transmitters, grenade sized bomblets and one each 800 pound warhead. These were the latest models of the Air Force’s “Tacit Rainbow” loiter missiles designed to follow their pre-programmed flight routes, broadcasting to every Tom, Dick and Harry in Iraq that a massive flight of fighters and bombers were crossing southern Israel, central Jordan and across Turkey to unleash hell. Their purpose was simple…drive the Iraqi Air Defense network crazy.

 

    At the Baghdad Hotel, CNN reporters Bernard Shaw, John Holliman (Deceased) and Peter Arnnet were preparing broadcasting papers for the next scheduled news feed by telephone when a series of muffled explosions could be heard outside the window. A third of the city had suddenly gone dark as one of the ALCM’s deployed it’s grenade sized munitions over Baghdad power transfer station 18…then all hell broke loose.

 

     The ALCM’s flight path took them over the Northern part of Baghdad for a purpose. At that moment the Iraqis manning the city air defense command center were getting an ear full of fake transmissions and live explosions. Led to believe the air attack was coming in from the North, that’s where everything went. SAM’s and AAA guns unleashed that visual display we all saw on CNN in the green hue of night vision equipment. Suddenly one the ALCM’s locked onto the target for its 800 pound warhead and slammed into Baghdad’s main power station, killing off all the electricity.

 

35 Minutes after midnight

Gulf Time 17 January 1991

Northern Persian Gulf

USNS Kilauea TAE-26

 

      My ship, USNS Kilauea, was a Vietnam era ammunition supply ship out of Guam attached to the 3rd Amphibious Ready Group and the 2nd Carrier Battle Group, USS Teddy Roosevelt. I worked the night shift servicing the ship’s two CH-46 Sea Knights and was climbing down from doing an inspection when the cruisier USS Bunker Hill (about 500 yards behind us) was bathed in the yellow and red glow of her forward VLS tubes opening up a salvo of Tomahawk cruise missiles. The missiles screamed over our ship, lit off their ducted turbo-fan engines and went cruising towards the Al Faw Peninsula on their way to Iraq. We were watching a historic shift in US Naval Air Warfare…the dawn of cruise missile attack warfare and the autonomous drone.

 

      By the time the first Tomahawks reached Baghdad proper, the Iraqi defenders were blindly shooting towards the North when suddenly the building they were trying to co-ordinate their assets from was deprived of the vital supports that kept it up. John Hollerman of CNN had stuck his head out of his room window at the hotel just long enough to watch the cruise missile as it streaked over the central Baghdad highway, took the turn off, jumped a fence, crossed a parking lot, entered through the front doors of the building and blew it into the air; bringing it down like a stack of pancakes upon the poor Iraqi soldiers inside. Forgetting his composure, Hollerman described what he saw….

 

   “! I just saw a missile, I just saw a cruise missile take a highway turn off and blow a building up! God damn, another missile just flew by our window… Bernard get your stupid head down!”

 

     Now the Iraqi’s manning the AAA guns and S-2 missile batteries around Baghdad were leaderless, firing blindly in the dark against air and phantoms. The Tomahawks came in two forms, both the solid single 700- pound warhead and the multi-canister APAM bomblet “dispersal hawk” with its own 350-pound warhead. The Tomahawks went after important government buildings, airfields, SAM sites, centralized weapons storage and production facilities; the APAM carrying Hawks flew over aircraft parking aprons and revetments and though they didn’t completely obliterate many aircraft, their shrapnel throwing bomblets prevented many of the Iraqi warplanes from flying.

 

0117AM Gulf Time

Tulul, Iraq (Tull-oh-lel)  

 

     Lieutenant Zuhair Dawood had been attached to the 84th fighter squadron for less than three months and had more than a years worth of flight time in his Russian built MIG-25 Foxbat. The fighter was a rare commodity in Iraq, one of only 20 left after the Iran/Iraq war so it was preciously utilized where it was best suited….high altitude reconnaissance. Zuhair had just received word of the start of the American assault on Iraq only twenty minutes before and his attempts to contact home base were useless thus far. He knew the base had probably been destroyed.

