Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm

SGM Herbert A. Friedman (Ret.) 

Note: Images from this article were used in “Three Practical Lessons from the Science of Influence Operations Message Design” by M. Afzal Upal, Canadian Military Journal, Volume 14, No 2, 2014.

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This foreword is not meant to explain the origin and the tactics of the Persian Gulf War. It is a quick look at the way things happened as I remember them and is really just an introduction to the leaflets and other psychological operation (PSYOP) campaigns that took place at the end of 1990 and early 1991. It is not a historical look at the war, it is my own recollections and interpretation of what happened.

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George Bush

Saddam Hussein

Saddam Hussein fought Iran for eight years. The Unites States and his fellow Arab nations backed him believing that the Islamic fundamentalists in Iran were the greatest threat to peace and security in the Middle East. At the end of the war Saddam found himself deep in debt to the Arab countries who had loaned money to Iraq. He owed 40 billion dollars to Kuwait alone. Worse, he felt that they had taken advantage of him. On 17 July 1990, he accused Kuwait of oil overproduction (which drove that price of Iraqi oil down on the world market) and theft of oil from the Rumailia Oil Fields. He claimed that Kuwaiti oil rigs were drilling diagonally into Iraqi oil reserves.

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Official Iraqi Saddam Hussein Patriotic Portrait Set

Some of these alleged causes of the war were refuted in 2008 when Lebanese FBI agent George Pirro assigned to the joint FBI/CIA Iraq Survey Group discussed his interviews with Saddam Hussein on the subject of the Kuwait invasion on the CBS news show Sixty Minutes. Saddam stated he invaded Kuwait because of a personal insult. Saddam had sent his foreign minister to Kuwait to try and resolve their issues. According to Saddam, the Emir of Kuwait told his emissary that he would not cease his actions until every Iraqi woman was a ten dollar prostitute. Saddam allegedly decided that Kuwait must be punished and this led directly to the invasion.

George Santayana once said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” In the early 1950s, North Korea was led to believe that the Republic of (South) Korea was not within the sphere of American protection. Soon afterwards, they invaded the south. Similarly, on 25 July 1990, US Ambassador to Iraq, April Glaspie, told Saddam Hussein that the dispute between Iraq and Kuwait was an Arab matter, and not one that the United States would take a stand on. It is very likely that this led Hussein to believe that an invasion of Kuwait would be looked upon with a blind eye by the United States. Saddam had certain arguments in his favor. Kuwait had once been a part of Iraq and had been made a sovereign country by the British. Saddam aimed to correct that western error and return Kuwait to the fold as Iraq’s nineteenth province. The Kuwaitis, of course, disagreed.

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Iraq and Kuwait Theatre of Operations

At about 0200 on 2 August 1990, seven divisions of Iraqi armor, mechanized infantry, helicopter forces, and the elite Republic Guard invaded Kuwait. Rumor has it that the Iraqis hoped to coordinate the invasion with a commando attack on the royal palace.  Allegedly, the goal was to capture and execute the royal family. This sounds like a plan Saddam Hussein would approve, but it is unverified at the moment. The invasion force of 120,000 troops and 2,000 tanks quickly overwhelmed Kuwait. Curiously, the buildup had been noted by U. S. satellites and intelligence forces, but nobody in the Pentagon believed that Hussein would attack and occupy a fellow Arab county. The military and intelligence leaders believed that it was just the latest in a series of Iraqi bluffs and posturing near the Kuwait border. A decade later, in 2003, Saddam Hussein would tell his generals that the American threats of invasion were just posturing and that they would drop a few bombs, perhaps make a few cross-border excursions, but his generals were not to take it seriously because the United States would never invade Iraq.

Iraq declared the annexation of Kuwait. The Kuwaiti government-in-exile fled to Saudi Arabia where it was recognized as the legitimate voice of Kuwait. President George Bush immediately froze all Iraqi and Kuwaiti assets in the United States and called on Saddam Hussein to withdraw his troops. United Nations Security Council Resolutions 660 and 662 condemned Iraq's invasion and annexation and called for the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of Iraqi forces. 

A quick word about the cost of the war. Desert Shield/Storm was a bad precedent for the United States because it was one of those very rare cases when other nations paid the vast bulk of the costs. The United States got most of its oil from Saudi Arabia so had no great reason to rush to the defense of Kuwait. However, both Germany and Japan did use Kuwaiti oil, and many of the Arab nations were willing to pay to help Kuwait free itself from the Iraqi yoke. I recall at the time that there was a joke that if the U.S. Army built a security fence in Arkansas the bill would be sent to Saudi Arabia. It was a joke, but there was the germ of truth in it. As a result, future wars (like Iraqi Freedom) would be fought by a United States with the belief that much of the cost would be picked up by oil sales and other nations. This turned out to be a futile hope. In the case of the first Persian Gulf War, the cost was 61.1 billion dollars and 53.7 billion were paid by Saudi Arabia (16.8), Kuwait (16.1), Japan (10.0), Germany (6.6), United Arab Emirates (4.1), and other nations (0.4)

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The Qurain House
From the personal collection of my friend Adel al Yousifi.

Kuwait's first and most important monument of the Iraqi invasion is the Qurain House. During the period of occupation the Iraqis looted and vandalized the Kuwaitis on a daily basis. In this house, 20 Kuwaitis from the Messila resistance group were surrounded by Iraqi troops. Five escaped before the battle began and one during the battle; the remaining 14 made a stand against the Iraqi forces in a 10-hour battle on 24 February 1991 that eventually included about 700 Iraqi soldiers laying siege to the house with tanks and guns. An Iraqi soldier was sent to climb the ladder and look inside. He stared at the two men and, with his face inches from theirs, called out that no one was there. Three fighters were killed during the battle; nine captured survivors were executed immediately afterward. Two of the fighters survived by hiding in the tiny dark attic. Now called the Qurain House, the building stands as a memorial. Shattered plaster littering the floor and dried blood spattered on the wall serve as reminders of the Kuwait resistance. The house was first left exactly as it was on that day, a shrine to the bravery of the Kuwaiti people. Later, it was turned into the Al-Qurain Martyrs Museum.

We don’t know much about the resistance since much of their work was secretive and the Kuwaiti government was very reticent to say what they were doing. When asked about the feats of the resistance movement inside Kuwait the government supplied no details. During the war we didn’t hear much about them, but after the war many Kuwaiti patriotic posters that were alleged to have been made and placed on walls during the war were available for purchase. This sudden appearance of the posters may be explained by Richard Johnson’s comments in PSYOP – The Gulf Paper War:

At war’s end, the [Resistance Ministry of Information] campaign’s remaining propaganda material was moved to the Kuwait International Hotel, where they were given away as souvenirs to anyone who wanted them.

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Kuwaiti Resistance against Iraqi’s Brutal Aggression

One of the better Resistance posters depicting an Iraqi armed personnel carrier which was apparently destroyed by the Guerrillas. The poster has the text in English and Arabic: “Kuwaiti Resistance against Iraqi’s Brutal Aggression.”

The posters were not very good as artistic pieces or PSYOP, but they were probably made just to remind the Kuwaitis that the resistance existed. For the most part they are simple photographs, usually taken from some distance, of Iraqi military troops and materiel. Some of them have brief text in English and Arabic with such comments as “The Savagery of Iraq’s Invasion” or “Devastation in Kuwait after Iraqi Invasion,” some have no text. Some of the vignettes are; two Iraqi anti-aircraft guns, Iraqi tanks and artillery in an open field, a burnt out building, and various destroyed businesses, etc. 

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Kuwait always in our Hearts

There were some attempts at more artistic posters. I think I saw two or three varieties of this world support poster that depicted a map of Kuwait and with pro-Kuwaiti messages in various languages.

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Saddam and Hostage Stuart Lockwood and photo of Hitler with children as seen in Booklet

Probably the most effective propaganda piece produced by the Kuwait Government-in-Exile was a large tri-fold booklet extolling Kuwait and attacking Saddam Hussein. One page says simply “Kuwait” and depicts 11 photographs of burnt and destroyed buildings. Another page depicts Hitler with happy German children at the top and Saddam Hussein with an unhappy 5-year-old British boy named Stuart Lockwood who was being held hostage below.

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The Iranians - The Kurdish

A third page is entitled “The Iranians – The Kurdish” and has eight photographs of dead children that Saddam’s forces had murdered. A fourth page is entitled “The Kuwaitis – The Hostages” and depicts seven pictures of the dead Kuwaitis and live hostages. Another page asks, “Who is the next victim?” A final page is all text in Arabic, English and French and is entitled “Saddam…Crime of the Age.” Some of the long anti-Saddam text is:

In all of history there has never been a tyrant quite like Saddam Hussein, the ruler of Iraq who has risen to power on the corpses of thousands of his own people...His attack on the Islamic Republic of Iran resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands and destroyed the economic and social structures of both countries...He has killed thousands in Kuwait, driven most of the population from their homes, plundered the country’s wealth and traded civilization for barbarity….

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Saddam – Hitler Postcard

We should note that the brochure cover was also made into a postcard. The front and back of the postcard was designed by Muna Al-Mousa and Michael Lorrigan of the Free Kuwait Campaign in London and widely distributed in the United States and Great Britain. Some of the text on the back is:

On the morning of 2 August 1990, the independent, sovereign state of Kuwait was subjected to an unprovoked invasion by Iraqi forces. Following the invasion, Iraqi troops committed brutal atrocities against the population. This attack, contrary to all fundamental principal of International law, and in total breech of the Charter of United Nations, has been condemned by all the civilized nations of the world as a naked act of aggression.

Your voice and vote can make a difference. STOP Iraqi aggression and prevent further atrocities. Please write to your government representative for action. Oppose Iraqi aggression now.

In 1998, the Center for Research and Studies on Kuwait published a book entitled Kuwaiti Resistance as Revealed by Iraqi Documents. It lists hundreds of cases of Kuwaiti resistance as reported by Iraqi troops in official reports and personal letters. Some of the comments are:

Iraqi soldier’s letter - I am here in Kuwait…Its people are peaceful by nature. However their nature has been changed due to our presence here. They would kill us if they could.

20 August 1990 – The resistance acts in small and organized groups and has adopted hit and run tactics. They sap Iraqi morale by distributing leaflets and posters.

25 August 1990 - Information was received that gunmen fired at five Iraqi military, killing all of them and throwing their bodies into garbage containers…The bodies were also burnt.

Iraqi Intelligence reports of 14 October 1990 – The so-called “Kuwaiti Resistance” are gangs of saboteurs and rebels. Some of them are but mercenaries. The latter name accurately describes this group of outlaws and does not glorify their activities…Take notice thereof and observe the new name in your letters.

