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U.S.

Marines in Battle

Al-Khafji 28 JANUARY–1 FEBRUARY 1991


About the Author
And Acknowledgements
aul W. Westermeyer received a Master of Arts degree in history from the Ohio State University in 1996, and is
P pursuing a doctorate in history from the same institution. He joined the staff of the History Division in 2005.
The Iraqi documents used as sources for this project were translated by Ali al Saadee; the project could not have
been completed without his excellent work. The finished manuscript also benefited from the aid and advice of
David J. Morris, Dr. Kevin Osterloh, and Dr. Amin Tarzi. History Division interns Alexander N. Hinman, Nicholas
J. Ross, Evan Sills, and Paul R. Zimmerman provided invaluable research assistance.
This work could not have been published without the professional efforts of the staff of the History Division. Dr.
Nathan S. Lowrey provided invaluable professional advice and support. The author would like to thank Charles
D. Melson, Charles R. Smith, Greg Macheak, and Major Valerie A. Jackson for their comments and revisions. W.
Stephen Hill designed and produced the layout, including maps. Peggy F. Frierson prepared the art and photographs
for this publication.
History Division
United States Marine Corps
Washington, D.C.
2008
PCN 106 000 400
Back Cover: The logotype reproduced on the back
Background Photo: For wounds suffered dur- cover has as its major element the oldest military
ing the Battle of al-Khafji, Cpl Jeffery D. Brown insignia in continuous use in the United States. It
of 3d Platoon, Company A, 3d Reconnaissance first appeared, as shown here, on Marine Corps
Battalion, receives the Purple Heart at Manifa buttons adopted in 1804. With the stars changed
Bay, Saudi Arabia, following the war. to five points, the device has continued on Marine
Photo courtesy of Cpl Charles H. Ingraham III Corps buttons to the present day.
The Battle of al-Khafji
by Paul W. Westermeyer

n August 1990, Iraqi mili- United States and Great Britain, to inter- As fall turned to winter, the Marine
tary forces invaded the vene on Kuwait’s behalf. His invasion set Corps continued the massive logistical
neighboring nation of the stage for a military confrontation that enterprise, deploying personnel and
Kuwait. The invasion was was larger in scope than any similar cir- equipment of I Marine Expeditionary
part of an expansionist for- cumstance since the Cold War. Under Force: 1st and 2d Marine Divisions, 3d
eign policy that President Saddam Hus- President George H. W. Bush, the United Marine Aircraft Wing, and the 1st Force
sein established a decade earlier when he States assembled a global coalition of con- Service Support Group.
invaded post-revolution Iran. The Iraqi cerned nations, first to defend Saudi Ara- General H. Norman Schwarzkopf, the
invasion of Iran failed, degenerating into bia against further Iraqi aggression, and United States Central Command com-
a decade long war of attrition, but Kuwait then to eject the Iraqi military from mander, chose the Marines to evict the
was an easier target. Kuwait had financed Kuwait. Early in this “Gulf War” Ameri- Iraqis from Kuwait proper, fighting
the Iraq-Iran War for Iraq, but refused to can military commanders designated the alongside Arab members of the Coalition.
forgive the debt, and Iraq accused Kuwait operation to protect Saudi Arabia “Desert As Lieutenant General Boomer’s I Marine
of stealing oil from the Rumalia Oil Field. Shield,” and the successive operation to Expeditionary Force and its partners pre-
Much smaller than Iran in terms of pop- free Kuwait “Desert Storm.” These mili- pared to breach the fortifications separat-
ulation and geography, Kuwait had fo- tary operations were massive undertak- ing Kuwait from Saudi Arabia, the 4th
cused its foreign and defense policies on ings, and they highlighted the paradigm and 5th Marine Expeditionary Brigades
negotiation and compromise rather than shift from superpowers in precarious remained afloat in the Persian Gulf on-
military force; inevitably, the large Iraqi equilibrium during the Cold War to board the ships of U.S. Navy amphibious
Army quickly overwhelmed the small American global hegemony in the 1990s. ready groups, providing a seaborne threat
Kuwaiti armed forces. The Gulf War would be the largest de- which would eventually tie up many Iraqi
Inside Kuwait, Iraqi troops began ployment of Marines since the Vietnam resources along the shoreline.
wholesale pillaging as security forces War. It challenged the entire warfighting Despite the threat of a Coalition mili-
moved to remove all those loyal to the establishment of the Marine Corps—avi- tary intervention, Iraq refused to with-
Kuwaiti royal family. Iraq declared that ation, ground, and logistics—forcing a draw from Kuwait. Saddam was
Kuwait was now a province, thus elimi- generation of Marines to put two decades convinced that the United States could
nating its debt and adding extensive oil of planning and training to the test. The neither maintain the Coalition, nor inter-
fields to its own. Saddam stationed con- Corps would see many of its tactical and vene militarily in a meaningful way. A
script infantry divisions in Kuwait and operational philosophies justified under military struggle to free Kuwait thus be-
began building extensive defenses along combat conditions. The maritime prepo- came inevitable.
the Kuwaiti-Saudi border. sitioning ships program, for one, proved
While Saddam calculated the military its worth, enabling Marines to be the first
e Air Campaign1
balance between Iraq and Kuwait cor- combined arms task force in Saudi Ara- On 17 January 1991, Operation Desert
rectly, he underestimated the willingness bia. In addition, Marines tested the air- Storm began with massive air strikes
of the world community, especially the ground task force concept within the joint throughout Iraq and Kuwait. Although
environment. the operation had an expected ground
On The Cover: The crew of a Marine LAV-25 Marines of the 7th Marine Expedi- component, U.S. Air Force strategists,
scans the desert. The LAV-25 was the backbone tionary Brigade arrived in Saudi Arabia who believed that bombing alone could
of the light armored infantry battalions, an un-
in late August, where they married up compel Iraq to relinquish Kuwait, drove
tried concept prior to the Battle of al-Khafji.
The battalions were used in a traditional cav-
with their equipment from the maritime the first phases. As a result, the primary
alry role, providing a screen in front of the main prepositioning ships. Under Marine focus of the campaign was on achieving
body of I Marine Expeditionary Force. Forces Commander, Central Command, air superiority (accomplished the first
History Division Photo and Commander, I Marine Expeditionary evening), striking strategic targets inside
At Left: A Qatari AMX-30 tank leads two Force, Lieutenant General Walter E. Iraq, then annihilating Iraq’s elite Repub-
Saudi V-150 Commando armored cars, the first Boomer, Marines continued to deploy to lican Guard centered in southern Iraqi,
of which is an antitank variant, into al-Khafji the Gulf and solidify the defenses of Saudi and finally hitting Iraqi forces in Kuwait
through the town arches. The arches were the
focal point of each Saudi counterattack into the
Arabia. They trained, established defen- proper.
city. Used with permission of Jody Harmon sive positions, and watched the diplo- During the air campaign, Marine avi-
(www.jodyharmon.com) matic efforts attempt to resolve the crisis. ation conducted hundreds of sorties

The Battle of al-Khafji 


Base 801724 (E00373) 4-91 Modified by W. Stephen Hill

against enemy positions in Kuwait and formed traditional reconnaissance, bat- firing SS-1 Scud-B Al Hussein surface-to-
Iraq. Aircrews of the 3d Marine Aircra tlefield interdiction, and close air support surface medium range missiles against Is-
Wing struck Iraqi command and control missions in Kuwait. rael and Saudi Arabia. e political and
centers, antiaircra defenses, and strate- A day aer the air campaign began, a military consequences of the Scud attacks
gic targets deep inside Iraq, and later per- distraction was added when Iraq began forced Central Command to immediately

 The Battle of al-Khafji


instigate the “Great Scud Hunt.” Al-
though the hunt was unsuccessful, it di-
verted large numbers of aircra and
reconnaissance resources away from
Kuwait and into the western Iraqi desert.
In particular, the hunt required the use of
the two prototype Northrup Grumman
E-8C joint surveillance and target acqui-
sition radar system (JSTARS) aircra.
e E-8C aircra had arrived in Saudi
Arabia aer Christmas and was a new,
untested battlefield technology.2 Central
Command used the planes to track mo-
bile Scud launchers in the western desert,
although originally designed to track
large-scale troop movements, like those
that would precede a major offensive.3
Despite the Scud distraction and the
focus on strategic rather than operational
targets, the air campaign had an obvious
and significant impact on Iraqi forces in-
side Kuwait. It isolated units from the na-
tional command authority, degraded
troop morale, and made even simple
movements difficult, oen requiring days
of detailed planning.
With its diplomatic options exhausted,
and enduring the effects of an air cam-
paign much longer than anticipated, Iraq
launched a large spoiling attack centered
on the Saudi town of al-Khai on 29 Jan-
uary 1991. Now known as the “Battle of
al-Khai,” it was the first major ground
combat action of the Gulf War.

Iraq’s Plan4
Map by W. Stephen Hill
Saddam Hussein was prepared for a
confrontation with the United States United States would not fight, in part be- lieved then, as he stated aer the war,
prior to the invasion of Kuwait, as evi- cause of the muted response to the Iraqi “America is not in the prime of youth.
denced by his comments to Palestinian Aérospatiale AM39 Exocet antiship mis- America is in the last stage of elderliness
leader Yasser Arafat in April 1990: sile attack on the USS Stark (FFG 31) in and the beginning of the first stage of old
1987. e massive military buildup in age.”7
We are ready for it. We will fight Saudi Arabia throughout the fall of 1990 Iraq had survived the long, 10-year
America, and, with God’s will, we did not change his mind. Moreover, he slaughter of the “Khadisya Saddam,” as
will defeat it and kick it out of the believed that even if the United States de- the Iraqis termed the Iran-Iraq War, and
whole region. Because it is not sired a military confrontation, the Soviet Saddam believed that the conflict over
about the fight itself; we know that Union would intervene to prevent it. Kuwait, if it came to blows, would follow
America has a larger air force than If an attack did occur, Saddam was a similar pattern.8 Air power would be
us… has more rockets than us, but equally convinced that his massive mili- relatively ineffective; the main conflict
I think that when the Arab people tary could inflict sufficient losses on the would be a set piece battle as American
see real action of war, when it is real Americans to force them to abandon the forces impotently tried to breach the de-
and not only talk, they will fight struggle. He considered the American fenses built along the Kuwaiti-Saudi bor-
America everywhere. So we have withdrawal from Vietnam indicative of der. American losses would be severe, the
to get ready to fight America; we America’s lack of resolve. e United American people would demand an end
are ready to fight when they do; States suffered 58,000 dead in the Viet- to the bloodshed, and the American gov-
when they strike, we strike.5 nam War; in comparison Iraq had lost ernment would then negotiate a peace. In
51,000 in a single battle with the Iranians the aermath, Iraq would become the
But Iraq’s president was convinced the on the al-Faw Peninsula in 1986.6 He be- undisputed regional power, while Amer-

The Battle of al-Khafji 


ican, and Western, influence in the Mid- An Iraqi War College study, completed be able to handle the heavy responsibility
dle East would suffer a near fatal blow. later, highlighted the Iraqi understanding of heavy casualties in front of Congress
Events did not follow Saddam Hus- of the situation in late January 1991: and public opinion.”11 In this case, the
sein’s expectations. e United States was Iraqis did understand American inten-
determined not to allow the Iraqi aggres- In military practice, there are prin- tions, although they underestimated
sion to stand and Iraq’s Arab neighbors ciples. One of the important prin- American resolve, and gravely overesti-
recognized the degree to which Iraq’s in- ciples is that the attack is the best mated the ability of the Iraqi military to
vasion of Kuwait would upset the regional defense. In the Mother of Wars this inflict losses on the attacking Coalition
balance of power. e Soviet Union was principle is particularly important, forces.
unwilling and unable to support Iraq in because the enemy of Iraq and the e al-Khai operation was intended
an aggressive adventure that offered no Arab nation has deployed a large to spark the ground battle of the “Mother
tangible benefits. e United States was number of airplanes, rockets and of Wars” which Saddam felt was the pre-
able to form an international coalition modern equipment, from which it requisite for his eventual victory. It was
that included an impressive variety of na- seems they are prepared for a total intended as a provoking raid that would
tions; notable members included Great war. ey deployed the most mod- draw the Americans into a hasty and mas-
Britain, France, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and ern equipment for their field forces, sive military response and result in sig-
Syria. Despite its variety, the Coalition’s which consist of the armies of 28 nificant American casualties. Despite his
unity was never seriously challenged by nations totaling half a million men. deficient military acumen, he correctly
Iraqi attempts to fracture it. But for all this great power, they identified that the center of gravity in the
e United States and its allies began hesitate to attack the Iraqi field Coalition war effort was the willingness
the war with the air strikes Saddam and forces because they realize how well of the American people to suffer casual-
his generals had predicted, but these at- the Iraqi forces can defend against a ties, and he designed his operational
tacks were far more effective than ex- ground attack. And, they know al- plans to strike directly at that willpower.
pected. Later, Iraqis would master the art ready, the military genius of Iraq’s President Saddam chose al-Khai as
of proofing their country against aerial at- leader, Saddam Hussein.9 the target of the attack for several reasons.
tack, but in January 1991, the Coalition e Iraqi War College analysis noted that
air campaign was something the Iraqis e Iraqis believed they understood it had two harbors: one designed specifi-
had never experienced. American intentions: “Like we say, they cally for exporting oil, and the other the
Saddam responded quickly with Scud intend to destroy our forces and the in- Iraqis believed was a base for Coalition
missile attacks on Saudi Arabia and Israel, frastructure of our country through the forces. An Iraqi force occupying the town
and while these strikes were unquestion- air attack, by airplanes and long range would be able to threaten Coalition naval
ably the most effective military and polit- missiles. And they want to avoid the forces in the Gulf. Al-Khai was also
ical tactic employed by Iraq during the losses of a ground war as much as they within range of Iraqi supporting artillery
conflict, they did not end the raids, no- can.”10 Moreover, “George Bush will not in Kuwait. e attack also would force
ticeably decrease their severity, spur the
United States into a premature ground as- The arches into the Saudi city of al-Khafji proclaim that “The municipality and residents
sault, nor bring Israel into the war and of Khafji welcome the honorable visitor.” Because the city was within range of Iraqi ar-
thus splinter the multinational Coalition tillery in Kuwait, it was ordered evacuated on 18 August 1990.
which Iraq faced. Photo courtesy of MGySgt Gregory L. Gillispie
In addition to the Scud attacks, Iraq
tried to provoke Coalition ground opera-
tions by setting Kuwaiti oil fields afire and
by creating a large oil slick in the Persian
Gulf that threatened Saudi water desali-
nation facilities. But these actions were
no more effective than the Scud attacks.
Saddam expected the air campaign to
last a week, and then be followed by the
ground war, the “Mother of All Wars,”
which would produce the desired massive
American casualties. Instead, the bomb-
ing showed no sign of stopping, and was
inflicting serious damage on the Iraqi
forces without any corresponding ability
to produce the desired Coalition casual-
ties. Something needed to be done in
order to goad the United States into the
planned Kuwaiti “meat-grinder.”

