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. Images from this article were also used with permission by Captain David Bergman (Swedish Armed Forces) in his book "KRIGSPROPAGANDA - fran 1914 till idag," ("War Propaganda from 1914 to the present"). Images were also used for a Rowan Technology Solutions enhanced e-Book entitled THE WEST PONT HISTORY OF WARFARE for use by the History Department of the United States Military Academy at West Point. Images from this article were used by Matthew Wallin of the American Security Project in his 2015 "white paper" on U.S. Military public diplomacy entitled “Military Public Diplomacy: How the Military Influences Foreign Audience.” In 2016, images from this article were used in an "AVIATION NEWS" magazine article commemorating the 25th Anniversary of B-52 bombers in Desert Storm titled "Fairford's B-52 Desert Storm Ops". John Stapleton requested the use of images from this article for his book HIDEOUT IN THE APOCALYPSE: WORDS WITHOUT BORDERS. An online magazine of international literature featured an excerpt from a series called "Best of Enemies, a history of Arab-American relations." They requested and received permission to use images from this article. The author of the Dutch-language book "NACHTMERRIE OORLOG," (Nightmare War) requested the use of material from this article for the book about his experiences in Operation Desert Storm as a member of the Crisis Response Group at Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe. In 2020, the author was requested to supply Images from this article for the Saudi Arabian book PROGNOSIS / SAUDI ARABIA: AN ARTIST'S ODYSSEY by Ahmed Mater. In 2020, Craig Jones requested images from this article for his book THE WAR LAWYERS. In 2021, The Tillamook Air Museum of Tillamook, Oregon requested B-52 images from this article to be placed alongside the restored cockpit and forward fuselage of a B-52G.

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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.



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.

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An Official Saddam Hussein Portrait

The portrait of Saddam Hussein above was found by U.S Army Chief Warrant Officer Fourth Grade Max Stecker. Max told me:

This is one of the standard pictures of Saddam, which was required to be in every classroom throughout Iraq’s school system and apparently in just about every book. I found maintenance logs in a motor pool at Talil Air Base and the soldiers had taped the picture into regular ledger books. This particular copy was captured from a former trade school for high school age kids that was converted into a Fedayeen training camp supported by the Arab socialist Ba'ath party.

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

Like the Japanese in WWII, the Iraqi and Kuwaiti delegations met to discuss their problems and peaceful way to solve them. Like the Japanese, even as the two Arab nations agreed to meet the following day to continue the talks, the invasion army was on the move. 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, and the Kuwaitis did report after the war that a coffin had been left in the palace as well as filth and feces from barnyard animals brought in by the Iraqis. The Kuwaitis believe that the Iraqis intended to photograph their dead leader among the pigs and cows and filth in the palace. There would have been no legitimate Kuwaiti leader for the West to build a Coalition around.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. Even other Arab leaders refused to believe it, claiming that no Arab country would attack and occupy a brother-Arab country. 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). As a percent of Gross Domestic Product (0.3%), Desert Storm was the cheapest war fought in U.S. history. The greater cost of the war to the region was likely more than $676 billion.

The way President Bush fought this war was mentioned in WAR ROOM the official podcast of the U.S. Army War College Online Journal in an interview with military historian and author Samuel Helfont on March 8, 2021:

There are number of things that the U.S. did right especially in the lead up to the war and during the war. Everything went through the United Nations. This was diplomacy done very well. The Bush administration pulled together the largest coalition since World War II and they had a clear operational, and even up to the strategic level, purpose, military strategy at least: removing the Iraqis from Kuwait. And then of course at the tactical and operational level this was absolutely a brilliant war. Everything went so much better than even the most optimistic observers had predicted prior to the war. It turned out that American and Western more generally, tactics and equipment performed far beyond the way that anyone had expected. So that was great.

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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.

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Kuwaiti Resistance Leaflet – KUWAIT FOR EVER

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.

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Kuwaiti Resistance Poster
Dove of Peace frees Kuwaiti Family from Iraqi Imprisonment

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 Communique 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 Resistance 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.

What I found oddly humorous is that the Iraqis were much worse than the Americans were ever told. I spoke to retired Dutch Sergeant Major Cornelis Brouwer, who was assigned as to the Crisis Response Group at Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE). The Crisis Response Group was established to serve as support for the Coalition during the Gulf War. One of the Desks was that of Psychological Warfare. He wrote a book (in Dutch) that described his experience with the Gulf War. The title is Nachtmerrie Oorlog (“Nightmare War”).

During all the time he served as Cell Chief, he was confronted regularly with pictures of the horror, torture, and war crimes the Kuwaiti people suffered at the hands of the Iraqis during the occupation. The sights of the beatings, rapes and murder still haunt him. When he sees a group of little children, he envisions a picture of a heap of children slaughtered by Iraqi machine-guns. He requested the use of some of the material in this article for his book and I was happy to grant that request.

Because Brouwer was Dutch and in theory neutral, the Americans were quite open with him. They showed him pictures of atrocities that the American public never saw. He was quite shocked and in fact did not want to look at them, but it was part of his job. He describes a particularly troubling episode. In this case, an American Colonel has some photographs. I have edited the conversation for brevity:

The average American will never see these pictures. The newspapers are not allowed to publish the worst images. The War Correspondents do not get permission to mention or publish them.

The picture was a close up of a woman’s body lying on her stomach with her face flat on the floor. Her dress was curled around her neck. Her panties were torn and crumpled halfway down her left thigh. A bullet wound was clearly seen on her back. “This is one of the lesser excesses compared to what I have seen in recent weeks.” A second photo appeared and the Colonel said “This will change your opinion of the severity of that first photo.”

The woman had been raped. She had bite marks on her breasts and one of the nipples was almost bitten off. Her face had been smashed with a heavy object, perhaps a rifle butt. Then her breasts were cut with knifes or bayonets. She was still alive and bleeding. Then the perpetrator pushed the barrel of his rifle into her vagina and fired. She then apparently died immediately because there was little blood near her vagina.

Both men just looked at each other and then separated and went their own way. Apparently the American Colonel who saw these photos every day wanted the Dutch soldier to understand what they were dealing with.

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?

Retired Master Sergeant Danny Elder

Danny Elder told me about his actions during the early stages of the war called Operation Desert Shield. He was a Staff Sergeant at the time assigned to the 9th PSYOP Battalion, Ft. Bragg, NC, and attached to the 82nd Airborne Division while in Saudi Arabia then later Iraq. He told me about the final PSYOP Situation Report (SITREP) sent to the Command structure as the Shield came to an end and became the Storm. I should point out that there were many combat units supported by PSYOP and some realized and appreciated what PSYOP had to offer more than others. This report is just one case among dozens and no conclusions should be drawn from it. 

Troops from the 82nd Airborne Division arrive in Saudi Arabia for Operation Desert Shield

Captain Vesser, the supporting PSYOP Officer reported to the 82nd Airborne Battalion in November 1990. He was placed under the supervision of the G5 (Military/Civil Affairs). The PSYOP liaison team had three additional enlisted members. Captain Vesser wrote a PSYOP memorandum for all commanders down to division level, but it was never distributed though he sent it twice. In the meantime, he began planning PSYOP missions and PSYOP products. From 26 November to 4 December 1990, the PSYOP teams supported an Army Training and Evaluation Program (ARTEP) with loudspeaker and deception missions. The ARTEP went badly and the deception tapes were poor. As a result, the enlisted members were replaced by SSG Elder. Vesser and Elder worked together developing loudspeaker scripts and Arabic-language tapes. In mid-December, the Desert Storm PSYOP objectives were published:

1. Induce Iraqi soldiers to surrender.
2. Assist Civil Affairs in minimizing civilian interference with military operations as well as save lives.
3. Support EPW operations.
4. Support deception operations.

I beg the reader’s pardon here because I want to go a little bit out of order. Sometimes you get new information a decade or two after a story has been completed. Finding a place for the new data is difficult so you squeeze it in where you can and hope that it does not destroy the flow you worked so hard to design. The January 2023 issue of VERITAS, the Journal of U.S. Army Special operations History, featured an article titled, “Building the Airplane in Flight, PSYOP In operation Desert Shield, Part 2, by Dr. Jared M. Tracy. He says in part (edited for brevity):

By 6 October, there were 257 soldiers from PSYOP units deployed; another rush brought the number to 414 by 19 October, roughly the status quo for the next three months. Helping these units deploy from Fort Bragg was Major James A. Treadwell, the 4th PSYOP Group S-3 (Operations), who was aided by Staff Sergeant Steven L. Carney, S-3 Air NCO. Since becoming the S-3 in February, Treadwell had been helping PSYOP soldiers redeploy from Panama, and assisting 4th POG reorganization efforts, including the 9th PSYOP Battalion transition to a tactical battalion and PDB’s activation. The frenzied first weeks of DESERT SHIELD forced him to focus instead on deploying PSYOP soldiers from Pope Air Force Base, North Carolina. Deployments were “fitful,” Treadwell recalled. “We didn’t get a lot of airflow initially,” with PSYOP units competing for seats with combat units.

Compounding the challenges of deploying battalions’ worth of PSYOP soldiers, the Group S-3 team had to coordinate the transport of PSYOP-peculiar equipment to Charleston, South Carolina, for maritime shipment to Saudi Arabia. “It was painful for us because we had never deployed our big equipment like that,” said Treadwell, “especially not in a hurry.”

After the Iraqi invasion, radio was identified as a key medium to reach target audiences. On 16 August 1990, the Commander-in-Chief, USCENTCOM, General H. Norman Schwarzkopf, Jr., validated the requirement for multiple radio transmitters, although it took months for them to arrive in the theater and to be emplaced. The three radio systems deployed during Operation DESERT SHIELD and operational during DESERT STORM were the Transportable AM Transmitter – 10 kw (TAMT-10); the PSYOP Airmobile Dissemination System (PAMDIS); and the 50 kw AN/TRT-22.

The preparations continued until the middle of January 1991. Captain Vesser wrote the PSYOP annex to the Division's Desert Storm operation plan (OPLAN) and each Brigade PSYOP annex. During the second and third week of January four additional loudspeaker teams were assigned to support the three brigades of the 82nd Airborne Division. In mid-January, the 1st and 2nd Brigades deployed to the tactical assembly area with the French light armor division. The 3rd Brigade deployed to the vicinity of Riyadh to secure an airfield. CPT Vesser and SSG Elder visited each team every three days for the next three weeks to check their status and deliver mail and PSYOP products. About 10 days prior to G-Day (The start of the ground war) two linguists were assigned to the team. One was returned and one kept by the team.

