Desert Shield & Desert Storm
Operation Desert Shield was initially created by the US
five days after the invasion of Kuwait to protect Saudi
Arabia from Iraqi aggression. It officially commenced on
August 7 when President Bush sent air and ground units
to Saudi Arabia, and it ended on January 16, 1991, with
the start of Operation Desert Storm.
During the five months of Desert Shield, the US was the
prime mover in organizing a military coalition of nations
prepared to use force if necessary to oust Iraq from
Kuwait. The coalition consisted of troops from 34 nations
and was sanctioned by the UN. Germany and Japan did
not send troops, but contributed military supplies and significant funding.
On January 12, 1991, the US Congress authorized
President Bush to conduct war against Iraq. On January
15, the UN deadline for Iraq's withdrawal passed. The
next day, Operation Desert Storm began with the aerial
bombardment of targets in Iraq and Kuwait. It lasted for
six weeks. Its purpose was to sap Iraqi military strength
and thereby minimize coalition casualties on the ground.
On January 22, to show the threat of environmental war was not a bluff, Iraq responded by blowing up the first oil
wells and pumping oil into Gulf waters.
From January 29-31, a ground battle was fought in Saudi Arabia after Iraqi troops unsuccessfully invaded the town of Khafji.
By February 19, hundreds of Kuwaiti oil wells were ablaze and 1.5 millions barrels per day of oil were pouring into the Gulf.
US Air Force Fighter Jets
During the air war phase of the Gulf War, 88,500 tons of bombs were dropped by more than 100,000 sorties. The purpose was to sap Iraqi military strength and so minimize coalition ground casualties. Out of 1,800 combat planes plus many supply planes, 75 aircraft were lost. US General Charles Horner was coalition commander.