An Iraqi report entitled “Security Situation in Kuwait” points out that an organization called Fohhod (Panthers) and another named Somood ((Steadfastness) is active in Kuwait. These organizations write hostile slogans on walls to kill Iraqi soldiers and members of the Popular Army, and attack resident Iraqis…

John M. Levins wrote an article entitled “The Kuwaiti Resistance” for Middle East Quarterly, March 1995:

The Resistance had four main areas of activity: (1) civil disobedience, which initially included public demonstrations and the boycott of most work but then narrowed in scope to just the latter; (2) maintaining morale through the provision of essential services and other forms of support; (3) preventing destruction in the oil fields; and (4) military operations, both attacking Iraqi troops and gathering intelligence for the allies.

Anti-Iraqi graffiti, including derisory comments about the so-called Provisional Free Kuwait Government, appeared on walls all over Kuwait from the first morning of the occupation. The first public acts against the occupation were demonstrations, mostly with women and children carrying banners and photos of the emir and crown prince. Several of these public demonstrations took place during the first week, with the earliest occurring on August 3, 1990; one day after the occupation began.

Speaking of propaganda products he says:

Widespread civilian resistance began on the fourth day of the occupation, when the Iraqi authorities ordered everyone to return to work. Kuwaitis stayed away in droves, except for those needed for essential services or those who went to take back-ups of computer data. Within days, the Kuwaitis were printing leaflets and newsletters on their home computers, photocopying them, and passing them around by hand or fax. English-speaking Kuwaitis monitored the most reliable sources of news--the BBC, Voice of America, and CNN--then transcribed the main points onto newsletters for those unable to understand English. When these acts became a capital offense in mid-September, the newsletter campaign fizzled out.

There was also a brief war of words on the radio the day of the Iraqi invasion. I have severely edited the text from the website Armchair Activist. Radio Kuwait broadcast at 2:05 p.m.:

O sons of Kuwait, O Arab nation. If the wolf lives as a recluse he will deceive, and if he shows goodness he is only pretending. The treacherous futile lie for which Kuwait is being invaded is a kind of base barbarism and high-handed superiority. God does not like the arrogant. O friends and brethren everywhere. In the same way Kuwait opened its doors to all honorable freemen with love and affection, now the entire population of Kuwait is appealing to you with one voice, whose echo is heard throughout the world: If you value Kuwait and its freedom, then Kuwait is calling you, so come to its rescue.

Baghdad (Voice of the Masses) answered 20 minutes later:

It seems that some mercenaries of the defunct regime abroad are trying to carry out desperate activities in favor of this regime and through exposed coordination with US and Zionist quarters. The Provisional Free Kuwait Government announces that those people do not represent Kuwait. Kuwait and its people are represented by their free government that has been formed to safeguard the interests and rights of the Kuwaiti people.

Radio Kuwait came back on the air at 6:30 P.M.:

Dear listeners everywhere. Do not be fooled by extraneous radio stations. Their news and bulletins are totally false. They are broadcasting poison through their propaganda, which should not be believed. Do not pay attention to what these radio stations are broadcasting. This is our radio station. It is the sole and official radio station, which is broadcasting its programs from Kuwait and in the name of Kuwait. This is Kuwait.

Bagdad (Voice of the Masses) issued Communiqué number 4 at 7:33 p.m.:

The sons of Kuwait know the facts regarding the continued acts of plunder of the people's money by Jabir Ahmad and his clique. Their wealth reached legendary figures, squandered in their pursuit of pleasure and deposited with their suspect partners. It is high time for returning these plundered funds to their rightful owners, the sons of the Kuwaiti people. Therefore the Provisional Free Kuwait Government has decided to confiscate all the money…whether this money is found in Kuwait or abroad. Our government warns foreign banks in which they deposited their money against any tampering with this money in a manner harming the Kuwaiti people.

On 3 August Kuwait Radio broadcast slogans, appeals and patriotic songs. The last thing they broadcast was the following appeal:

In the name of God, the compassionate, the merciful. This is Kuwait. O Arabs, O brothers, O beloved brothers, O Muslims, your brothers in Kuwait are appealing to you. Hurry to their aid.

The station then immediately went off the air.

 

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The Martyr’s Bureau

This Kuwaiti government agency is responsible for honoring those whose
deaths were a result of Iraq's invasion of Kuwait and for looking after their families.

This article was written shortly after the end of Operation Desert Storm. All of the comments we have added on the Kuwaiti Resistance were written by various scholars over the past two decades. In February, 2011, on the 20th anniversary of the end of the occupation, my friend Adel Al-Yousifi put a website on the Internet entitled Kuwaiti Invasion – the Evidence. In regard to the Resistance, Adel adds:

Despite extreme peril, many Kuwaitis began secretly organizing opposition within days of the Iraqi takeover. Their acts of defiance included defacing street signs, writing anti-Iraqi graffiti on walls, printing and distributing anti-Iraqi leaflets, work boycotts, and public demonstrations. The resistance was also active in gathering intelligence, boosting morale among the populace, ensuring food supplies were sufficient, and ransoming Kuwaitis in custody through bribery. More extreme actions involved sniper attacks and ambushes that killed hundreds of Iraqi soldiers and use of Molotov cocktails to blow up military vehicles. These deadly activities had to be curtailed due to reprisals. Public demonstrations also were not worth the risk after participants were killed. Leaflet printing ceased in mid-September, when it became a capital offense.

The resistance operated in independent groups without a central command. Communicating with their government abroad was via mobile phone as Iraq had cut off all international calls to and from Kuwait. Women had a big part in the resistance. They smuggled weapons and participated in all the anti-occupation activities. Asrar Al-Qabandi committed daring feats, including hiding or sneaking out of Kuwait the remaining members of the royal family, till her capture and barbaric death in January 1991. A school has been named after her.

About 110 deaths are attributed to acts of resistance or reprisal: 62 executions, 13 deaths from torture, 13 during armed battle, and 22 while engaged in civil disobedience. (Given the population's small size, this number would have in 1990 proportionally equaled about 55,000 American deaths.)

In his Campaign to Restore a Free Kuwait presentation to the Kuwaitis, Dr. Venturi of Hill and Knowlton International planned to utilize the resistance for positive propaganda throughout Europe:

Kuwaitis are maintaining a heroic struggle to resist Iraqi oppression. The Sumood armed resistance must be covered as much as security allows. The passive resistance by Kuwaiti citizens must also be put in full light, such as the fact that Iraq hasn't been able to recruit a puppet government…The Kuwaiti resistance is strong and active, committed to freeing its country from those who illegally occupy it by force… 

The Kuwaiti Government-in-Exile was uneasy with treading a new, unknown, ground. They were not used to talking openly to the media and the public. They had not dealt with the press in the past and did not trust them. They were more likely to just say “no comment” which allowed the press to write whatever they wanted.

During the occupation many foreign Arab workers had helped the Iraqis by pointing out Kuwaiti citizens who might have been resistance members or had hidden wealth. Those Kuwaitis were often arrested, interrogated, tortured and killed. After the war the Coalition ruled the streets during the day, but at night the resistance hunted down and killed many of those suspected of collaborating with the Iraqis. There were 300,000 Palestinians in Kuwait and many of them supported Saddam Hussein.

Resistance member Abdul Rahda Ali said in The Boston Globe, 1 March 1991:

Sometimes we've shot them. We saw guys who worked with the Iraqis and identified our members' houses. And the next day we took them away and we killed them. They were Iraqis, but sometimes they were Palestinians.

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Luca M. Venturi with General Norman Schwarzkopf

The Kuwait government-in-exile had hired a firm to publicize their plight. Dr. Luca M. Venturi, a media relations specialist told me:

I centered on Kuwaiti Resistance stories, alluding to the WWII anti-German partisan Résistance in France and Italy, which is surrounded by a heroic mystique. Nobody dares to criticize the “glorious deeds” of the resisting Partisans. I issued Press releases for the Kuwait Government-in-exile at Taif and organized Press conferences for the then Prime Minister and Interior Minister, including a huge one in Rome. The Kuwaiti Prime Minster opened his speech there with the wail: “Women and babies! The Iraqis killed even the women and babies.” There was no outcry in Europe. Europeans were used to women and children being murdered by bloody dictators.

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Nayirah testifying at the Congressional Human Rights Caucus

The Kuwaiti Resistance was fierce and fought the Iraqis all through the war. Kuwaiti propagandists did their part attacking Saddam Hussein as another “Hitler” and waging a publicity campaign against the Iraqis in an attempt to encourage the Coalition to take a rapid and determined action against them. Perhaps the best-known Kuwaiti propaganda coup was On 10 October 1990 when the Congressional Human Rights Caucus held a hearing on Capitol Hill to discuss Iraqi violations in Kuwait. A 15-year-old Kuwaiti girl, known only by the name Nayirah was called to testify. Sobbing, she described what she had seen with her own eyes in a hospital in Kuwait City. She said that she had watched Iraqi soldiers enter the al-Addan hospital and barge into the room where premature babies were treated. The Iraqis took the babies out of the incubators, threw them on the floor to die, and left with the stolen incubators. This story made news around the world and infuriated the Americans. It later turned out that the witness had been sent to testify by the public relations firm of Hill and Knowlton, hired by the Kuwaiti government-in-exile.

The same firm sent another woman to testify before the United Nations about Iraqi cruelty during the occupation. She turned out to be the daughter of the Kuwaiti Ambassador to the United States. Of all the accusations made against Iraq, none had more impact on American public opinion than the one about Iraqi soldiers removing 312 babies from their incubators and leaving them to die on the cold hospital floors of Kuwait City. Dr. Venturi told me: 

I never really believed in the effectiveness of the incubators story which is neither false nor fully true. That kind of heartbreaking story isn't effective in Europe; I am afraid that the people we were trying to impress, the intellectuals, politicians, those that help form opinions and the press are more cynical than the American public. It is my understanding that the Iraqis turned off the electric power to the hospitals, sadly resulting in a number of deaths.

There were two such cases that Dr. Venturi might be recalling. Two babies were on assisted ventilation in Ward 8 in Jahra Hospital. They were moved to Ward 5 without ventilators and both died. The incubator episode apparently occurred in al-Adan Hospital. 14 children were in incubators when the Iraqis arrived. The Iraqi soldiers ordered the children removed and the Kuwaiti nurses refused. The soldiers removed the children. One child died immediately. Three more died within a few days and four more within the week.