On G-Day, 24 February 1991, Vesser and Elder crossed the line of departure. They did not take part in any PSYOP activities during the 4-day offensive, thought they did observe leaflet bomb casings near al Salman. When they debriefed the loudspeaker teams assigned to the 2nd brigade they found that one team had used a surrender message against the enemy which led to their surrender, and the second team had used an enemy prisoner-of-war tape. The 3rd Brigade team in a UH-60 helicopter took part in a mission to secure the Tallil Air Base. They convinced 60 armed Iraqis to leave their posts and march to the front gate. They very effectively used a simple jerry-rigged 450 vehicle loudspeaker system during the capture of the airbase. Iraqi T-72 tanks turned their guns around and down along with hundreds of Iraqi Soldiers unloading their weapons and pointing their mussels down while heading toward a designated assembly area in accordance with our surrender appeals. Initial reports said only 60 Iraqi Soldiers, but that was just the initial group who surrendered. Tallil was a big area, and the Iraqi Soldiers were in bad shape, so it took a while for all of them to get to the Assembly area. 450 Civil Affairs troops were running several busses of captured Iraqis to detention centers over the course of most of the day. We picked up a few more when we landed next to a big MI24 "Hind" helicopter gunship. Later, we also used the same jerry-rigged 450 vehicle loudspeaker system to evacuate Iraqi civilians in Khamisiyah when mismarked Katusha Rockets were destroyed resulting in an exceptionally large wave of Sarin Nerve Gas.

On 4 March, the 3rd Brigade team used their loudspeakers to warn civilians of the explosions that would occur when the Iraqi armaments were destroyed. The civilians were directed to safe areas by the team linguist. There were no injuries. On 18-20 March, the 1st Brigade Team supported the artillery destruction of an airbase by warning civilians to move to a safe location. SSG Elder stayed with the 1st brigade team and on the night of 22 March performed combat lifesaver duties along with medics from the 82nd Airborne Division treating civilian casualties wounded in the Iraqi shelling of al Nasiriyah.


Captain Vesser noticed problems with the PSYOP deployment to the 82nd Airborne Division. Some of them were:

1. PSYOP doctrine states that they should be placed under control of the G-3 (Operations). The PSYOP team was placed under G-5. As a result, it was behind the power curve, information was late, and the PSYOP commander was always far behind the loudspeaker teams and incorrectly considered part of Civil Affairs. In the future it is recommended that supported units follow PSYOP doctrine.

2. The PSYOP officer was a Liaison Officer and not a Commander. As a result, the supported unit was less likely to take advice. The PSYOP Officer had no Product Development Center, and as a result CPT Vesser and SSG Elder had great difficulty preparing PSYOP products such as scripts, voice tapes, and deception tapes. In the future it is recommended that operational detachments be assigned a Product Development Center and the PSYOP Officer should be a PSYOP Special Staff Officer of the supported unit.

3. The PSYOP loudspeaker team sergeants were primarily Sergeants or Corporals. Brigade Commanders and S3s do not confide in them because of their rank. In the future it is recommended that team sergeants be at a minimum a Staff Sergeant at Brigade.

4. A loudspeaker vehicle is a must for every team. The supported brigades were reluctant to supply vehicles for the PSYOP teams and sometimes left them to fend for themselves and at other times we had a Civil Affairs vehicle that implied we were all the same. In addition, when broadcasting over long distances in the desert the team needs a 900 (preferable) or a 450 system and a 300 for backup and for dismounted use. In the future it is recommended that the 9th PSYOP Battalion see that all teams have Humvees and a 900 or 450 system and a backup 300 system.

5. Of the four loudspeaker teams supporting the 82nd ABN Division, only two had secure voice FM capability. The supported units have secure voice FM capability. Our units need that capability to communicate with the brigades. In the future it is recommended that all teams be issued secure voice FM equipment.

6. The Maintenance team was at Quasumah airfield 300 kilometers from the field teams. When we moved forward it was 225 kilometers, later 250 kilometers. We never had to evacuate any gear, but it is doubtful if we could have if needed. In the future it is recommended that a Maintenance team should be placed forward and move when the divisions advance.

The Iraqi shelling of al Nasiriyah

I asked Danny to tell me about that night. He said:

You ask about our working as Combat Life Savers after the Iraqi shelling of An Nasiriyah. We had an 82nd Airborne Division Medic and three combat lifesavers, two of which were me and another PSYOP specialist named Ancarana who treated 186 civilian casualties on the road under our HUMVEE headlights. We had 18 dead in body bags lined up on the side of the road by our HUMVEE. The rest we had put on several medivac helicopters during the night. I do not know how many of them made it. They all had serious fragmentation, blast, and mustard gas injuries. Specialist Ancarana never recovered from it and left the Army not long after redeploying. I have tried to look him up to see how he is doing but have not heard anything about him. That is normally a bad sign.

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.

General Schwarzkopf wore Two Watches during Desert Storm

This was often commented upon during the war. Schwarzkopf explained:

I always wore two watches during the Gulf war. The one on my left arm was set on Saudi Arabian time and the Seiko on my right arm was set on Eastern Standard Time. That way I could quickly glance at my watches and instantly know the time in both Saudi Arabia and Washington, D.C.

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Schwarzkopf in Vietnam

In 7 August 1965, then Major Schwarzkopf and a Vietnamese paratrooper help a second wounded paratrooper during the 64 day siege of the Duc Co outpost just 5 miles from the Cambodian border.

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.

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

These photographs were made into a set of postcards titled Destruction Caused by the Iraqi Invasion of Kuwait 90-91. Adel al Yousifi was kind enough to give me one complete set of postcards. Each photo had a name such as "Burning Oilfield" or "Environmental Destruction."

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.

Environmental Destruction
Photo by Adel al Yousifi

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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.

The Big Wind

Over thirty years after the Desert Storm Oil well fires, the website We are the Mighty wrote about this device to help put out the oil well fires:

The "Big Wind" is a 92,600-pound beast made from a tank chassis and two turbojet engines that are powerful enough to blow out oil fires like candles on a birthday cake. This modified military hardware fought some of the largest fires set by Saddam Hussein's withdrawing army in the 1991 Persian Gulf War. When oil wells are on fire, the pressure under the earth's crust keeps the oil rushing to the surface until the well is capped. Crews can't cap the well until the fire is put out. "Big Wind" does this by interrupting the flow of oil into the air. A small crew moves the tank into position at 3 mph. The larger the fire, the closer the tank must get. The largest fires burn at 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit and require the tank to pull within 30 feet. Once there, the crew begins pumping water into the exhaust of the idling jet engines before ramping up the jet power. The result is a thick, fast-moving steam that cuts through the oil and smothers the fire. The fire, robbed of oxygen and separated from its fuel, quickly goes out. The "Big Wind" stays in position for another 20 minutes, spraying steam on the hot oil to cool it down. Then, oil workers begin the dangerous job of capping the well.

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 was no smoking gun. There are just long-suffering veterans.

Did the Iraqis use nerve gasses on Coalition troops? The U.S. Government, Department of Defense and CIA say “no.” Others are not so sure. The Nonproliferation Review of Spring-summer 1997 reported that the British heard the Iraqi High Command tell the commanders at the front they had permission to use chemical weapons if the Coalition attacked. Nerve gas alarms went off in American, French, and Czech military vehicles. The nerve gases identified in these vehicles were tabun, cyclosarin, Sulfur-mustard, and lewisite. The article goes on to list 16 occasions when the alarms went off. Eleven such cases are from 26 February alone, and include: blister agents at 0213; mustard agents at 0327; an Iraqi collection point for NBC casualties at 1055; an Iraqi NBC decontamination point found at 1106; a Marine regiment reports that it is under gas attack at 1527; and another Marine regiment reports chemical detection at 1735. It does appear, unless all  these reports are wrong and just “false alarms” that the Iraqis might have used chemical weapons during the Coalition ground attack.

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.

One Ambulance Company member told me his Standard Operating Procedure (SOP). He was told the night before the air war started, that since Saddam had chemical weapons, he might retaliate with Scud missiles filled with nerve agents. The SOP stated that if he encountered casualties in the battlefield that were contaminated with NBC, especially nerve agents, he was to leave them in place and not treat or transport. There was not a decontamination point in the whole theater for decontaminating and treating these casualties. There was no place for decontaminating his equipment or the medics if they were contaminated. He said

There was a lump in my throat that would not go down, knowing that if I encountered a casualty that I was sworn to treat I had to walk away and let them die.

In 2015, The U.S. Government admitted that more than 200,000 of 700,000 U.S. troops sent to Iraq and Kuwait in January 1991 were exposed to nerve gas and other chemical agents. Though aware of this, the Department of Defense and CIA launched a campaign of lies and concocted a cover-up that continues today. Today, the troops nearest the explosions are dying of brain cancer at two to three times the rate of those who were farther away. Others have lung cancer or debilitating chronic diseases, and pain.

At first, the DOD was adamant: No troops were exposed. They finally admitted that during January and February 1991, when the U.S. bombed Iraq’s weapons plants and storage sites, poisonous plumes floated across the desert to thousands of U.S. troops based on the Saudi border. Sirens wailed daily, but officers in charge announced that the chemical-detection alarms were faulty. They were not. A Czech chemical-weapons detection unit found trace concentrations of Sarin, a nerve-paralyzing substance drifting into Saudi Arabia. French, British and U.S. intelligence units found similar evidence.

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A Chemical Strip from the Gulf War

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The Remarks forwarded to Headquarters

I remember at the time I was told that about 1,600 highly specialized chemical sensors had sounded the alarm. The U.S. Government told the troops to ignore them all. It made no sense; some of those sensors were former Iron Curtain machines and they were known for their accuracy. However, everyone followed orders. Papers were destroyed, reports were shredded and there was no mention of the nerve gas warnings. Apparently, out of the thousands of strips printed by the various sensors only one remained. The strip was put in to evidence during a congressional hearing where a Marine NBC operator that was being questioned about proof that there were chemicals on the battle field gave them a strip he had saved. This strip was recorded by a fox vehicle on 24 February 1991 when a tank attached to 2/4 that was part of 6th Marines tripped a mine while crossing the mine fields. The strip showed levels of Sarin, Lewisite and Mustard gas was used on the battlefield.

