Desert Shield / Desert Storm
In 1990, the United States was faced with its first major foreign crisis since the end of the Cold War. The dictator of Iraq, Saddam Hussein, ordered his army across the border into Kuwait. Well-equipped by the United States military aid provided during its eight-year war with Iran, the Iraqi army quickly overran the small state.
Operation Desert Shield was the defense of Saudi Arabia and its oil fields. Desert Storm was the 1991 offensive against Iraq’s forces in Kuwait and thousands of targets in Iraq.
The memorial’s image of American soldiers and the CH-47 Chinook helicopter is a tribute to the more than 700,000 troops and reservists who served.
It was in August of 1990 that President George H. W. Bush sent American forces to the Persian Gulf. The massive military buildup, called Operation Desert Shield was put in place in the event of an Iraqi attack on Saudi Arabia. In addition, the Bush administration assembled a large alliance that ultimately saw more than thirty nations commit troops or other types of assistance to the region.
America issued an ultimatum to Hussein: leave Kuwait by January 15, 1991 or face attack by the multinational force. January 15 came and went with no response from Hussein. The next night Desert Shield became Desert Storm.
On January 17, 1991 the American led air offensive hit Iraq’s air defenses, communications networks, weapons plants, oil refineries and other strategic targets. The objective was to destroy Iraq’s air force and neutralize its army in order to minimize American casualties once the ground war began.
Kuwait was declared liberated just 100 hours after the coalition army hit the ground. And Iraq agreed to terms of a ceasefire.
The latest military technology, including Stealth bombers, Cruise missiles, so-called “Smart” bombs with laser-guidance systems and infrared night bombing equipment contributed to the operation’s success.
Although it is estimated that there were thousands of Iraqi casualties, approximately 150 Americans died in the war and a cluster of medically unexplained chronic symptoms affects many Gulf War veterans to this day.