The Final Door, an Army-Navy-Marine Corps Problem

“The coast of Kuwait resembled Normandy’s Omaha Beach on the eve of D-Day in World War II. On likely landing beaches Iraqi combat engineers had emplaced antiboat and antipersonnel mines, thickets of stakes called “hedgehogs,” underwater electric cables, barbed wire entanglements, and other obstacles meant to sink or ensnare landing craft and kill marines trying to reach the shore. To cover the beach, the enemy had erected Silkworm batteries, dug trenches, and built bunkers. The latter were spaced 25 to 50 yards apart and surrounded by chain link fences to deflect rounds from direct-fire weapons. From Ash Shuaybab northward, the Iraqis fortified high-rise condominiums and other buildings which overlooked the beach. Earthen berms, land mines, antitank ditches, dug-in tanks and barbed wire obstacles blocked the likely exits from the beach. Elements of four enemy infantry divisions guarded the coast between Kuwait City and the Saudi border. At al-Ahmadi the tanks and infantry of the Iraqi 5th Mechanized Division stood by in reserve to blunt any breakout from the beach area. In short, Saddam’s generals clearly expected the U.S. Marines to storm ashore in Kuwait.”

British members of the MCM coalition forces estimated that to clear sea echelon and fire support areas to protect the MCM forces as they cleared assault lanes to the beach would require 16 to 20 days, and 43 days if the Iraqi Sigeel acoustic influence mine was encountered. The planned assault at Ash Shuaybab was cancelled. Instead a feint against Faylaka Island was used to divert attention from Schwarzkopf’s end run in the north. A right jab to cover a left hook.

“Iraq successfully delayed and might have prevented an amphibious assault on Kuwait’s assailable flank, protected a large part of its forces from the effects of naval gunfire, and severely hampered surface operations in the northern Arabian Gulf, all through the use of naval mines.” Vice Admiral Stanley R. Arthur, Commander U.S. Seventh Fleet/Commander U.S. Naval Forces, Central Command.

Marolda, Edward J., and Schneller, Robert J. Jr. “Shield and Sword: The United States Navy and the Persian Gulf War,” Naval Historical Center, Department of the Navy, Washington, D.C., 1998, pages 247-268.

Kicking down the final door through which ground troops and logistics supplies must flow is a problem shared, directly or indirectly, by all the Services.


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