Years later a newspaper clipping mentioned these various alarms:

The 18 January 1991 bombing of the munitions plants in Nasiriyah and Kamisiyah blew a plume of sarin gas above a layer of cold still air - the boundary level - and into a swift wind stream that carried the gas 300 miles to Saudi Arabia, although military officials claimed at the time that military alarms triggered by the gas were false, said a study published in the Journal of Neuroepidemiology. The gas plumes, the researchers said, can be blamed for Gulf War illness, which affected more than 250,000 veterans of the war.\

Some of the comments by Desert Storm veterans are:

I was first told they were out of the paper, and then told that it was just acting up: to ignore the alarms; Our chemical alarms started going off the first night of the air war, the Commander told supply to stop ordering batteries for the alarms - the constant “whoop whoop” when they went off was scarring the troops; We were gassed at least twice that I am aware of, as per our NBC Sergeant; They took our alarms after all of our units went off; we were ordered to stop reading the results on our radio; We were told to remove the batteries so I have no idea what we got into; We received NBC flash at 18 Corps Rear command post, later was told to tear log page out so it never happened; We had alarms going off randomly. After about the 5th or 6th time the NBC NCO said that they must be defective; Right after the explosion from a downed scud our chemical detectors equipment were going off; My unit knew I was exposed, the log book that the incident was reported in, mysteriously disappeared.

One of the most interesting comments I read was from a soldier that had heard what I had heard. We were supposed to retaliate if nerve agents were used. I had heard that nobody in Washington DC wanted to use nerve gas on Baghdad. This soldier got a different explanation:

I was with the VII Corps Intelligence unit and our gear went off as well, and the M258 kits registered Blood Agent if I remember correctly, other than decontamination and relocation we did nothing else. I asked my SGM about that and he said that it was not going to be pushed because our policy was that any attack by Weapons of Mass Destruction was to respond with like attacks, but since we did not carry Chemical or Biological weapons, then our retaliation would have to be (by default) a radiological weapon. And, none of our units took active casualties in theater, just possible after effects.

Another said:

We had our detectors set up next to the British and French and their Chemical alarms were going off like crazy, but ours did not. I found out later that one of the Captains on our site told our Second Lieutenant to “remove the batteries” from them!

It is clear that the veterans believe there was a concentrated effort by the government to conceal the use of gas by Iraq. This is just a small portion of hundreds of such comments.

I had a Warrant Officer from an Explosive Ordnance Disposal unit stop by and we traded some stuff. He had some Iraqi bandages with printed designs and license plates and I had some stuff he wanted. He told me then that he had been ordered to blow up Iraqi munitions in place quickly because the Saudi Arabians wanted the Americans out of the country by Ramadan. He told me that he believed he had blown up Iraqi shells containing chemicals. It would appear that the Iraqis did not use chemical weapons, but the Americans gassed the hell out of themselves.

A previously classified report on the 26-27 October 1991 Coalition investigation of the Iraqi Kamisiyah ammunition storage facility near An Nasiriyah proved that the American government was aware of the weapons and also that some had been destroyed contaminating the air. The report said in part:

6,323 155 mm mustard gas artillery shells painted grey with the word “Gas” in Arabic followed by the letter “H” written in Roman script were found.

2,160 122 mm sarin nerve gas rockets were found. Inspectors found a pit where some sarin rockets had been dumped into a pit with explosives and blown up. At least one bunker with 122 mm rockets was found to be blown up as a result of locally placed explosives.

A Department of Defense study found that on 4 March 1991, U.S. soldiers destroyed 37 large ammunition bunkers. Iraq declared that one of these, Bunker 73, had contained 2,160 chemical warfare agent-filled rockets.

On 10 March 1991, U.S. Soldiers destroyed approximately 40 additional ammunition bunkers and 45 warehouses. In an open-air location outside the Kamisiyah Ammunition Supply Point now known as "the Pit," soldiers also set charges to approximately 1,250 rockets, many of which were later found to have contained a chemical warfare agent.

In 2015, a report entitled GULF WAR RESEARCH STRATEGIC PLAN 2013-2017 looked deeper into the problem of Gulf War Syndrome. One comment was:

At the conclusion of the first year of operations on July 31, 1991, the United States had deployed 696,842 military personnel from all five services and National Guard to the Southwest Asia Theater of Operations (SWATO). During and after their return from the SWATO, a significant proportion of Gulf War Veterans reported a range of chronic symptoms and health problems at rates that exceeded the rates for non-deployed era Veterans. These symptoms included: persistent headaches, joint and muscle pain, fatigue and sleep disturbances, attention and memory (cognitive) problems, gastrointestinal symptoms, and skin abnormalities. While some of the ill Veterans meet case definition(s) for other chronic multi-symptom illnesses such as chronic fatigue syndrome or fibromyalgia, the majority have defied exact diagnosis. Studies by the Department of Veterans Affairs and others indicate that as many as 250,000 Gulf War Veterans are affected.

In March 2015, the undersecretary of the Army apologized for the military's treatment of service members exposed to chemical weapons in Iraq, and he announced new steps to provide medical support to those with lingering health effects and to recognize veterans who had been denied awards. Undersecretary Brad Carson acknowledged Wednesday that the military had not followed its own policies for caring for troops exposed to old and abandoned chemical munitions scattered around Iraq and vowed improvement. He also said that the Army had reversed a previous decision and approved a Purple Heart for a soldier burned by sulfur mustard agent and that he expected more medals to be issued after further review. The report found that insurgents had used some of the weapons in roadside bombs, that most of the episodes had never been publicly acknowledged and that many troops affected by blister or nerve agents had received substandard medical care and denied military awards.

In 2018, Researchers with the National Academy of Medicine recommended that the Defense and Veterans Affairs departments track troops' exposure to environmental toxins and monitor their, and their offspring's health to better understand the risks and consequences of military deployment.

In a report released by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, a panel of 16 scientists said they could not definitively link health issues in some 1990-1991 Gulf War and post-9/11 veterans and their families to environmental exposures, but they recommended the government and other institutions establish a health monitoring and research program to determine what health effects, if any, military deployments have on the veterans and future generations. Many of these veterans may have been exposed to "potentially hazardous agents and situations," such as pesticides, solvents, chemicals and biological agents, vaccines, burn pit and oil well fire smoke, dust and depleted uranium.

In 2022, US scientists said they discovered what caused thousands of soldiers who served in the 1991 Gulf War to fall sick with mysterious symptoms. They have pinned the blame on the nerve agent sarin, which was released into the air when caches of Iraqi chemical weapons were bombed. Sarin is usually deadly but lead researcher Dr Robert Haley said the gas that soldiers were exposed to in Iraq was diluted, and so not fatal. "But it was enough to make people ill if they were genetically predisposed to illness from it."¯ Dr. Haley said the key to whether somebody fell ill was a gene known as PON1, which plays an important role in breaking down toxic chemicals in the body. His team found veterans with a less effective version of the PON1 gene were more likely to become sick. The latest study - largely funded by the US government - involved more than 1,000 randomly selected American Gulf War veterans. Dr Haley, of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, said:

This is the most definitive study. We believe it will stand up to any criticism. And we hope our findings will lead to treatment that will relieve some of the symptoms.

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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.

The Combat Talon

In December 2001, the Air University Press, Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama, released the book The Praetorian Starship - The Untold Story of the Combat Talon by retired USAF Colonel Jerry L. Thigpen. The book mentions many leaflet operations so with due respect to the author I will mention some of them in this PSYOP article:

For the 8th SOS, tasking for prewar PSYOP leaflet operations began to flow in early January. The squadron would fly night leaflet missions targeted at key enemy positions. A typical leaflet mission profile included takeoff from King Fahd International Airport (KFIA) and then flying on an easterly heading until reaching the Persian Gulf coastline. At the coast the Combat Talon would turn north until just south of the Kuwaiti/Saudi border. At that point the aircraft would turn west while staying within Saudi airspace. Depending upon the target location and the prevailing winds, the aircraft would climb to its drop altitude and release its leaflets over a predetermined point. Prewar leaflet drops targeted both Kuwait City and Iraqi troop concentrations within the southeastern corner of Kuwait. After 16 January Combat Talons occasionally entered Iraqi airspace to deliver leaflets targeted at specific Republican Guard units occupying positions in northern and western Kuwait. Leaflet missions usually departed KFIA after midnight when the evening bombing raids had concluded. Each mission was timed so that the leaflets would reach their intended targets between two and five o’clock in the morning.

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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. Reportedly, when President Bush seemed to be moving a bit slowly, she chided him: “Don’t go wobbly George.” It may have worked, a few days later on 15 August, President Bush said in regard to the Iraqi occupation: “This will not stand.”

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.


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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.

Dr. Jared M. Tracy mentions the leaflet campaign in his January 2023 VERITAS article, “Building the Airplane in Flight, PSYOP In operation Desert Shield, Part 2, (edited for brevity):

Leaflets were expected to be another major aspect of the overall PSYOP effort. PDB print elements were located at KFIA. These included two Medium Print Systems and a Modular Print System. Each Medium Print System consisted of a Heidelberg press loaded into an early 1970s-era five-ton M820 Expansible Van truck. “Although dated,” according to one PDB report, “this truck provides the most mobile platform for our critical Heidelberg presses.” The Modular Print System consisted of three modules:

• “A”—one editorial and one print shelter, each mounted on a 2½-ton truck.
• “B”—two dolly-mounted shelters with Heidelberg presses.
• “C”—one dolly-mounted shelter with a paper cutter.

In addition to these printing systems, leaflet rolling machines (to facilitate loading into leaflet bombs) and hollowed 155mm artillery shells (modified to carry leaflets) began shipment to Saudi Arabia in August 1990. Also delivered were M129A1 leaflet bombs, each able to be filled with up to ten 14-inch-diameter leaflet rolls; capable of delivering up to 60,000 leaflets; and configured for B-52 Stratofortress and F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft. The PDB had responsibility for loading and readying the leaflet bombs, and then arranging their transport to various airfields. The delayed approval of the PSYOP plan (BURNING HAWK) did not stop the production of leaflets. Developed by both the 8th POTF and the Combined PSYOP Cell in Riyadh, leaflets stressed Iraqi President Saddam Hussein’s responsibility for the crisis, world opposition to Iraq’s actions, and the hopelessness of the Iraqi soldiers against overwhelming coalition firepower.

