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    The left hook into Kuwait. Third Army in Desert Storm

    The Left Hook Into Kuwait. Third Army in Desert Storm

    Courtesy Photo | DESERT SHIELD---Lt. Gen. John Yeosock, the Third Army commanding general during...... read more read more

    By Sgt. Thomas L. Day
    40th Public Affairs Detachment

    Operation Desert Storm (16 years later), Kuwait — The seeds of the first war against Saddam Hussein, launched 16 years ago this week in January, were sewn even before the United States government considered him an enemy. History set the stage. Kuwait came into existence only after its British protectorates awarded the country its independence from Iraq in 1961 – an independence Iraq steadfastly refused to recognize for three decades leading to August 2, 1990.

    Hussein's regime was deeply in debt after the Iran-Iraq war. Iraq owed Kuwait $14 billion for their support in the war; $25 billion to the house of Saud. He had only one way to pay.

    Claiming that the Kuwaitis were actively "slant drilling" for Iraqi oil across the border, Saddam's military, 120,000 troops strong, blitzed their Persian Gulf neighbors in less than a day. Hussein immediately declared Kuwait an Iraqi province.

    The American response, under the banner "Operation Desert Shield," began on Aug. 7, 1990. The first American troops arrived in Saudi Arabia just five days after the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait.

    "This aggression will not stand," President George H.W. Bush told the world at a brief press conference outside the White House shortly after Hussein's invasion.

    It was up to Soldiers like Lt. Gen. John Yeosock to enforce Bush's guarantee. Days after the invasion of Kuwait, Yeosock boarded an Air Force plane charted for Saudi Arabia. Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney, CIA Director Robert Gates and Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf, the U.S. Central Command commanding general, were on the plane with him.

    "The first two people (in Third Army) who arrived in Saudi Arabia were myself and a lieutenant colonel," Yeosock recalled from his Peachtree City, Ga., home. "We had done our homework."

    Nobody was surprised by Hussein's August invasion, least of all Yeosock. A month before, the Third Army commander had been in the region for a U.S. CENTCOM "war game" – a training exercise that prepared Schwarzkopf's commanders for a potential Iraqi invasion of Kuwait.

    "Third Army was unique in the role it played when CENTCOM went to war," said Richard M. Swain, who documented the Third Army's Persian Gulf campaign in his 1997 book, Lucky War: Third Army in Desert Storm. "General Yeosock served as both Deputy Forces Command commander and Third Army commander before the war."

    Yeosock immediately began building a coalition force that would reach 660,000 troops from 34 different countries.

    "I did not just take out a recipe book. I built capacity in very small cells as an extension of Third Army." Third Army would give the commands in the forward fight; Yeosock removed as many intermediate headquarters as he could from his field units.

    For six months in Saudi Arabia, Yeosock was "balancing and rebalancing, building the coalition," before Operation Desert Shield became Desert Storm. "It wasn't just waiting for someone to blow the whistle and say, 'go.'"

    For the Wilkes-Barre, Penn., native, building the coalition tested his ability as a commander and a statesman. "The British wanted to be in the main attack...the French wanted to be way the hell to the west."

    As Forces Command deputy commander, Yeosock would have been charged with commanding all U.S. Army units during the ground campaign. This was before CENTCOM Commander Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf opted to prune the ground command from Yeosock's portfolio. Schwarzkopf would take ground command for himself.

    "The issue was the Marines and allies," Swain said. "So (Schwarzkopf) did it, acting in partnership with the Arab Coalition Command, Prince Khalid, though Schwarzkopf was clearly dominant in what he brought to the fight and everyone knew that. "For the most part, though, it worked okay."

    Diplomatic efforts by Secretary of State James Baker and Iraqi Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz had failed. United Nations Resolution 678, demanding that Iraqi forces vacate Kuwait by Jan. 15, 1991, had been ignored.

    Two days later, a massive U.S.-led air campaign began.

    Saddam's initial response was to fire Scud missiles into Israel, an unsuccessful attempt to draw the Israelis in, and Arabs out, of the war. Five weeks of air strikes left Iraq's air capabilities in tatters and completely severed any lines of communication Saddam had with his ground forces in Kuwait.

    The air campaign devastated the Iraqi forces, but it was the ground forces that ended the first Iraq war.

    When Schwarzkopf dispatched the ground forces on Feb. 24, Yeosock held command over the VII Corps, the XVIII Airborne Corps and various allied units, including several Marine units.

    The stage was set for the famed "left hook," where Yeosock sent the XVIII Airborne Corps deep inside Iraq to block the Iraqi forces northern escape.

    "Third Army's move around the Iraqi right was copied directly from General Thomas 'Stonewall' Jackson in 1863," said Phil Schreier, senior curator at the National Firearms Museum in Fairfax, Va. "It mirrors directly Jackson's flank march around General (Joseph) Hooker's right during the battle of Chancellorsville, Va."

    "It was a text book maneuver and a blind man could have seen it coming," said Schrier.

    The ground coalition needed only 100 hours to force an Iraqi withdraw. They would not need to overrun Iraqi military from the north. "They did not cut the Iraqis off from retreat," said Swain. "Though they would have in another 12 hours, and made a hell of a mess of Basra doing it."

    Before Third Army's advance could move a mile closer to the Iraq-Kuwait border, President Bush ordered the end of the campaign. "Kuwait is liberated. Iraq's army is defeated," Bush told the world during his address from the Oval Office.

    Even before Bush spoke, Iraqi forces had begun a mass, abject withdraw from Kuwait. "With that, Third Army turned almost immediately to getting everyone back to CONUS, leaving a residual force in Kuwait," Swain said.

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    NEWS INFO

    Date Taken: 01.10.2007
    Date Posted: 01.10.2007 11:41
    Story ID: 8783
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    Web Views: 1,952
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