 The Battle of al-Khafji


the Saudis to respond; he knew they could Khai itself was the target of the 5th weapons in ambush in the front and
not permit him to hold any part of their Mechanized Division, which was to seize flanks of the fortified positions. And I
kingdom for long. It seemed likely that and fortify the town. Once the 5th Mech- emphasized how the snipers should be
the attack would force the Coalition into anized Division had secured al-Khai, the active and effective against the helicopters
the bloody ground war Saddam wanted.12 1st Mechanized and 3d Armored Divisions of the enemy.” He instructed his men to
e operational plan for implementing would withdraw back into Kuwait. In light tire fires, as the smoke would con-
Iraq’s strategic goal was relatively straight theory, aer the Coalition ground re- fuse the infrared sensors of the Coalition
forward. Five Iraqi infantry divisions de- sponse was provoked, the 5th Mechanized forces. Finally, he ordered his troops “to
fended the Saudi-Kuwaiti border from the Division would retire from al-Khai and be economic with the ammunition which
coast to the “elbow”: from east to west, move safely behind the massive fortifica- is in the tanks and the carriers. Because
they were the 18th Infantry, 8th Infantry, tions along the Saudi-Kuwait border.15 the enemy air will be focused on the bat-
29th Infantry, 14th Infantry, and 7th In- e attack was set to be launched at 2000 tle territory, especially the transportation,
fantry Divisions. ese commands would on 29 January 1991, and al-Khai was to so movement will be very limited.”16
not take part in the offensive, instead they be occupied by 0100 on 30 January 1991. Whatever Saddam’s understanding of the
would continue to defend the fortifica- General Salah Aboud ordered that the battle, at least one of his generals antici-
tions along the border. ese border for- forces be “dug in” and “hidden under- pated the difficulties the Iraqis would face
tifications, called the “Saddam Line” by ground” by the morning of 30 January. He trying to maneuver against overwhelm-
U.S. forces, consisted of a belt of mine- provided some insightful tactical advice ing Coalition air superiority.
fields, antitank obstacles, and triangular as well: “I emphasized the use, and the e capture of American personnel
brigade strong points. Iraqi engineers had importance of shoulder fired anti-aircra was a high priority. Saddam had deter-
designed and constructed the belt based
on lessons learned in their 10-year war Iraqi Armored Vehicles
with Iran.
e attacking forces would be drawn Top
Vehicle Type Armament
from the 3d Armored and 5th Mechanized Speed
Divisions of III Corps, under Major Gen-
eral Salah Aboud Mahmoud, and the 1st 00mm main gun
Mechanized Division of IV Corps under 00m effective range
Major General Yaiyd Khalel Zaki. Major T-5/55 50kph
Coax 7.6mm MG
General Salah Aboud had over all com-
mand of the operation; III Corps, consid- Bow 7.6mm MG
ered one of the better organizations in the .7mm MG
Iraqi Army, had successfully conducted
similar operations during the Iran-Iraq
War, as well as performing successfully 5mm main gun
while defending the Iraqi city of Basrah.13 000m effective range
e armored battalions of these divi- T-6 Coax 7.6mm MG 50kph
sions were equipped with a combination Bow 7.6mm MG
of T-54/55 and T-62 main battle tanks .7mm MG
while their mechanized infantry battal-
ions were equipped with BMP-1 armored
personnel carriers supported by BRDM-2
scout vehicles. eir divisional artillery 7mm smoothbore
was lavishly equipped with various mod- cannon
els of 152mm and 155mm howitzers.14 BMP- 7.6mm MG 80kph
e plan called for the 1st Mechanized AT- Sagger ATGM
Division to pass through the lines of the 8 troops
7th and 14th Infantry Divisions between
the border’s “heel” just south of Umm
Hajul and the “elbow” at al-Manaqish (see
map on page 12). is maneuver was in-
.5mm MG
tended to protect the flank of Brigadier
7.6mm MG
General Hussan Zedin’s 3d Armored Di-
BRDM-  troops 00kph
vision as it traversed the al-Wafrah oil
fields and the lines of the 8th and 29th In-
fantry Divisions. e 3d Armored Divi-
sion would then take up a blocking
position to the west of al-Khai. Al-

The Battle of al-Khafji 5


Iraqi Training Pamphlet, Battle of al-Khafji (ISGQ-2003-00054592)
Part of the Iraqi plan for the Battle of al-Khafji, as shown in an official Iraqi history of the battle. This sketch indicates that 6th Ar-
mored Brigade’s attack on Observation Post 4 was not intended as the main Iraqi effort.

mined from the American prisoner of the enemy governments will shake.”18 For powerful neighbors Iraq and Egypt, as
war experience during the Vietnam War Iraq, the Battle of al-Khai was not in- well as aiding in the suppression of inter-
and the Iranian hostage crisis that the tended as a skirmish; it was intended to nal rebellious movements. 19
United States was vulnerable to hostage win the war by destroying the Coalition’s As the decades passed, however, and
taking. He held many Westerners hostage will to fight. At the heart of the Coalition hostility against the United States in-
early in the crisis, but released them in was the alliance between the United States creased in the broader Islamic world,
December 1990 with little obvious ad- and Saudi Arabia. American military assistance became
vantage. He felt, however, that American nearly as much of a liability as it was an
soldiers would still be excellent bargain-
American and Saudi asset. is paradox was neatly summa-
ing chips in the confrontation. An Iraqi Arabian Relations rized by leading Egyptian journalist, Mo-
prisoner from the battle later told Amer- e United States began providing the hamed Heikal: “the first responsibility of
ican interrogators: “e sole purpose of Kingdom of Saudi Arabia with military a Saudi monarch is to keep intimate rela-
the raid on al-Khai was to capture Coali- assistance in the 1940s, and as the decades tions with Washington, and the second is
tion personnel. e loss of all Iraqi equip- passed the relationship grew. e United to do all he can to hide it.”20
ment and personnel involved in the raid States assisted the kingdom as a bulwark e Iraqi invasion of Kuwait produced
was of no importance as long as POWs first against communism and secular eth- a near catastrophe in foreign relations for
were captured.”17 nic Arab nationalist movements, and later the Saudis, as it was clear they could not
When giving orders for the attack to against radical Islamic movements. In stop any Iraqi encroachment into their
his corps commanders, Saddam summed addition, a strong, stable Saudi Arabia territory without American aid, yet that
up Iraqi goals: the “enemy in front of us, if was seen as the key to preventing a gen- aid would have to be very public. e in-
he faces this time our willingness to cause eral war in the Middle East. For the timate relationship between the United
severe damage to him, he won’t be able to House of Saud, the close relationship and States and Saudi Arabia had long been an
handle it. He will be destroyed and the military assistance of the United States open secret, but now it would truly be ex-
news will be heard. And all the chairs of acted as a counter to Saudi Arabia’s more posed. e presence of a massive “infi-

6 The Battle of al-Khafji


del” army on Saudi soil, home to Mecca Saudi aviation forces were folded, along prior to the invasion of Kuwait fought
and Medina, the two holiest cities in with other Coalition air forces, into the with the National Guard forces, greatly
Islam (forbidden to nonbelievers), was a air campaign, but the Royal Saudi Land increasing their effectiveness. e mili-
potential public relations disaster. On the Forces or Saudi Army operated separately tary advisors and Vinnell Corporation
other hand, Saddam had invaded Kuwait, as nine brigades.21 employees worked closely together sup-
a fellow Arab country that had materially e Ministry of Defense and Aviation porting the Saudi National Guard.23
aided Iraq in its war against Iran. More- units were supplemented by the Saudi Since neither Saudi Arabia nor the
over, Saddam’s own Ba’athist party was an Arabian National Guard (SANG) com- United States was willing to have its forces
avowedly secular organization devoted in prised of two mechanized brigades. Os- under the other’s command, a joint struc-
part to ethnic Arab nationalism. Both of tensibly the Saudi Arabian National ture was set up. Joint Forces Command,
these facts helped Saudi Arabia maintain Guard was intended to reinforce the Min- a parallel organization of Central Com-
its image in the Islamic world while ac- istry of Defense and Aviation forces in the mand, was composed of most of the Arab
cepting American aid. But the situation event of a war, but in reality the Saudi Na- contingents and was led by Saudi General
required constant, careful manipulation. tional Guard’s primary role was to protect Khaled bin Sultan. A nephew of King
ere were many tensions between the the royal family from internal rebellion. Fahd, he was a graduate of the Royal Mil-
Saudis, who naturally wished Coalition Staffed with personnel loyal to the House itary Academy, Sandhurst, and the Air
forces would disrupt Saudi life as little as of Saud specifically through family and War College at Maxwell Air Force Base,
possible, and the Coalition forces who tribal ties, the Saudi Arabian National Alabama. In 1986, aer 25 years in the
oen felt unappreciated by the Saudis Guard was descended from the Ikhwan armed forces of his country, General
they were ostensibly in the desert to pro- (White Army), a Wahhabi tribal militia, Khaled was appointed commander of the
tect. which formed the main body of Ibn Royal Saudi Air Defence Forces.
Saudi military forces were divided into Saud’s forces during World War I. e e command was further subdivided
two distinct services. e Ministry of Saudi government employed the National into Joint Forces Command-North and
Defense and Aviation (MODA) consisted Guard to protect the holy cities of Mecca Joint Forces Command-East. Joint Forces
of the regular Saudi ground and aviation and Medina, and to counter the regular Command-North, although dominated
forces, whose mission was to protect the armed forces in the event of an attempted by two Egyptian divisions, also contained
kingdom from external threats. e coup. It received the lion’s share of train- Saudi Arabian Ministry of Defense and
ing and equipment that was available to Aviation, Kuwaiti, and Syrian brigades. It
Gen Khaled bin Sultan bin Saud, a prince Saudi forces, although it did not possess controlled the territory from the “elbow”
of the Saudi royal family, was the Joint tanks.22 at al-Manaqish to the Kuwait-Iraq border.
Forces Commander and General e Saudi National Guard was favored Saudi National Guard units, Ministry of
Schwartzkopf ’s opposite number. Joint over the Ministry of Aviation and De- Defense and Aviation forces, as well as
Forces Command was composed of the fense. e Royal family kept the two Kuwaiti forces and a Qatari mechanized
Coalition’s Islamic members forces: Saudi forces separated, and neither force brigade made up Joint Forces Command-
Arabia, Egypt, Syria, and others. The Bat- trained with the other. Nevertheless, oil- East. It controlled the territory from the
tle of al-Khafji was the first conflict on rich Saudi Arabia did not lack resources eastern border of the al-Wafrah oil fields
Saudi soil in decades; as a result Gen and both services were lavishly equipped to the Persian Gulf coast, including al-
Khaled was pressured to end the battle de- with modern military hardware. Despite Khai and the surrounding territory.24
cisively and quickly. massive amounts spent on moderniza- e assignment of National Guard units
DVIC DA-ST-92-08034
tion, many Saudi soldiers lacked profes- under the command of General Khaled
sional standards or competence and the was out of the ordinary, and indicated
officer corps granted the noncommis- how seriously the House of Saud took the
sioned officers neither authority nor re- crisis.25 e placement of the subcom-
sponsibility. mands was due to Arab pride which dic-
In 1990-1991, direct American mili- tated that they hold positions in the front
tary assistance to Saudi Arabia centered line to ensure theirs would be the first
around two organizations. Officially, blood shed.
there was the Department of Defense’s Although well equipped, and provided
Office of Program Manager for the Mod- with professional military advisors, the
ernization of the Saudi National Guard, Saudi forces were still not up to Western
which assigned American officers as ad- military standards. Islamic holidays,
visors to the Saudi National Guard. In daily prayers, and familial obligations
addition, the Vinnell Corporation pro- dramatically decreased the amount of
vided military contract advisors to the training. e troops generally averaged
Saudi National Guard, most of whom an eighth grade education. e officers
were American veterans of the Vietnam were oen well educated and most spoke
War. In both cases, the personnel as- at least some English, but they were dis-
signed to train the Saudi National Guard couraged from independent thought or

The Battle of al-Khafji 7


action until given battalion-level com- As Desert Shield progressed, addi- his assistant division commander,
mand. ey faced tremendous pressure tional liaison elements were attached to Brigadier General omas V. Draude, to
to keep their superiors happy. As Captain the Saudi forces. United States Army Spe- take primary responsibility for liaison du-
Joseph Molofsky, 3d Marines liaison offi- cial Forces teams were attached to Min- ties.29 Brigadier General Draude used 3d
cer to the 2d Brigade of the Saudi Arabian istry of Defense and Aviation forces at the Marines, the Marine unit nearest to Joint
National Guard, noted: “It’s all make or brigade level, and the Marine Corps as- Forces Command-East units, as the pri-
break. You displease your senior and signed 1st Air-Naval Gunfire Liaison mary focus of his liaison effort. As
you’re done forever. You make him happy Company (1st ANGLICO) teams Colonel John A. Admire, commander of
and he sends you on vacation to Europe. throughout Joint Forces Command- the 3d Marines, noted:
Literally.”26 Saudi forces were untested in East.28 When it became clear that the 1st
1991, having last seen action in the 1920s. Marine Division would be fighting beside We were the only U.S. combat force
ere was serious concern about how Saudi forces, the division’s commander, located on the eastern coast. Now
well they would perform in battle.27 Major General James M. Myatt, ordered the significance of that of course is
that we continued to train with
Coalition Armored Vehicles Coalition forces. We were the divi-
Top sion’s primary instrument from Oc-
Vehicle Type Armament tober-November-December and
Speed
through January of training with
the Saudis and training with the
Qatari forces.
05mm main gun
AMX-0 Coax .7mm MG 65kph
Colonel Admire assigned Captain
7.6mm MG Molofsky, an officer with previous expe-
rience in the Middle East serving with the
United Nations on the Sinai Peninsula, as
the 3d Marines liaison officer to the 2d
Brigade, Saudi Arabian National Guard.30
From the beginning, there was tension
05mm main gun
between the Marines and the Saudis.
M-60 Coax 7.6mm MG 8kph
“e Marines felt that they needed to get
.7mm MG
their own eyes on,” Captain Molofsky ex-
plained. “ey couldn’t trust the Saudis.
e Saudis were insulted that the Marines
didn’t trust them.”31 is situation was ex-
acerbated in January 1991 when 3d
5mm main gun
Marines was given the duty of protecting
 x 7.6mm MG
the town and airfield of al-Mishab. Pre-
LAV-5  troops 00kph
viously al-Mishab had been part of Joint
or
Force Command-East’s area of opera-
TOW- ATGM
tions; placing it within the Marine area of
operations, especially as the United States
began to use the airfield, implied a lack of
faith in Saudi military capabilities on the
.50 caliber MG
part of Marine commanders.32
6-8 troops
In addition to the U.S. Army advisors
V-50 or 88kph
and Special Forces teams assigned to the
 troops
Saudi forces, commanders attached air-
TOW- ATGM
naval gunfire liaison teams to coordinate
Marine air and artillery support for the
Saudis. Specifically, 1st ANGLICO was
attached to Joint Forces Command-East,
.7mm MG
and in turn the company assigned sup-
 troops
porting arms liaison teams to Saudi
M- or 6kph
brigades and fire control teams to Saudi
 troops
battalions. ese teams worked closely
TOW ATGM
with their Saudi counterparts, developing
excellent working relationships.33
On the eve of the battle of al-Khai,

8 The Battle of al-Khafji


American and Saudi forces had worked
and trained together for five months.
ere was some unease between the two
forces, but both sides had made a con-
certed effort to overcome it. e Iraqi in-
vasion would put those efforts to the test.

Ra’s al-Khai
e Saudi coastal town of Ra’s al-
Khai, more commonly know as al-
Khai, lies approximately seven miles
south of the Saudi-Kuwait border. Before
the war, the primary industries in the
town were oil and tourism, but it was es-
sentially deserted just prior to the attack.
General Khaled bin Sultan had ordered
the town evacuated in August because it
was too close to the Kuwaiti border to
Photo courtesy of Capt Charles G. Grow
properly defend.34 North of the town
Saudi soldiers move through the evacuated border city of al-Khafji. Although the city’s
there was a water desalination plant, and
architecture was relatively monotonous it offered civilized amenities and was a popular
to the south there was an oil refinery, a
stop for Coalition commanders and journalists.
pier, and a small airstrip. Southeast, be-
yond the town’s outskirts, was a Saudi nel traffic onto the coastal highway, espe- manned these posts in order to gather in-
Arabian National Guard compound. cially the heavy vehicles needed to sup- telligence on Iraqi forces in Kuwait.
Ra’s al-Khai was particularly difficult port the logistics of large military forces. Placed at 10 to 20 kilometer intervals, Ob-
to defend because the town lies to the servation Post 8 was set on the coast, Ob-
north of extensive sabkhas or salt Coalition Dispositions
servation Post 7, further to the west, with
marshes. As Captain Molofsky explained: Covering deployed Coalition forces Observation Posts 2, 1, 4, 5, and 6 follow-
“A sabkha is a patch of desert that has were a series of observation posts strung ing the border until the “elbow” was
some kind of underlying moisture that out along the Kuwaiti-Saudi border. Each reached at al-Jathathil.*
causes a thin, mud like crust to develop post was situated near a Saudi border fort, Nearest to the coast, the Marine Corps’
on the top, which cracks in the heat, but described by virtually every eyewitness as 1st Surveillance, Reconnaissance, and In-
it’s easily penetrated by a vehicle and very a “Beau Geste fort.” U.S. Navy Sea, Air, telligence Group controlled Observation
so underneath—you get stuck in it in a and Land (SEAL), Army Special Forces, Posts 8, 7, and 2.** e coastal highway
huge way.”35 e sabkhas served to chan- and Marine reconnaissance teams ran between Observation Post 7 and Ob-
The crew of a Marine LAV-25 scans the desert. The LAV-25 was the backbone of the light servation Post 8, which gave those two
armored infantry battalions, an untried concept prior to the Battle of al-Khafji. The bat- posts overlapping oversight of the most
talions were used in a traditional cavalry role, providing a screen in front of the main body likely route into al-Khai. In addition to
of I Marine Expeditionary Force. the special operations teams, air-naval
History Division Photo gunfire supporting arms liaison teams
also occupied these observation posts.
e 1st Surveillance, Reconnaissance, and

*Most works on the Battle of al-Khafji list the ob-


servation posts slightly differently from east to west:
OP-8, OP-7, OP-1, OP-2, OP-4, OP-5, and OP-6.
Two important primary sources, the command
chronology of the 2d Light Armored Infantry Bat-
talion and the after action report of 1st AN-
GLICO/1st Surveillance, Reconnaissance, and
Intelligence Group both make clear that the order
should be the one given in the text.
**The 1st Surveillance, Reconnaissance, and Intel-
ligence Group (1st SRIG) was a unit responsible for
coordinating intelligence gathering operations, and
was subordinate to the I Marine Expeditionary
Force (I MEF) rather than the 1st Marine Division.
Its primary headquarters was with the I MEF head-
quarters, but it maintained a forward headquarters
in al-Khafji.