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.

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Unofficial Patch for the "Lost Boys" of the 9th PSYOP Battalion
[Note: B.O.H.I.C.A. stands for "Bend Over Here It Comes Again"]

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.

Brigadier General Robert H. Scales, Jr. says in United States Army in the Gulf War – Certain Victory, Office of the Chief of Staff, United States Army, Washington, D.C., 1993:

The psychological operations campaign was another Special Operations success, one of the most important of the Gulf War. As part of an overall campaign plan, PSYOP, or propaganda, can be a combat multiplier if the circumstances surrounding its employment are favorable.

Saddam began waging his own PSYOP campaign early in the Gulf War as Baghdad Betty's broadcasts entertained American soldiers along the border each night. Some broadcasts were more amusing than others: one warned the troops that Robert Redford, Sean Penn, and Bart Simpson were seducing their wives back home. With such inept input, Saddam's propaganda created more support than disruption for the Coalition.

Managing CENTCOM'S PSYOP campaign fell to the US Army 4th Psychological Operations Group (POG), especially the 8th Psychological Operations Battalion. By late August, 10 people under Colonel Anthony Normand, commander of 4th PSYOP Group, were in Saudi Arabia working out a comprehensive plan to use 117 themes to target Iraqi soldiers and civilians. Submitted to the Joint Chiefs of Staff on September 20, the plan got lost in the swirl of competing actions.

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The Nations of the World Draw a Line in the Sand.

Although it was too late to execute the original time-phased plan, the Office of the Secretary of Defense approved most of the broad themes of the plan on 14 December 1990. A strong message from Schwarzkopf to the Joint Chiefs of Staff questioning the continuous delays was the catalyst that broke the plan loose.

To offset the delay in Washington, Normand worked on a Coalition plan using a cell of Saudis, Egyptians, Kuwaitis, and British. On November 28, the Voice of the Gulf began daily radio broadcasts and the 8th PSYOP Battalion worked up leaflets highlighting the world stance against Saddam. The 8th Psychological Operations Task Force and Normand's cell also produced a video, “Nations of the World Take a Stand,” which was distributed worldwide and also smuggled into Iraq.

Colonel Layton Dunbar deployed his full headquarters to the theater. Under the operational control of CENTCOM, Dunbar used the approved themes to develop programs which stressed the superiority of Coalition forces over those of Iraq and the inequality between Republican Guard forces and regular Iraqi units. It emphasized that Saddam was the cause of the crisis and sought to allay regional fears about the Coalition's respect for Arab culture and private property.

The Voice of the Gulf broadcast in Arabic hammered home these messages to Saddam's troops 18 hours per day. While the Voice of the Gulf filled the airwaves with its message, the Air Force filled the skies with leaflets, derisively called "bullshit bombs."

During the war, the Air Force dropped 28 million leaflets over Kuwait and Iraq. The Commander in Chief himself recommended one of the most successful techniques employed in the campaign. MC-130 Combat Talons dropped leaflets on Iraqi units that identified the units by name and warned that they would soon be bombed. The leaflets suggested that the soldiers desert rather than risk their lives. That same night the B-52s would deliver on the promise. On many occasions, the MC-130s returned to release more pamphlets saying, "We told you to leave.” The leaflets heightened the psychological effect of the B-52 bombings, especially among Iraqi troops along the Kuwait border. They lived in deplorable conditions and once the ground war started these pitiful soldiers surrendered quickly. Ninety-eight percent of captured prisoners had the leaflets in their possession. One Iraqi frontline commander reported the PSYOP campaign was "second only to allied bombing" in demoralizing his division.

As the 8th PSYOP Task Force liaison officer to CENTAF, Army Major Jack Summe coordinated the leaflet drops with Air Force Brigadier General Buster Glosson's targeting cell. Summe was often received with disdain in the cell. Targeteers were always quick to chide him about his infamous leaflets. However, when reports filtered into CENTAF of thousands of Iraqis surrendering, opinion changed. When Jack Summe walked into the targeting cell on February 25, he received a standing ovation.

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.

I want to add a short anecdote here about the original article by Colonel Jones. Apparently, he mentioned the fact that Germany had sent propaganda leaflet balloons against the Iraqis. This was a secret at the time and the Germans were expressly forbidden to take part in foreign wars by their Constitution. The Chief of the PSYOP Branch made Jones eliminate the comment. He told me:

I had the duty of telling Jeff Jones he had to take a sentence out of his story about PSYOP in Desert Shield / Desert Storm because it did not pass declassification guidelines. He almost had a heart attack. He was not used to being told no, with no options.

In 2016, on the anniversary of the 1 December 1967 activation of the 8th PSYOP Battalion, a synopsis of their activities in Desert Storm was given:

In 1990-1991, 8th POB supported U.S. and coalition efforts in Operations DESERT SHIELD and DESERT STORM to protect Saudi Arabia and expel Iraqi forces from Kuwait. The 8th BN earned Campaign Participation Credit for Defense of Saudi Arabia and Liberation and Defense of Kuwait, as well as the Meritorious Unit Commendation (Army) for SOUTHWEST ASIA 1990-1991. Post-DESERT STORM Operations supported by 8th POB included SOUTHERN WATCH, VIGILANT WARRIOR, DESERT THUNDER and DESERT FOX, which aimed to monitor and control Iraqi airspace and deter further Iraqi aggression against Kuwait.

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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.

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Lieutenant Colonel James P. Kelliher

While serving as a Psychological Operations Officer, LTC Kelliher served in a variety of positions. He was the 4th PSYOP Group S-2 (Intelligence), S-3 (Operations) and XO (Executive Officer). He established the Psychological Operations Dissemination Battalion, now known as the 3rd PSYOP Battalion (Airborne), and served as its first commander. He deployed forward to support the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. He was headquartered at the King Fahd International Airport in June of 1990. His Dissemination Battalion produced a great number of the Coalition propaganda leaflets and posters printed during Operation Desert Storm. He told me:

The 3rd PSYOP Battalion, also known as the PSYOP Dissemination Battalion (PDB) was activated in June of 1990 as part of the provisional reorganization of the 4th PSYOP Group. We arrived in Saudi Arabia in September, scorching hot. The first billeting was Hajj Tents on loan from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Latrines were old fashioned out-houses. Potable water was obtained from a fire hydrant, inspected by the Veterinarians and approved. Operation Desert Shield was basically a “Sitz Krieg” (In WWII they called it a Phony War when the Germans and the Allies sat and looked at each other before the shooting started in earnest). Central Command waited for authority to conduct PSYOP. By the end of 1990 most all of the PSYOP Dissemination battalion was in Saudi Arabia with the print presses and broadcast equipment.

By mid-January, the Battalion was in full production mode with augmentation out of the Heavy print plant in the European Command. Leaflets were being printed on a 24-hour basis. The radio transmitters were in the same mode and tapes were getting to VOLANT SOLO on a daily basis.

We should point out that it was not just Americans doing PSYOP. Saudi Arabia was very concerned about countering Iraqi propaganda targeted toward Saudi Arabia and the ability of Saudi military officers to participate in Central Command and Coalition efforts to plan, stage and conduct PSYOP campaigns against Iraqi occupation forces in Kuwait. King Fahd had directed the Ministry of Defense and Aviation to lead the Saudi effort to staff their PSYOP effort and find officers who had attended and completed the Psychological Operations Officer’s Course. Once identified, these men were formed into a joint PSYOP working group in Riyadh. They worked with personnel from the 4th PSYOP Group and took part in the design of leaflets and the writing of leaflet text.

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.

The use of loudspeakers is mentioned in greater depth in Special Operations Forces: Roles and Missions in the Aftermath of the Cold War, DIANE Publishing, 1995:

Radio and tactical loudspeaker appeals from 66 teams helped encourage tens of thousands of Iraqi soldiers deployed in Kuwait to desert and defect. In one instance, almost 500 Iraqis surrendered en masse to the 101st Airborne Division just before the ground assault was launched. In another case, over 1,400 enemy troops, including a general officer, were standing in formation, ready to surrender when the Marines came ashore on Faylaka Island…PSYOP appeals ultimately helped persuade over 86,743 Iraqis to surrender in the Kuwaiti theater. Additionally, as part of Joint Task Force Proven Force in Turkey, 21 PSYOP soldiers were credited with the surrender of 40,000 Iraqi soldiers in Northern Iraq, without firing a shot.

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.

In 2022 Jon Cartier told me:

All our Tactical PSYOP Team members were assigned to support the USMC minefield breaches. We captured many surrendering Iraqi units, were in the Battle of Khafji, and were with the 1st ground unit to enter Kuwait and capture the airfields of al Jabar and Kuwait City International Airport and were among those planning to do the "beach assault."¯ That is when I became aware of the famous "Wave"¯ leaflet. When they told us that we would be conducting the Beach assault with the Marines, I must say I was not happy about the thought of slugging through the surf and obstacles while being peppered with artillery and small arms fire.  I am ESPECIALLY glad it was a deception!

Tactical Loudspeaker Team from the 245th PSYOP Co. (Airborne)

Jon Cartier told me:

The team was Staff Sergeant Jack Nelson and Sergeant David Lamb. They had a linguist and a Marine on their team too, but I do not have their names handy. In the photo is Jack (rear), and in the foreground is Staff Sergeant Asa Pearson. Asa was an extremely talented PSYOP Team Leader from the 245th PSYOP Company in Desert Storm. I am not sure who took the picture, but I think it was Sergeant David Lamb.

One of my favorite Desert Storm PSYOP stories. A Tactical Loudspeaker Team from the 245th PSYOP Co. (Airborne) attached to a 1st Marine Division Task Force blew out the loudspeaker cones while supporting combat operations during the clearing of Al Jabber Airfield in Kuwait. Instead of resigning to being mission incapable, the resourceful team scrounged around the semi-destroyed airfield and located a set of ginormous PA system speaker cones. A technically gifted Team Sergeant figured out how to wire these into the LSS-40 Amplifier. The combination reminded me of the "Bluesmobile's, from the movie "The Blues Brothers."¯ Even with Iraqi military still active in the area, the team mounted the giant speakers on top their Hummer and kept broadcasting surrender appeals. In fact, during the speaker function checks, 24 Iraqi soldiers surrendered to the team!