So, how did Hill and Knowlton help to legitimize the Kuwaiti Government-in-Exile and make it into a legitimate and viable force in Europe? How do you take a beaten monarchy and sell it as a desirable democracy that free people should stand behind and support? Some of the details from the campaign starting in late 1990 are known thanks to Luca M. Venturi who ran the operation. We list just a few of the practical suggestion relative to media relations:

1.   Formally create a Kuwait Information Bureau.

2.   Mail or fax daily communications to international journalists covering the Middle East.

3.   Develop a mailing list of opinion leaders in politics.

4.   Translate and distribute the “US Citizens for a Free Kuwait” background press kit.

5.    When possible, arrange media exposure for Kuwait Government officials or leaders.

6.    Make available videotape and other background materials on Kuwaiti resistance, the destruction of the country and atrocities against Kuwait citizens. Whenever possible make interview subjects available.

7.    Develop and distribute material focusing on Iraqi human rights violations.

8.    Depict the Saddam regime and its history of terror and murder.

9.    Reassure the market about Kuwait’s wealth and financial commitments.

10.  Conduct multi-media press conferences when major new developments occur.

11.  Identify and conduct media training for designated Kuwaiti spokespeople in Europe.

When the Kuwaiti Crown Prince visited Rome it was suggested that he claim that the visit occurred on the same day as the EEC foreign ministers to express the gratitude of Kuwait for European solidarity. There should be no lengthy lamentation on the invasion, premature babies and other old facts already largely reported by the media. The main objective was to be vocal and present the Kuwait Government in exile and remind Europe that it was still a viable and legitimate entity (the European media did not consider the Emirate of Kuwait as a full democracy). Over 100 journalists, between newswires, newspapers, television networks and foreign correspondents, attended the Prime Minister’s and Minister of the Interior press conference.

There were anti-Kuwaiti agents afoot. A few journalists claim to have been contacted by someone who claimed to be the Embassy's Press officer who gave them what was a wrong date and time. The Embassy did not have an in-house press officer but relied on advisors. The following day, journalists showed up one hour early to an empty location. Someone had disseminated the wrong time and place. It was thought that a Palestinian agent, at the time a Kuwait News Agency correspondent in Rome, probably acting because of the PLO's support of Saddam Hussein's invasion, had presented himself as the press officer of the Embassy and the confusion possibly originated from him.

It may be true that there was some exaggeration to the “incubator” story but the Iraqis did loot Kuwait medicine and medical machinery. In 1998 the Center for Research and Studies on Kuwait published a book entitled The Iraqi War Criminals and their Crimes during the Iraqi Occupation of Kuwait. It depicts ten documents on that subject. For instance, a 15 September 1990 letter on the subject of transferring medical centers states:

It has been decided to close down the centers shown on the enclosed list…It has been decided to move the appliances, equipment, furniture and medicines to Baghdad.

 

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Dick Cheney   

King Fahd

American Secretary of Defense Cheney met with King Fahd of Saudi Arabia on 7 August. As a result of that meeting, the 82nd Airborne Division and several U. S. A. F. fighter squadrons were permitted to deploy to Saudi Arabia for the protection of the Kingdom. If Saddam Hussein had made a statement that he had no further military ambitions and kept his forces away from the Saudi border, I believe that there is a good chance that no action would have been taken against him. The United States did not use Kuwaiti oil to any great extent and there was no groundswell to stop the Iraqis in the first few days after the invasion. When Saddam foolishly send several dozen divisions close to the border, it made the Saudis nervous enough to permit a massive deployment of American troops into their country. I recall at the time talking to members of the 82nd Airborne who considered themselves “speed bumps.” They all knew that if Saddam attacked south with his heavy armor and mechanized divisions that there was no way that the quick reaction airborne forces could hold. Saddam made his second mistake when he allowed his troops to settle in and gave the United States months to form a strong coalition and build up a force of one-half million men.

On 20 August 1990, President Bush signed National Security Directive 45, the “U.S. Policy in Response to the Iraqi Invasion of Kuwait." The U.S. objectives included the “immediate, complete, and unconditional withdrawal of all Iraqi forces from Kuwait,” and the “restoration of Kuwait's legitimate government to replace the puppet regime installed by Iraq.”

President George Bush authorized the first call-up of 40,000 Selected Reservists for 90 days active duty on 22 August 1990. It is hard to remember that in those days the National Guard or Reserves was hardly ever called up. If it was, the time was always very limited, and rarely exceeded 180 days. By November Bush upped the active duty time to 180 days with the option of a 180-day extension. On 18 January 1991, Bush signed an order authorizing 220,000 Reservists to be called up for 12 months.

A U.N. ultimatum, Security Council Resolution 678, followed on November 29, 1990.  It gave Saddam Hussein until 15 January 1991 to leave Kuwait. After that time, a coalition of American and allied troops was authorized to drive them out. Eventually, 30 nations joined the military coalition arrayed against Iraq, with a further 18 countries supplying economic, humanitarian, or other type of assistance.

The defensive stage of the conflict was called Desert Shield. The Iraqis would not be attacked, but Saudi Arabia would be protected and psychological operations would be used to weaken the enemy forces across the border and behind the sand berms in occupied Kuwait. We all waited and counted the days. Everyone knew that America was going to war, but the question was, how long would it wait after that magic date of 15 January?

What America did not know was that there was no way that Saddam could pull his troops out of Kuwait. He believed that he understood the American psyche and there was no way that they would attack him and take the terrible losses that were sure to ensue. He remembered Vietnam. He was positive that the Americans had no stomach for a long and bitter fight. He refused to listen to his own intelligence staff believing that they were all defeatists or had been propagandized by the Americans. Any general that hinted of a possible defeat immediately disappeared. This lesson was not lost on the remaining generals. As a result, there was no way that the Iraqi Army could leave Kuwait by 15 January. When questioned after the war, the Iraqi generals said:

Such a suggestion would have implied that Saddam’s original decision to move into Kuwait had been a mistake, and the dictator’s response to such impertinence was sure to be fatal.

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General H. Norman Schwarzkopf

General Schwarzkopf served in Vietnam and remembered the lack of support from the American public as a whole. By calling up the Reserve forces, almost everyone knew someone in the service, and the entire country became patriotic, moved politically to the right, and yellow ribbons appeared on trees and automobiles. “Stormin” Norman Schwarzkopf (AKA “The Bear”) was the perfect fighting general for his time. He is one of those generals that suddenly appear when America needs a special leader. Remembering Vietnam, he refused to be hurried, refused to attack with less than a preponderance of force, and kept the President and Congress waiting while he trained and honed his half-million man Army.

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Photos of a few of the 4000 tanks that were destroyed

On 17 January he said in part:

Soldiers, sailors airmen and Marines of the United States Central Command…You are a member of the most powerful force our country, in coalition with our allies, has ever assembled in a single theater to face such an aggressor. You have trained hard for this battle and you are ready. During my visits with you, I have seen in your eyes a fire of determination to get this job done quickly so that we may all return to the shores of our great nation. My confidence in you is total. Our cause is just! Now you must be the thunder and lightning of Desert Storm. May God be with you, your loved ones at home, and our country.

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The Iraqis Destroy Kuwaiti Oil Wells
Photo by Adel al Yousifi

As the war neared its end, in an action of malice that is one of the greatest man-made environmental disasters in history, the retreating Iraqi troops set fire to 613 Kuwaiti oil wells. In addition, 114 were damaged so that the oil gushed out, but they did not burn. Two dozen more oil wells were damaged, but they neither burned nor gushed oil. The scope of this environmental catastrophe was so great that it was first estimated that it would take as long as ten years to put out the fires. One estimate claimed that they may burn for 100 years if no efforts were made to fight the fires. The skies were dark as night by day, and black soot covered everything. However, in an amazing feat of modern engineering, the last oil fire was put out on 6 November 1991.

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Saddam Hussein Sets the Kuwaiti Desert Aflame
Photo by Adel al Yousifi

The Iraqi War Criminals and their Crimes during the Iraqi Occupation of Kuwait reprints a military order dated 17 August 1990:

Assign and name the destruction groups of the oil wells and electricity and water stations that have been prepared for deferred destruction. Every group should be present in the location assigned to them to blow up those targets as soon as orders are given. Groups that fail to blow up the targets assigned to them when orders are given will be severely punished.

Branko R. Babic, the chemist-inventor who came up with the idea of extending the fire above the burning wells by using a 10-meter pipe extension told me what it was like to design a tool that helped put out half the Kuwait oil well fires:

It was an amazing insight to realize that the problem of containing wild oil well fires was a great deal simpler than the media hype made out. I felt privileged to be in a position to put forward the patent applied for technology that would help an entire society and possibly, even save their oil industry from total destruction.

Many Americans that returned from the war suffered from a disease called “Gulf War Syndrome” and until this day nobody is sure if it was caused by military FDA-untested anti-nerve agent inoculations, depleted uranium ammunition poisoning, nerve agents used by either the Iraqis or released when the Americans destroyed Iraqi weaponry and ammunition, local diseases, or allergic reactions to the contaminants in the oil smoke. There is no smoking gun. There are just long-suffering veterans. Worse, it came to light in 2014 that the Army had purposely and in contradiction to regulations destroyed medical records:

A letter from the Department of the Army telling units to destroy their records after the end of Operation Desert Storm has made it more difficult for injured veterans to get the medical benefits they need. The letter, never made public before now, says units were told to destroy their records because officials had no room to ship the paperwork back to the United States. The letter goes on to say it was in direct contradiction to existing Army regulations.

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The 8th Special Operations Squadron

I had copious data on the 8th Special Operations Squadron in the Gulf War but never added it because I thought the talk of missions and flights and dates would be dry and uninteresting for the civilian reader.

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Mike McLain today with Leaflets from his MC-130E

Recently, former Sergeant Mike McLain wrote to me and wondered why the 8th SOS wasn't mentioned in this article. I had the data in my files so at his urging decided to go ahead and add the information at long last.

Mike McLain was in the United States Air Force for 12 years, stationed for about 8 years at Hurlburt Field, Florida. He was assigned to the 8th SOS as a Crew Chief on flying status. Mike was deployed to Saudi Arabia during Desert Shield and Desert Storm and has a great number of Coalition propaganda leaflets in his possession that were dropped by the 8th SOS MC-130E Combat Talon aircraft. He helped load the leaflets before each flight and during his post-flight inspection the tail of the aircraft was usually covered with leaflets that the wind whipped back into the MC-130E.