 

     He had been tracking a target for the past five minutes flying below and slightly off the left of his nose and he deduced correctly by its movements that it was probably an American aircraft…perhaps a Tomcat. Dawood wanted payback; four years earlier his sister’s husband had been shot down by an Iranian Tomcat over Al Faw and while he might not do well in a face to face dogfight….he knew if he played his logic correctly he could jump this lone American and give him no time to react. Dawood performed what’s known as a “snap shot”, just a momentary attainment of lock long enough to launch an R-40 missile in what would hopefully be the American’s blind spot where both radar and the ring of detectors mounted around the aircraft fuselage would miss the incoming missile. For Dawood, logic and woeful design would win….

 

For Lieutenant Scott Speicher, luck would run out. The F-18-A fighter for all its technological wonder and beauty had a fatal flaw. The threat detection system was only as good as it had been placed and in the short time the aircraft went from final development to acceptance by the US Navy….it seemed the concept of a detection blind-spot had somehow slipped through the scrutiny that was supposed to closely follow every Pentagon procurement process. The F/A-18-A threat detection sensors were placed around the aircraft to project out from the fuselage on a flat 90 degree trajectory. Their cones of emission and detection were incapable of catching an adversary system locking tone if the adversary approached the Hornet from high angles Left/Right FWD and Left/Right AFT. Somehow people had the idea that the enemy would only engage tail on or nose on, on a flat and stable trajectory.

 

Dawood caught Speicher at the best angle possible to defeat the Hornet’s detection system and his “snap-shot” short lock launch worked. The Russian R-40 missile blew the nose off the Hornet and killed Speicher before the shattered aircraft crashed into the desert. Not far from the impact point a tribe of nomadic Bedouins witnessed the fierily decent and came upon Speicher’s body still strapped to the ejection seat. While the United States may have been at war with Iraq, the Bedouins did not see themselves being at war with America. Taking care, they removed Speicher’s body, washed it and gave it a decent desert burial where it remained until it was recovered in 2009. Captain Scott Speicher was the only MIA of the Gulf War.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

0120AM Gulf Time

Basra, Iraq

 

  

       Commander Terry Toms of VA-115 off the USS Midway had received good news hours before his A-6E Intruder crossed the mouth of the Euphrates River south of Basra. His eldest son Edward, named after Terry’s World War II pilot father, had been accepted into the Annapolis Naval Academy. All the more reason for Toms to be vigilant as he led a “three ship” strike package following the river northwest to their intended pair of targets. Two of the intruders would slam their 2,000 pound LGB’s into the presidential compound coming up fast on the left while Terry would place his on the center span of the Arvand road bridge.

 

 

       Toms joined the Navy on the heels of the Vietnam War and missed his chance to be part of “Linebacker 72”; the last air campaign of the conflict. While his older sister and younger brother were out smoking dope and protesting, Terry did what many who join the military do, honor the parents and great relations who did what was asked of them by their country no matter what the beef. The elder Toms had been an Avenger pilot in the Pacific, one of the daring men who flew against the Japanese fleet in the desperate fight off Samar Island in 1944 and Terry had the old man’s boiling blood for fast planes, good beer and a dangerous life. His blood was Navy blue and his moxie tank was on over-fill.

 

     He had always been an Intruder pilot…”Fighters make movies, bombers make piles of junk.” He’d often say to us Sailors. I served under Terry when he was 115’s XO back in 1988-1989 and there was no better man I held greater respect for; he knew how to treat those under his authority and he was paid back in spades with a squadron of planes that under his watch had a combined Sortie completion rate of 98 percent. He took care of the Sailors and the Sailors took care of him.

