Operation Desert Storm officially began its drawdown Feb. 28, 1991 after a ground war that came to be known as the 100-Hour War.
“The ground war lasted … about four days,” said Capt. Jim Page, the division historian. “The 101st was a big part of that war. Our part of this was to go from our initial staging areas in what is called a ‘hail Mary’ move in which the entire division was moved all the way out [from the Kuwait-Saudi Arabia border] in the desert under cover of darkness to Tactical Assembly Area Campbell.”
A huge armada of more than 160 coalition vessels sat in the Persian Gulf off the shore of Kuwait and a massive Coalition army clustered on the border of Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.
“Saddam Hussein was expecting us to come to Kuwait. We had Marines that were in the Persian Gulf preparing to do a … fake sea-borne landing that never happened … it was a diversion,” Page said. “He was looking over here for us thinking we were going to come by sea or we were going to come by land [from Saudi Arabia into Kuwait]. But the 101st had moved all the way out here and did this big, sweeping left hook around Kuwait and into Iraq.”
While most of Operation Desert Storm took place in Kuwait, the 101st was actually well deep into Iraq when this happened in preparation to cut the Iraqi army off as it began to draw out of Kuwait.
“We were trying to get attack helicopters into the enemy rear areas because by this time – when all of this stuff is going on here in Kuwait, like tank battles, the 101st is quietly sneaking around here because as soon as the Iraqis become seriously engaged in Kuwait with the Coalition units, they begin to withdraw on Highway 1 and head back down toward Iraq,” Page said. “The Coalition was establishing all these blocking positions along the way to catch them before they could withdraw too far.”
“The division became known in those days as the lightning of Operation Desert Storm because we moved so quickly from Tactical Area Campbell in the largest air assault operation ever conducted to establish Forward Operating Base Cobra,” Page said.
How the air assault concept worked in this situation was to have a series of forward operating bases, the first of which being about 150 kilometers behind enemy lines, to which the 101st Airborne Division would fly an infantry unit, gas, ammunition and weapons, and then fly the next FOB, Page explained.
“Then at that point it would be like lily pads on a farm pond: units would come from this assembly area, stop at a FOB to briefly refit and go to another forward operating base and continue to leap-frog deeper and deeper into the enemy territory,” he said.
After the air assault to FOB Cobra, 1st Brigade Combat Team ran the FOB and 3rd Brigade Combat Team went up north further into Iraq. The 2nd Brigade Combat Team went to other objectives to support the aviation over-watching the road.
“At that point we had done some damage along the highway and the war was over,” Page said. “On Feb. 28, 1991 there was a cease-fire that was called. At that point Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf met the Iraqi representative and Operation Desert Storm came to a close. The division then remained in Iraq until their eventual redeployment, adding up to just under a 12-month deployment.”
Editor’s note: Information for this article was gathered with the help of the division historian, Capt. Jim Page, at the Don F. Pratt Museum and from ‘Desert Storm: The Weapons of War’ by Eliot Brenner and William Harwood and internet research.