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Mike McLain with Blu-82 Bomb before Mission

We know a lot about the leaflet missions of the two Special Operations Squadrons. They flew about 15 actual missions, and since one mission (the Blu-82 bomb leaflet) consisted of four flights, their total of flights was 19 in all. Mission 13 and 14 were dropped by the 9th SOS, all the rest by the 8th SOS. Their first three missions on 11 to 13 January 1991 targeted Kuwait City. Thereafter, most of the drops targeted Iraqi troops. On 15 and 16 January Iraqi troops in South and Southeastern Kuwait were targeted. On 19 January the Iraqi 16th Infantry Division was warned of an attack. On 20 January the Iraqi 16th Infantry Division had a follow-up leaflet and the Iraqi 20th Infantry Division was warned. On 21 January the Iraqi 20th Infantry Division received follow-up leaflets. Mission Eight targeted front-line Iraqi troops as did Mission Nine on 9 February. Mission 10 took place from the 6th to the 16th of February and consisted of four separate drops of the Blu-82 bomb leaflet (C52). On 14 February leaflets were dropped along Kuwait's western border. This drop contained the infamous “Star of David” VII Corps leaflet (C23) that apparently motivated the Iraqis to fight on. Mission Twelve on 15 February was mostly made up of safe conduct and surrender passes. The final mission of the 8th SOS was flown 26 February in the North of Kuwait and targeted the Republican Guard. The leaflets known to have been dropped by the 8th SOS are as follows:

C02, C03, C05, C06, C07, C08, C09, C21, C22, C23, C24, C25, C27, C29, C38, C35, C36, C37, C38, C42, C43, C44, C45, C52, V06, V07, V08, V09, V28, V29, V37, and V38.

The reader should understand that these were only dropped by the MC-130E aircraft of the 8th SOS. Other leaflets were dropped by B-52 bombers and numerous tactical aircraft.

The Leaflet Project

This project started in 1990 when I was a master sergeant at Fort Bliss, El Paso, Texas. Everyone knew that we were going to war. Saddam Hussein had invaded and occupied Kuwait and President Bush and Margaret Thatcher were itching to kick the Iraqis out. While the diplomats flew back and forth to Saudi Arabia for permission to land troops, and to the UN to get a resolution, I started setting up a catalog of all the known leaflets prepared by the Coalition forces. I contacted friends in the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment and 11th Air Defense Artillery Brigade that were about to deploy and asked them to send me any leaflets that they found. I was also lucky in having MSG Adel Shahin in my section. He was a Jordanian and graciously translated all the Arabic-language material that I gathered. I started a listing of all known leaflets at that time and numbered them according to their appearance.

The Psywar Society (An international association of PSYOP historians and collectors) wanted to be the first to publish a booklet on the subject, so working together with author R. G. Auckland and some other members we published Aerial Propaganda Leaflets Produced by the United Nations Joint Forces for Operation Desert Storm in 1991. This booklet was a bit premature because many leaflets had not yet surfaced, but at 72 pages it was the first civilian published PSYOP reference of the war. The Psywar Society used its own numbering system in the booklet.

I was also corresponding with Richard Johnson at the time. We swapped and traded data and translations, and Richard then self-published a booklet entitled PSYOP - The Gulf Paper War in 1992. The booklet was a set of typed pages held together with a metal slide, with actual photographs glued in. He also numbered the leaflets so in effect we had three sets of arbitrary numbers for the Persian Gulf War leaflets. Unfortunately, the Coalition did not see fit to code the leaflets so we all tried to be as accurate as possible, but the numbers were arbitrary and just guesswork. Later Johnson computer-produced individual pages that could be placed in a loose-leaf binder inside clear plastic sheets, and finally in 1997 Schiffer Military History published his work in a commercial book entitled Seeds of Victory.

For the purposes of this article I have changed my numbers to those of Johnson’s Seeds of Victory because I think that most collectors have that book and it will be easier for them to research individual leaflets if they already know the Johnson code number. In those cases where I have an item that Johnson does not, I have entered an arbitrary number that follows his pattern.

The following list is my own record of what was produced and dropped during the first Gulf War. I believe it to be a complete record of Coalition PSYOP during that war.

COALITION LEAFLETS DROPPED
OVER IRAQI FORCES 1991-1992

The Coalition leaflets appear in various sizes, papers and colors. In many cases the same leaflets were prepared in both color and black and white, as well as with slightly changed vignettes, and different papers and sizes. Some are found on cardboard, others on thin tissue paper. The leaflets were prepared in vast quantities as part of a plan to drop propaganda on the Iraqi forces every three hours. The Iraqis were to be kept awake, off balance, and reminded of their helplessness.

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4th PSYOP Group

The first PSYOP teams deployed to Saudi Arabia on 7 August. On 10 August the PSYOP planning cell was in CENTCOM HQ. On 11 August CENTCOM set forth the National and PSYOP objectives, themes to be stressed and avoided, military actions, target audiences and PSYOP products. By 17 August a Desert Shield PSYOP Strategic Plan was finalized. We should point out that it took months for the plan to be approved by everyone up the chain of command and required General Schwarzkopf to get personally involved. The Post-Operational Analysis of Psychological Operations During Desert Shield/Storm adds:

In a strongly worded message on 5 December 1990 to the Secretary of Defense, General Schwarzkopf stressed the urgent need to reincorporate without further delay 21 important PSYOP actions which had been deleted from the original text and which he fully intended to implement. The message conveyed frustration over the void still existing between pre-hostility public diplomacy and psychological warfare.

The Institute of Land Warfare booklet Psychological Operations in Desert Shield, Desert Storm and Urban Freedom says:

Although the U. S. Commander in Chief, Central Command approval for the plan was received in September, execution authority was not granted until December. The interagency approval process, mandated by Department Of Defense Directive 3321.1 was glacial…Quite literally; months of potential psychological preparation of the battlefield were wasted.

Rick Atkinson discusses logjam this in Crusade, the Untold Story of the Persian Gulf War, Houghton Mifflin Company, New York, 1993.

Early in Desert Shield, with help from the Army’s 4th Psychological Operations Group, the Commander in Chief had drafted a detailed plan for “The psychological preparation of the battlefield.” The proposal languished in Washington for many weeks, victim of bureaucratic wrangling…After Schwarzkopf delivered himself of a table-pounding tirade, Cheney approved a modified plan….

However, the plan was eventually approved and was a great success. At about the same time in November 1990, the Proven Force auxiliary plan for operations in Turkey was approved in concept.

We should also mention that as the 4th PSYOP Group geared up for Operation Desert Storm it required manpower from its various battalions and detachments deployed in South America, Europe and Asia. A call went out to identify and rapidly reassign experienced PSYOP officers and those with special skills from around the world to the 4th POG. Eventually, forty PSYOP officers who called themselves the "Lost Boys" were identified and assigned to the battle against Saddam Hussein.

The main American proponent of psychological warfare leaflets was the 4th Psychological Operations Group (Airborne). They produced and printed over 29 million leaflets. The Coalition forces packed M129E1 leaflet bombs with up to 54,000 machine-rolled leaflets, which were dropped over Iraqi concentrations by F-16, F/A-18, B-52, and MC-130 aircraft. Other leaflets were delivered by balloons. Before the war started, 12,000 leaflets were floated onto the beaches of Kuwait by bottle. Interrogation of Iraqi prisoners revealed that 98% had seen Coalition leaflets.

Atkinson says:

The 4th PSYOP Group used six Army printing presses, as well as those of the Saudi military and a private printer; working around the clock to produce four-color flyers measuring precisely three by six inches…Operating out of King Fahd airport, the Army developed fifty different leaflets sorted into seven themes.

The Post-Operational Analysis of Psychological Operations During Desert Shield/Storm indicates that leaflet missions were flown on 33 days from 20 December 1990 to 24 February 1991. Six missions were classified, 15 were from MC-130 aircraft, 7 from F-16 fighter-bombers, and 5 were B-52 drops. In all, 19.08 million CENTCOM leaflets were disseminated on Kuwait, Baghdad and Southern Iraq. Approximately 10 million were dropped on Northern Iraq, presumably from Turkey.

The leaflets and themes were approved by General Schwarzkopf's staff, and then printed independently in Saudi Arabia and Turkey.

Colonel Jeffrey B. Jones discusses the Psychological operations in an article entitled “Psychological Operations in Desert Shield, Desert Storm and Urban Freedom, Special Warfare, July 1994

Before the Gulf War, during combat operations, and in the aftermath, approximately 650 soldiers from the 4th Psychological Operations Group and from reserve-component PSYOP units contributed to the coalition efforts. They provided radio and TV support, broadcast tactical loudspeaker messages and produced 29 million leaflets. The leaflets were delivered by everything from balloons to B-52s; some were even smuggled into Baghdad itself!

PSYOP messages persuaded approximately 44 percent of the Iraqi army to desert, more than 17,000 to defect, and more than 87,000 to surrender. Integrating their efforts with those of the U.S. Central Command, 21 PSYOP soldiers, working with their Turkish counterparts in Joint Task Force Proven Force in southern Turkey and using radio broadcasts and leaflets, helped cause the defection, desertion and surrender of some 40,000 Iraqis — all without firing a shot.

The 8th PSYOP Taskforce provided support to Urban Freedom, the liberation of Kuwait City, and to Task Force Freedom, the consolidation operation in Kuwait, with the mission of re-establishing radio and print activities to support repatriation and settlement of the capital.

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Collecting PSYOP Leaflets

PFC David Simmons was assigned to Bravo Company, 502nd Support Battalion of the 2nd Armor Division during Operation Desert Storm. Here he shows Souvenir-hunting Coalition soldiers bending over to pick up some of the thousands of Allied PSYOP leaflets dropped on a berm that defines the Saudi Arabian - Kuwait border.

Major Peter A. Whitenack, USMC, discusses the PSYOP campaign in his 1993 thesis “An Analysis of Gulf War PSYOP and their applicability to Future Operations.”

The unexpected degree of success enjoyed by the Coalition can be directly attributed to the manner in which PSYOPS complemented the overall conduct of operations against the enemy in the Kuwait Theater of Operations. As traditional “users of propaganda against the enemy,” PSYOP units generated initiatives during the Persian Gulf War which employed standard, dedicated communications assets (principally broadcasting and printing equipment) in support of combat operations. Across the theater, these activities complemented Coalition operations and directly contributed to the unexpectedly rapid demise of Saddam's war machine>

Before Coalition forces fired the first shots in the Persian Gulf War, a different type of force had already been assembled for months, and was engaged in a pitched battle for dominance over Iraqi forces. Far away from headlines and newscasts, PSYOP initiatives were bombarding Saddam's empire in the form of wave upon wave of leaflet and radio assaults. Actual leaflet development occurred at Riyadh, with digitized imagery transmission to PDB printing facilities at Dhahran. Target analysis effort culminated in a PSYOP campaign which emphasized continual themes of the futility of resistance; inevitability of defeat; surrender; desertion and defection; abandonment of equipment; and blaming the war on Saddam Hussein. During the pre-ground war campaign, key action leaflet verbs were developed for exploitation such as: Saddam-- Death-- Hunger-- Bombing--Family--Cease Resistance—Be safe, etc.