The Battle of al-Khafji 


Intelligence Group had a headquarters at ation Brigade, with a battalion serving as aware, that the Marines had reconnais-
the desalination plant located to the north a screen behind the border. e Saudi sance teams up in al-Khai.”40
of al-Khai.36 e 1st Air-Naval Gunfire mechanized screens were approximately Other Marine operations would lead
Liaison Company, attached to Joint three kilometers behind the border, while to the Coalition’s success at al-Khai,
Forces Command-East, was a subordi- the main Saudi defensive positions were however. In response to the difficulties
nate unit of the 1st Surveillance, Recon- approximately 20 kilometers behind the involved in defending Saudi Arabia from
naissance, and Intelligence Group, which screen. 38 an Iraqi attack in the early days of Oper-
coordinated closely in and around al- e I Marine Expeditionary Force’s ation Desert Shield, Marine planners had
Khai with the various units in the area of operations at this time was shaped developed Task Force Cunningham.
Kuwaiti border area. somewhat like a fat “L.” e leg of the “L” ey designed it as a task organized, avi-
Task Force Shepherd (1st Light Ar- extended along the bend of the Saudi- ation only task force that would stop Iraqi
mored Infantry Battalion) of the 1st Ma- Kuwaiti border from al-Jathathil to just ground maneuver forces with concen-
rine Division had companies on a east of the oil fields at al-Wafrah and the trated fire from the air, covering the with-
screening mission near Observation Post foot of the “L” extended south of Joint drawal of Saudi and Marine forces along
4 (Company D), Observation Post 5 Forces Command-East’s area of opera- the coastal highway. Bell UH-1N Huey
(Company B) and Observation Post 6 tions to al-Mishab and the airfield. Al- and AH-1W Super Cobra helicopters
(Company C). Only Observation Post 4 Mishab and the surrounding area were would operate alongside North American
had a Marine reconnaissance platoon in held by Task Force Taro, built around the OV-10D Broncos and McDonnell Dou-
place when the Iraqi attack occurred on 3d Marines. e pillar of the “L” was held glas AV-8B Harrier II fixed wing aircra
29 January.37 * e 2d Marine Division’s by Task Force Shepherd and 2d Light Ar- in the task force. Joint Forces Command-
2d Light Armored Infantry Battalion es- mored Infantry Battalion, which East liked the plan, and it would serve as
tablished a similar screen to the east di- stretched along the border in a light ar- the model for air support during the bat-
rectly in front of the al-Wafrah oil fields mored screen. Behind this screen was the tle.41
and Observation Post 1, between Task massive Marine logistical base at Kibrit,
Force Shepherd and the Joint Forces which Lieutenant General Boomer, com-
Artillery Raids
Command-East area of operations along mander of I Marine Expeditionary Force, Aer the air campaign against Iraq
the coast. decided to place forward of the main Ma- began, I Marine Expeditionary Force
Under the command of Major General rine combat forces, in order to speed the began a series of artillery raids against
Sultan ‘Adi al-Mutairi, Joint Forces Com- eventual attack into Kuwait. Kibrit was Iraqi forces in Kuwait. e first artillery
mand-East was further divided into task relatively vulnerable, and during the Iraqi raid occurred on the night of 21 January,
forces. Abu Bakr Task Force, comprised attack on al-Khai, Brigadier General and was fired from a location just north of
of the 2d Saudi Arabian National Guard Charles C. Krulak, commander of the Di- al-Khai against enemy artillery positions
Brigade and an attached Qatari armored rect Support Command and the Kibrit lo- north of the border. Two subsequent raids
battalion, was responsible for al-Khai gistics base, would quickly call for occurred on the nights of 26 January and
and the surrounding desert. e 2d Saudi armored forces to establish positions 28 January. e 26 January raid was near
Arabian National Guard Brigade’s 5th north of the base. ere is little indica- the “elbow” at al-Jathathil, while the third
Battalion established a screen north of al- tion, however, that the Iraqis were ever was again from just north of al-Khai. Al-
Khai and west of the coastal highway, aware of the base, or its importance to fu- though Iraqi counter-battery fire was in-
behind Observation Post 7. Tariq Task ture Marine operations in the region.39 effective, there was a vehicular accident
Force, comprised of the nascent Saudi Colonel Admire, responsible for the during the 26 January raid that resulted in
Arabian Marines as well as a battalion of defense of al-Mishab, was unconvinced the death of three Marines.
Moroccan infantry, was along the coast that Saudi forces between the Marines e raids served multiple purposes.
south of al-Khai. Further west was Oth- and the Iraqis would fight if attacked. In First, they were aimed at specific Iraqi ar-
man Task Force, built around the 8th January, he began to run reconnaissance tillery forces; second they were designed
Mechanized Ministry of Defense and Avi- training missions into the town of al- to confuse and bewilder the Iraqis by
ation Brigade. A battalion of the 8th Khai. Teams from the 3d Platoon, Com- making the ultimate Marine breaching
Brigade served as a screening force be- pany A, 3d Reconnaissance Battalion, points unclear; and third they permitted
hind Observation Posts 2 and 7. In addi- then attached to Task Force Taro, would Marine air to strike against the Iraqi ar-
tion, further west in Joint Forces infiltrate the city by vehicle, usually tillery, considered Iraq’s most dangerous
Command-East’s area of operation was humvees, establish an observation post, conventional asset, which inevitably
Omar Task Force, built around the 10th and then leave a day or so later. Unfortu- replied with counter-battery fire.
Mechanized Ministry of Defense and Avi- nately, these missions were not coordi- Each raid followed the same basic pat-
nated with the Coalition forces in tern. A Marine artillery battery would ad-
* The 1st Marine Division’s 1st Light Armored In- al-Khai. is would have a dramatic im- vance to the border and fire a carefully
fantry Battalion was actually a composite organiza-
pact during the Iraqi invasion, as Captain planned barrage. As soon as the shells
tion with companies from three separate light
armored infantry battalions. To encourage a sense Molofsky later noted: “I was unaware, [1st cleared the barrels, they would “limber”
of identity in the ad hoc battalion, it was designated ANGLICO’s Captain James R.] Braden the artillery pieces and drive away. Within
Task Force Shepherd. was unaware, and the Saudis were un- minutes, the firing location would be

0 The Battle of al-Khafji


History Division Photo
Marines of Task Force Shepherd plan their next operation. In addition to screening duties, the light armored infantry battalions also
provided security for the Marine batteries conducting artillery raids on Iraqi forces in Kuwait.

empty desert. When Iraqi artillery at- where he met with two of his senior Iraqi Iraqi willpower, despite Iran’s advantages
tempted counter-battery fire, it would fall officers in Kuwait, General Aeeid Khlel in personnel and material. en he dis-
on the abandoned position, and waiting Zaky, commander of IV Corps, and Gen- cussed the Coalition air campaign against
Marine air would pounce on the revealed eral Salah Aboud Mahmoud commander “our factories, cities, and roads.” e air
Iraqi artillery and destroy it. of III Corps. Among others at the meeting attacks had already lasted two weeks, he
e composition of the raid forces fol- was the Minister of Defense, the chief of explained, because the Coalition did not
lowed a pattern as well. e ground ele- staff, their deputies, other members of the have as much willpower as the Iranians
ment consisted of a battery of artillery general staff, and Colonel Aboud Haneed and was afraid to fight a ground war
with a small security force and a company Mahoud, commander of Saddam’s body- against Iraq.45
of light armored vehicles from one of the guard.43 He then told his officers that by inflict-
light armored infantry battalions. e 3d Al-Basrah’s infrastructure was in ruins: ing casualties on the Coalition they would
Marine Aircra Wing provided an avia- “It was apparent on the road, which had win the war, and save the lives of thou-
tion element: usually an OV-10 aircra big holes from the bombs and some de- sands of Iraqi citizens. Waiting was not to
acting as an airborne forward air con- stroyed military vehicles on the both side Iraq’s advantage, they must do something
troller, a McDonnell Douglas F/A-18D of the road,” General Salah Aboud re- now, implying that Iraq could not survive
Hornet and two Grumman A-6E Intrud- membered. “In al-Basrah region all the the continuous air bombardment. He
ers to strike the enemy artillery sites, an damage was clear and we noticed it on the concluded with an old Iraqi proverb: “In
F/A-18D and two McDonnell Douglas bridge, railroads, on the roads, on the fa- order to be ready to fight the fox, you
F/A-18 Hornets to suppress enemy air de- cilities…. And the streets were very dark, must prepare to fight the lion.”46
fenses, an F/A-18D as a forward air con- compared to before the war, when they General Salah Aboud Mahmoud,
troller, and a Grumman EA-6B Prowler were glowing.” At the military headquar- given command of the al-Khafji mission,
to provide electronic counter-measures ters there was no power and small candles informed Saddam that he would present
support.42 * dimly lit the rooms. General Salah did not him with the city as a present on the
realize that he was to meet Saddam until morning of 30 January.47 The meeting
27-28 January he “saw the faces of the special guards.”44 then broke up and the Iraqi president re-
Despite the danger of Coalition air at- At the meeting, the Iraqi president pre- turned to Baghdad, surviving an attack by
tacks, Saddam Hussein journeyed from sented the plan for the attack on al-Khai two U.S. Air Force General Dynamics F-
Baghdad to the southern Iraqi city of al- and then gave his officers some words of 16 Falcons. The Air Force did not realize
Basrah on the morning of 27 January, inspiration. As General Hashem Sultan they had hit Saddam’s convoy until after
*The F/A-18D was a two seat version of the F/A-18. later recalled, Saddam began by discussing the war.48
It was often used to perform coordination duties or Iraqi military successes in the Iran-Iraq General Salah Aboud returned to
to act as an airborne forward air controller. War. He said that success had come from Kuwait and met with his division and

The Battle of al-Khafji 


Ministry of Defense, United Kingdom, 1991, Modified by W. Stephen Hill

brigade commanders at the 5th Mecha- move into position for the upcoming bat- tion for the upcoming offensive.50
nized Division’s headquarters, then at the tle.49 All three of the observation posts
oil facility of al-Maqoa. He instructed his Warnings manned by air-naval gunfire liaison
commanders in tactics for countering Marines (Observation Posts 2, 7, and 8)
Coalition airpower and ordered them to e Coalition did have some indica- reported unusually heavy Iraqi activity on
dig in quickly after reaching their objec- tions that the Iraqis were planning some- the nights of 27 and 28 January. In addi-
tives. He then passed on Saddam’s inspi- thing. One of the E-8C Joint Surveillance tion, the Marines reported “sporadic Iraqi
rational words and told them of his and Target Acquisition Radar System air- rocket and artillery fires were directed at
promise to make Saddam a present of al- cra reported large Iraqi vehicle move- the city of al-Khai, the forward Saudi de-
Khafji on the morning of 30 January. Fi- ments on the night of 22 January, and fensive belt, and the border observation
nally, he approved IV Corps’ request for again on 25 January. ese were only pre- posts, oen with illumination rounds
artillery fire against the sector opposite liminary Iraqi movements, but it also mixed in.”51 On the night of 27 January,
the 7th Infantry and 14th Infantry Divi- noted the Iraqi movement on the night of Marines at Observation Post 7 called in a
sions. The Iraqi forces then began to 28 January, which was the direct prepara- strike on Iraqi “mechanized reconnais-

 The Battle of al-Khafji


sance forces” moving in front of their po- One Coalition officer who realized, at eral Salah Aboud inspected the assembly
sition, reporting two Iraqi armored per- the time, that the Iraqis were preparing areas of the 5th Mechanized Division, and
sonnel carriers destroyed.52 Some Marine for an offensive was Lieutenant Colonel found fewer vehicles moving than he ex-
officers considered the Iraqi movements Richard M. Barry, commander of the for- pected, many being broken down along-
to be a response to the Marine artillery ward headquarters of the 1st Surveillance, side the road. He also found that the
raids which had taken place on 21 and 26 Reconnaissance, and Intelligence Group. division’s deception operations were
January.53 He closely monitored Iraqi radio traffic working well and he saw no sign that
On the night of 28 January the re- during the airstrikes on 28 January and Coalition forces knew of its movements.
ported Iraqi mechanized movements co- decided that “the Iraqis put probably 150 He believed this was because “the order
incided with another Marine artillery sappers out there to try and clear that was given to take cover under the smoke
raid. e teams at the desalination plant road. [I] sensed they really wanted it clouds of the burning oil, and also the
north of al-Khai, and at Observation opened. ey were obviously using that tanks, the armored personnel carriers,
Post 8, each called for airstrikes on Iraqi road as some sort of interior line like at and the support weapons’ vehicles were
forces they observed, but the artillery raid Gettysburg.”57 e information was all deployed under the trees of al-al
just to the west had the priority for air passed on to higher headquarters. Lieu- and were hard to see.”60
support.54 By 0315 on the 29th, the ar- tenant Colonel Barry was right; the air at- ings were going worse with the 3d
tillery raid had concluded and air support tacks against the 3d Armored Division as it Armored Division, especially with the di-
was again available to the observation tried to pass through the Iraqi minefields vision’s 6th Armored Brigade commanded
post teams. At Observation Post 7, the of al-Wafrah paralyzed much of the divi- by Colonel Ibdil Raziq Mahmoud. e
air-naval gunfire supporting arms liaison sion and General Salah Aboud spent brigade had been pounded by Coalition
team under Captain John C. Bley II called much of 29 January trying to fix the aircra the night before and it had lost at
a flight of Fairchild-Republic A-10 un- scheduling problems these attacks least two tanks.
derbolt attack aircra in on a column of caused.58 When the division’s attacks fi- “On the morning of 29 January, the
Iraqi armored vehicles moving west nally did fall on Observation Post 4 and enemy started screaming and shouting
across its front toward the al-Wafrah oil Observation Post 1, they would be far aer we completed deploying our forces
field. e Iraqi column suffered heavy weaker as a result. in the desert area; although the enemy
damage; Bley’s team reported nearly a Despite Lieutenant Colonel Barry’s had their reconnaissance technologies
dozen vehicles destroyed. e team ob- warning that “this is it …the Iraqis want they were not able to notice our forces,”
served Iraqi soldiers trying to recover ve- Khai,” Central Command thought the recalled Brigadier General Hussan Zedin
hicles at sunrise.55 e team at possibility of an Iraqi ground attack re- commander of the 3d Armored Division.
Observation Post 2 also observed a large mote as attention was focused on the air He added: “[Coalition aircra] started to
Iraqi force moving from east to west, campaign and the expected ground of- attack our troops during the daylight, in
which Coalition air power engaged. All fensive to liberate Kuwait.59 their concealed locations. ey tried to
three observation posts heard the move- affect our morale and cause damage in
ment of the Iraqi vehicles for the rest of 29 January order to make us too weak to execute the
the night.56 On the morning of 29 January, Gen- mission.” 61

The Marines of 2d Platoon, Company A, 1st Reconnaissance Battalion, would spend much of their time in the desert at Observation
Post 4. Here they pose around an Iraqi T-55 tank captured on the morning of 30 January 1991.
Photo courtesy of MGySgt Gregory L. Gillispie

The Battle of al-Khafji 


e air attacks led General Salah
Aboud to conclude that the Coalition had
discovered his brigade, and he expected
it would face stiff resistance at its objec-
tives. He told the 3d Armored Division
commander, Brigadier Commander Hus-
san Zedin, that the 6th Armored Brigade
could expect to face “tanks, anti-tank
weapons, and armored cars.” He ordered
the brigade to employ “a reconnaissance
assault a suitable distance ahead of the
main convoy to get information about the
strength of the resistance of the enemy.”62
General Salah Aboud was wrong,
however. Aside from Lieutenant Colonel
Barry at 1st Surveillance, Reconnaissance,
and Intelligence Group, the Coalition was
not expecting an Iraqi attack, missing
much of the Iraqi movement and inter-
preting the movement that it did observe
as either training exercises or reactions to Marine Corps Art Collection
the Marine artillery raids. On the morn- The Saudi border fort at Observation Post 4 was known as “OP Hamma” to some
ing of 29 January, the Iraqi III Corps and Marines. The painting by Capt Charles G. Grow depicts the oil fields at al-Wafrah on fire
IV Corps had moved to their assembly following a Coalition bombing raid on 24 January 1991.
areas successfully. Coalition air power
had already inflicted significant losses, the team captured the Iraqis, the enemy to Saudi Arabia in September 1990. With
but those losses had resulted from routine fired a single tank shell at the position, its parent battalion remaining on Oki-
strikes in Kuwait and chance attacks causing no damage.63 nawa, the platoon was absorbed into 1st
against Iraqi forces caught moving in the Along the coastal highway there were Reconnaissance Battalion.67
open. e bulk of the Coalition’s air effort also indications of increased Iraqi activ- Nearly two weeks before, the platoon,
remained focused elsewhere. ity. At Observation Post 7, Captain Klein- commanded by First Lieutenant Steven A.
At al-Khai, the various special oper- smith reported Iraqi artillery six to eight Ross, was assigned to Observation Post 4.
ations and reconnaissance forces occupy- kilometers in front of his position, while Working as a platoon was a welcome
ing the city were proceeding with what at Observation Post 8, Lieutenant Lang change, since it had been previously as-
had become their normal day. For the reported heavy vehicle noises.64 At 2000, signed to various observation posts in
air-naval gunfire liaison Marines, this Captain Kleinsmith directed a successful smaller groups alongside other Marine re-
meant routine relief of the forward posi- A-6 attack on the two Iraqi artillery posi- connaissance and Army special forces
tions. Captain Douglas R. Kleinsmith’s tions, eliminating at least one of the teams. Supplies were running low, how-
supporting arms liaison team relieved sites.65 ever, and the platoon was to be relieved
Captain Bley and his team at Observation on 30 January. Lieutenant Ross had dis-
Post 7 in the early morning, and Bley’s
Outposts persed his men along the berm, divided
team returned to the group headquarters Observation Post 4 was a two-story into three teams along a 500-meter front.
at the water desalination plant north of Saudi police post known as Markaz al- Armed with M16 rifles, M249 squad au-
al-Khai. Zabr. To the north, along the border ran tomatic weapons, M60 machine guns,
Less routine, but not surprising, was a large berm approximately 15 feet high. and M136 AT4 antitank weapons, the
the capture of three Iraqi soldiers by e fort protected one of the few open- Marines were not equipped to stop a
Marines at Observation Post 8. All three ings in the embankment.66 On 29 Janu- major Iraqi assault. Lieutenant Ross sta-
were in clean uniforms, and appeared to ary, Observation Post 4 was the only post tioned the platoon’s vehicles, four
be in good health, despite two weeks of this far west that was manned; it was held humvees and a 6x6 5-ton truck, behind a
Coalition airstrikes. First Lieutenant Kur- by 2d Platoon, Company A, 1st Recon- U-shaped berm approximately 500 me-
tis E. Lang, commander of the air-naval naissance Battalion, and a company of ters to the rear of the observation post. In
gunfire team at the post, thought they light armored vehicles. the event of a serious Iraqi attack, the plan
were forward observers; the Iraqis carried The reconnaissance platoon had orig- was for the platoon to withdraw to the U-
maps that detailed Iraqi and some Coali- inally been Deep Reconnaissance Platoon, shaped berm, mount up, and move to the
tion positions, including Observation Company C, 3d Reconnaissance Battal- rear while calling in airstrikes on the
Post 8. A U.S. Navy SEAL unit took ion, based on Okinawa. Comprised of Iraqis.68
charge of the prisoners and sent them to volunteers, it had shipped out to the Mid- Captain Roger L. Pollard’s Company
the rear. Approximately 30 minutes aer dle East in the initial rush to get Marines D, 3d Light Armored Infantry Battalion,