The picture above was taken by a French Combat photographer, Charles Plateau and shared with Cartier and his PSYOP Team attached to 3/3 1st Marine Division, Task Force Taro capturing an entire Iraqi Tank Battalion 25 Febuary1991 just outside of al Wafra, Kuwait. Jon Cartier was the Team Leader and is in the center wearing glasses.

Years after I wrote this article, I got in contact with Cartier again and this time got a copy of his military resume:

Staff Sergeant (SSG) Jon Cartier was a member of the US Army Reserve 245th PSYOP Company - Airborne [now the 345th PSYOP Company] from 1986 through 1997 performing roles as PSYOP illustrator, mobile offset press operator, Product development cell analyst, tactical PSYOP team leader, and JFKSWCS Instructor of the 37F PSYOP Specialist Course.

In 1990, then Specialist (E-4) Cartier was activated and deployed to Desert Storm with 17 other soldiers from the 245th. The need for tactical PSYOP teams to serve with the forward elements of the US Marine task forces was so great that they split several of the 245th teams into two teams. SPC Cartier was selected to lead a split team paired with SPC Darrell McCoy. Their team was given some Marines and an Arabic linguist to fill team gaps and they were assigned to forward elements of USMC Task Force Taro, 3/3 1st Marine Division.

His PSYOP experiences in Desert Storm included city clearing operations with the Saudi Arabian Army after the Battle for Khafji. With the United States Marine Corps Task Force Taro, his team crossed the Kuwait border berm on 23 February 1991, the day before the actual ground invasion date [G-Day], and broadcast surrender appeals through the Iraqi positions, multiple minefield belts, and the burning Burgan oil fields on their way into Kuwait City, facilitating the surrender of hundreds of Iraqi soldiers.

His PSYOP team also supported the capture and clearing of Kuwait International Airport and more city clearing and surrender appeal operations in and around Kuwait City. After the cease-fire, his PSYOP team was assigned to operate within the 401st Military Police Enemy Prisoner of War (EPW) Camp in Saudi Arabia, assigned to 13th PSYOP Bn.

In 1994-95, SSG Cartier was deployed as a PSYOP Loudspeaker Team Leader with the expeditionary force to support Operation Uphold Democracy in Haiti. He and his team experienced 6 months of country stabilization operations across northern Haiti attached to three sequential Infantry Battalions (2-14, 2-87 10th 10 Mountain Division and 4-87 25th Infantry Division) as they rotated in and out of Haiti. These experiences prompted SSG Cartier to put pen to paper and share his lessons learned and become a PSYOP 37F MOS Instructor.


Challenge Coin

Jon Cartier designed these coins to commemorate the 30th anniversary of G-Day and the Tactical PSYOP Teams that were attached to the USMC forward Task Forces. Note the Desert Palm Tree Wings, and the Latin motto on the front, “Without Equal.” Every PSYOP team was awarded the Marine Combat Action Ribbon (CAR), written orders to wear the 1st Marine Division combat patch on their Army Uniforms, and there were four Bronze Stars among the 18 deployed PSYOP soldiers.

Former SSG Jon Cartier graduated from the University of North Texas with a BFA degree and an MBA from the New York Institute of Technology. He holds the military occupational skills of Graphic Documentation Specialist (81E), Offset Press Operator (37E), Psychological Operations Specialist (37F), Parachutist, and JFKSWCS certified instructor. He earned the Expeditionary Medal, Humanitarian Service Medal, Army Achievement Medal, three Army Commendation Medals, Marine Combat Action Ribbon, Meritorious Service Medal, and the Bronze Star.


The picture above depicts Staff Sergeant Jack Nelson, Sergeant David Lamb, and Specialist Jon Cartier with their Team High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV or Humvee) showing the first application of the Airborne Wings-Palm Tree logo. This picture was taken at Jubail, Saudi Arabia the day we spray painted the “Palm Tree” logo for the first time.  The team vehicle was named “Ann Dee” after David's new wife whom he married the day before he left for the deployment. We often ribbed him about how much we enjoyed his honeymoon.

The Story of the 245th Airborne Wings and Palm Tree Logo

Staff Sergeant Jack Nelson, Sergeant David Lamb and I were a Team in Desert Storm before we were split into 2 teams. We were at Jubail, Saudi Arabia on 17 January 1991, the day after the air campaign started. All 18 of the deployed 245th PSYOP soldiers were about to get split up and head to our assigned forward Marine Task Forces. Everyone else had logos on their Humvees, so Jack and David came up with the idea of the Palm Tree and Airborne wings based on Rommel's Africa Corp logo.  We knew we could not use anything PSYOP-related because they had told us to remain unidentifiable. We did not wear patches or name tags and we disguised our loudspeakers mounted on the Hummers to look like guns by placing a pack cover over it and sliding a camo net pole into the front so it appeared to be a gun.  Once we had the idea, I drew the airborne wings and palm then carefully cut it out of a manilla folder I found. We taped it to our vehicle and spray painted the logo on our vehicle first. All the other guys liked it so they put it on theirs as well.  That day we all drove off to our Task Forces.  It has been the 245th logo ever since.  We still have the original manilla envelope.

The picture above depicts other 245th PSYOP Company soldiers during Desert Storm with a team vehicle that has a disguised loudspeaker. In the picture, left to right are Sergeant First Class Gene Richardson (our First Sergeant), Staff Sergeant Jack Nelson (Team Leader), Sergeant David Lamb, Sergeant Asa Pearson (Team Leader), and Sergeant Richard Brooks.

Kuwaiti Captain Dr. Zafer Alajmi

I also heard in 2022 from former Kuwaiti Captain Dr. Zafer Alajmi, now 63 years old, who was also attached to a PSYOP section supporting a USMC unit headed by a Captain he recalls only as Coleman. Alajmi told me he would write and broadcast messages to the Iraqis in front of the Marines. I asked him what they sounded like, and he said that over 30 years had passed, and it was hard for him to remember them, but something like:

Brother Iraqi soldiers. I am an Arab like you. if you want to surrender raise your arms and hold a white flag or a surrender pass. Do not just come walking over to our side. You could be killed or wounded by accident.

I asked him what it was like as a Kuwaiti to work with Marines. He said:

Working with the Americans wasn't new to me. I spent 4 years with the U.S. Navy. I found that fighting alongside the Marines was glorious and the true meaning of comradeship. I was a Captain, but because I was a Kuwaiti, they looked at me as the one who was going to show them the way into Kuwait City. Unfortunately, General Norman Schwarzkopf's orders kept them in the desert and out of Kuwait City, as no one other than the Arab forces were allowed to enter the city. I really wanted to go there and so did many of the Marines, so their commander came up with a solution. They first said that as a Kuwaiti I had permission to go forward to see my uncle (although we knew my family was in Saudi Arabia). I was told I could leave on 27 February 1991, and in what I can only call innovative Marine thinking, in one hour 8 Humvees packed with Marines were escorting me to Kuwait City. The commander said that he could not in good conscience send one of his men into Kuwait City alone and without protection. He felt responsible for my life and well-being.

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Loudspeaker PSYOP Messages

Staff Sergeant Larry D. McGarrah of the 362nd PSYOP Company (USAR), attached to the 1st Armored Division, led a three-man Loudspeaker team during Desert Storm.  A Kuwaiti linguist named Mohammad was assigned to the team. Mohammad was a Lieutenant in the Kuwaiti Army who had escaped after the Iraqi invasion. After the ceasefire the team patrolled the area between Basra and the Kuwaiti border broadcasting that the war was over. The team leader said in part:

During the war the surrender appeals were prerecorded “canned” messages. After the ceasefire, we recorded our own messages. I would write what I wanted the message to say, an interpreter would write out the message in Arabic, a second Arabic speaker would verify the message was translated correctly, and then the first interpreter would record the message to be broadcast. Here are the last two messages we recorded and broadcast in Iraq before being sent back to Saudi Arabia.

“Attention! Attention! Iraqi soldiers; a ceasefire has been declared. Stop fighting; leave your vehicles and your positions. Stack you weapons and move to open assembly areas and await further instructions. A ceasefire is in effect. Many of your Arab brothers are now safe. Disarm and move to open areas. Follow directions to safety.”

“Iraqi soldiers; you are now in Coalition occupied territory. You must cease resistance now or you will be treated as hostile forces. You must leave you vehicles and positions now and approach Coalition forces disarmed with your hands up. You will be treated as Arab brothers and moved to a safe place.”

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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). 

A group of Vietnam veterans discussed those POWs carrying leaflets as they surrendered. Surprisingly, the opinions differed a great deal. It might be due to when and where they surrendered. Different conditions: their ability to sleep, eat, and communicate: Coalition bombings, artillery, and loudspeaker propaganda might have left the Iraqis in a different degree of vulnerability. Some of the comments in the discussion were:

Our MP company’s mission in Desert Storm was collecting and moving EPWs. None had leaflets on them, the ones I found were just blowing across the desert. We asked the EPWs how they weathered the initial onslaught of Desert Storm. "We ran away." How did your officers react? "They ran away three days earlier, taking all the vehicles…"

Almost all the ones we came across had leaflets... then we pointed them south... saw plenty blowing around as well...

Most EPW attempting to surrender had a lot of leaflets on them. Some waved at helicopters. It was reported that some Iraq units would shoot anyone with a leaflet, a hell of a PSYOP affect. Units targeted by leaflets before saturation bombing in many cases broke and left the battlefield. Leaflets affected their decision making as well along with all other actions.

A comment made to me by Jim Knoll, Commander of the 13th during Desert Storm/Desert Shield. The largest surrender of Iraqis, all carrying their leaflets, was made to Marines. To secure them and construct a temporary compound, they brought up bulldozers and started to push up an earthen berm. The Iraqis were afraid they were going to be buried alive. Such was the reputation of the Marine Corps.

I crossed into Iraq with 3d Armored Cavalry Regiment. In their first night laager, their engineers were pushing up a berm and Iraqi prisoners started to push in and huddle together I think expecting to be bulldozed. I walked up and asked if anyone spoke English which no one responded to, so I just explained I was an officer, and the unit was simply making a defensive berm and that I guaranteed their safety under the Geneva convention. Saw a few then talk to small groups and think those were the English speakers spreading the word. They seemed to loosen up after that. Then made sure someone got them water and Meals-ready-to-eat because they would be there at least 24 hours and it was cold. Didn't have any extra tarps or anything for warmth but they fared OK. The 13th did an exceptional job in Desert Storm and saved the situation in at least one EPW camp that I know of with Marines and made up for the shortcomings of the 800th MP Brigade ( PW).