We know a lot about the paper projects produced by the 4th PSYOP Group and its subordinate battalions and detachments prior to and during the war. The document “Non-Classified Print Projects” is a listing of just about everything that they printed. For instance, on 11 August 1990 they printed 9th Battalion information cards, on 12 November SOCCENT stickers, and on 16 November 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment Christmas cards. As the start of the shooting war approached we find them printing more serious items such as enemy prisoner of war (EPW) cards on 2 January 1991 and rules of engagement cards on 3 January.

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4th Psychological Operations Group Leaflet Publications

The “PSYOP Print Products” and the “Print Daily Status Report” documents list the various internal code numbers, internal code names, mission numbers, and in some cases the dates disseminated , the type of aircraft, the method of dissemination and the number of leaflets produced. If we wanted to break down the PSYOP war in great detail we could give each day's mission. For example, on 14 January 1991, C-130 aircraft dropped 639,000 leaflets. There were 100,000 each of product number 2-H, mission number 50-26-2 Fade to Black (V07), 2-Q 50-27-2 Taxi (C18), 2-S 50-28-2 Saddam in Tank (V08), and 113,000 of 2-D 50-18-2 Calendar (V05), 2-O 50-23-2 Shatt al Arab (D02), and 2-P 50-24-2 Rocking Chair ( V03). There are several excellent printed publications that depict psychological warfare leaflets prepared by the United States Army during the war. The best of them are Leaflets of the Gulf War by the 4th PSYOP Group and Print Company Leaflet Magazine Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm by the PSYOP Dissemination Battalion.

The 4th PSYOP Group briefing on their actions during Desert Shield/Storm states that 29 million leaflets (29 tons) were dropped on the Kuwait Theater of Operations (KTO) by balloon, MC-130, F-16, F/A-18 and B-52.

The Central Command clandestine radio network, “Voice of the Gulf” broadcast from ground-based stations in Saudi Arabia and airborne transmitters on a pair of EC-130 Volant SOLO aircraft on six frequencies 18 hours per day for 40 days reaching every Iraqi soldier in the KTO.

Sixty-six PSYOP loudspeaker teams were in direct support of Arcent, Marcent, and Soccent. Tactical PSYOP supported each maneuver brigade.

Major Whitenack mentions the loudspeakers in his thesis: 

A deficiency in U.S. Army active duty field-level loudspeaker assets early in Operation DESERT SHIELD necessitated the activation of reserve loudspeaker teams.  Drawn primarily from locations in the U.S., they comprised a total of sixty-six   three-man, vehicular-mounted teams with 4th PSYOPS, and  were attached to virtually every brigade-level ground maneuver unit within the Kuwait Theater of Operations. Once assigned, loudspeaker teams were tasked with broadcasting specific, audience taped messages upon the Iraqi military. In addition to deceptive noises and sound effects, tapes were used in issuing vocal appeals and instructions to the Iraqis, to coerce them into surrendering.

On the subject of sound effect tapes, one of the more interesting was the sound of a baby crying. Such tapes had been used in some earlier wars, specifically Vietnam. In this case, the sound of the baby crying all night was considered demoralizing and especially effective against troops that were cut off or out of communication with their officers. Humans are “wired” to be deeply affected by crying babies and it is almost impossible to rest or sleep while the loud wailing is going on.

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A U.S. Army Reserve Loudspeaker Team Attached to the Marines

PSYOP Loudspeaker Team “Charlie” of the United States Army Reserve 245th Psychological Operations Company attached to 3/3 1st Marine Division - Task Force Taro. The men pictured, left to right, top to bottom are: (top) Naief Al Multari (a Kuwaiti volunteer linguist), SGT Jon Cartier (245th team leader), USMC SGT Frank Torres (Security man on the team), USMC Jeff Taylor (M203 Gunner), SPC Darrell McCoy (245th asst. team leader), and USMC SSG Bitner (Driver and former sniper).   It was taken the morning of 26 February 1991 in the Kuwaiti town of Al Wafra, which was captured from the Iraqis on 24 February after breaching the first minefield belt. The picture was taken after operations against an Iraqi Tank battalion (16 armored vehicles and a dug in Infantry regiment that fired mortars and artillery at the team while broadcasting surrender appeals). On the ground there is a stripped down LSS-40 loudspeaker system they disassembled and mounted on a PRC-77 Radio pack. They hold a surrender flag from the Iraqi infantry.

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The Results of PSYOP Loudspeaker Operations

The major PSYOP themes were Surrender (12.4 million leaflets), Inevitability of defeat (6.6 million), Abandon Equipment and Flee (1.9 million), Saddam is to Blame for the war (4.7 million) and other (3.5 million). 

330,000 leaflets were disseminated by balloon, 18,900,000 by MC-130, 7,800,000 by F-16, and 2,000,000 by B-52.

To reinforce the air campaign, the 4th PSYOP Group prepared pointee-talkie cards, blood chits, and broadcast messages in support of search and rescue missions.

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Desert Storm Blood Chit

The blood chit was printed on tyvek cloth, an extremely durable fabric. They were hand-receipted to pilots so any person presenting a chit and claiming to have aided an airman needed to know the correct name. The message was in Arabic, Persian (Farsi), Turkish and Kurdish. The text is:

I am an American and do not speak your language. I will not harm you. I bear no malice toward your people. My friend, please provide me food, water, shelter, clothing and necessary medical attention. Also, please provide safe passage to the nearest friendly forces of any country supporting the Americans and the allies. You will be rewarded for assisting me when you present this number and my name to American authorities.

The chits were serial numbered at the four corners. I seem to remember (though it is hazy) that the amount of reward for an entire chit was $100,000, and if the pilot was helped by more than one person the numbers could be cut off the chit and were worth $25,000 each. There are dozens of blood chits on the market from both wartime and peacetime flights over enemy territory. The genuine blood chit is easy to identify because printed at the bottom in very small letters is "BLDCHTXXIA (Desert Shield)."

The government doesn't mention much about the chits but one document says:

As the executive agent for aircrew escape and evasion, SOCCENT was tasked with developing and executing an escape and evasion plan. In response, SOCCENT developed a contingency blood chit that could be photocopied and passed out to aircrews and special operators as needed. It was also recommended that a contingency fund be established to pay ingenious persons for assisting downed American pilots and crews. One Coalition member used a blood chit in his successful evasion to freedom. Fortunately, blood chits did not have to be used in great numbers.

Apparently, the rest of the comment was still classified.

In an attempt to mold public opinion, build support for the Coalition, and perhaps frighten the Iraqis into leaving Kuwait, the 4th PSYOP Group's Media Platoon produced a 13-minute movie entitled The Nations of the World Draw a Line in the Sand in September 1990. The movie went to great pains to show all the nations allied against Saddam and especially the Egyptian and Syrian contribution to the Coalition. It depicted armadas of ships, aircraft and tanks on the move. It pictured the delegates to the United Nations censoring Iraq. It pointed out that Iraq stood alone against the greatest military force in history. It opens and ends with a quote from the Koran that branded the Iraqis as being outlaws who operated outside the teachings of Muhammad and pointed out that every real Muslim must fight them:

And if two parties of the believers fight one another, reconcile between them. But if one of them becomes aggressive against the other, then fight the one that is aggressive until he reverts to God's behest.

This short movie was translated into five languages and shipped to 19 countries including 200 copies that were smuggled into Iraq. Saddam Hussein should have studied it. It forecast exactly what was about to happen to his Army of occupation.

Black operations were also undertaken in an attempt to embarrass and ridicule Saddam Hussein. For example, one false story was that a cowardly Saddam Hussein was afraid of insects. The concept was that the Iraqi people would not respect a man who is petrified of cockroaches. A rumor was started that Saddam's maid heard a shrill, piercing scream coming from the president's night chambers. When she looked in, Saddam was standing on top of a chair, crying in horror. The description ends:

The cowardly baboon would not get down from the chair until the tiny bug was killed.

All of these psychological warfare campaigns were concentrated and refined to weaken the Iraqi regime and destroy its will to fight.

On 20 February an incident suggested that Coalition PSYOP was having an effect. Apache and A-10 pilots had attacked a bunker complex. A three-man PSYOP team broadcast surrender messages by loudspeaker, and to their surprise, 435 Iraqis from the 45th Infantry Division gave up on the spot.

Of course, there were minor problems caused by differences in culture. For instance, the color red signals danger to an Iraqi and he would be hesitant to pick up a leaflet with a lot of red in the image or text. Look at “failed leaflets” F06, F07 and F08. The heavy use of the color red might not be the reason that these leaflets were considered unsuccessful, but it might have been a contributing factor.

American soldiers are clean shaven. However, to the Iraqis, a Coalition soldier without a chin beard is seen an unholy and untrustworthy. That beard as important to an Arab. In the early safe conduct pass the Coalition soldier is clean-shaven. In the later ones we can make out a little wisp of beard.

Enemy prisoners of war (EPWs) were allegedly disappointed to see no bananas in the early leaflets. Bananas are a favored delicacy of the Iraqis but the embargo had meant none for a half-year. When the Coalition found out the importance of that fruit to the Iraqis they added bananas to the leaflets. Curiously, there was a rumor that the Kuwaitis played a trick on the Americans and had them add the bananas to the leaflet because they wanted to insult the Iraqi “monkeys.” It is a great anecdote, but I have never believed that story.

We should also mention music used in the campaign. I am often asked about the use of music in warfare by various researchers and there are at least three cases where PSYOP troops used music during Desert Shield/Desert Storm. During the initial ground attack across the border, the Army advanced to loudspeaker broadcasts of “The Ride of the Valkyries,” reminiscent of the movie “Apocalypse Now.” A day later the United States Marines crossed the Saudi-Kuwait barrier as PSYOP loudspeakers played “The Marine Hymn.” At the end of the brief war, a PSYOP team searched for a suitable victory song to play as the guns fell silent. Perhaps the signature song of Operation Desert Storm was Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the U.S.A.” but it was unavailable. As a result, the final song of the war played by PSYOP loudspeakers was James Brown’s ‘I feel good.”

DEVELOPMENTAL ARTWORK

Prior to the start of the war, 4th PSYOP Group artists prepared numerous leaflets for approval. Some were accepted, some were not for various reasons. Many of the early concepts were adopted with minor or major modifications.