 The Battle of al-Khafji


Photo courtesy of MGySgt Gregory L. Gillispie
Maj Keith R. Kelly, Executive Officer, 1st Reconnaissance Battalion, and SSgt Gregory L. Gillispie, Platoon Sergeant, 2d Platoon, Com-
pany A, 1st Reconnaissance Battalion, pose at the southern end of their position on the berm at Observation Post 4. One of the pla-
toon’s bunkers can be seen to the right.
was attached to the 1st Light Armored In- screen for the evening. Captain Pollard AT section northwest of Observation Post
fantry Battalion, designated Task Force conducted a reconnaissance and estab- 4 at around 1500. He created his fire plan,
Shepherd. It had 19 General Dynamics lished his company and its attached LAV- used a global positioning satellite device
LAV-25 light armored vehicles divided to precisely note his unit’s location, and
into two platoons and a company head- Maj Jeffery A. Powers (left), operations of- met with Lieutenant Ross. e liaison
quarters element.* Each LAV-25 was ficer of 1st Light Armored Infantry Battal- with Lieutenant Ross would prove to be
armed with an M242 Bushmaster 25mm ion (Task Force Shepherd) and Capt Roger incomplete, as Captain Pollard did not
cannon and carried a four-man infantry L. Pollard (right), commander of Company know that 2d Platoon had its own vehi-
fire team. A section of seven General Dy- D, 3d Light Armored Infantry Battalion cles. is oversight would lead to misun-
namics LAV-AT light armored vehicles (Task Force Shepherd) examine the after- derstandings during the engagement.70
from 1st Light Armored Infantry Battal- math of the battle at Observation Post 4 on
ion’s Headquarters Company was at- the morning of 30 January 1991. Night, 29-30 January
Photo courtesy of Col Jeffrey A. Powers
tached to Pollard’s company. Each At the Observation Posts
LAV-AT was equipped with an Emerson
901A1 TOW 2 [Tube launched, optically e first serious ground combat in the
tracked, wire command link guided] anti- Battle of al-Khai occurred at Observa-
tank guided missile launcher, a thermal tion Post 4. e 6th Armored Brigade of
imaging system, and was manned by a the 3d Armored Division was assigned to
crew of four. ey were the company’s strike through the gap in the berm, draw-
primary antitank asset.69 ing attention away from the movement of
At 1200, Company D was ordered to the 5th Mechanized Division to the east.
move to Observation Post 4 and act as a As General Salah Aboud later recalled:
“e 6th Armored Brigade was ordered to
*Standard light armored infantry company organi- move forward from the heights above the
zation was three platoons and a headquarters ele- al-Zabr [Observation Post 4] and they
ment, but Company D had only four assigned crossed the line at the eight o’clock at
officers. To compensate for the lack of officers, Cap- night. And at nine o’clock and thirty min-
tain Pollard organized the company into two pla-
toons and trained the company to operate as two utes they encountered enemy resistance
elements. at al-Zabr, in Saudi Arabia.” 71

The Battle of al-Khafji 5


Ministry of Defense, United Kingdom, 1991, Modified by W. Stephen Hill
At 2000, Lieutenant Ross heard the contact and informed Company D that a with their light antitank weapons. How-
clank of treads, then observed Iraqi ar- large mass of Iraqi vehicles, tanks, and ar- ever, the fire startled the oncoming Iraqis,
mored vehicles advancing through his mored personnel carriers, were advanc- who slowed or stopped as they heard the
night-vision device; it was a sizeable force. ing on Observation Post 4. Captain “ping” of machine gun fire on their tank
He attempted to contact his outlying Pollard informed Task Force Shepherd hulls. In response to the reconnaissance
teams as well as Company D and the re- and prepared his company to face the platoon’s fire, the Iraqis began to fire back.
connaissance battalion headquarters by threat.73 eir fire was random and inaccurate, but
radio but got no response. Since contact At the observation post, there ap- the volume was impressive. At the same
earlier was no problem, there was a strong peared to be some confusion within Ross’ time, Iraqi communications jamming ap-
presumption that the reconnaissance pla- platoon. Rather than simply retreating to peared to have stopped and Lieutenant
toon’s radios were being jammed. Using the U-shaped berm as planned, one of the Ross was able to re-establish radio contact
runners, Lieutenant Ross alerted his pla- teams opened fire on the oncoming Iraqi with all three of his teams. He promptly
toon and continued trying to get through armor with machine guns and antitank ordered everyone to fall back to the U-
and inform higher headquarters and weapons. At the ranges involved, there shaped berm as previously arranged.74
Company D of the oncoming Iraqi was very little chance that the Marines To cover the reconnaissance platoon’s
force.72 Finally, at 2030, he made radio would do any damage to an Iraqi vehicles withdrawal, Captain Pollard led his 2d

6 The Battle of al-Khafji


Photo courtesy of LtCol Charles H. Cureton
During the fight at Observation Post 4, LAV-AT “Green Two” was struck in the rear by an antitank missile fired by one of its fellows,
causing the armored vehicle’s magazine of 16 missiles to detonate with catastrophic results. Four Marines were lost with the vehicle:
Cpl Ismael Cotto, PFC Scott A. Schroeder, LCpl David T. Snyder, and LCpl Daniel B. Walker.
Platoon’s light armored vehicles forward, its fellows, a few hundred yards to its fire and others not certain the vehicle had
along with half of the LAV-ATs. e plan front.75 actually been destroyed. e explosion
was for 2d Platoon to advance in line to e missile penetrated the rear hatch obliterated it so completely that there was
aid the reconnaissance platoon, while the of the armored vehicle and detonated the not enough wreckage le to register on
LAV-ATs conducted a “bounding over- 16 missiles stored in the rear compart- night vision devices. e crew did not re-
watch.” e LAV-AT had to stop when ment, completely destroying it in a huge spond to radio calls, but it was common
they fired. In order to provide cover for fireball and killing its crew.76 “It came for a radio to cease working. e fate of
the advancing LAV-ATs and LAV-25s, through the bottom, right, troop hatch on the LAV-AT would not be confirmed
half of the LAV-ATs would stop, ready to this one,” Lieutenant David Kendall of until the next morning.78
fire, while the others advanced a short Company D later said. It “hit all the other Captain Pollard and his 2d Platoon
way. e second group would then stop missiles, I guess, and it was all a sponta- continued forward, leaving the LAV-ATs
and cover the first group as they ad- neous detonation. ere were no sec- behind. He was finally informed that
vanced, and so on. During the advance, ondary explosions. Nothing. is whole Ross’ platoon had sufficient vehicles to
aer receiving permission, one of the thing just went up.”77 withdraw. Pollard’s platoon halted and
LAV-ATs fired its antitank missile on ere was confusion at this point, with began firing on the Iraqi vehicles with
what it believed to be an Iraqi tank. In- some Company D Marines believing the their 25mm guns. e reconnaissance
stead, the missile hit “Green Two,” one of vehicle had been destroyed by Iraqi tank platoon had observed the incident and
Two LAV-ATs from 1st Light Armored Infantry Battalion drive across the Saudi desert. The LAV-AT provided the heavy fire power of
the battalion with its antitank missiles.
History Division Photo

The Battle of al-Khafji 7


DVIC DF-ST-92-07825
An Air Force A-10A Thunderbolt patrols over the desert during the Gulf War. The aircraft carried AGM 65 Maverick air-to-ground
missiles and was one of the primary providers of close air support during the Battle of al-Khafji.
Lieutenant Ross was convinced that though the fire had little hope of damag- now under control as Coalition air sup-
Company D would soon fire on his troops ing the Iraqi vehicles at the ranges in- port arrived in large numbers. “At that
by mistake as well. He ordered the pla- volved, it served to disorient the Iraqi point, everything was going pretty well.”
toon to mount its vehicles and withdraw tanks, which stopped and buttoned up as Lieutenant Kendall later noted, “We
from the battlefield. the rounds ricocheted off their armor. started getting the air in. It was hitting
Aer Ross’ platoon had completed its e fire was also useful for marking Iraqi the tanks down there, and we were just
withdrawal, Company D’s 1st Platoon vehicles for incoming aircra. e com- marking for the air by firing our main
shied south of the 2nd Platoon in order pany’s executive officer, First Lieutenant guns at the tanks and they were following
to support 2d Platoon’s fire against the Scott P. Williams, and Corporal Russell T. the tracer rounds to them and hitting
Iraqi forces advancing on the now-aban- Zawalick, acted as forward air controllers them with the air.”80 Hearing reports of
doned observation post. Pollard’s com- for a series of air strikes against the Iraqi some Iraqi tanks attempting to cross the
pany then backed away from the border forces, using this method of marking the berm further south, Captain Pollard
but continued to engage the Iraqi armor enemy.79 withdrew the company approximately
with missile and 25mm cannon fire. Al- e battle at the observation post was 5,000 meters from the observation post.
A section of Air Force A-10 under-
An American flag flies from the burnt hulk of “Red Two,” which was destroyed by a mal- bolts then arrived over the battlefield.
functioning air-to-surface antitank missile during the fight at Observation Post 4. Seven Corporal Zawalick was controlling air
Marines were lost with the vehicle: LCpl Frank C. Allen, Cpl Stephen E. Bentzlin, LCpl support with live ammunition for the first
Thomas A. Jenkins, LCpl Michael E. Linderman, Jr., LCpl James H. Lumpkins, Sgt Garett time, but under Lieutenant Williams’
A. Mongrella, and LCpl Dion J. Stephenson. guidance, he directed the incoming air-
Photo courtesy of Sgt Mark S. McDonnell
cra to their targets. But the A-10s were
finding it difficult to identify the Iraqis.
Aer two failed attempts, a underbolt
dropped a flare, which landed next to
“Red Two,” one of the company’s LAV-
25s. Corporal Zawalick informed the A-
10 the flare had marked a friendly
position, and directed him toward the
enemy from the flare. Meanwhile, a rifle-
man jumped from “Red Two” to bury the
flare, but as he did so the A-10 fired an
AGM 65 Maverick air-to-ground missile
which struck the LAV-25, destroying it
and killing all of the crew that remained
inside save the driver, who was ejected
from the vehicle.81 e investigation con-

8 The Battle of al-Khafji


Map by W. Stephen Hill

ducted by I Marine Expeditionary Force its own air support and another was miss- and to move towards the brigade target
aer the battle determined that the most ing. With massive amounts of air support without stopping. [e] 6th Armored
likely cause of the incident was a mal- moving to the border, and other compa- Brigade moved deep into Saudi Arabia
function by the Maverick missile.82 nies ready and able to move into contact, and the small resisting force was rolled
Again there was confusion as Pollard Lieutenant Colonel Myers ordered Com- over and the brigade caused a large
tried to determine if “Red Two” had been pany D to withdraw to the west and link amount of damage.” 87 ere is no evi-
destroyed by friendly or enemy fire. up with Task Force Shepherd’s Company dence that the flanking movement Gen-
“at’s the first time, the first time I got A, commanded by Captain Michael A. eral Salah described penetrated more
scared,” he later remembered. “I didn’t Shupp. Company D accomplished the than a few hundred meters into Saudi
know what had happened. I didn’t know maneuver shortly aer midnight on the Arabia, and the 3d Armored Division’s
where the bad guys were.”83 ere was 30th. e remaining six LAV-ATs were commander did not mention it. “Al-
some worry that the Iraqis had penetrated transferred to Company A, and Company though, our troops continued by moving
the berm and succeeded in out-flanking D was reorganized and resupplied behind towards the targets, we faced a very
the company. As a result, Pollard reor- Shupp’s company, which moved forward strong ground resistance at al-Zabr sup-
ganized the company into a screen line to screen Observation Post 4.86 ported by the Air Force and helicopters
and pulled it back slowly.84 e Iraqi perspective on the battle’s from the enemy.” As Brigadier General
“e Marines, of that company, as the outcome at the observation post differed Hussan Zedin reported: “At 8 o ’clock on
whole battalion, were calm,” said the considerably from the American view. 29 January, we executed our duty and we
commander of Task Force Shepherd, “Now this small [enemy] force consisted stayed in the area until the forces of Mo-
Lieutenant Colonel Clifford O. Myers III. of armored vehicles equipped with a large hammad Al Qasim completed their duty
“All of my conversations with Captain number of the antitank weapons and the and mission to occupy al-Khai.”88 *
Pollard… were extremely calm and in brigade informed us they had destroyed Whether or not it had entered into
total control. Even aer the Maverick hit a number of tanks, stopping the brigade Saudi Arabia, the 6th Armored Brigade
‘em.”85 convoy,” General Salah Aboud remem- had accomplished its primary mission.
Despite the calm demeanor that Lieu- bered. “So, I ordered those fighting the
tenant Colonel Myers observed, Pollard’s enemy, to stop the enemy forces and let * “Mohammad Al Qasim” was the honorific name
company had lost one vehicle to fire from the brigade pass this resistance to the east, for the 5th Mechanized Division.

The Battle of al-Khafji 


100 BMPs [armored personnel carri-
ers]…moving south with arty.”* e com-
pany called in air, reporting that AV-8s
and A-10s engaged the Iraqi forces.90 e
company then observed a 29-vehicle col-
umn of Iraqi armor arriving at the berm.
At 2320, Corporal Edmund W. Willis III
knocked out one of the Iraqi T-62 tanks
with an antitank missile.91
Greene’s company continued to act as
forward air controllers for strikes on the
Iraqi forces moving across the berm
throughout the evening. It received a sig-
nificant amount of air power: five A-6s,
Photo courtesy of MGySgt Gregory L. Gillispie two F-16s, two A-10s, and eight AV-8s,
The remains of two of the 6th Armored Brigade’s T-62 tanks, destroyed on the night of and reported 11 destroyed vehicles. Cor-
29 January 1991, lie abandoned on the sand in front of Observation Post 4. The Iraqis poral Willis fired another missile at 0157,
suffered severe materiel and equipment losses during the four-day Battle of al-Khafji. hitting the same T-62 as the Iraqis at-
tempted to move it to the rear.92 At
“All the airplanes of the enemy were over of an Iraqi armored brigade in its tracks.
around the same time, the Iraqis halted
the brigade convoy and attacking the e two units suffered 11 casualties, none
their attack and retreated back into
area,” as General Salah explained. “e of which was from enemy fire. e
Kuwait.93
brigade had succeeded in capturing com- Marines at Observation Post 4 had not
Further north, Company C, 1st Light
pletely the attention of the enemy. And experienced combat before the attack on
Armored Infantry Battalion established a
the enemy didn’t observe any movement 29 January.
screen between Observation Post 6 and
of our troops to occupy al-Khai so at While the fight at Observation Post 4
Observation Post 5. Commanded by
midnight, I instructed the 3d Armored was taking place, a brigade of the 5th
Captain omas R. Protzeller, it had a
Division to order the 6th Armored Mechanized Division attempted to cross
section of LAV-ATs attached, similar to
Brigade to go back towards Al Wahfra into Saudi Arabia through the berm near
Pollard’s company at Observation Post 4.
and their original positions.”89 Observation Post 1, then screened by
But unlike Company D, it had a section
Supported by air, the Marines of a light Company A, 2d Light Armored Infantry
of General Dynamics LAV-Ms (a light ar-
armored vehicle company and a recon- Battalion, commanded by Captain Den-
mored vehicle variant armed with an
naissance platoon had stopped the attack nis M. Greene. At 2115, it observed “60-
M252 81mm mortar) attached. Origi-
nally, Protzeller’s company screen line
A Marine LAV-AT is positioned behind the sand berm that separated Saudi Arabia from centered on Observation Post 5, but early
Kuwait. Built to control the wanderings of nomadic Bedouin tribesmen, the berm of- on the evening of 29 January, the com-
fered a convenient demarcation of the border between Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. Ob- pany had fired its mortars at suspected
servation Post 5 can be seen in the background. Iraqi forward observers. As a result,
Photo courtesy of Cpl Kenneth J. Lieuwen
Major Jeffrey A. Powers, Task Force Shep-
herd’s operations officer, ordered the
company to withdraw from the berm in
order to forestall any retaliatory Iraqi ar-
tillery fire.94
Protzeller’s company observed the
* Most sources confuse Observation Post 1 and Ob-
servation Post 2, but according to both the 2d Light
Armored Infantry Battalion’s command chronology,
and the 1st ANGLICO’s after action report, Obser-
vation Post 1 was in 2d Light Armored Infantry Bat-
talion’s area of operations and Observation Post 2
was in the Joint Forces Command-East area of op-
erations. Most likely, this confusion resulted from
the use of two conflicting methods of numbering
the border observation posts. Originally, U.S. Army
Special Forces teams numbered the observation
posts as they occupied them, in chronological se-
quence rather than geographic sequence. The
Marines later attempted to regularize the observa-
tion post designations, but the new system did not
stick and only served to confuse the issue.