 

      Things had changed since Terry first climbed into an A-6-A at Whidbey Island in 1974. The world outside the cockpit was bathed in incandescent green, the view as sharp in clarity as if it had been daylight. He could actually see the stunned AAA gunners on the roofs of buildings trying to jump to their weapons as the 3 ship flight screamed past them at 500 feet off the deck. Night vision had gone from the bulky sights used by Marine snipers in Vietnam to small high quality “HD” binocular sets clipped to the front of the Navy pilot’s flight helmet. No more guessing and reasoning between flight instruments and the darkness ahead, no more simply flying by the TRAM ball image on the VDI or the crudeness of the ancient DIANE attack computer , now the pilot could make the Intruder do exactly as she was designed to do….go real low, go real fast and burn the paint off a camel jockey’s car.

 

     “Ten miles out.” Terry’s B/N Lieutenant Richie Eliot called out. “Crossing the IP (Initial run Point for bombing) NOW!”

 

      Terry pulled the stick back, gunned the throttles to their stops and the Intruder shot for the sky at a 45 degree angle as tracers and shells streaked by and burst about the rapidly climbing bomber. Terry was aiming to hit 15,000 feet before he was seven miles out, at that point he would level the Intruder out, kill the throttles, let loose the two 2,000 pound LGB’s and hard bank as he popped chaff and flare buckets in case some lucky bastard down below had a Soviet Grail 7 hand missile.

 

      Lieutenant Eliot called out the range as the A-6 strained to achieve bombing altitude……”9 miles……8 point 5 miles…….8 miles……10k

11k……..7 point 5…….14k………HACK!”

 

      Terry mashed the “pickle” button on his control stick and felt the double tap thump as the two bombs were blown loose from their racks. Doing smoothly what training had ingrained, Terry took the engines to idle, swung the A-6 hard left and rolled around while Eliot kept the TRAM laser on target for the center of the bridge span. Now Terry was counting to himself….”One……..two…….three” 1 chaff bucket, 1 flare bucket “One…..two…..thee” 1 chaff bucket, 1 flare bucket...

 

      “506 off!” Terry heard in his headset radio as the other two Intruders dropped their LBG’s upon one of Saddam’s Basra palaces. He watched his own aircraft’s speed rapidly drop and hoped the LGB’s would slam their target before the Intruder became a falling rock.

 

      “BAM! Target hit!” Eliot yelled. Terry pushed the throttles to 100 percent, lowered the nose and the Intruder screamed over the roof tops, causing Eliot to laugh his ass off as he watched some Iraqis getting blown over as the plane almost took their heads off.

 

      The Intruder was at the twilight of its story, the last of the great attack planes designed to take their combat load right to the face of their enemy. It was a classic “Reidensburg” run with AAA guns barking all over the place and tracers screaming past the canopy.

 

 

        Not every A-6 pilot was lucky during the Gulf War. Lieutenant Bob Wetzel and his B/N Jeffery Zaun were flying to take out a refueling station at an airbase not far from Basra when the old nemesis of US aviators, an SA-2 Guideline, blew the tail off their Intruder. Both men were captured and Zaun’s ejection battered face was shown on television as he read a prepared statement denouncing the war; a violation of the Geneva Convention which this time unlike Vietnam, Iraq could not so easy weasel an excuse for the mistreatment of prisoners.

 

0157

The Waddi Al Jasrah, Kuwait

40 miles West of Kuwait City

 

 

 

 

 

 

      Steven Rest had been a SEAL now for twelve years, one of the last “Marchinko’s misfits” to still be active from the original “TEAM SIX” that had been formed by Commander Richard Marchinko under the auspices of the Vice Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Ace Lyons, who tested US military wide security in response to the growing international Islamist terrorist threats backed by Iran in the 1980’s. Rest (Now living in Whidbey Island Washington) was part of a four man team dropped into the Kuwaiti desert a week before the start of the air campaign as part of what Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Powell called “Cut and kill” operations designed to reduce the combat effectiveness of the Iraqi military. Rest’s team was one of several now engaged in what was termed “King Cobra crushing”. They had been following an Iraqi Major General around the sand for the past four days, not a difficult task considering that the Iraqis didn’t believe in practicing “OPSEC” or “Operational Security” when it came to their officers. The General wore a green medal festooned and embroidered uniform that stuck out like a flashlight, he wore a “Sodom-lid” or “Saddam lid” which was a copy of the great Iraqi dictator’s military beret and the man was a fat, flamboyant poppas assed mother er.