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Aircraft Bombs Iraqi Soldier

One proposed leaflet shows a Coalition F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter-bomber strafing and bombing an Iraqi soldier. There is no text, but a comment at the bottom of the page states that the drawing is a “draft color illustration for proposed product developed by MSG Lester M. Steenberg, U.S. Army on 14 December 1990 at Al Jubayl S.A.” Note the black flames and compare them to the flames on leaflet C36. The artist did a similar draft the following day that depicted the Iraqi soldier in close-up while overhead three aircraft dropped bombs headed directly at his head.

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SAVE IRAQ - STOP SADDAM

This leaflet depicts the flag of Iraq and the words “Save Iraq - Stop Saddam.” It was proposed product 17B-08-1, meant to be printed both as a leaflet and a poster. What is most interesting about this item is that it was to be disseminated into "Iraq and Kuwait through the Kuwaiti resistance, Bedouins, or border crossers."

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Presence Appreciation Card

The last item we show is a small 2 1/2 x 5-inch card that is called “1A-01-1 (Presence Appreciation).” The objective of the card was to “encourage the Saudi people to accept the U.S. presence in the region.” The dissemination would be done by “personnel in contact with Saudi civilians will hand out cards as good will or souvenir gesture.” The description notes that the card, “expresses appreciation of the invited American personnel to be in the company of the courageous Saudi forces.”

The text of the card says in part:

The Custodian of the two Holy Mosques, King Fahd bin Abdul Aziz al Saud, has graciously invited American military personnel into the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, along with forces of other nations of the world, to join courageous Saudi forces in a united stand against the aggression of Saddam Hussein. We are proud to be associated with this noble endeavor which has won the admiration and support of the entire world.

The bottom of the card displays the telephone numbers to contact U.S. military representatives. The reverse of the card bears the U.S. flag and the same text in Arabic.  Notice the slight similarity to the card 1-A shown as the very first CENTCOM product. Near the end of the article we show another small card bearing the American flag and phone numbers.

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Saddam cooks his soldier over the Coalition Fire

I have copies of about 100 of these early drafts of leaflets. Most are crude and I choose not to show them. To give an example, here is a very early sketch one artist drew of Saddam holding his soldiers over a fire which certainly is meant to represent the Coalition forces.

ARTIST TIM WALLACE

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Artist Tim Wallace in Riyadh during Operation Desert Storm

Sergeant Tim Wallace was an artist assigned to the 4th PSYOP Group during Operation Desert Storm. He designed a great many of the leaflets that we show in this article. There were a number of leaflets that either were not disseminated or were changed so as to make a different image. We show some of Tim’s developmental artwork here

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Battleship

I love this leaflet. It clearly shows the Iraqi soldier what he is up against. The Iraqi prepares to shoot a small mortar against the enemy, while miles away a U.S. Battleship has sent a gigantic shell directly at him. Tim said in regard to this leaflet:

From what I understood at the time, the Iraqis were defending the coast with mortars. So I went with a simple idea based on a strong design that spelled it all out. I just wanted to show them that the shells we fire from our battleships are about the size of a minivan, and the map makers have to redraw the coastline once the Navy gets done.

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Hungry Warthogs

This seems a fairly standard Desert Storm leaflet since many depicted Coalition aircraft attacking Iraqi tanks and troops. What makes this leaflet more interesting is that the A-10 Warthogs have a gaping maw and teeth. This leaflet looks a bit like the later “warning” leaflet C-36. It could be an early version of that leaflet. Tim told me:

I was asked to do several tank leaflets involving our A10’s, (tank killers). I noticed that they would paint shark mouths on the noses of the A10’s so I just ran with that “shark image” to show the Iraqi tanks that they had no chance against these aircraft that will swarm about the battlefield like sharks in a feeding frenzy.

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Invasion by Sea

This leaflet looks a lot like “the wave,” leaflet C-20 shown later on in this article. There is no Marine symbol in this drawing, just waves of American troops backed by heavy gunboats towering over fleeing Iraqi troops. When I spoke to Tim Wallace about this image he agreed that he had used this early draft when he drew the USMC leaflet C-20. Tim said about this image:

There was a whole series of waves both on the beach and storm waves that I drew in the initial months. Although the famed “Marine Wave with K-Bar” is the one they most remember....this one ran a close 2nd, but I have never seen it in leaflet form. I did another one that was done in pencil and not yet inked that shows a little of the process used to narrow an idea down to one approved leaflet. This is where working on newspapers as a political cartoonist came in handy. I could take an idea that they would want as a leaflet and present that same idea 10 different ways to find the best possible image.

Tim was disappointed that often the drawings would be changed or other artists would make revisions which he though weakened the image. He told me:

There was a common practice with many of the leaflets during Desert Storm where someone would take a visually successful leaflet, and they would then rework and add and cut and paste elements with their ideas or another illustrator’s work. [Note: This reminds me of Ayn Rand’s “The Fountainhead” where every architect changed the design of a building].

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The Foundations of Saddam’s Power is crumbling

Tim says below that some pictures of Saddam were hard for his own troops to identify. Here is a developmental leaflet by another artist showing Saddam standing behind a wall that is crumbling. Does this picture depict Saddam in an accurate way?

I explained to the individuals in 8th Battalion that this was not a good practice if you want to produce strong visual effects with leaflets. There was an assumption that all illustrators had the same skill levels and therefore this was an acceptable practice in development of any print product. They were operating off the assumption that all artists were interchangeable and so was their work. Nothing could be farther from the truth. For instance, I could draw a very good likeness of Saddam, but if you removed my drawing of his head and placed another one in its place, you may eventually have a problem with recognition from the Iraqi troops. It sounds like that may have been a problem from what I read.

In 2013, artist and cartoonist Tim Wallace published a book of his military-themed cartoons. The book is entitled G.I. Bill – A Cartoon Collection: 1987 - 1991.

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C01

            F: U.S. Flag. Color. "Why we are here. President George Bush..."

            B: "While we are here..."            

This is a wallet card, not a leaflet.

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Booklets issued to the troops

The first item we show is a wallet card and not a leaflet. It was issued to troops deploying to Saudi Arabia in an attempt to insure that they would act as guests and not as an occupying force. The United States had many problems with Arab customs, not the least of which were the use of women in uniform and Christian symbols around soldier’s necks. As a result, a great deal of effort was made in educating the troops to Arab customs. Besides the card, every serviceman received a copy of the booklet A Soldier's Guide to Saudi Arabia. That was followed by tips on living in the desert such as the “Lessons Learned” publications, Getting to the Desert, Winning in the Desert and Winning in the Desert II. There were additional booklets on fighting the war such as Desert Shield Armored Vehicle Recognition, Desert Shield Aircraft Recognition, Vulnerabilities of Iraqi T-72/T-72M and BMP-1's, Land Mines Used by Iraqi Forces, Small Arms Used by Iraq, Desert Shield Leader's Safety Guide and Identifying the Iraqi Threat. A soldier’s backpack could become a library while waiting for 15 January.    

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D02    

F: Iraqi soldier carries Saddam on his back. Color. Paper 152x105mm. The sign reads:      "Shatt al Arab." The crow is evil omen. The text is a parody of popular Iraqi song telling of a man's difficulties with his love. "I crossed the Shatt al Arab as you wished, and I obeyed your orders. I feel death at the door, and I feel I am at my last breath, and I sigh deeply."

B: Gray halftone.

When I first showed this leaflet to my Arab interpreter he began humming the tune. He recognized it immediately. The artwork was drawn by a Saudi and you see it full sized here. The very next leaflet is an American version on cardboard where the image has been compressed.

This is the first of five leaflets that United States documents call “Saudi.” There is no explanation. I first wondered if they were disseminated by the Saudis, but we have no knowledge of Saudi leaflet drops. My second thought was that they were inspired by the Saudis and that does seem the case here. This was clearly Saudi artwork. The final leaflets are C05 (Calendar), C10 (Carpet Bomb – perhaps the Saudis recommended the plastic paper), C26 and C27 (both depict a single Saudi flag in the POW camp in place of multiple Coalition flags).

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C02

F: Joint Forces seal. 27 flags. Color. Cardboard. 152 x 83mm.

B: Iraqi soldier carries Saddam on his back. Similar to #DO2. Color. Sign reads "Shatt al Arab." Crow is evil omen. Text is parody of popular Iraqi song telling of a man's difficulties with his love. "I crossed the Shatt al Arab as you wished, and I obeyed your orders. I feel death at the door, and I feel I am at my last breath, and I sigh deeply."

Early in the deployment four different leaflets were prepared on cardboard. The leaflets are very handsome and sturdy, but it was found that they did not disseminate well when air-dropped. These leaflets are very powerful from a graphics standpoint because they show all the flags of the coalition nations on one side in full color. Although they are the most attractive of the Gulf War leaflets, we might say that they were a failure. The first airdrop of 113,000 leaflets was on the night of 12 January. 

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C03

F: Joint Forces seal. 27 flags. Color. Cardboard. 152 x 83mm.

B: A father and mother think of their dead or injured Iraqi son on battlefield.
"Oh my dear son, when will you return?"

The second cardboard leaflet. This is the first leaflet that actually threatened the Iraqis with death. There would be many more. The first airdrop of 113,000 leaflets was on the night of 15 January. 

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V03

F: A father and mother think of their dead or injured Iraqi son on battlefield. Paper.

B: Gray halftone.

This is a probably the original vignette of CO3. Notice that the leaflet has a very dark background to keep the Iraqis from printing their own propaganda on the blank back. 80,000 leaflets were printed, but it is unknown if they were disseminated.

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C04

F: A father and mother think of their dead or injured son. 6 x 3." "Oh my dear son, when will you return?" (Similar to VO3)

B: An Arab looks at an hour glass. (Similar to C14) "People believe me, time is not in our favor."

After printing this image on both cardboard and paper with a blank back, the coalition now prepares the leaflet with a new image on the back. The text is in regard to the coming deadline of 15 January. 80,000 leaflets were printed, but it is unknown if they were disseminated.

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V04

F: A father and mother think of their dead or injured son. 11 x 6-inches. "Oh my dear son, when will you return?" (Similar to V03)

B: Arab looks at hour glass. (Similar to C14) "People believe me, time is not in our favor."

This is an oversized leaflet. It was probably prepared as a handout. There was a rumor that the leaflets were dropped from helicopters where their additional weight would tend to keep them from being sucked up into the rotor blades. Richard Johnson calls this:

The rarest leaflet of the Persian Gulf War. There were only 100 of these leaflets made, ever. I got a small handful from a PSYOP officer just after the war ended.

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C05

F: Joint Forces seal. 27 flags. Color. Cardboard. 155x85mm.

B: An Arab points at calendar. An Iraqi soldier listens.
"Time is not in our favor. It is only a few days to the deadline of January 15."