0 The Battle of al-Khafji


Photo courtesy of Cpl Kenneth J. Lieuwen
Iraqi prisoners of war huddle near a fire to keep warm, while Marines of Task Force Shepherd examine the prisoner’s weapons, an AK-
74, RPK-74, two pistols, and two grenades. Although some prisoners were captured by Marine and Saudi forces during the Battle of
al-Khafji, they did not surrender in the vast numbers taken during the later advance into Kuwait.

fighting taking place to the south around both ended early on the morning on 30 W. Landersman and his air-naval gunfire
Observation Post 4, but did not take part January, but the enemy made one last team heard a large number of vehicle
in the fight until around 2230 when it was gasp at Observation Post 4 just aer the noises approaching their position. Keenly
ordered to occupy Observation Post 5 as sun rose at 0720. ere Task Force Shep- aware of the fight at Observation Post 4 to
a blocking force. Shortly thereaer, the herd’s Company A, under Captain Shupp, their west, they requested air support but
company was informed that approxi- called in airstrikes from Air Force A-10s abandoned the outpost before the air sup-
mately 70 enemy vehicles were moving and Marine Corps F/A-18s. e air at- port could be diverted from the fight at
toward Observation Post 6, and it was or- tack smashed this final Iraqi advance at the western observation post.98 Mean-
dered to block that position. Traveling the outpost. 96 while, Iraqi artillery began firing on Cap-
along the berm, Protzeller’s company ad- At dawn, Company A established a tain Kleinsmith and his team at
vanced north cautiously; each platoon screen on the berm while Company D re- Observation Post 7, as well as south along
took turns covering the other. As it ad- covered its dead and secured Iraqi pris- the coast road. e two teams reported
vanced the company fired antitank mis- oners. e morning light revealed fully that the artillery fire was a combination of
siles at a group of Iraqi vehicles it spotted the destruction caused in the previous illumination and high explosive rounds.99
on the Saudi side of the berm. Once the evenings fight. Pollard’s company and its As Captain Kleinsmith’s team was
company reached Observation Post 6, attached LAV-AT section had lost 11 being shelled by the Iraqis, a mechanized
around 0100, it settled in and called Marines and two vehicles in the five hour Iraqi force attacked Observation Post 8
airstrikes on the Iraqi infantry, who had battle at Observation Post 4, but de- and Lieutenant Lang’s team with “intense
occupied the post and on their vehicles stroyed approximately 22 Iraqi tanks and direct machine gun, recoilless rifle, and
that had retreated back to the Kuwaiti side armored personnel carriers and killed tank main gun fire.”100 ree different
of the berm. In the morning, many of the scores of Iraqi soldiers. When the recov- groups were stationed at Observation
demoralized Iraqi soldiers surrendered ery effort was complete, Company A Post 8: Lang’s fire control team team; a
with little fuss, others having apparently withdrew and Company D reestablished U.S. Navy SEAL detachment; and a team
withdrawn.95 its position at Observation Post 4, which from 3d Force Reconnaissance Company.
e 2d Light Armored Infantry Battal- it was to hold for another 10 days.97 “Aer numerous illumination rounds,
ion’s fight at Observation Post 1, and pop-up flares, and mortar rounds Fire
Company C, 1st Light Armored Infantry
Assault on al-Khai Control Team 9 [FCT], south of OP-8,
Battalion’s fight at Observation Post 6 At Observation Post 2, Captain David was overrun by APCs [armored person-

The Battle of al-Khafji 


nel carriers] with the SEALs from OP-8 without offering any resistance. Two bat- Barry’s group headed south to al-Mishab,
retreating just in front of the enemy talions from the 8th and 10th Saudi Ara- while Lieutenant Lang’s team rejoined
APCs.” 101 Despite the heavy fire, all three bian National Guard Brigades, screening other 1st ANGLICO teams with the
teams managed to evade the Iraqi assault further inland, executed similar move- Qatari brigade.107
and fell back without suffering casualties. ments.104 Unopposed by ground forces, Stationed on the east side of al-Khai,
e SEAL and reconnaissance teams the Iraqi 15th Mechanized Brigade drove near the beach, was a unit of Saudi
pulled back to al-Mishab, and Lieutenant south into al-Khai, although it was Marines. Designed to emulate U.S.
Lang’s team joined 1st Surveillance, Re- struck by an Air Force Lockheed AC-130 Marines, this newly formed Saudi force
connaissance, and Intelligence Group at Spectre gunship and Marine AH-1W lacked equipment and their American
the desalination plant. 102 Super Cobras.105 Marine advisors who had not yet joined
ree Saudi battalions had formed a “As the APCs overran the forward po- them. As Captain Molofsky later ex-
screen along the Kuwaiti border in Joint sition tank main gun and mortar rounds plained, they were “camped out—basi-
Forces Command-East’s area of opera- began impacting in the area of the de- cally functioning at very low ebb.”108Joint
tions. eir orders, according to General salinization plant that SALT 5 [Support- Forces Command-East ordered the unit
Khaled, were clear: “to observe the move- ing Arms Liaison Team 5] and SRIG to withdraw just aer midnight to al-
ment of Iraqi troops and report the ap- [Surveillance, Reconnaissance, and Intel- Mishab and they took no further part in
proach of hostile columns. ey were not ligence Group] forward occupied,” Cap- the battle.109
to engage the enemy or risk being taken tain James R. Braden of 1st ANGLICO At this point in the battle, some bitter-
prisoner. I did not want to give Saddam a explained. “SRIG [Surveillance, Recon- ness arose on the part of the Saudis con-
propaganda victory. If the Iraqis crossed naissance, and Intelligence Group] for- cerning the amount of air support being
the border, they were to rejoin our main ward ordered all teams in the city to pull allocated to Joint Forces Command-East
force further south.”103 out and head for the ‘safehouse’ in al- forces. In the face of the Iraqi advance,
e 5th Mechanized Battalion of the Khai. A hasty meeting was held just Major General Sultan “repeatedly called
2d Saudi Arabian National Guard south of the desalinization plant between on the U.S. Marine Corps for air strikes
Brigade, commanded by Lieutenant FCT 9 [Fire Control Team 9] and SALT 5 to stop them.” As General Khaled later re-
Colonel Naif, had responsibility for the [Supporting Arms Liaison Team 5] to counted: “He was in close touch with the
coast road and the surrounding area. e conduct a head count and confirm the Marines because they shared a sector.
road itself was not covered; the vehicle as- rendezvous at the safehouse in the south- ey had trained together and an Amer-
signed to it was repositioned closer to the ern part of the city of Khai.”106 ican liaison officer was attached to his
rest of the unit, and the battalion was not Lieutenant Colonel Barry’s group and headquarters. But in spite of his pleas, no
in communication with the various Lieutenant Lang’s team withdrew from air strikes had taken place. Coalition air-
American forces stationed in al-Khai the desalination plant to the southern cra had not moved.”110 e resentment
and the border observation posts. As the outskirts of al-Khai and established an can be attributed in part to poor commu-
battalion advanced down the coast road, observation post in a water tower, but the nications. Shortly aer midnight, Major
it came under enemy artillery fire, and advancing 15th Mechanized Brigade General Sultan had called for airstrikes
pulled back before the Iraqi advance forced the units to withdraw again. against the 15th Mechanized Brigade as it

During exercises prior to the beginning of the war, Marines rush to load antitank missiles onto an AH-1W Cobra of HMLA 369. The
Cobras provided extensive close air support during the Battle of al-Khafji, both at the observation post battles and in the town proper.
History Division Photo

 The Battle of al-Khafji


drove south to al-Khai. He claimed Much of the Marine air support for al- open hole like a tiddlywinks,” Captain
“that there had been no air attack,” when Khai fell on the Cobras of Marine Light Hammond later recalled.118
in fact an attack had taken place against Attack Helicopter Squadron 369, com- A little aer noon on the 29th, the
the Iraqi column.111 But primarily the manded by Lieutenant Colonel Michael Iraqis also dispatched 15 fast patrol boats
Saudi impatience arose from differing M. Kurth, and Marine Light Attack Heli- from Ras al-Qulayah, as a U.S. Marine
priorities. e Americans viewed the copter Squadron 367, commanded by raiding force was taking Maradim Island.
Iraqi occupation of al-Khai as a minor Lieutenant Colonel Terry J. Frerker.115 Be- Apparently intending to land comman-
inconvenience that would soon be recti- cause the arrangement with Joint Forces dos at al-Khai in support of 5th Mecha-
fied, but for the Saudi kingdom it was an Air Component Command le Marine nized Division, the Iraqi boats were
assault on their own sacred soil. helicopters totally in support of the Ma- intercepted by Royal Air Force SEPECAT
Saudi impatience could explain the rine air-ground task force, the Cobras GR-1A Jaguar aircra and Royal Navy
perception of lack of air support, as well were able to respond rapidly to the Iraqi Westland HMA.8 Lynx helicopters from
as inexperience in modern air-ground co- offensive. Eight AH-1W Cobras re- HMS Brazen, Cardiff, and Gloucester.
operation that the battle required. How- sponded to initial calls from the air-naval Other Coalition aircra then continued
ever, the Marines working alongside Joint gunfire liaison Marines, ensuring that the the attack, destroying or severely damag-
Forces Command-East also supported Iraqi advance into al-Khai was not un- ing all of the Iraqi boats and landing
the Saudi belief. As Captain Braden later opposed. Not long aer 0100 on the 30th, forces.119
wrote: “Little air support was available to a flight of four Cobras from Kurth’s At Observation Post 7, Captain Klein-
the [Joint Forces Command-East] forces squadron, led by Major Michael L. Steele, smith continued to call for fire while
as the priority of effort was with the engaged in a gun duel with six Iraqi ar- forming a defensive perimeter with the
Marines to the west in repulsing the at- mored personnel carriers on the coast U.S. Army Special Forces and Marine 3d
tack of the Iraqi 1st Mechanized Division road, reportedly pitting the helicopters’ Force Reconnaissance teams. An OV-10
and elements of the 3d Armored Division. 20mm Gatling guns and 2.75mm rockets Bronco arrived over the battlefield and
e Marine fight had preceded the JFCE against the armored personnel carriers’ worked with Captain Kleinsmith as the
fight by a couple of hours and would re- 73mm main guns.116 airborne forward air controller. He found
main the focus of effort throughout the Two AH-1Ws from Frerker’s it difficult to control airstrikes because the
night.”112 squadron, led by Major Gary D. Shaw, location of friendly forces was unclear.
e fight at Observation Post 4 at- had an even more hair-raising experience. Looking north of the border, Captain
tracted the attention of Coalition aircra Launching from al-Mishab to provide air Kleinsmith directed Intruder and Harrier
right away. A later Air Force study found: support at Observation Post 4, they found sections in a strike against Iraqi artillery
“Marine and Air Force CAS [Close Air themselves circling and waiting for a for- positions, while a flight of Cobras circled
Support] began to arrive in front of OP-4 ward air controller to provide them with above. He thought the Cobras would pre-
by 2130 local time. By 2300, three AC-130 targets. Eager to support the Marines on vent his team from being overrun as Ob-
gunships, two F-15Es, two … F-16Cs, and the ground, they over stayed their fuel servation Post 8 had been, and he was
four A-10s had joined the battle at OP- limits and attempted to reach the logistics “trusting that their sheer intimidation
4.”113 Despite the rapid response to the base at Kibrit, only to find themselves fly- would keep the enemy away from his po-
fighting at Observation Post 4, all sources ing over an Iraqi armored column which sition.” But as the Cobras circled over-
agree that the tactical air control center fired on them. ey then attempted to di- head, the soldiers and Marines listened as
did not respond promptly to the initial vert back to al-Mishab, but their naviga- Iraqi vehicles moved in the darkness
Iraqi attacks. By most accounts, it was not tion equipment malfunctioned and they around their position.120
until Brigadier General Buster C. Glos- landed instead at the al-Khai oil refinery. Captain Kleinsmith had been kept in-
son, the director of campaign plans, en- is was a stroke of luck. ey refueled formed as the other air-naval gunfire
tered the center on a routine check of their aircra from the refinery’s supplies teams withdrew through al-Khai. When
current operations that someone thought as the Iraqis marched into the city. e the Cobras circling above his position
to wake up Lieutenant General Charles A. unidentified fuel worked well and they were forced to return to base due to low
Horner, the Joint Force Air Component were able to return to base.117 fuel, Captain Kleinsmith and the leaders
Commander. Prior to that time, although Another flight of Cobras, led by Cap- of the other two teams at Observation
the 3d Marine Aircra Wing had re- tain Randal W. Hammond, destroyed Post 7 decided there was little reason to
sponded to Marine calls for air support four T-62 tanks. When nine Iraqi soldiers remain in place. e Special Forces team
with alacrity, the tactical air control cen- waved white flags and indicated they had two escape and evasion routes
ter remained focused on the evening’s wished to surrender, they used their heli- planned: one east to the coastal highway
strikes into Iraq. Once awakened, Gen- copters to “round ‘em up like cattle” until and then south to al-Khai; the other
eral Horner realized that this was a major Marines on the ground could secure the traveling west to Observation Post 2 and
Iraqi offensive, and a wonderful opportu- prisoners. Iraqi artillery fire forced the then south across the desert. Both routes
nity to strike at Iraqi forces while they section to withdraw, but not before one appeared to be cut off by Iraqi forces, so
were on the move and vulnerable. He re- Cobra destroyed a final T-62 with a wire- Captain Kleinsmith led the teams’
focused the Coalition air effort into guided missile. e explosion caused “its humvees south, directly into the sabkhas.
Kuwait accordingly.114 turret to flip upside down and land on the He hoped the heavier Iraqi armor would

The Battle of al-Khafji 


Photo courtesy of LtCol Douglas R. Kleinsmith
Capt Douglas R. Kleinsmith poses with his air-ground liaison team. Capt Kleinsmith is on the left, and to the right are Cpl John D.
Calhoun, Cpl Steve F. Foss, and Cpl Edward E. Simons, Jr. On the night of 29-30 January 1991 Kleinsmith’s team was cut off from Coali-
tion forces by the Iraqi advance. They evaded the enemy by maneuvering through the sabkhas and returned to Coalition lines.
not follow them into the salt marsh.121 began the attack. As General Salah Aboud fending the Western flank of the 15th
e teams departed at 0230 as Iraqi ar- later observed: “e troops faced some Mechanized Brigade was complete.126
tillery fire briefly pursued them. ey suf- difficulties executing these missions. e General Salah Aboud kept his prom-
fered no casualties. Kleinsmith’s group territory of one mission faced the road, ise, delivering the city of al-Khai at 0200
remained in radio contact with the OV- which was hard for all the mechanized on the 30th as a present to Saddam Hus-
10, which was now free to call in airstrikes equipments to use, and for that reason, sein. e supporting attacks had all run
around the observation post. As it drove this mechanized brigade didn’t have an- into heavy resistance and been stopped
south it discovered “the remnants of the other choice, except to occupy their tar- with high loss of life, but al-Khai was in
SANG [Saudi Arabian National Guard] gets by walking. Still, all the troops Iraqi hands. Now the Iraqis had to decide
screening force camps, complete with reached the targets on time. And this ac- how long they needed to hold the city in
boiling tea on the fires just outside their tually deceived the enemy.”124 order to accomplish their objective of
tents.”122 At approximately 0330, Klein- In particular, the 15th Mechanized and provoking a major ground war.
smith ordered a halt, worried that the 26th Mechanized Brigades of the 5th e Iraqi Army Chief of Staff then
teams might come under friendly fire if Mechanized Division passed through Ra- contacted General Salah Aboud and
they attempted to join up with a Saudi gawa at 2000. At this point, the Iraqi ar- asked for his predictions and recommen-
unit in the darkness. ey remained deep tillery began firing flares that they could dations. e general replied that “when
in the salt marshes until daybreak.123 use to navigate through the desert. While the enemy discovers the size of my force,
moving into position they observed the he will focus his air effort on it,” but that
e Iraqi View withdrawal of Coalition forces from the “the time we have until morning will not
At 1800 on 29 January, General Salah border observation posts.125 Although the be enough to pull back from al-Khai.”
Aboud shied from his main headquar- Iraqi mechanized forces had difficulties in General Salah recommended that his
ters to his mobile headquarters so he the sabkhas, they reached their objectives troops pull back the next night, the
could better control the upcoming battle. on time. A convoy from the 22d Mecha- evening of the 30-31 January, “aer this
Despite Coalition air attacks, as night fell nized Brigade met no resistance at Saudi great victory we achieved without any
on the 29th the Iraqi offensive was pro- border stations, and its arrival along the damage.” He noted “the first night was
gressing according to plan. At 2000, the beach completed the encirclement of al- passed without any specific operations
various brigades of the 5th Mechanized, Khai. e 26th Mechanized Brigade, en- from the enemy side.”127
1st Mechanized, and 3d Armored Divi- countering no resistance, returned to its Although the Iraqis occupied al-
sions crossed their lines of departure and positions in Kuwait aer its role of de- Khai, they were not alone. e 3d

