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Desert Storm: A Look Back

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Operation Desert Storm was the first major foreign crisis for the United States after the end of the Cold War.

On Aug. 2, 1990, Saddam Hussein led a well-equipped Iraqi army into Kuwait, a major supplier of oil to the United States.

The U.S. had supplied Iraq with military aid during its eight-year war with Iran, giving Iraq the fourth-largest army in the world at that time. This posed a threat to Saudi Arabia, another major exporter of oil. If Saudi Arabia fell, Iraq would control one-fifth of the world’s oil supply. The Iraqi leader also was repeatedly violating United Nations resolutions, so the U.S. had U.N. support in responding to Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait.

Desert Storm Key Facts:

More than 500,000 American troops deployed to Saudi Arabia as part of Operation Desert Shield, in case Iraqi troops attacked Saudi Arabia.
President George H.W. Bush shakes hands with troops.
Thanksgiving Visit
President George H.W. Bush meets with troops in Saudi Arabia on Thanksgiving during the Gulf War, Nov. 22, 1990.
Photo By: Courtesy of George Bush Presidential Library and Museum
VIRIN: 901122-O-ZZ999-221Y
On Jan. 17, 1991, Operation Desert Shield became Operation Desert Storm, backed by public support after diplomacy failed.
Desert Storm became the largest air campaign since the conflict in Southeast Asia.
F-15C Eagles fly over Kuwait
Nomad’s legacy
F-15C Eagles fly over Kuwait during the Gulf War in 1991. The Nomads’ participation in Operation Desert Shield began in August 1990 with a total 769 personnel and 24 F-15Cs departing Eglin Air Force Base destined for King Faisal Air Base in northwestern Saudi Arabia.
Photo By: Air Force photo
VIRIN: 150112-F-MT297-003
The U.S. and 40 allied nations, including several Arab nations, flew more than 18,000 air deployment missions, more than 116,000 combat air sorties and dropped 88,500 tons of bombs.
After air attacks that lasted for six weeks, the ground campaign lasted only 100 hours before Kuwait was liberated.
Three airborne fighter jets
Oil Field Flames
F-16A Fighting Falcon, F-15C Eagle and F-15E Strike Eagle fighter aircraft fly over burning oil fields in Kuwait during Operation Desert Storm.
Photo By: Air Force photo
VIRIN: 020926-O-9999G-908C
Iraq tried to split the coalition by launching Scud missiles at Israel, but Israel refrained from responding, thanks to its partnership with the United States.
A service member lifts a metal round in front of a wheeled vehicle.
Sabot Round
An ammunition specialist carries a 105 mm armor-piercing, discarding sabot round, to be used in an M1 Abrams tank, during Desert Shield.
Photo By: Army Sgt. Brian Cumper
VIRIN: 181103-D-ZZ999-101
Desert Storm saw the first use of the MIM-104C Patriot missile system in combat, where it was used to intercept Scud missiles. It was also the first time the Air Force used stealth and space systems support capabilities against a modern, integrated air defense.
About 697,000 U.S. troops took part in the war, with 299 losing their lives.
Marines run over sandy terrain near a helicopter.
Imminent Thunder
U.S. Marines assigned to the 2nd Marine Division's Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, move out on a mission after disembarking from a CH-46E Sea Knight helicopter during Exercise Imminent Thunder, part of Operation Desert Shield.
Photo By: Air Force Tech. Sgt. H. H. Deffner
VIRIN: 181103-D-ZZ999-102

The United States remains in good standing with many of the countries involved in the coalition that began with Operation Desert Storm 27 years ago.

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