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.

The 305th Tactical PSYOP Company in Kuwait

This is a picture of the 305th Tactical Psychological Operations Company in Kuwait prior to the invasion. In support of the 1st Marine Division, the Marine Expeditionary Unit (TF Tarawa), and the 40th Royal Commandos, elements of the company crossed the border during the initial assault with the remainder of the company following on. They were the first PSYOP unit to broadcast across the border. Out of the 65 Soldiers, 22 were awarded Bronze Stars for actions in combat (35%) and there were numerous other citations for valor.


Desert Storm Blood Chit

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.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, Special Operations Command Central (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.

The person that gave me the chit (who will remain unnamed) told me:

I will tell you how I came to obtain it. As you say, the "bean counters" kept tight control of them, and this chit comes in a round-about way from one of the "bean counters" who was a friend of a certain C-130 crewman. The crewman wanted to keep his chit, but his friend told him he really must turn it in, but occasionally a chit would become lost and that someday he might be able to obtain one of those lost chits. The crewman went home after the war and forgot all about the conversation. Then, one day he received four consecutively numbered chits in the mail. They had been carried by another crew, turned in, and then “lost.” He kept one, gave one to a fellow C-130 crewman, and traded the other two chits for a pair of Vietnam War chits. I had a Vietnam reward leaflet offering $35,000 for the return of American pilot First Lieutenant Flynn who was shot down while flying an A-1e Skyraider and I traded that for one of the four blood chits. Thank God Americans are great collectors and love to swap items. Otherwise, all these war souvenirs and their history would be lost forever.

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.

Another black operation is mentioned by Conrad Crane in his 14 June 2019 article The United States needs an Information Warfare Command: a Historical Examination:

A team of U.S. intelligence operatives slipped several virus-laden computer chips into a French-made computer printer that was smuggled into Baghdad. The printer was eventually delivered to a command bunker of the Iraqi air defense network, where the viruses helped degrade command and control of the whole system, which was also targeted by anti-radiation missiles and intensive electronic warfare.

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.

After the end of the war interrogators from the U.S. 7th Corps interrogated Iraqi prisoners-of-war about the A-10. They basically said that just seeing them overhead was as frightening as being attacked by them:

The black-colored jet was deadly accurate, rarely missing its target. Seen conducting bombing raids three to four times a day, the A-10 were a seemingly ubiquitous threat. Although the actual bomb run was terrifying, the aircraft’s loitering around the target area prior to target acquisition caused as much, if not more anxiety since the Iraqi soldiers were unsure of the chosen target.

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.

This is mentioned in The 13th Psychological Operations Battalion (EPW) during mobilization, Desert Shield / Desert Storm and Demobilization, 1993. Colonel James P. Noll mentions the fact that the Iraqi prisoners were very talkative:

In fact, the Iraqis would volunteer information we never thought to ask for. In one such case of volunteered information, we were able to reverse a negative effect that our PSYOP was having. Some of our leaflets were bordered with red color in order to contrast with the desert background and be more visible to the enemy. A prisoner volunteered information that the Iraqi enlisted soldier's, our primary target audience, would not touch our leaflets because they were instructed not to handle anything red in color, as it meant danger. With this information passed on to 4th POG, a simple change in border color was made.

American soldiers are clean shaven. However, to the Iraqis, a Coalition soldier without a chin beard is seen an unholy and untrustworthy. That beard is 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.”

Other American troops talked about the music played in their tanks, armored personnel carriers and other vehicles. The list was enormous in the age where everyone had a personal radio. Here are some of the ones they mentioned. If a number is after a song that is how many people specifically mentioned the title, if after the band those are the men that simply played an album. There are hundreds of these. I just added the first few dozen. It seems clear that today when young Americans go to war they attack with a sound track:

Blitzkrieg: Metallica (8), Thunderstruck (10): AC/ DC (2), To Those About to Rock We Salute You, Got another thing coming:Judas Priest (2), Motley Crue, Die with your boots on Iron maiden (2), Number of the Beast: Iron maiden, War Pigs (2): Black Sabbath, Top Gun, Born to be wild: Steppenwolf, We are the Champions: Queen.


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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This leaflet depicts the flag of Iraq and the words “Save Iraq - Stop Saddam.” It was proposed product 17B-08-1.

This is one of the few developmental leaflets that I have paperwork for. The leaflet was called “Oust Saddam,” it could be printed as either a leaflet or poster, and dissemination was into Iraq and Kuwait through the Kuwaiti resistance, Bedouins, or border crossers. The impact desired was an increase in pro-Iraq/anti-Saddam demonstrations and an increase in desertions by the Iraq military. The paper was signed “Recommend approval: Jones, Jeffry B., LTC, Infantry, Commanding.

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Presence Appreciation Card

A second item that we have the paperwork on recommending approval by Lieutenant Colonel Jeffry B. Jones 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.

Saddam and sons

Nothing like this leaflet was ever prepared, although Saddam's two sons did appear on wanted playing cards, a bumper sticker, a matchbox, and a leaflet. On the front Saddam talks to his troops while his two sons Qusay and Uday stuff themselves at a feast. Both would later be killed on 22 July 2003 in a Mosul gunfight during Operation Iraqi Freedom. The soldiers ask Saddam for food as per Muslim hospitality and generosity: The text is:

No! Not for you!

Are these Arab customs and traditions?

The back depicts a one-legged Iraqi soldier disabled forever by the war. The text on the back is:

Can you take care of your family when you are physically disabled?

During the Vietnam War the United States printed leaflets showing helicopters with a Red Cross on the side and the message that these were unarmed craft meant only to provide first aid to the injured, and they should not be fired upon. I did not see anything like that for Desert Storm, but one unapproved all-text leaflet was titled "Do not shoot at medical evacuation craft."¯ It was in the form of a short story to a wounded Iraqi soldier on the battlefield. He hears a chopper coming in and raises his rifle to fire at it. He sees the Red Crescent on its side and decides not to fire. The narration ends:

Two medics with stretcher rush to your side. You do not care anymore where they are from. All you care about now is that they can help all your wounded brothers and yourself. With their help you can be healed. You are thankful you did not shoot, thankful for seeing the Red Crescent and the Red Cross. You pray to God for the safety of all the wounded.

There was also an unapproved safe conduct pass on Saudi Arabian official stationery signed by Khalid bin Sultan bin Abdul Aziz, Commander of Air Defense and Joint Forces of Saudi Arabia. The safe conduct passes that were approved were from the Coalition and unsigned.

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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.


Propaganda on Cigarette Packs

Cigarettes packages, cigarette paper, and even match boxes have always been a wonderful medium for propaganda. During WWII various packs of cigarettes with messages were dropped by the United States and Great Britain over areas occupied by the Japanese and Germans. Probably the most famous to Americans is the pack dropped on the Philippine Islands with the MacArthur phrase, “I shall Return.”

The proposed cigarette package above was designed with two areas selected to place propaganda. I believe this was never approved. I have seen no cigarette packs dropped on Iraqi troops.


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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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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.

This might be a good place to add a comment from an Iraqi General later in the war:

During the war with Iran, my tank was my friend because I could sleep in it and know I was safe. In this war none of my troops would get near a tank at night because they kept blowing up.

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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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            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.    

The Leaflets

Cololonel Jack Summe, USA Retired

Then-Major Jack N. Summe wrote an article titled "PSYOP Support to Operation Desert Storm"¯ in Special Warfare, December 1992, He introduced the leaflet operation (edited for brevity):

The combined PSYOP effort included Saudi, Egyptian, Kuwaiti, and British interpreters who were collocated with a U.S. propaganda development cell, as well as Saudi and Kuwaiti linguists supporting front-line loudspeaker operations. The 8th PSYOP Task Force was in Riyadh with the U.S. Central Command and the component headquarters, while the PSYOP Dissemination Battalion, tactical-support battalions, and PSYOP-support elements were stationed in the east near Dharhan and King Fahd International Airport.

Leaflets were initially disseminated prior to combat operations by C-130 aircraft; they were dropped from high altitude along the southern Kuwaiti border and followed wind patterns to cover most front-line Iraqi units in Kuwait. Once the air campaign began, leaflets were distributed by F-16 and B-52 aircraft, using the M129A1 leaflet bomb, against targets such as Baghdad, Republican Guard units in southern Iraq, and deception targets throughout the Kuwaiti theater. C- 130 distribution of leaflets continued during Desert Storm and was the heaviest-used means of dissemination during the war. Statistics on leaflet distribution are: 19 million by C-130, eight million by F16, and two million by B-52. Other means included hand-carried leaflets and posters, 155mm leaflet artillery rounds, and water bottles used to float leaflets to the Kuwaiti shore.

Lieutenant Colonel Jeffrey Jones

Years later in 2022, Jack Summe talked about Desert Storm leaflets in THE LEAFLET DROP, The Newsletter of the Psychological Operations Veterans Association. He said in part:

I don't imagine that many people think about the actual physics and aeronautics of leaflet operations.This did not become a concern to me until I found myself as the Executive Officer of the PSYOP Task Force (POTF) supporting CENTCOM during Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm.I always mention Desert Shield because most of the leaflet operations during that conflict occurred well before actual combat operations began.  One day, Lieutenant Colonel Jeff Jones, POTF Commander, asked me how we get leaflets on airplanes and on target during what was essentially a peacetime deployment (at the time) in Saudi Arabia.

As the Executive Officer of a task force that did not have enough officers to integrate into the COCOM and Component staffs in Saudi Arabia at the time, our primary staff officers were given the task, by LTC Jeff Jones, to serve as liaison officers to HQs, CENTCOM and its components. LTC Jones gave me the task of serving as both the PSYOP Task Force Executive Officer and the Liaison to Central Air Force (CENTCOM's air component) with the specified and implied tasks to coordinate 100% of all leaflets drops from CENTAF controlled aircraft. This eventually resulted in leaflets being dropped from F-15s, B-52s and C-130s both along the front lines and deep into Iraq.The coordination and activities of USAF assets to conduct leaflet operations is a very interesting story, but my focus here is to discuss understanding how leaflets get from a fast-moving, high-altitude aviation asset to the ground. To understand this, one MUST understand the "Low, Medium, and High-Altitude Leaflet Dissemination Guide!" If you don't understand that publication, then the leaflets you've spent time, money, and resources to produce will typically land in the middle of nowhere, or worse on friendly troops.