 The Battle of al-Khafji


Marines had a pair of reconnaissance affected the “ability to conduct the that we get something out to kill [the Iraqi
teams in the city on 29 January; they had counter-attack, because we’re not even force] before it gets back up into
not le with the air-naval gunfire and spe- sure where they’re at,” he said. “ey did Kuwait.”132 “I believe that my feeling,” he
cial operations forces. ey were in con- not even have restricted fire areas around said later, “was that if they’re trying that
tact with their platoon commander, them. Well, maybe they did, maybe they now, they’re going to play right into our
Captain Daniel K. Baczkowski, at 3d didn’t. But that wasn’t translated to us, so hands.… en as it became clear that they
Marines’ headquarters, who had in- that when we want to do this counter at- were trying to do something of signifi-
formed the 3d Marines commander, tack and want to prep it with artillery; we cance we began to react. I think by that
Colonel John Admire, of the teams’ loca- don’t know where the Recon teams are.”130 point the MEF staff was at the point where
tions. Colonel Admire ordered the teams The teams were not aware of these is- it could handle this kind of thing without
to remain in place.128 sues. They carefully prepared their obser- it being some huge crisis.”133
Corporal Lawrence M. Lentz com- vation posts, set out claymore mines in General Khaled had a less sanguine
manded a seven-man team comprising case the Iraqis discovered their positions, view of the invasion. e Saudis under-
Corporals Scott A. Uskoski, Scott A. Wag- and attempted to call artillery fire and stood how easily Saddam could turn even
ner, Lance Corporals Marcus C. Slavenas, airstrikes on the Iraqi forces they ob- a battlefield disaster into a propaganda
Alan L. Cooper, Jr., Jude A. Woodarek, served. They were not always successful; victory. ey simply could not accept the
and Hospital Mate Carlos Dayrit. Corpo- artillery support was sometimes refused loss of Saudi territory, even for a short
ral Charles H. Ingraham III commanded because the teams did not know where while. When he received the news of the
a six-man team consisting of Corporal Saudi or air-naval gunfire units were, and attack he “felt a great deal of anxiety.”134
Jeffery D. Brown, Lance Corporals Harold air support was still being sent primarily King Fahd ibn Abdul Aziz of Saudi Ara-
S. Boling, David S. McNamee, Patrick A. to the fight at Observation Post 4.131 bia was oen in contact. “King Fahd
Sterling, and Hospital Mate 1st Class wanted quick results, and rightly so. He
Kevin Callahan. e teams were part of 30 January wanted the enemy force expelled at once.
3d Platoon, Company A, 3d Reconnais- By the morning of the 30th, the fierce He wished to deny Saddam the chance of
sance Battalion. Company A had been at- battles of the night before had ended. It showing the world that he could invade
tached to 1st Reconnaissance Battalion became clear that the Iraqis had halted, Saudi Arabia and get away with it. He
for Operations Desert Shield and and while the fighting had been intense telephoned me a number of times, calling
Storm.129 for those at the front, for the I Marine Ex- for action.”135 Faced with such pressure
e intent of the 3d Marines’ staff was peditionary Force staff the Iraqi offensive General Khaled did not consider al-Khai
that these teams, hidden within the town, le a feeling of bemusement. At the a minor skirmish.
would provide a valuable view of the city morning briefing on the 30th, General As dawn broke in the sabkha west of al-
during a counterattack. However, in prac- Boomer observed: “Other than our losses, Khai, Captain Kleinsmith’s small caravan
tice they were a liability, as Captain Molof- I am not unhappy with last night. It pro- spotted unidentified tanks in the distance.
sky later explained. eir presence ceeded as it should…. My only concern is His men mounted up and proceeded

Cpl Charles H. Ingraham’s reconnaissance team used this building in al-Khafji throughout the battle as their observation post. Although
the team was not discovered by the Iraqis, the building was hit by fire from Iraqis and Saudis during the night engagements, as well as
shrapnel from American air and artillery strikes.
Photo courtesy of Cpl Charles H. Ingraham III

The Battle of al-Khafji 5


Ministry of Defense, United Kingdom, 1991, Modified by W. Stephen Hill

south to Saudi Arabian lines. At this First Lieutenant Kurtis E. Lang’s Fire Con- all supporting fire and allowed Colonel
point, the Special Forces and 3d Force Re- trol Team 9 were assigned to the Qatari Turki to use the Marine communications
connaissance teams departed for al- Brigade, commanded by Lieutenant net to keep track of his battalions. Fire
Mishab, while Captain Kleinsmith and his Colonel Ali Saeed. Each of the fire control Control Team 12, commanded by Captain
Marines moved to the 2d Saudi Arabian teams joined with one of the brigade’s bat- John C. Bley II, was assigned to the 8th
National Guard Brigade headquarters, talions, while the supporting arms liaison Battalion, 2d Saudi National Guard
joining the main body of 1st ANGLICO.136 team acted as the fire support coordinator. Brigade, along with Captain Mark V. Dil-
Meanwhile, other 1st ANGLICO teams Each battalion had a company of AMX-30 lard’s team from Supporting Arms Liaison
were spread among the Saudi and Qatari tanks attached as well.137 Team 2. Dillard’s team originally was as-
forces that were preparing to retake the Captain James R. Braden’s Supporting signed to a Moroccan unit south of al-
city and push the Iraqis back into Kuwait. Liaison Team 6 was attached to Colonel Mishab but was called forward to assist in
Captain Mark S. Gentil’s Supporting Arms Turki al-Firmi’s 2d Saudi Arabian Na- the battle.138
Liaison Team 5, First Lieutenant Bruce D. tional Guard Brigade. Captain Braden’s Responsible for the defense of al-
McIlvried’s Fire Control Team 13, and team acted as a central clearing house for Khai and the coastal region, Saudi

6 The Battle of al-Khafji


Major General Sultan ‘Adi al-Matiri’s ini- briefed him on the 3d Marine plan to re- Saudis and Qataris did the heavy fighting
tial plan of action was to cut off the Iraqi move them from the city. Captain Braden from this point on.148
forces in al-Khai and convince them to recalled that “Col Turki stated that the As plans were being made to liberate
surrender. His intention was to avoid a city was his and that he had a tasking al-Khai, another strange event in the
potentially costly battle within the city. 139 from ‘Riyadh’ to rescue the Marine Recon battle occurred. Two U.S. Army tractor-
To this end he dispatched the 5th Battal- teams…. Col Turki asked if the Marines trailer heavy equipment transporters
ion, 2d Saudi Arabian National Guard lacked trust in the Saudi abilities to per- from the 233d Transportation Company
Brigade, north of al-Khai as a blocking form their mission of defending their sec- drove into the city. e drivers were lost,
force, supported by a company from the tor? e question of sector defense unaware that they were in al-Khai, and
8th Ministry of Defense and Aviation seemed moot at this point as the Iraqis that an Iraqi offensive had occurred. One
Brigade, equipped with M60 Patton were in control of al-Khai, but the mat- of the reconnaissance teams watched in
tanks. He placed the Qatari Brigade, sup- ter of trust between Coalition partners horror as the two tractor-trailers drove
ported by the 7th Battalion, 2d Saudi Ara- was in question.” 145 Admire agreed and into town, only to be met by a hail of fire
bian National Guard Brigade, in positions offered support. from the Iraqis. e first of the two
to block the road south from al-Khai.140 Battery C, and later Battery A, 1st Bat- trucks was disabled and crashed, Iraqi fire
Once established just south of the city, talion, 12th Marines, provided artillery having wounded its driver and assistant
the Qatari Brigade began to engage tar- fire, and a combined antiarmor team driver as well as disabling the steering.
gets of opportunity within the city. A pla- from 3d Marines moved to the gas station e second truck performed “the fastest
toon of Iraqi T-55 tanks emerged and four kilometers south of al-Khai.146 De- U-turn in history, like he was a VW bug”
engaged the Qatari AMX-30s, resulting in spite Saudi desires to fight the battle on and fled.149 e Iraqis quickly over-
the destruction of three T-55s and the their own, Marine air-naval gunfire liai- whelmed and captured the two wounded
capture of a fourth. Iraqi prisoners re- son teams provided critical communica- soldiers, Specialist David Lockett and
vealed that there was close to an enemy tions to the Saudis and coordinated Specialist Melissa Rathbun-Nealy, whom
“brigade in the city and another brigade artillery and air support. In addition, U.S. were quickly transported back to Kuwait.
was to join it.”141 In response, General Sul- Army advisors from the Office of Pro- Specialist Rathbun-Nealy was the first
tan bolstered the northern blocking force gram Manager for Modernization of the American female soldier captured since
by committing the balance of the 8th Saudi Arabian National Guard and civil- World War II. e two were not freed
Ministry of Defense and Aviation ian advisors from the Vinnell Corpora- until aer the war.150
Brigade’s armored battalion. e south- tion fought throughout the battle Soon aer the Army trucks disap-
ern force was reinforced with the 8th Bat- alongside their assigned Saudi units. peared into al-Khai, Major Craig S.
talion, 2d Saudi Arabian National Guard, Colonel Admire said that acting as the Huddleston was informed of their disap-
in addition to M113 armored personnel supporting force was “one of the most dif- pearance. On Colonel Admire’s orders,
carriers equipped with antitank missile ficult decisions I’ve ever had to make.”147 3d Battalion, 3d Marines, established an
launchers from the 8th Ministry of Avia- e decision to have the Saudis lead the outpost, Check Point 67, south of the city
tion and Defense Brigade.142 attack to free al-Khai shaped the rest of to coordinate with the Saudis. Major
At 1152 on 30 January, 1st Battalion, the battle. Marines would observe and Huddleston, the battalion’s executive offi-
12th Marines, the Marine artillery battal- aid their Coalition partners, but the cer, was given command of the outpost.
ion assigned to support the Saudi attack
The Saudi National Guard battalions, which freed al-Khafji from the Iraqis, employed
on al-Khai, reported it had already ex-
Cadillac Gage V-150 Commando light armored vehicles, some of which were equipped
pended 136 rounds of dual purpose im-
with a M220 launcher for the BGM-71 TOW antitank missile.
proved conventional munitions and eight DVIC DF-ST-91-04523
rounds of high explosive munitions.143
e Cobra attack helicopters of Marine
Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 367
continued to support the Marines along
the frontier and in al-Khai. For the same
period, the squadron reported one tank,
seven armored personnel carriers, one
jeep, and one truck destroyed.144
At noon, Colonel Turki al-Firmi met
with Colonel Admire. Colonel Turki was
in command of the Saudi force specifi-
cally tasked with retaking al-Khai. Cap-
tain Braden, the 1st ANGLICO officer
assigned to Colonel Turki’s brigade, ob-
served the meeting. Colonel Admire told
Colonel Turki that Marine reconnais-
sance teams were still in al-Khai and

The Battle of al-Khafji 7


misunderstanding. e Coalition ex- also presented General Khaled with a
plained in press conferences that Saudi problem. “I was extremely worried that
and Qatari forces were freeing al-Khai, Schwartzkopf might use American
but the journalists who spoke with Major troops, either U.S. Marines in an am-
Huddleston mistook his brief patrol for a phibious attack or a heliborne U.S. Army
major Marine assault. ey concluded unit, to free my town in my sector. e
that the Marines were doing the major shame would have been difficult to bear.”
fighting at al-Khai, but that the Coali- Consequently, he ordered Major General
tion was, for political reasons, giving Sultan’s plan to talk the Iraqi’s into sur-
credit for the battle to the Saudis. is rendering be abandoned, and an imme-
myth was to persist; the belief that the diate assault launched against the city.158
military had lied to the press concerning Given orders from General Khaled to
al-Khai would sour military-media rela- attack at once, General Sultan passed the
tions long aer the Gulf War ended.153 order to Colonel Turki, who in turn as-
Meanwhile, General Khaled arrived at signed the task of assaulting al-Khai to
the Joint Forces Command-East head- Lieutenant Colonel Hamid Matar’s 7th
quarters south of al-Khai. He was agi- Battalion, 2d Saudi Arabian National
tated, since King Fahd was pressuring Guard Brigade, supported by two Qatari
him to liberate the city as quickly as pos- tank companies.159
sible. He also was upset about what he Captain Molofsky, the 3d Marines li-
considered a lack of promised air from aison officer, observed the Saudi prepara-
Photo courtesy of Capt Charles G. Grow the Marine Corps. He contacted General tions for battle. “Matar’s Battalion is just
The water tower in southern al-Khafji was Horner. “I told him I wanted air support really lined up on the road, you know –
heavily damaged during the battle. It was as well as strikes by B-52s to break up out into the desert a little bit, into Check
a favorite target for both Iraqi and Saudi Iraqi concentrations and prevent rein- Point 67. It’s a beehive.… And, Matar’s
troops, and was strafed at least once by U.S. forcements reaching al-Khai, even if it orders are to attack. And, that’s it, you
Marine Cobra helicopters. meant diverting air assets from the air know—nothing else. Attack.” Matar’s
campaign against strategic targets inside battalion had received the order to attack
He quickly formed a patrol to enter the Iraq. Minimize raids on strategic targets at 1600, but it was not in position until
town and recover the two soldiers; every and maximize them at al-Khai, I urged 2000. Captain Molofsky observed that
one of the 128 Marines at the outpost vol- him.”154 Matar was “really nervous; smoking ciga-
unteered to go, but he only took about 30 General Horner saw the developing rettes, pacing back and forth.”160
Marines. Huddleston mounted the patrol battle as an opportunity to inflict maxi- ere was a 15 minute preparatory fire
in humvees, including antitank missile mum losses on the Iraqis, but he did not by 1st Battalion, 12th Marines, and then
and heavy machine gun vehicles, and consider the B-52 to be the proper the 7th Battalion literally charged forward
headed for the city.151 weapon to use in this situation. He told against al-Khai. “Out of nowhere, vehi-
Al-Khai was still in a state of confu- General Khaled the same thing he rou- cles start up and people start driving for-
sion. As the patrol raced into the town, tinely told ground commanders: “Don’t ward,” observed Captain Molofsky, who
they encountered some Iraqis but had no tell me how to do the job. Tell me what joined the 7th Battalion for the attack.
major fire fights. e Marines found the you want done.”155 e Saudi battalion drove straight up the
disabled tractor-trailer, but not the miss- Unsatisfied, General Khaled phoned middle of the road, but the Qatari tanks
ing soldiers despite shouts of “U.S. Brigadier General Ahmad al-Sudairy, pulled to the side as the force approached
Marines, U.S. Marines!” ere was a Saudi Director of Air Operations, an hour al-Khai. As the first couple Saudi vehi-
short engagement with Iraqi armored aer he spoke to General Horner. “Forget cles entered under the arches of the city,
personnel carriers, which Major Huddle- about the Joint Forces. If the U.S. Air “the whole place lights up,” Molofsky said.
ston directed a pair of Cobras against. Force or the Marines don’t come at once, “I mean a whole lot of directed fire,
e patrol also found a destroyed Qatari I want you to take our air assets out of the straight down the road … just a firestorm
AMX-30 tank and its dead crew. Disap- Coalition and send them all to me! I need of tracers, and tank main gun. And I no-
pointed, the Marines returned to the out- the Tornados, the F-5s, everything you’ve tice a V-150 blow up, or it looked like it
post. “We wanted to get them [the got!”156 A few moments later the air as- blew up, about 30 meters off to the side of
missing soldiers] pretty bad,” Major Hud- sets General Horner had already desig- the road.”161
dleston later said.152 nated for al-Khai began to arrive. e Saudi attack was disorganized and
Journalists, prevented by the prevail- General Khaled was convinced his threat undisciplined; they expended massive
ing press system and Saudi prohibitions had worked and as General Boomer later amounts of ammunition fired wildly into
against observing the battle in al-Khai, said: “Ultimately, it was our air support the city, as 1st ANGLICO reported aer-
began to congregate south of the town. that turned the tide for them.”157 wards. At one point, Qatari tanks fired
Several spoke with Major Huddleston and In addition to his distress over the lack on their Saudi allies although quick ac-
others from the patrol, which led to a of air, the two Marine teams in the city tion by Captains Dillard and Gentil

8 The Battle of al-Khafji


ended the fire before any casualties were of the city, and they [the Saudis] got out of 6 captured, and 116 prisoners taken.169
taken. Still, the undisciplined fire and the vehicles and they put their cloaks on, e engagements were not without
scattered assault was suspected to have built fires and brewed up coffee, and then problems. e lack of joint training be-
caused two Saudi deaths.162 they prayed. I think my sense then was tween the Saudi Arabian National Guard
Lieutenant Colonel Michael Taylor that the team couldn’t have been much and Ministry of Defense and Aviation
was the U.S. Army advisor to the 7th Bat- different than if they were riding with forces led the 8th Ministry of Defense and
talion and he aided Lieutenant Colonel Lawrence except that they were mecha- Aviation Battalion’s commander to fear
Matar throughout the battle.163 rough- nized vehicles instead of horses. Really that the two Saudi forces might fire on
out the night Saudi and Qatari soldiers extraordinary. “167 each other, so in the morning he pulled
fought against the Iraqi forces, suffering back to refuel and rearm. is kept the
fire so heavy that Taylor, a Vietnam War North of al-Khai Saudis from completely sealing al-Khai
veteran, described it as “flabbergasting.”164 At nightfall, Lieutenant Colonel Naif ’s at the end of the first night of battle, al-
But the Saudis and Qataris did not hesi- 5th Battalion, 2d Saudi Arabian National lowing a few Iraqi units to escape back
tate to return fire, as Captain Molofsky Guard Brigade, moved into position to into Kuwait.170
noted: “Qatari tanks came back up the block Iraqi movement in and out of al- Coalition airpower was now focused
road and were shooting up from behind Khai from the north. e battalion was on the al-Khai area, taking advantage of
and, at one point, the volume of fire got soon reinforced by a battalion of the 8th the Iraqi offensive to strike at their forces
so heavy that we all got out of the truck Ministry of Defense and Aviation which had previously remained hidden.
and took cover in a ditch and you know Brigade, companies of which dried e E-8C Joint Surveillance and Target
the Saudis were shooting TOW missiles north throughout the night. Iraqi forces Acquisition Radar System aircra were
up in the air. Once they started shooting, attempted several times to reinforce al- used to track Iraqi movements in Kuwait.
they were shooting. I mean everybody Khai, but Coalition air support was now “e new JSTARS system proved a vital
was shooting at the max rate.”165 available in copious amounts, and the air- asset in beating back the Iraqi attacks,” an
Despite their efforts, the 7th Battalion naval gunfire teams attached to the 5th Air Force study noted. “An airborne radar
was not able to retake al-Khai nor was it Battalion were able to call F/A-18s, AV- that could monitor enemy vehicle traffic
able to relieve the reconnaissance teams 8s, and A-10s down on the Iraqi forces, at night with impressive clarity, JSTARS
still trapped within the city.166 Captain inflicting a large number of casualties and was an indispensable element in ensuring
Molofsky later recalled the engagement’s forcing an even larger number of Iraqi the efficient and effective use of Coalition
surreal conclusion: “We pulled back into troops to surrender to the Saudis.168 e aircra.”171 e tactical air control center
defilade in a small depression, just south Saudis claimed 5 Iraqi vehicles destroyed, was focusing aircra on al-Khai and in-