This is the third of the four cardboard leaflets. Curiously, the calendar depicts the entire month of January rather than just the number “15.” The first known drop is 113,000 leaflets on the night of 12 January.

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V05

F: An Arab points at calendar. An Iraqi soldier listens. Paper. Similar to CO5.
"Time is not in our favor. It is only a few days to the deadline of January 15th"

B: Gray halftone.

In this improved paper version of the leaflet the Arab points to the figure “15” instead of the entire month of January. Leaflet dissemination is unsure.

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C06

F: Joint Forces seal. 27 flags. Color. Cardboard.

B: An Iraqi soldier thinks of himself dead on battlefield.
"To stay here means death."

This is the fourth and final cardboard leaflet used in the early stages before the shooting war started in Kuwait. The first known drop of 25,000 leaflets occurred on the night of 15 January.

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V06

F: Joint Forces seal. 27 flags. Color. Paper.

B: Iraqi soldier thinks of himself dead on battlefield.
"To stay here means death."

Once again the cardboard leaflet is also prepared on paper. The paper leaflets certainly were disseminated better and the formulas used to determine speed of fall and spread of the leaflets was more accurate. An unknown number of the leaflets were dropped on the evening of 12 January. 56,000 leaflets were printed in total.

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D07

F: Joint Forces seal. 27 flags. Color. Paper.

B: A helicopter and a coalition tank attack an Iraqi tank.
Top: "The Multi-national forces prefer to fight at night!"
Bottom: "Iraqi soldier: Your continuous stay inside Kuwait will bring you death and destruction."

This leaflet is an early version of CO7 and probably not disseminated. There is no stealth fighter depicted on this early variant.

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C07

F: Joint Forces seal. 27 flags. Color. Paper.

B: Helicopter, tank, and stealth fighter attack Iraqi tank.
"Superior firepower, long-range and lethal weapons."

This leaflet is usually found with an inverted back. The first drop of 100,000 of these leaflets was on the night of 13 January.

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V07

F: Joint Forces seal. 27 flags. B&W. Paper.

B: Helicopter, tank, and stealth fighter attack Iraqi tank.
"Superior firepower, long-range and lethal weapons."

The first drop of 333,000 leaflets was on the night of 11 January.

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C08

F: Joint Forces seal. 27 flags. Color. Paper.

B: Cannons and rockets aimed at Saddam on tank.

An unknown number of these leaflets were dropped on 13 January. This leaflet is extremely rare in the color variety and I have only seen one or two. They are far more common in the B&W variety. This leaflet was designed by 4th PSYOP Group artist Tim Wallace. He originally drew it for a newspaper back home but someone saw it on his desk and liked it enough to take it and draw a very poor image of Saddam in the tank. Tim was annoyed because he felt it was a good cartoon that was chopped up and reworked to fit into a leaflet

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V08

F: Joint Forces seal. 27 flags. B&W. Paper.

B: Cannons and rockets aimed at Saddam on tank.

The B&W. variety occurs on both white and cream-colored paper. The first drop of 333,000 leaflets was on the night of 11 January.

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C09

F: Joint Forces seal. 27 flags. Color. Paper.

B: Iraqi soldier thinks of car driving with his coffin on top
"To stay here means death."

The first drop of 100,000 leaflets was on the night of 15 January.
Note: Colonel James P. Noll’s The 13th Psychological Operations Battalion (EPW) During Mobilization, Desert Shield / Desert Storm and Demobilization states that the Iraqis understood and were influenced by this leaflet.

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V09

F: Joint Forces seal. 27 flags. B&W. Paper.

B: Iraqi soldier thinks of car driving with his coffin on top.
"To stay here means death."

The B&W variety occurs on both white and cream-colored paper. The first drop of 333,000 leaflets was on the night of 15 January.

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C10

F: Joint Forces seal. 27 flags. Color. Plastic-coated paper.

B: 12 Coalition aircraft shown dropping bombs. B&W.
"My brother Iraqi soldier. Have you thought of the power of the Multi-National forces?"

This is the first leaflet printed on a plastic-type paper. This paper was considered desirable because it was impervious to rain and sunlight. However, I have heard that none of the plastic coated leaflets worked well because they did not auto-rotate properly and their extra weight meant fewer could be carried. This may or may not be true. The internal name for this leaflet was “Carpet Bombing,” a term last heard in the Vietnam War. Dissemination is unknown.

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C11

F: Two Arabs hold hands, Iraqi and Saudi flags. Color. Shaded dunes.

B: "In peace we will always remain united."

About 18,000 of these leaflets were printed. It is rumored that many were disseminated by balloon. The Arabs loved them as they showed the solidarity of the soldiers, hand in hand. Most Americans hated them and the concept of two men walking off into the desert together. The codename for this leaflet 1-W is “Sunset.” The image was very powerful and seemed to work well on the Muslim mentality. There is a rumor that some of these leaflets were ballooned by German PSYOP troops from Al Quysumah Airfield to Southern Kuwait.

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V11

F: Two Arabs hold hands, Iraqi and Saudi flags. Color. Dunes not shaded.

B: "In peace we will always remain united."

A minor color variation where the dune to the right is without shading and texture.

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C12

F: Two soldiers think of Saddam, discard weapons. Color. Dark blue sky.

B: "Brother Iraqis, all we want is peace.

It is believed that about 25,000 of these leaflets were printed. Once again the Arab soldiers are hand in hand. This leaflet has been called a failure because it used the technique of showing bubbles over the head of the soldiers to indicate thought. Allegedly, the Iraqis are unfamiliar with that artistic technique and had no idea why Saddam's head was floating in the air above them. The internal name for this leaflet 1-X is ‘Weapons in the sand.”

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V12

F: Two soldiers think of Saddam, discard weapons. Color. Light blue sky.

B: "Brother Iraqis, all we want is peace.

A minor color variation where the sky is a slightly different shade of blue.

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C13

F: King Fahd speaks of peace, Saddam speaks of war. Color.

B: "We are all brothers...neighbor Arabs...we want peace."

The third leaflet in the series showing Arab soldiers hand-in-hand. Documents indicate that this was one of the earliest leaflets printed. About 75,000 were produced. The internal name for this leaflet 1-V is “King Fahd says.”

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C14

F: Arab looks at hour-glass "Jan." Color.
"People, believe me...time is not in our favor."

B: Gray halftone.

It is believed that 36,000 leaflets were printed. Information on dissemination is unclear.The internal name for this leaflet 2-A is “Hourglass.” This leaflet and the next four are usually found in a very dirty and weathered state. All four were dropped over the Al Burqan oil fields where the Iraqis had set fire to the oil wells. Many of the leaflets available today are oil-stained.

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C15.

F: Arab throws sinking Iraqi soldier a life preserver. Color.
"This is the last life preserver to save your life." "15 Jan." on life preserver.

B: Gray halftone.

It is believed that 36,000 leaflets were printed. Information on dissemination is unclear. The internal name for this leaflet 2-B is “Life Buoy.”

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C16

F: Man labeled "UN" hands gift box to Iraqi soldier. Color.
"The world presents you with peace." Box has tag: "15 Jan."

B: Gray halftone.

It is believed that 36,000 leaflets were printed. Information on dissemination is unclear. This is one of my favorite internal leaflet names. Product 2-C is “Globehead.”

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C17

F: Coalition and Iraqi soldier look at each other over stone wall. Color.
"Don't you see it is time to tear down the barricades?" "Occupied Kuwait" on wall.

B: Gray halftone.

It is believed that 36,000 leaflets were printed. Information on dissemination is unclear. The internal name for this leaflet 2-E is “Barricade.” This is the last of the four dropped over the burning oil fields. My own copy of this product is dirty and weathered on all four sides.

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C18

F: Pickup truck with loot and Iraqi flag race toward cliff. Color.
"You now know my brother, where your leaders are taking you."

B: Gray halftone.

It is believed that 80,000 leaflets were printed. Information on dissemination prior to the 15 January is unclear.

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C19

F: Iraqi mother speaks to soldier son. Color.
"Oh my son who is away, oh how beloved you are. He who used to fear you now wears the dress of a leader. Your sister is now his wife. How can you let him desecrate her honor?"

B: Gray halftone

It is believed that 80,000 leaflets were printed. Information on dissemination is unclear.

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C20

F: Vertical safe conduct message in English and Arabic. Color.
"Cease resistance - Be safe (52mm)
To seek refuge safely, the bearer must strictly adhere to the following procedures:

1. Remove the magazine from your weapon.
2. Sling your weapon over your left shoulder, muzzle down.
3. Have both arms raised above your head.
4. Approach the Multi-national forces slowly, with the soldier holding this document above his head.
5. If you do this, you will not die.

B: Tidal wave of troops and aircraft over Iraqi forces.

This leaflet was part of a deception plan to make the Iraqis believe that the U. S.   Marines will invade from the sea. 12,000 of the leaflets were placed in empty plastic water bottles and floated up on the beaches of occupied Kuwait. Allegedly, another 90,000 were dropped by aircraft. This leaflet was drawn by Tim Wallace of the 4th PSYOP Group. An earlier version is shown above in “Developmental art.”

The Shield and the Storm, Jostens Inc., 1991. says:

Twenty U. S. amphibious warships with nearly 8000 Marines and 10,000 sailors were on-station in the Gulf of Oman. Before Desert Storm began, the task force enacted elaborate practice landings on Coalition beaches in the Persian Gulf. Five divisions of Iraqi infantry entrenched in Kuwait, some 80,000 men in all, watched and listened with keen interest as U. S. amphibious forces conducted these highly visible exercises, often accompanied by members of the international press corps. By November 1990, the thirteen ships of Amphibious Group Three arrived from the U.S. west coast ports with the 15,000 Marines of the 5th Marine Expeditionary Force on board.

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The Iraqi Commander plots the Sea-borne Invasion

Did the plan work? The ground war took exactly 100 hours. We will never know for sure what part leaflet C-20 played in Saddam's defeat, but we do know that the Iraqi III Corps commander's 20 x 30-foot intelligence map of Kuwait found on a Kuwait City floor depicted virtually every Coalition avenue of approach from the sea. To the very end, Iraqi troops nervously watched the Persian Gulf for any sign of the dreaded U. S. Marines and their landing craft. They waited in vain.

(Note) The sand table data above was gathered by the U.S. Army during the war. After the war, in mid-March 1991, a civilian “Free Kuwait Committee” worker named Michael Lorrigan visited the house, photographed the sand table and stated that the house was used by Hasan Ali Majid (Chemical Ali) when he was put in charge of Kuwait. There may be no conflict in these two statements. It is possible that both individuals used the house as their headquarters.