I, of course, was no expert, so the 4th PSYOP Group reached back to the states and found out that one of the Strategic Studies Detachment civilians was and expert on the publication. I apologize, but I forget his name, but the expert was quickly sent forward to the POTF HQs in Riyadh Saudi Arabia to educate me and my one person staff on how to ensure leaflets land where intended. Three baseline lessons were learned very quickly 1) Wind matters, and it flows in different directions and at different speeds at different altitudes. 2) Leaflet cloud formation and drop characteristics are dictated by the size and shape of the leaflet and the weight of the paper. And 3) Drop altitude and leaflet characteristics dictates how big the cloud will be upon landing and the density of the leaflets on the ground at the landing site. This is all described in Former Lieutenant Colonel Dave Underhill's publication. As we were targeting specific Iraqi units across the front and deep into Iraq proper, LTC Jones and I wanted to ensure that the leaflets across or near the intended unit were in enough density to have the appropriate effect. And we had to remember that the USAF gets a vote. The PSYOP Task Force didn't tell the Air Component Commander (a Three Star General) where and how to fly, what I found out as the liaison was that the Air Component would tell us where the missions were going and at what altitude. As you might imagine, this was VERY sensitive information at the time.  My job was to tell them where I wanted the leaflets bombs to open in the sky.  After we loaded the bombs with the appropriate leaflets (no easy coordination effort there either¦), the USAF then accomplished the arming, fusing, and loading of the bombs on the aviation asset.  They would determine where the bomb needed to be released so that it would blow open at the intended spot in the sky, creating a leaflet cloud that would track, according to the algorithms in Underhill's book, to the intended landing point on the ground.  The aviation asset would then depart daily from various air bases as a "package"¯ designed to protect USAF assets and deliver armament on target (to include leaflets).  This effort required understanding where the units were situated on the ground (an Intel function), understanding at what altitude and attitude the aviation asset was flying, and doing the calculations from Underhill's pub to backtrack a leaflet cloud to the point in the sky where we wanted the bomb to explode open.  Again, no easy task.

This effort also included leaflet calculations for drops from C-130s across the front.  We had to know the altitude of the planned drops and the predicted weather in the operational area to do the calculations and ensure the leaflets would land where intended.  This was a daily exercise, and we would have to work it for multiple activities at multiple times a day.  For instance, had the weather not been favorable for leaflets drops from Saudi Arabia into Iraq, there would have been no C-130 leaflet operations during Desert Shield.  Due to favorable weather, we blanketed the Iraqi front with leaflets during Shield, all using the guidance from LTC Underhill's publication.

The success of the leaflet operations in Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm has been written about in many civilian and military publications, so I guess my little leaflet staff accomplished the mission in stellar fashion.  However, I can unequivocally state that the massive leaflet operations undertaken during Operation Desert Shield and Storm would not have been successful without the expert knowledge of a Strategic Studies Element civilian, a 71L admin specialist, and the publication "Low, Medium, and High-Altitude Leaflet Dissemination Guide!"¯  It is a quality and imperative resource for all PSYOP practitioners.  It may have less importance today in the cyber age, but I feel that there will again be a time when communicating to the enemy soldier on the ground will only be accomplished by a written product...the leaflet.

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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).

One PSYOP soldier called this item a 2-color paper draft “mock up” design that had no writing on the back and was later used as the basis for the cardboard leaflet below.

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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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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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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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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). The text on the hourglass is an abbreviation of the word “January.”

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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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."
The text on the hourglass is an abbreviation of the word “January.”

This is an oversized leaflet. Rumor has it that the leaflets were prepared to be dropped from Special Operations Command Helicopters where their additional weight would tend to keep them from being sucked up into the rotor blades, but that the mission was cancelled. This updraft apparently was an occasional problem when the smaller standard 6 x 3-inch leaflets were dropped. 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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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.

Colonel Borchini of the 4th Group said:

This leaflet was probably the most effective of the war. It stressed brotherhood among the countries in the region. After the Iraqis surrendered, the captured soldiers were interviewed. We found that this leaflet had a tremendous impact upon the Iraqi soldiers. It had a nice message. There was nothing devious. We all want peace!

When I asked Lieutenant Kelliher about the balloon operations he practiced operational security (OPSEC):

Part of the Battalion deployed north to support some classified leaflet balloon efforts. No more to say on that.

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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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 product name of this leaflet is “Tidal Wave,” the product number is 2-U, and the CENTCOM mission number was 60-01-1.

This is the leaflet that Jon Cartier of the 245th PSYOP Company who was attached to the Marines saw one day and said "I must say I was not happy about the thought of slugging through the surf and obstacles while being peppered with artillery and small arms fire. I am ESPECIALLY glad it was a deception!"

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The Great Wave off Kanagawa

Several readers wrote to me pointing out how similar this wave was to the famous Great Wave off Kanagawa painted by Japanese artist Katsushika Hokusai.

A PSYOP solider stated that he spent an entire day slipping one leaflet into each bottle and then a handful of pebbles to keep the bottle floating upright.

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.

Lieutenant Colonel Kelliher adds:

To support CENTCOM operations the Dissemination Battalion printed the "Wave" leaflet which depicted a U.S. Marine storming ashore, on the reverse were surrender instructions. To get it to the target audience, we collected water bottles and stuffed leaflets into them and then provided them to Naval Special Operations which got them ashore.

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Iowa Class battleship firing the big guns

American battleships actually fired on the beaches so that the Iraqis were sure the attack was about to occur. The battleship Wisconsin fulfilled her first call for naval gunfire support since 1952 when she fired eleven 16 inch shells over 20 miles at an Iraqi artillery position in southern Kuwait. Just before the mock invasion the Iowa Class battleships Wisconsin and Missouri both opened fire on Iraqi forces in Kuwait. It is said that Iraqi troops on the beaches waved white flags toward the sea and at overhead drones looking for targets.

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The RQ-2A Pioneer

There is a particularly interesting story about the battleship Wisconsin. The ship carried eight RQ-2A Pioneer unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). On 23 February 1991, the battleship sent one of the drones to the target area for reconnaissance and to help direct the fire. While the big 16-inch guns of the Wisconsin were preparing to fire, Iraqi soldiers on the ground heard the engines of the Pioneer and came out of their trenches waving white flags in an attempt to surrender. This happened at least twice. It indicates the terrible state of the Iraqi morale.

Elements of the 1st Cavalry Division mounted “Berm Buster” raids blowing holes in the defensive berms on the Saudi side and sending tanks into the breaches to goad the Iraqis. On 16 February 1991 the 1st Infantry Division began a series a ‘shoot and scoot’ artillery raids against the 48th Iraqi Infantry Division. The Iraqis had to think the Coalition was coming through those berms at any moment.

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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.

In 2014, we received a request to use this leaflet image in a doctrine brief for the United States Air Force Squadron Officer School. One of the components of the brief was the deception used by the coalition forces in leading Iraqi forces to believe that there would be an amphibious assault. Permission was granted.

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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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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. Both General Powell and Schwarzkopf had been in Vietnam and seen the effects of Operation Rolling Thunder, the B-52 bombing of North Vietnam. It was a slow process with a long buildup and as a result not as effective as it might have been. In Desert Storm, the bombing would be called “Operation Instant thunder.” It would not be slow and ponderous; it would be the opposite of the Vietnam War, swift, overwhelming and deadly. One general said: “We wanted a thunderstorm, not a drizzle.”

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.

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The MH-53J Pave Low Helicopter

U.S. Air Force photo by Technical Sergeant Manuel Trejo

In a rather amazing Special Operations mission, four MH-53J Pave Low helicopters from the 20th Special Operations Squadron with an integrated GPS navigation system flew 400 miles over enemy territory with the Iraqis knowing an attack was coming and led eight AH-64 Apache helicopters to attack two early-warning radar sites in Southern Iraq with Hellfire missiles, opening a door for a massive attack by Coalition aircraft. The USAF expected to lose about 2% of their aircraft during the opening days of the attack. The Pave Low mission was critical to saving American lives. The mission was called in at 1400 on the 16th; the crew was to be briefed at 2230 that night with takeoff at 0100. At 0300, Air Force and navy aircraft would be attacking in the hundreds, so the Apaches had to take out the radar sites at 0238. Those 22 minutes could mean life or death. The Iraqis would see the Americans coming or they would be blind to them.

USAF retired Major General Richard Comer adds in “Operation Eager Anvil: Pave Low Leaders – An inside look at the mission that kicked off Operation Desert Storm, Defense media Network:

The Apaches got to their firing position within 5 seconds of their established time on target, and both formations laid Hellfire missiles on the communications vans of each of the two radar sites within 5 or 10 seconds of each other. Within about 3 minutes, the rest of the radar sites had taken fire and the buildings were in flames. The mission was a perfect success. The Iraqis now had no eyes to see with over a large portion of their border, and a coalition air armada streamed into the country above our two helicopter formations.

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. There was some truth to their reports. The Army had stockpiled between 10,000 and 20,000 body bags and had thousands of plastic coffins on pallets awaiting shipment. This was the result of several computerized war games that forecast a long war and massive Coalition casualties. The computers could not have been more wrong.

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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.

There were some people that were not surprised by the ease of the American advance. Major Ed Rouse told me that just before deploying he had read an evaluation of the Iraq-Iran War which indicated that the 10 year war fought between Iraq and Iran was more of a daily 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. skirmish. The Iraqi soldier would say goodbye to his family in the morning and drive to his base. Once at the base the soldiers were transported by trucks and buses out to staging areas where they would get in their tanks or man their artillery pieces. They would then patrol the border and exchange fire with Iran. At the end of the day they would go back to the staging area and catch their ride back to the base in time to be home for dinner. Rouse thought that the “Shock and Awe” of an American attack was going to be quite a shock to the Iraqi Army.

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The Official Department of Defense Poster showing the Strategy of the Ground War

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.

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The Official Dispatch from Schwarzkopf to the troops

This Morning at 0300 we launched Operation Desert Storm…

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.


This newspaper clipping tells of the terror that the Iraqis faced from modern American weapon systems
Stars and Stripes

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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. Back at headquarters everyone was trying to slow the Marines down so the Iraqis would be held in place for the big left hook that was on the way. One general said “the Marines went through the Iraqis like water through a screen door.” 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.