 

      He also traveled like a movie star with a line of support vehicles following after an air conditioned SUV like a bunch of hookers after their John. Rest called it…”Tragically friggen hilarious.” His team was in their final emplacement position in the Waddi (dry river bed) that ran North/South and parallel to their target, a South African supplied G-5 triple gun battery defending the Western edge of the Iraqi army’s emplacements in Kuwait. No doubt “pompas ass mother er” was giving one of Saddam’s “die for me” speeches to the gun crews. Rest’s team had a portable laser designator device which they would bounce off an object close to their intended kill.

 

     32,000 feet above the team was a lone A-6 from Attack Squadron 35, the Black Panthers, with the call sign “Gun smoker 2”, armed with two 2,000 pound Paveways and a single HARM-C missile. Smoker 2 had already blown away an SA-2 “fan song” radar set with the other HARM-C to keep their primary mission purpose “unhindered”. They were set in a slow cruising circle awaiting a “warble tone” from their assigned team; Rest’s “Fox Hunter Six”.

 

      Rest checked once more through his night vision goggles to make sure the target had not left and mashed the call button as one of his men confirmed his laser set was returning a positive marking hit in the eyepiece.

 

     Up in “Gun Smoker 2”, the bombardier registered the warble call, picked up the laser reflection off the target below and guided his pilot around to the IP step in point for the release of the two Paveways..

 

    “Hack…..away!” The B/N confirmed the release then pushed his face into the hood over his VDI to watch the target as the TRAM ball stayed locked while the A-6 slowly rolled around in a wide arc. Below, Rest and his team counted down the expected time the bombs would take from release to impact and the last thing the Iraqis would have heard was the scream of the two bombs as they went terminal, broke the air around them and closed in on their victims. At last a bright pair of flashes and the thumping concussions kicking up the desert dust was confirmation that one unlucky general and a nest worth of his flunkies had met their satanic demon god allah.

 

    Decapitation strikes were going on all over Kuwait, in less than four hours to sunrise; four Generals, six identified senior colonels and the entire command staff of the Iraqi Division encamped inside Kuwait City were blasted to dog food bits by A-6 and A-7 dropped Paveways. It was a lesson learned from the Vietnam War; while national leaders might be dicely targets for assassination, battlefield commanders were legitimate targets of war. With the Iraqi army so committed to following Soviet military doctrine, the loss of the only leaders who could give orders in such a military structure was akin to taking the head off a chicken, the rest of the bird would run around stupid until it ran out of blood.

 

 

 

 

 

 

8am 17 January 1991

US Central Command Middle East

Dhahran, Saudi Arabia

 

       Buster Glossen kept his own “doodle map” hanging on a wall in his office and with every report that flowed in from both Air Force operations and the Commander of the Naval Task Force aboard USS Midway in the northern Gulf. The first nights operations, save the two US Navy aircraft reported lost, had been beyond his wildest expectations. Glossen’s modern take on the German Blitzkrieg had accomplished the first major objective of the campaign; by dawn the United States had established mastery over the battlespace, destroyed Iraq’s ability to defend itself from air assault, decapitated the ground structure of the Iraqi military and cut the supply lines than ran through Basra to the army in Kuwait. To the wider world Glossen had brought a totally new era of waging war….clean, precise, swift and deadly. He was the Heinz Gudarian of his generation, this was “Blitzkrieg” on steroids.

 

     The cruise missile, which had its humble beginnings with the V-1 rockets over London, had radically re-designed air combat and put to end the grandstanding tactics of strategic bombing, the total waste of lives and materials that were so costly in Europe in World War II and Vietnam by sending human crewed fighters and bombers over highly defended targets. Now with the cruise missile employed on such dangerous routes; the aircraft could be freed up for the more important work of punishing the Iraqi army in Kuwait.

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