News: Former Commander of Middle East Forces Recalls Kuwait Liberation
Story by Chief Petty Officer Joshua Kelsey
KUWAIT CITY, Kuwait – Retired Rear Adm. Raynor A.K. Taylor, former commander of Middle East Forces arrived in Kuwait City to take part in a 36-nation celebration honoring the 20th anniversary of the liberation of Kuwait.
Taylor was appointed commander of Middle East Forces, Feb. 23, 1991, five days after USS Princeton and USS Tripoli struck mines off the coast of Kuwait, and quickly refocused the allied mine counter-measure efforts.
Taylor led the allied forces in opening the Shuaiba Port and clearing the Iraqi minefield, which was a challenge to the 12-nation combined mine counter-measure force because the of the unique placement and large number of mines laid.
At the time of the Princeton and Tripoli attacks, the location of the minefield and types of mines were unknown.
“We were all in the minefield, but nobody knew where the minefield was,” Taylor recalled.
Information about the minefield was gained during the signing of the Safwan Accords, March 3, 1991, when Army Gen. Norman H. Schwarzkopf, commander-in-chief of U.S. Central Command, demanded the location of the Iraqi minefield. The accords also provided for a temporary cease-fire, set terms for the return of prisoners of war, and set procedures to prevent any further outbreaks of fighting between Iraqi and allied forces.
The information given during the Safwan Accords was verified during a raid and subsequent search of Ras al-Qulayah Naval Base in Kuwait when a naval chart was discovered with identical plot points.
Taylor broke the minefield into nine boxes and divided the workload among the 12-nation mine counter-measure fleet that included ships from the U.S., United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia, and Japan.
“When you work with mines, there are only two things you can do. You either have to blow them up or prove the absence of them,” Taylor said. The combined mine counter-measure fleet located and destroyed 1,288 sea mines.
“If you go back in history, there are still mines off Japan, Britain, Norway and the French Coast. Of course they are all degraded and unarmed now, but they are out there. I think it is safe to say that this was the first time in world history that the entire minefield was eliminated.”
Taylor retired after 33 years of service. He served as commander, Middle East Forces during Operation Desert Storm and was later appointed as the first post war commander of U.S. Naval Forces Central Command. Taylor was an invited guest of the United States Embassy and the government of Kuwait to attend the 50/20 celebration honoring the veterans of Operation Desert Storm and recognizing the long-standing partnership between Kuwait and the United States.