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The British Challenger Tank

British armor swept forward in the tradition of the “Desert Rats.” Like the U.S. Abrams M1-A1 tank, the 221 British Challenger tanks sent to Saudi Arabia were not regarded with great confidence. They had finished last in the prestigious Canadian Army Trophy tank competition held in West Germany in 1987 against tanks and crews from all over NATO. But, by the end of the three day offensive, Challengers accounted for some 200 Iraqi tanks destroyed or captured along with numerous armored and “soft” vehicles. One Challenger took out an Iraqi tank over a range of 5,100m (3 miles) with a Depleted Uranium round – the longest confirmed tank kill in history!

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. One general looking at the static Iraqi Army dug in all along the border with Saudi Arabia said:

My God, they are like golf balls in the sand waiting to be struck.

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.

General Scales says in Certain Victory, the US Army in the Gulf War:

General Yeosock intended to reinforce the deception effort to further convince the Iraqis that the main effort would come directly from the south into Kuwait. CENTCOM dropped leaflets with Marine Corps emblems on Iraqi coastal units and pamphlets with VII Corps and XVIII Airborne Corps logos in Kuwait, far from the real location of these forces. Loudspeaker teams moved up to the border berm and played recordings of tracked vehicles before quickly retreating. On occasion the Iraqis fired at the sound with artillery. Fire-finder counterbattery radars immediately picked up the Iraqi rounds, allowing American artillery units to return fire and destroy Iraqi artillery positions.

Blake Stillwell adds in 21 Facts about the First Gulf War

The coalition used deception cells to create the impression that they were going to attack near the Kuwaiti “boot heel,” as opposed to the strategy actually implemented. The Army set up Forward Operating Base Weasel near the opposite end of the Kuwaiti border, which was a network of fake camps manned only by several dozen soldiers. With computer-controlled radios, messages were passed between fictitious headquarters sections. Smoke generators and loudspeakers playing prerecorded tank and truck noises were used, along with inflatable Humvees and helicopters. The U.S. Army’s XVIII Airborne Corps established FOB Weasel near the phony invasion area. Inflatable tanks with PVC turrets and helicopters with fiberglass rotors were lined up on the ground as well. Inflatable fuel bladders, Camo netting, and heat strips to fool infrared cameras completed the illusion. The Americans even made tapes of seven fake “Egyptian” radio messages about the supposed American force just down the road, to be intercepted by the Iraqis. Army truck drivers wearing the red berets of paratroopers would shuttle vehicles between FOB Weasel and logistic bases.

Decades after I wrote this article Donald P. Wright wrote "Deception in the Desert: Deceiving Iraq in Operation Desert Storm"¯ for The Army University Press. He said in part:

Deception played a key role in the way this plan developed. Given the size, capability, and deployment of the Iraqi Army, deceiving the Iraqi chain of command at both the operational and tactical levels became critical to Coalition commanders...In the fall of 1990, several doctrinal works provided the foundation for the development of military deception plans. Field Manual (FM) 100-5, Operations (1986), stated that deception was integral to operations and established the optimal characteristics of deception, emphasizing simplicity and believability. Equally important was the manual's contention that the most effective form of military deception was the exploitation of the enemy's preconceptions, stating that commanders should try to "convince an opponent to believe what he wants to believe anyway-that his current course of action is correct."¯ Known as Magruder's Principle, this form of deception is based on the idea that it is far easier to exploit the enemy's beliefs than to alter those beliefs. 

The Two-Corps Plan
Weaving the Tangled Web
Military Deception in Large Scale Combat Operations

In mid-September 1990, when it appeared that Saddam Hussein no longer posed a threat to Saudi Arabia, CENTCOM began planning for offensive operations designed to expel Iraqi forces from Kuwait.  In October, General Schwarzkopf's planners initially conceived of an air-land offensive that relied on the forces immediately available in Saudi Arabia and the region. For the land operation, this meant the XVIII Airborne Corps, the recently arrived 1st Cavalry Division, the 1st Marine Division, and Arab, British, and French forces. However, no one at CENTCOM was satisfied with this plan. Schwarzkopf described the "One Corps" concept as a "straight-up-the middle charge. Four days later, the CENTCOM commander told his planners to develop a new concept for the offensive that included a second US Army armored corps. Schwarzkopf's new vision featured a bold envelopment of Iraqi forces from west of the Kuwait border. envelopment Schwarzkopf had envisioned. The new CENTCOM plan, labeled the "Two Corps" concept-took advantage of the open Iraqi flank. First, a supporting attack by the XVIII Airborne Corps, US Marines, and other Coalition units would drive directly into Kuwait to seize Kuwait City, an action that would effectively fix Iraqi forces. In what eventually became known as the "Left Hook," the newly added armored corps would then move quickly north from its attack positions west of the Kuwaiti border (on the Coalition left flank) into Iraq and strike deep to the Euphrates River thereby cutting off Iraqi forces in Kuwait. Then the corps would attack east toward to destroy the Republican Guards Force Command, their main objective, located on Kuwait's northern border.

General Schwarzkopf turned to a special cell in the CENTCOM Plans (J5) staff section. Schwarzkopf gave the planners in the cell a simple objective: prevent the Iraqis from learning about the two corps envelopment from the west. The best way to do this was to keep the Iraqi focus on Coalition forces just south of Kuwait and afloat in the Persian Gulf to the east. The Iraqi command had significantly strengthened its defenses on the southern Kuwaiti border as well as on the Persian Gulf Coast. They had done nothing to protect its open western flank. The "story" aimed at the Iraqi leader was simple: Coalition forces deployments, actions, and announcements all indicated a ground offensive featuring amphibious landings from the gulf and attacks from the south toward Kuwait City and up the Wadi al Batin. To assist in this effort, CENTCOM allowed the media to cover the Marines as they rehearsed amphibious operations and broadcast stories about those preparations.

The XVIII Airborne Corps nested its own deception plan under the CENTCOM deception framework. The corps fielded a twelve-person deception cell which had deployed to Saudi Arabia with camouflage decoys, communication emulators, and other equipment. Each of the four divisions in the corps had their own deception teams and equipment. On 13 February, 300 Soldiers, including the deception teams, PSYOPS teams, a signal company, an engineer platoon, a smoke platoon, and an infantry platoon, moved into what were called "deception tactical assembly areas" near the Kuwaiti border. These forces communicated and conducted operations that emulated major XVIII Airborne Corps units. The corps reinforced the deception story by dropping half a million surrender leaflets on Iraqi units to the immediate north of the deception assembly areas and spreading messages in nearby Saudi communities about an impending attack due north.

In the immediate aftermath of the DESERT STORM, Schwarzkopf deemed the deception plan, especially the Marine amphibious threat, a critical success. However, it is now known that by 18 February 1991, Iraqi confusion had given way to clarity. On that day, the Military Intelligence Directorate (GMID) sent Saddam's office a report that offered a generally accurate assessment of the Coalition Left Hook, including a warning that the enveloping force could easily strike deep into Iraq and cut off Iraqi forces in Kuwait. Thus, a week before the ground offensive was scheduled to begin, Saddam Hussein and his senior commanders had received a clear picture of the Coalition threat on the western flank and an accurate estimate of the intent of those forces. Yet the Iraqis did essentially nothing to counter this danger. Iraqi preconceptions about Coalition intent had paralyzed Saddam Hussein's Army.

Iraqi Deception Operations

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Iraqi Fake Tank Emplacement

The Iraqis also used deception operations. Master Sergeant Alfred Evans who was assigned on temporary duty to the U.S. Army Office of the Program Manager - Saudi Arabian National Guard and the King Abdul Aziz Mechanical Infantry Brigade at Al Khafji told me about an Iraqi attempt to make the Coalition believe that a large number of tanks were in a certain position. As his unit moved north into Kuwait they Found dozens of fake tank emplacements. Each had a metal frame with chain link fencing and a 55 gallon drum turret and a pipe for the main gun in front to give radar signature. Sometime they had something burning to give a heat signature too. In the picture above there is also a metal piece to act as a reflector.

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.

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The Hidden Cost of War
World Press Picture of the Year - 1991

This picture was snapped on a medical evacuation helicopter on 27 February, the last day of the 100-hour war. At the left, Ken Kozakiewicz has just learned that his best friend, Andy Alaniz, is in the body bag to the right, killed by a missile strike to the Bradley Fighting Vehicle he was driving in Iraq. In the center is Michael Tsangarakis.

[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. 

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Iraqi missile shot down in the desert by Patriot tactical air defense missile during Operation Desert Storm on 26 May 1992

Curiously, Israel was not in the war but had the third highest death count. Iraq fired Scud missiles at Israel in an attempt to draw the country into the conflict, a move that would force many Arab states in the Coalition to choose between withdrawing or fighting alongside Israel. Seventy-four Israelis died as Iraq fired Scud missiles toward Tel Aviv. Iraq launched a total of 88 Scud missiles toward Israel and Saudi Arabia over the course of the war.

The Scud attacks on Israel are mentioned in WAR ROOM, the official podcast of the U.S. Army War College Online Journal in an interview "Aftermath: The First Gulf War,"¯ by military historian and author Samuel Helfont on March 8, 2021. This interview is three decades after the war, but this fact was new to me:

The missile attacks in Israel, they are symbolic. In fact, the Scud missiles, some of them had concrete warheads. Yes, some of them had concrete warheads and some of the military strategists were thinking, what is he doing? Is he trying to penetrate? And they are trying to think of all these military reasons for why he might have done that. After the war he told his interrogators what happened. He wanted them to be like the Palestinians who were throwing stones. These are symbolic acts. Saddam is not thinking in the way Clausewitz would see in logic where you start with a policy and you create a strategy from there, and from the strategy derives operations. None of that is going on. This is about politics and winning support, so it does not work very well in a war.

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The Cartoonists find Humor in the Patriot and Scud Missiles

To keep the Israelis as allies but not as combatants, and to assure they would not take unilateral action against Iraq, the United States sent a Patriot missile air defense artillery battalion to Israel along with two batteries of MIM-104 Patriot missiles for the protection of civilians.

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.

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The Highway of Death – Associated Press Photo
The Iraqi Army attempts to flee northward

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An Iraqi Soldier Caught fleeing in his truck
Photo by Ken Jarecke

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Aerial view of the Highway of Death

Thousands of photographs such as these were taken after the battle. Very few have ever been published because most soldiers thought they were simply too awful to look at. A case can be made that this is the true face of war and should be understood by those that seek the experience of combat.

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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