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A Coalition Intelligence Map in the Sand

Although this image has nothing to do with PSYOP; since we showed the deceptive Iraqi sand map above, I thought it might be interesting to show a true intelligence sand map prepared by B/3-7 Infantry, 24th U.S. Army Infantry Division. It was used to brief the entire company on the route to their objective once the ground war started during Operation Desert Storm.

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 V20

F: Vertical safe conduct message in English and Arabic. B&W
"Cease resistance - Be safe (62 mm) Text as C20, slightly different font.

B: Tidal wave of troops and aircraft over Iraqi forces. As C20.

The first drop of 88,000 of this leaflet occurred on 15 January. These leaflets are rarer than the color version and my own specimen was removed from a leaflet bomb at Ft. Bragg.

The Air War Begins

Although this is an arbitrary place to discuss the shooting war, most of the leaflets following were dropped after the beginning of the air campaign.

The initial air campaign was code-named Instant Thunder. It would exploit the Coalition's better trained aircrews, advanced technology such as stealth aircraft, and better command and control.  The Coalition would seize air superiority and paralyze the Iraqi leadership by striking its national command structure and the Republican Guard. It would next suppress or eliminate Iraqi ground-based air defenses. The third phase would be the destruction of the Iraqi Army and Republican Guard. The final phase would be in support of the ground attack to retake Kuwait.

On 16 January 1991 B-52 bombers left Louisiana armed with Tomahawk cruise missiles. On 17 January at approximately 0130 Desert Shield became Desert Storm as U.S. warships sent missiles toward Baghdad. Three Special Operations MH-53J Pave Low helicopters led nine AH-64 Apache helicopters and attacked two early warning radar sites in Southern Iraq with Hellfire missiles, opening a door for a massive attack by Coalition aircraft. 30 F-117A Stealth aircraft flew over Baghdad bombing important military installations. Nearly 700 other Coalition aircraft took part in the operation. Within 24 hours nearly 48 key targets in Baghdad were destroyed. Within days it was impossible for an Iraqi aircraft to fly anywhere in the county without being attacked. Nearly 100,000 combat and support sorties were flown by the end of the war. The bombing had degraded front line Iraqi divisions by at least 50%. The air attack phase lasted 38 days and was a complete success.

The Ground War

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Desert Storm lasted six weeks from the beginning of air attacks on 17 January to the cessation of ground combat on 28 February. It is sometimes rounded off to the 1000-hour air campaign and the 100-hour ground campaign.

Newspaper and television reporters in the United States saw nothing but doom and gloom in the coming ground war. Sensing another Vietnam, they gleefully reported that 30,000 body bags had been sent to Kuwait, expecting to fill the airwaves with scenes of returning bodies. They harped on the M1-A1 Abrams tank and the Apache helicopter, noting that neither had been battle tested and that both were expected to break down in the heat and dust of the desert.

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Saddam Hussein War Bond

This military bond was issued by Iraq in 1986 to support the Iraq-Iran War.
Its value is 100 Iraqi Dinars with an annual interest rate of 10.5 % for 10 years

They pointed out that Iraq had the fourth largest army in the world and it was experienced and battle tested in Iran. The newspapers reported on Saddam’s use of chemical and biological weapons against his own Kurds and warned of impending American doom. They pointed out that Iraqi artillery had been improved by professor Gerald Bull and could outshoot and had longer range than American artillery. They mentioned Bull’s “Babylon Gun,” a giant cannon with a barrel 150 meters long and a meter in diameter. The press did not understand the ability of American gunners to counter-battery fire, and in March of 1990, Bull was killed outside his apartment by five shots to the back of his head, allegedly  by the Israeli Mossad. We watched CNN in NCO clubs, listened to their pessimistic reports and thought that they were going to be surprised when they saw the power and invincibility of the American military machine.

At 0400 on 24 February 1991, the Coalition advanced into Iraq and Kuwait across a 300-mile front. The Iraqis were dug in and had 12 heavy and 31 light divisions in the Kuwait Theater of Operations. The old theory was that a defensive position gave an army a 3-1 advantage over an attacking force. One could make a case that their 500,000 soldiers were therefore equal to 1,500,000 men. However, the air campaign has seriously weakened them. The Coalition plan was than no Iraqi was to go more than 3 hours without hearing aircraft overhead. Their communications were destroyed, their logistics (food, water and ammunition) was impacted, their reconnaissance was nonexistent, and their officers were deserting.

How bad was the disruption of the Iraqi communications and control? It is mentioned in Conduct of the Persian Gulf War – Final Report to Congress, April 1992. At the end of the war when the Iraqi generals met to discuss the repatriation of prisoners, the Americans were asked how many were currently in confinement. When told over 58,000, the Iraqi vice chief of staff was stunned and asked his own military commanders if that could be true. They said, “It is possible.” The next subject was setting up a no-contact line to make sure that there would be no incidents between the Americans and the Iraqis. General Schwarzkopf presented his proposed line and the Iraqi vice chief of staff asked why the line was drawn well behind the Iraqi troops. He was told that the line was the forward front of the Coalition forces. Again the Iraqi commander turned to his generals and asked if that could be true. Once again they told him, “It is possible.” Three days after the war the Iraqi leadership had no idea how many men they had lost or where the front lines were.

Schwarzkopf mentions the meeting in It Doesn’t take a Hero. His comments differ slightly. The Iraqi Lieutenant General brings up the prisoners of war and says that they have 41 Coalition troops. He asks about Iraqi POWs:

“As of last night, sixty thousand” I replied. “Or sixty thousand plus, because it is difficult to count them completely.” His face went completely pale: he had no concept of the magnitude of their defeat.

We need say little about the attack. It was one of the great victories in American military history. The 1st Infantry Division breached the Iraqi defensive belt allowing the 2nd Armored Cavalry and the 1st and 3rd Armored Divisions to advance rapidly. The Marines and Arab forces went straight into Kuwait and through the Iraqi defenses so quickly that they actually threw the time-table out of whack. The Marines captured 8,000 Iraqi prisoners on the first day of the war. The 82nd Airborne Division and French forces blocked reinforcements from the far west. The 101st Airborne airlifted deep into Iraq. British armor swept forward in the tradition of the “Desert Rats.” Then the U. S. heavy divisions entered Iraq in a broad sweep. They came around behind and to the flank of the dug-in troops in what was called the “Hail Mary,” and destroyed the Iraqi Army.

General Tommy Franks mentions the psychological deception leading up to this attack in his autobiography American Soldier, Harper-Collins Books, NY, 2004:

Every night, PSYOP units drove trucks fitted with gigantic loudspeakers slowly back and forth along the border, playing records of clanking tanks and Bradleys. And this ruse complimented another of our PSYOP efforts, which broadcast bogus radio transmissions mimicking several heavy divisions moving forward to their final pre-attack tactical assembly areas.

It is worth noting that General Schwarzkopf was worried about the ease with which the Coalition advanced and the lack of any reaction by Iraqi forces. The plan worked so perfectly that he began to believe that Saddam Hussein was allowing his forces to advance so that they could be trapped in the open desert and attacked with either nuclear or chemical weapons. In fact, in a postwar interview, General Wafeeq al-Samarrai, head of Iraqi military intelligence stated that he had “a complete and excellent analysis of everything that was about to happen.” The general went on to say that when Saddam was told of the Coalition movement he laughed it off and made a comment that they could not “build a house” around his forces. It was another in a long line of tactical errors made by Saddam Hussein. On 26 February the XVIII Airborne Corps and the VII Corps turned east and trapped and destroyed much of what was left of the Republican Guard. By this time the Marines were fighting a tank battle at Kuwait City’s International Airport. By 27 February, Kuwait was liberated. President Bush ordered a suspension of offensive combat operations after 100 hours of continuous battle at 0800 on 28 February 1991. United States forces had decimated 41 Iraqi divisions, captured over 80,000 prisoners, destroyed or damaged 4,000 tanks, 2,100 artillery pieces, 1,800 armored personnel carriers, 103 aircraft and seven helicopters. All this was accomplished with the loss of fewer than 100 American soldiers.

[Author’s Note] I mention the loss of fewer than 100 American soldiers above because at the time I wrote this article in 1992, that was the official count of soldiers lost in combat during the 100-hour attack. Television documentaries from 2001 put the number at 245 killed in combat and 900 wounded, about one-third from friendly fire. There is no count of Iraqi dead because Saddam was claiming a victory and did not care to publish any numbers that might contradict him. Later numbers from 2011 counting all the deaths during Operation Desert Shield, the pre-war air campaign, friendly fire and the post war consolidation operations put the number of American deaths at 407. If we were to add the deaths in future years from Gulf War Syndrome; with various causes such as petrochemical fumes, depleted uranium ammunition, injections with untested serums, unknown desert parasites and even the possibility of contact with some Iraqi chemical or nerve agents, the death count might be in the thousands. 

If there was any lack of success it was that some Republican Guard units were able to escape back into Iraq and Saddam Hussein would later use them to put down uprisings by the Shiites in the South and the Kurds in the North. Schwarzkopf later admitted that he had been hoodwinked and lied to by the wily Iraqi generals and gave permission for their helicopters to move food, transport injured personnel and perform other humanitarian missions. Saddam remained in power, and a decade later a second Persian Gulf War was fought by another President Bush to finally topple him.

Since this is a personal and not an academic look at the Persian Gulf War, I should mention that many of us were shocked at the sudden end. We all knew that general Schwarzkopf had the Coalition fighters and bombers in the air on day four and intended to wipe out the remainder of Saddam's elite Republican Guard. The question on everyone's mind was “Why did Bush turn the jets around?” One popular answer was the theory that General Colin Powell had convinced Bush that the Coalition would be seen as bullies and murderers if we were to attack and bomb the fleeing Iraqi troops. There was also some thought that the pictures of the carnage on the “Highway of Death” where escaping Iraqis had been trapped by Coalition aircraft was detrimental to the image of America. Schwarzkopf himself stated that he thought all the Iraqis were trapped, a misunderstanding that led to him berating one of his own Corps commanders after the escape of some Republican Guard forces. My personal view was that the United States had always been more worried about Iran than Iraq, and needed to leave some forces for Saddam to resist the Mullahs. The worst and most annoying answer I heard was when I talked to some of the publishers of the U. S. News and World Report book Triumph without Victory. They said that Bush's advisors had told him that the “100 Hour War” was such a catchy phrase, like Israel’s “Six Day War,” that it would insure his reelection. I never believed that story, but it could be true.

After the end of the war and during the last 10 years many newscasters stated that we should have continued on to Baghdad and toppled Hussein. The problem is that you can't change the rules in retrospect. The goal of Operation Desert Storm was to drive Saddam out of Kuwait and restore the legal government. We did that with 100% success. It was a complete and total victory.

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