Marines of 1st Battalion, 12th Marines, prepare an M198 155mm howitzer. The battalion fired numerous missions in support of Saudi
and U.S. Marine forces during the Battle of al-Khafji.
History Division Photo

The Battle of al-Khafji 


terdiction missions in southern Kuwait. mother was killing her children.”173 was approved at 0701. At 0705, Batteries
But the success of the air interdiction A and C responded to the call for fire. At
was not without loss. A U.S. Air Force
31 January 0740, 1st Battalion, 12th Marines, was
AC-130, call sign “Spirit Zero ree,” re- Early in the morning on 31 January, told by the fire support control center that
mained over its targets as the sun came up Batteries A and C, 1st Battalion, 12th all future fire missions had to be approved
despite the policy that AC-130s only be Marines, attached to the 3d Marines, fired by the air-naval gunfire teams attached to
employed at night. An Iraqi surface-to- an improved conventional munitions the Saudi forces.175
air missile struck the aircra, killing its mission into al-Khai under the control e barrage was a success from the
14-man crew.172 of the Marine reconnaissance teams in- perspective of the Marines inside al-
e massive effort had an effect on the side the town.174 Corporals Ingraham Khai, as it landed a solid blow against
Iraqi forces. General Salah Aboud had al- and Lentz, the team leaders, requested the the Iraqis and essentially eliminated the
ready begun requesting permission to artillery strike on a large Iraqi column be- Iraqi column. But it was placed danger-
withdraw. Although the offensive was tween their positions at 0645. Initially, ously close to their positions; Corporal
termed “e Mother of Battles” by Sad- clearance was denied by 3d Marines fire Jeffrey Brown received a wound from the
dam, General Salah radioed that “e support control center, but the mission shrapnel.176
Ministry of Defense, United Kingdom, 1991, Modified by W. Stephen Hill

0 The Battle of al-Khafji


e fire came as a shock to the 1st AN- Khai and relieve the reconnaissance troops. Air-naval gunfire teams directed
GLICO teams maneuvering outside the teams. is time, the attack was more the Cobras in a strafing run against the
city alongside the Saudis and Qataris, carefully prepared, with artillery support town’s water tower, and Harriers de-
since Colonel Turki and Colonel Admire from both Saudi and Marine artillery stroyed Iraqi vehicles at the major road
had agreed that all fire would be coordi- units and extensive Marine close air sup- intersection in that quarter of the city.180
nated through the supporting arms liai- port coordinated by the teams working e Marine reconnaissance teams took
son teams. Lieutenant Colonel William alongside the Saudi Arabian National advantage of the confusion of this assault
C. Grubb, Jr., 1st ANGLICO commander, Guard units. Despite the air and artillery to withdraw safely from al-Khai, one on
went to the 3d Marines combat opera- support, the Iraqis still put up a fierce foot, the other team in humvees that had
tions center and fixed the fire support co- fight, destroying three Saudi V-150 ar- sat inside a courtyard, undetected by the
ordination problem, which led to the mored cars.178 “Tank main gun, recoilless Iraqis since the first hours of the battle.181
order that all fire missions be approved by rifle, TOW [antitank missile], and small In the aernoon, the 7th Battalion
the air-naval gunfire teams. Despite these arms fire came thick and furious,” 1st AN- withdrew to rest and resupply, and the
attempts to avoid firing on Coalition GLICO later reported. “e Saudis and 8th Battalion, 2d Saudi Arabian National
forces, the Qatari’s claimed one of their Qataris charged through the streets firing Guard Brigade, took its place clearing al-
AMX-30s was disabled by Marine ar- at everything and anything and in every Khai buildings. By this point the Saudis
tillery fire, although it was not con- direction.”179 had lost 7 Cadillac Gage V-150 Armored
firmed.177 e battle raged through the southern Cars, 18 dead, and 50 wounded. e
Meanwhile, the 7th Battalion, 2d Saudi half of al-Khai, while Marine AV-8B clearing operation continued throughout
Arabian National Guard Brigade, was Harriers and AH-1W Cobras provided the night. “Saudi urban operations were
preparing another attempt to storm al- direct support to the Saudi and Qatari different than what Americans practice,”
Captain Braden later noted. “Instead of
Operating in their doctrinal role as part of the Marine air-ground task force, AV-8B Har-
room-by-room clearing, they simply oc-
riers provided needed close air support during the Battle of al-Khafji.
History Division Photo cupy a block and if they take fire they tar-
get with TOWs and heavy machine guns
until resistance stops and then move to
the next building of street. As a result of
these techniques there were numerous
pockets of Iraqis le in the city that would
be killed or captured over the next few
days.”182
In the north, 5th Battalion, 2d Saudi
National Guard, and its attached air-naval
gunfire teams under Captain Kleinsmith
and First Lieutenant Paul B. Deckert
stopped Iraqi units trying to reinforce
their forces in al-Khai. At Observation
Post 7, a battery of Iraqi self-propelled
howitzers had taken up position, sup-
ported by infantry and armored person-
nel carriers. A division of four Cobras
destroyed the battery under Captain
Kleinsmith’s direction, but their arrival
coincided with the destruction by enemy
fire of two Saudi armored cars and an am-
bulance. Convinced that they had suf-
fered friendly fire, the Saudis withdrew,
leaving Captain Kleinsmith and his team
to stabilize the line with air support.
When the immediate Iraqi threats were
removed, Kleinsmith’s team rejoined the
5th Battalion. 183
As the ground fight for al-Khai drew
to a close, the air effort continued to dev-
astate the Iraqi forces. Aer a slow start,
Coalition air forces claimed hundreds of
tanks, armored personnel carriers, and
artillery tubes destroyed during the five

The Battle of al-Khafji 


days that al-Khai remained the main ef-
fort. An Air Force post war study high-
lighted the effect of the air attacks: “pilots
described the frantic maneuverings of
surviving Iraqi vehicles as visually equiv-
alent to the results of ‘turning on the light
in a cockroach-infested apartment.’” e
report added: “perhaps the most reveal-
ing comment of all came from a member
of the Iraqi 5th Mechanized Division who
had fought in the Iran-Iraq War. is vet-
eran soldier stated that Coalition air-
power imposed more damage on his
brigade in half an hour than it had sus-
tained in eight years of fighting against
the Iranians.” 184
e next morning, 1 February, Saudi
units advanced all the way through al-
Khai, encountering only light resistance.
ey cleared the city of remaining Iraqi
troops, although solitary holdouts would
appear to surrender over the next few
days, and established a defensive position
north of the city. e Battle of al-Khai
had ended.185 Photo courtesy of Cpl Charles H. Ingraham III

Considerations Cpl Jeffery D. Brown of 3d Platoon, Company A, 3d Reconnaissance Battalion, stands in


one of his team’s humvees. The humvee’s tires were punctured and its windshield shat-
Every battle has losses. During the tered by shrapnel from a Marine artillery barrage called in on Iraqi forces near the re-
Battle of al-Khai, 25 Americans lost their connaissance teams’ positions. Cpl Brown was wounded by the same artillery strike.
lives, 11 Marines and 14 airmen. ree
Marines were wounded and two soldiers investigation to determine what measures Kuwait, the Saudis and the Qataries and
captured by the enemy. One LAV-25, one could be taken to prevent future casual- the Coalition forces would be with us.
LAV-AT, and one AC-130 gunship were ties. e investigation team’s report was Absolutely no doubt.”190 Captain Molof-
destroyed. e Saudis and Qataris suf- completed prior to the invasion of Kuwait sky agreed because “when push came to
fered 18 killed and 50 wounded. Ten ar- and its recommendations implemented. shove, without any real plan, any real di-
mored cars and two tanks were destroyed. Otherwise, Marines, Saudis, and Iraqis rection, those Saudi soldiers obeyed their
Aer the war, the Iraqis claimed to have all took differing views of the battle. orders and went forward. And, they did
destroyed 4 helicopters, 30 tanks, and 58 Marines generally took away an increased so courageously.”191
armored personnel carriers, as well as confidence in techniques and doctrines, General Boomer saw al-Khai as fur-
capturing 13 prisoners.186 ey listed and a clearer idea of the enemy they ther proof that the Iraqi military was a
their losses as 71 dead, 148 wounded, and would face. Lieutenant Colonel Myers hollow force. “We knew they weren’t mo-
702 missing, as well as 186 vehicles de- felt that the screening forces along the tivated even by the time al-Khai oc-
stroyed, but their actual losses were likely border had exceeded expectations and the curred, and it confirmed it. We were
higher. In the immediate vicinity of al- battle “proved the concept, philosophi- beginning to pick up POWs who said, ‘I
Khai alone, 1st ANGLICO reported 90 cally” of the light armored vehicle.188 Cap- don’t want any part of this deal. I am
vehicles destroyed, at least 300 Iraqi sol- tain Braden saw al-Khai as proof of the down here getting the heck pounded out
diers killed, and 680 captured. By most value and importance of the air-naval of me everyday, food and water are short.
accounts, the 6th Brigade, 3d Armored Di- gunfire liaison company, and long aer Why am I here?’ In essence they were
vision was badly mauled and the 15th, the battle ended, he was using al-Khai as saying, ‘I don’t want to die here, in this
20th, and 26th Brigades of the 5th Mecha- an example to argue against its disband- conflict.’ We were getting enough of that
nized Division were nearly destroyed.187 ment: “Without ANGLICO, it is difficult so that I really came to believe that there
e Battle of al-Khai had some im- to envision another successful Battle of al- was a significant morale problem on the
mediate consequences. e deaths which Khai,” he wrote.189 other side.”192 But for Captain Molofsky,
occurred in the early morning hours of 30 Marines gained confidence in their the view at the tactical level was some-
January, when an Air Force A-10 fired the Saudi allies. Colonel Admire, for one, what different: “My opinion was that; if
missile into the Marine LAV-25, were one now felt there was “no doubt in the Ma- that’s what it was gonna take to get started
of several similar events during January. rine Corps force’s mind that when the in the recovery of a small town like al-
As a result, General Boomer ordered an time would come to in fact attack into Khai, that we were gonna be involved in

 The Battle of al-Khafji


Marine Corps Art Collection
Marines of 3d Battalion, 3d Marines, search al-Khafji for Iraqi stragglers and examine the battle damage as depicted in the painting
“Cleaning up Khafji” by Capt Charles G. Grow.
a prolonged and bloody struggle.”193 to ensure future success. e Iraqis were was the bravery of the Saudi ground troops,
e U.S. Air Force saw the Battle of al- able to plan and launch a major offensive with American advisors, who actually
Khai as the proof of air power: “e Bat- despite the Coalition’s air power advantage. ejected the Iraqis from Saudi soil. Al-
tle of Khai was preeminently an airpower ey succeeded in capturing al-Khai and Khai has entered Saudi military history as
victory.” Close air support and battlefield held it for two days against an enemy supe- a great victory.
interdiction had isolated the battlefield and rior in technology and numbers.196 As Gen- For the Americans, al-Khai was won
inflicted great destruction upon the Iraqis. eral Salah Aboud concluded: “e al-Khai almost by accident. American forces
e result was a “devastating defeat” for the conflict is on the list of the bright conflicts proved so superior that it did not com-
Iraqi military and “airpower was the deci- in Iraqi Army history…. one of the thou- pletely register that a major Iraqi offensive
sive element.”194 sands recorded in the Iraqi Army history had occurred. As a result, U.S. Central
General Khaled bin Sultan explained for the new generations.”197 Command planners did not expect the
that while the battle was such an important In the end everyone but the dead and Iraqis to collapse as quickly as they did in
victory for the Saudis had it gone badly, wounded won the Battle of al-Khai. Al- the February invasion.198
“the blow to our morale would have been though the battle did not accomplish any of At al-Khai, all of the Marine deaths
severe. But victory changed the mood of the Iraqi objectives, it presented enough of were caused by U.S. fire, but that should not
our soldiers to an amazing degree. ey an appearance of success that Saddam was detract from their sacrifice, nor from the
had been given a chance to prove them- able to claim a credible propaganda victory. bravery of the Marines who survived the
selves and had done so splendidly…. Our Aer the war, the Iraqis were convinced battle through luck and training. Endors-
forces were now equal partners with our al- that the battle had somehow influenced the ing the final report on the Marines killed
lies, ready to play a full role in any future Coalition’s decision to end the war aer by the A-10’s missile, General Boomer said:
battle.”195 evicting the Iraqis from Kuwait, but before “e technological marvels that helped the
Perhaps the most surprising conclusion removing Saddam Hussein from power. Coalition forces defeat Iraq sometimes fail,
concerning the Battle of al-Khai came e Saudis faced an invasion of their and with disastrous results…. Marines, he-
from the Iraqis. Iraqi post-war studies territory and defeated it. Although Coali- roes in my heart, lost their lives while re-
present al-Khai as a victory whose tech- tion air power undoubtedly played a key pelling an enemy force. ey were good
niques and procedures should be emulated role in the defeat of the Iraqi offensive, it Marines.”199

The Battle of al-Khafji 


Al-Khafji Order of Battle
U.S. Marine Forces
I Marine Expeditionary Force Lieutenant General Walter E. Boomer

1st Surveillance, Reconnaissance, and Intelligence Group Colonel Michael V. Brock


1st Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Company Lieutenant Colonel William C. Grubb, Jr.

st Marine Division Major General James M. Myatt

1st Reconnaissance Battalion Lieutenant Colonel Michael L. Rapp


1st Light Armored Infantry Battalion (Task Force Shepherd) Lieutenant Colonel Clifford O. Myers III
1st Battalion, 12th Marines Lieutenant Colonel Robert W. Rivers
3d Marines Colonel John H. Admire

d Marine Division Major General William M. Keys

2d Light Armored Infantry Battalion Lieutenant Colonel Keith T. Holcomb

d Marine Aircraft Wing Major General Royal N. Moore, Jr.

Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 367 Lieutenant Colonel Terry J. Frerker
Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 369 Lieutenant Colonel Michael M. Kurth

Saudi Arabian and Qatari Forces


Joint Forces Command General Khaled bin Sultan bin Saud

Joint Forces Command East Major General Sultan ‘Adi al-Mutairi

d Saudi Arabian National Guard Brigade Colonel Turki Abdulmohsin al-Firmi

5th Battalion, 2d Saudi Arabian National Guard Brigade Lieutenant Colonel Naif
7th Battalion, 2d Saudi Arabian National Guard Brigade Lieutenant Colonel Hamid Matar
8th Battalion, 2d Saudi Arabian National Guard Brigade Lieutenant Colonel Hamud

Qatari Brigade Lieutenant Colonel Ali Saeed

Iraqi Forces
III Corps Major General Salah Aboud Mahmoud

5th Mechanized Division Brigadier General Flyeh Yaseen

15th Mechanized Brigade Colonel Khalif Hamid


26th Mechanized Brigade Colonel Amid Abduljabir
20th Mechanized Brigade –
3d Armored Division Brigadier General Hussan Zedin

6th Armored Brigade Colonel Ibdil Raziq Mahmoud

IV Corps Major General Yaiyd Khalel Zaki

1st Mechanized Division Brigadier General Hussen

 The Battle of al-Khafji


Notes 19
Bruce R. Nardulli, “Dance of Swords: Storm (Washington, D.C.: History and Muse-
U.S. Military Assistance to Saudi Arabia, ums Division, Headquarters, U.S. Marine
1
This section based on material from 1942-1964” (unpublished Phd Dissertation, Corps, 1999), p.122; LtCol Charles H. Cure-
LtCol James R. Braden, “The Battle of Khafji: The Ohio State University, 2002). ton, U.S. Marines in the Persian Gulf, 1990-
20
A Coalition Air Ground Task Force Victory” Mohamed Heikal, Illusions of Triumph 1991: With the 1st Marine Division in Desert
(Paper, USMC Command and Staff College, (New York: HarperCollins, 1992). Shield and Desert Storm (Washington, D.C.:
21
1999), p. 11-12, hereafter Braden, “Khafji”; Anthony H. Cordesman, Saudi Arabia, History and Museums Division, Headquar-
see also Williamson Murray, Air War in the (Boulder: Westview Press, 1997), p. 122, here- ters, U.S. Marine Corps, 1993), pp. 26-28.
44
Persian Gulf (Baltimore: Nautical & Aviation after Cordesman, Saudi Arabia; Palmer, “Gulf Iraqi War College Study, p. 97.
45
Publishing Company, 1995), hereafter Mur- State.” Ibid., pp. 99-101.
22 46
ray, Air War in the Persian Gulf; Lieutenant Cordesman, Saudi Arabia, p. 137; Ibid., p. 98.
47
General Bernard E. Trainor and Michael R. Palmer, “Gulf State”; Martin Stanton, Road to Ibid., p. 99.
48
Gordon, The Generals’ War (Boston: Little, Baghdad (New York, Ballantine Books, 2003), Ibid., p. 103.
49
Brown and Company, 1995), hereafter Gor- hereafter Stanton, Road to Baghdad. Gordon and Trainor, Generals’ War, p.
23
don and Trainor, Generals’ War. Stanton, Road to Baghdad, pp. 14-18; 269.
2 50
James Titus, “The Battle of Khafji: An Braden, “Khafji,” pp. 5, 23, 29-30; Palmer, Iraqi War College Study, pp. 104-107.
51
Overview and Preliminary Analysis” (Paper, “Gulf State.” Titus, “Khafji,” p. 7.
24 52
Air University, 1996), p. 7, hereafter Titus, General Khaled bin Sultan, Desert War- Braden, “Khafji,” p. 13.
53
“Khafji.” rior (New York:, Harper & Collins Publish- Ibid.
3 54
Northrop Grumman Corp., “Joint Stars ers, 1995), hereafter Khaled, Desert Warrior. Ibid.
25 55
Data Analysis: The Battle of Khafji” (Paper, Ibid., p. 379. Ibid., pp. 13-14.
26 56
USAF Studies and Analysis Agency, 1997), p. Col Joseph Molofsky intvw with author, ANGLICO AAR.
57
18. 30Jun06 and 16Aug06 (MCHC, Quantico, Braden, “Khafji,” pp. 13-14.
4 58
This section based on material from VA), hereafter Molofsky intvw, 30Jun06 or David J. Morris, Storm on the Horizon
Kevin M. Woods, et al., Iraqi Perspectives Molofsky intvw, 16Aug06. (New York: Free Press, 2004), p. 145, hereafter
27
Project: A View of Operation Iraqi Freedom Stanton, Road to Baghdad, pp. 23-25. Morris, Storm.
28 59
from Saddam’s Senior Leadership (Joint Cen- LtCol D. P. Hughes, “Battle for Khafji: Iraqi War College Study.
60
ter for Operational Analysis, u.d.), hereafter 29Jan/1 Feb 1991,” Defense Quarterly, pp. 15- Morris, Storm, p. 145.
61
Iraqi Perspectives; Captured Iraqi War Col- 22; Palmer, “Gulf State.” Iraqi War College Study, pp. 108-109.
29 62
lege Study, Al-Khafji Conflict (ISGQ-2003- BGen Thomas V. Draude intvw with Ibid., pp. 144-146.
63
00046031), hereafter Iraqi War College Study; author and Dr. Fred Allison, 21Jun06 Ibid., pp. 108-109.
64
Kenneth M. Pollack, Arabs at War: Military (MCHC, Quantico, VA). Braden, “Khafji,” p. 14.
30 65
Effectiveness 1948-1991 (London: University Col John A. Admire intvw, CD 10234 ANGLICO AAR.
66
of Nebraska Press, 2002), hereafter Pollack, (Grey Research Center, Quantico, VA), here- Braden, “Khafji,” p. 14.
67
Arabs at War. after Admire intvw. Morris, Storm, pp. 31-32.
5 31 68
Iraqi Perspectives, p. 6. Molofsky intvw, 30Jun06, 16Aug06; Ibid., Ch. 1.
6 69
Ibid., pp. 15, 20. Braden, “Khafji,” p. 8 Ibid., pp. 3, 31-34.
7 32 70
Ibid., p. 16. Molofsky intvw, 16Aug06. Morris, Storm p. 50; Roger Pollard, “The
8 33
Ibid., p. 95. Braden, “Khafji,” pp. 8-9. Battle for Op-4: Start of the Ground War,”
9 34
Ibid. Ibid., pp. 6-7. Marine Corps Gazette, Mar92, hereafter Pol-
10 35
Ibid. Titus, “Khafji,” p. 9; Gordon and Trainor, lard, “Op-4”; Myers intvw, 8Mar91; 1st LAI
11
Ibid. Generals’ War, pp. 268-269. ComdC, Jan-Feb91 (Gray Research Center,
12 36
Ibid., p. 96. Molofsky intvw, 16Aug06. Quantico, VA).
13 37 71
Edgar O’Ballance, The Gulf War (New 1st Air-Naval Gunfire Liaison Com- Pollard, “Op-4”; Myers intvw, 8Mar91;
York; Brassey’s Defense Publishers, 1988), pany/1st Surveillance, Reconnaisance, Intel- 1st LAI ComdC, Jan-Feb91 (Gray Research
summary of discussion on pp. 94, 143-145, ligence Group After Action Report for the Center, Quantico, VA).
72
164-166, 173-174, 194; Gordon and Trainor, Battle of Khafji, 29Jan91-1Feb91(MCHC, Iraqi War College Study, pp. 120-125.
73
Generals’ War, p. 268-269; LtCol Peter J. Quantico VA), hereafter ANGLICO AAR. Morris, Storm, pp. 1-6.
38 74
Palmer, “Battle of Khafji: A Gulf State Per- LtCol Clifford O. Myers intvw by LtCol Pollard, “Op-4”; Myers intvw, 8Mar91.
75
spective” (Paper, Marine Corps University, Charles H. Cureton, 8Mar91 (MCHC, Quan- Morris, Storm, pp. 66-73.
76
u.d.), hereafter Palmer, “Gulf State.” tico, VA), hereafter Myers intvw, 8Mar91. Pollard, “Op-4.”
14 39 77
How They Fight: Desert Shield Order of Khaled, Desert Warrior; Braden, pp. 7-8; Ibid.
78
Battle Handbook, AIA-DS-2-90 (1990); DOD, Palmer, “Gulf State.” Lt David Kendall intvw, 7Feb91 (Gray
40
Iraq Country Handbook, DOD-2600-642794, Maj Steven M. Zimmeck, U.S. Marines Research Center, Quantico, VA).
79
(1994). in the Persian Gulf, 1990-1991: Combat Serv- Pollard, “Op-4.”
15 80
Iraqi War College Study; Captured Iraqi ice Support in Desert Shield and Desert Storm. Pollard, “Op-4”; Pollard, Capt Roger L.
Training Pamphlet, Battle of al-Khafji (ISGQ- (Washington, D.C.: History and Museums intvw with LtCol Charles H. Cureton, CD#
2003-00054592), hereafter Iraqi Training Division, Headquarters, U.S. Marine Corps, 10441 (Gray Research Center, Quantico, VA),
Pamphlet. 1999), p. 108. hereafter Pollard, intvw.
16 41 81
Iraqi War College Study, pp. 104-105. Molofsky intvw, 16Aug06. Lt David Kendall intvw, 7Feb91 (Gray
17 42
Air War College Study, “EPW Inter- Braden, “Khafji,” p. 8. Research Center, Quantico, VA).
43 82
views” (Maxwell AFB: Air Force Historical Leroy D. Stearns, U.S. Marines in the Pollard, “Op-4”; 1st LAI ComdC, Jan-
Research Agency); Palmer, “Gulf State.” Persian Gulf, 1990-1991: With the 3d Marine Feb91 (Gray Research Center, Quantico, VA).
18 83
Iraqi War College Study, p. 101. Aircraft Wing in Desert Shield and Desert Fratricide - Investigation into USAF At-

The Battle of al-Khafji 5


120 162
tack on Marine LAV, SWA-0062, Seq. No. Titus, “Khafji,” p. 10; Friedman, pp.197- Ibid.
163
01980 (MCLLS, Quantico, VA) 198; 160; Gordon and Trainor, Generals’ War, ANGLICO AAR.
84 164
Pollard intvw. pp. 268-269; Shield and Sword, p. 227-229. Stanton, Road to Baghdad, p. 261.
85 121 165
Ibid. ANGLICO AAR; Braden, “Khafji,” p. Ibid., p. 262.
86 166
Myers intvw, 8Mar91. 15. Molofsky intvw, 16Aug06.
87 122 167
Pollard, “Op-4”; Pollard intvw; Myers Ibid. Stanton, Road to Baghdad, pp. 262-264;
123
intvw, 8Mar91. Ibid. Braden, “Khafji,” pp. 20-22.
88 124 168
Iraqi War College Study, pp. 120-125. Ibid. Molofsky intvw, 30Jun06.
89 125 169
Ibid., pp. 144-146. Iraqi War College Study, p. 111. Braden, “Khafji,” pp. 22-23.
90 126 170
Ibid., pp. 120-125. Ibid., pp. 120-125. Stanton, Road to Baghdad, p. 266.
91 127 171
2d LAI ComdC, Jan-Feb91 (Gray Re- Ibid., pp. 147-148. Palmer, “Gulf State.”
128 172
search Center, Quantico, VA). Ibid., pp. 125-126. Titus, “Khafji,” pp. 13-14.
92 129 173
Ibid. Morris, Storm, pp. 166-169. Titus, “Khafji,” pp. 17-20; Gordon and
93 130
Ibid. 1st Recon ComdC, Jan-Mar91 and 3d Trainor, Generals’ War, p. 284. The most de-
94
Titus, “Khafji,” p. 12; Dennis P. Recon ComdC, Jan-Feb91, (Gray Research tailed secondary account of the shoot down is
Mroczkowski, U.S. Marines in the Persian Center, Quantico, VA). in Rick Atkinson, Crusade: The Untold Story
131
Gulf, 1990-1991: With the 2d Marine Division Molofsky intvw, 30Jun06. of the Gulf War (Boston:Houghton Mifflin,
132
in Desert Shield and Desert Storm (Washing- Morris, Storm, pp. 159-166. 1993), p. 210.
133 174
ton: HQMC, 1993), pp. 20-23; Gordon and I Marine Expeditionary Force Com- Gordon and Trainor, Generals’ War, pp.
Trainor, Generals’ War, pp. 274-275. mander’s Morning Briefing, 30Jan91. 283, 285-287.
95 134 175
Morris, Storm, pp. 114-118. Boomer intvw 27Jul06. Morris, Storm, p. 253; ANGLICO
96 135
Titus, “Khafji,” p. 12; Gordon and Khaled, Desert Warrior, p. 364. AAR.
136 176
Trainor, Generals’ War, p. 275; Morris, Storm, Ibid., p. 376. 1/12 ComdC, Jan-Feb91 (Gray Re-
137
pp. 119-125. ANGLICO AAR. search Center, Quantico, VA).
97 138 177
Titus, “Khafji,” p. 12. Ibid. Morris, Storm, pp. 253-258.
98 139 178
Pollard, “Op-4”; 1st LAI ComdC, Jan- Ibid. ANGLICO AAR; Braden, “Khafji,” p.
140
Feb91 (Gray Research Center, Quantico, Braden, “Khafji,” p. 16. 17.
141 179
VA). ANGLICO AAR. Braden, “Khafji,” pp. 22-23.
99 142 180
ANGLICO AAR; Braden, “Khafji,” p. ANGLICO AAR; Braden, “Khafji,” pp. ANGLICO AAR.
181
15. 16-17. Ibid.
100 143 182
ANGLICO AAR. ANGLICO AAR. Morris, Storm, pp. 258-266.
101 144 183
Ibid. 1/12 ComdC, Jan-Feb91 (Gray Re- Braden, “Khafji,” p. 23-24.
102 184
Braden, “Khafji,” p. 14. search Center, Quantico, VA). ANGLICO AAR.
103 145 185
ANGLICO AAR. HMLA-367 ComdC, Jan91 (Gray Re- Titus, “Khafji,” pp. 17-20; General Mah-
104
Khaled, Desert Warrior, p. 366. search Center, Quantico, VA). moud’s comments and the references to Iraqi
105 146
Palmer, “Gulf State.” Braden, “Khafji,” pp. 19-20. radio communications are taken from Gor-
106 147
Titus, “Khafji,” p. 13; Gordon and Ibid. don and Trainor, Generals’ War, pp. 283, 285-
148
Trainor, Generals’ War, pp. 279-286; Khaled, Admire intvw. 87; the “cockroach” analogy appears in H.
149
Desert Warrior, pp. 381-387; Rick Atkinson, Ibid. Norman Schwarzkopf, It Doesn’t Take a Hero
150
Crusade: The Untold Story of the Persian Gulf Morris, Storm, pp. 194. (New York: Linda Grey, Bantam, 1992), p.
151
War (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1993), pp. Ibid., pp. 193-196. 429.
152 186
208-213, hereafter Atkinson, Crusade. Ibid., pp. 196-197. ANGLICO AAR.
107 153 187
Braden, “Khafji,” p. 14. R. R. Keene, “In Every Clime and Iraqi Training Pamphlet.
108 188
ANGLICO AAR. Place,” Leatherneck, Mar91, pp. 22-27; Mor- ANGLICO AAR.
109 189
Molofsky intvw, 16Aug06. ris, Storm, pp. 196-198; Otto Lehrack, Amer- Myers intvw, 8Mar91.
110 190
Khaled, Desert Warrior, p. 368. ica’s Battalion (Tuscaloosa: University of Braden, “Khafji,” p. 32.
111 191
Ibid., p. 365. Alabama Press, 2005), pp. 128-131. Admire intvw.
112 154 192
Ibid., p. 368. David H. Mould, “Press Pools and Mil- Molofsky intvw, 30Jun06.
113 193
Braden, “Khafji,” p. 15. itary-Media Relations in the Gulf War: A Boomer intvw, 27Jul06 (MCHC,
114
Titus, “Khafji,” p. 11. Case Study of the Battle of Khafji, January Quantico, VA).
115 194
Titus, “Khafji,” p. 11; Gordon and 1991,” Historical Journal of Film, Radio & Tel- Molofsky intvw, 16Aug06.
195
Trainor, Generals’ War, pp. 273, 278. evision, Jun96, p. 133. Titus, “Khafji”; Barry D. Watts, et al.,
116 155
HMLA-367 ComdC, Jan91, and Khaled, Desert Warrior, p. 374. “Effects and Effectiveness,” The Gulf War Air
156
HMLA-369 ComdC, Jan91 (Gray Research Gordon and Trainor, Generals’ War, Power Survey Volume II, Eliot A. Cohen, et
Center, Quantico, VA). p.279. al. 6 vols. (Washington, D.C.: Government
117 157
Leroy D. Stearns, U.S. Marines in the Khaled, Desert Warrior, p. 374. Printing Office, 1993), p. 240.
158 196
Persian Gulf, 1990-1991: With the 3d Marine Boomer intvw, 27Jul06. Khaled, Desert Warrior, p. 390.
159 197
Aircraft Wing in Desert Shield and Desert Khaled, Desert Warrior, p. 378. Iraqi War College Study, p. 97.
160 198
Storm (Washington, D.C.: History and Mu- Braden, “Khafji,” p. 20; Khaled, Desert Ibid.
199
seums Division, Headquarters, U.S. Marine Warrior; pp. 362-390. LtCol Martin N. Stan- Gordon and Trainor, Generals’ War, p.
Corps, 1999), pp. 124-125. ton, “The Saudi Arabian National Guard Mo- 288.
118 200
Morris, Storm, p. 150-158. torized Brigades,” Armor, Mar-Apr96, pp. Fratricide - Investigation into USAF
119
Clifton A Barnes, “In Every Clime and 6-11. Attack on Marine LAV, SWA-0062, Seq. No.
161
Place,” Leatherneck, Aug91, pp. 16-20. Molofsky intvw, 16Aug06. 01980 (MCLLS, Quantico, VA).

6 The Battle of al-Khafji


About the Author
And Acknowledgements
aul W. Westermeyer received a Master of Arts degree in history from the Ohio State University in 1996, and is
P pursuing a doctorate in history from the same institution. He joined the staff of the History Division in 2005.
The Iraqi documents used as sources for this project were translated by Ali al Saadee; the project could not have
been completed without his excellent work. The finished manuscript also benefited from the aid and advice of
David J. Morris, Dr. Kevin Osterloh, and Dr. Amin Tarzi. History Division interns Alexander N. Hinman, Nicholas
J. Ross, Evan Sills, and Paul R. Zimmerman provided invaluable research assistance.
This work could not have been published without the professional efforts of the staff of the History Division. Dr.
Nathan S. Lowrey provided invaluable professional advice and support. The author would like to thank Charles
D. Melson, Charles R. Smith, Greg Macheak, and Major Valerie A. Jackson for their comments and revisions. W.
Stephen Hill designed and produced the layout, including maps. Peggy F. Frierson prepared the art and photographs
for this publication.
History Division
United States Marine Corps
Washington, D.C.
2008
PCN 106 000 400
Back Cover: The logotype reproduced on the back
Background Photo: For wounds suffered dur- cover has as its major element the oldest military
ing the Battle of al-Khafji, Cpl Jeffery D. Brown insignia in continuous use in the United States. It
of 3d Platoon, Company A, 3d Reconnaissance first appeared, as shown here, on Marine Corps
Battalion, receives the Purple Heart at Manifa buttons adopted in 1804. With the stars changed
Bay, Saudi Arabia, following the war. to five points, the device has continued on Marine
Photo courtesy of Cpl Charles H. Ingraham III Corps buttons to the present day.
U.S. Marines in Battle

Al-Khafji 28 JANUARY–1 FEBRUARY 1991