GULF WAR HISTORY OF THE U.S. ARMY's 1st "TIGER" BRIGADE, 2nd ARMORED DIVISION - ATTACHED TO THE 2nd MARINE DIVISION
The most detailed accounts available are the online book "The Whirlwind War", and the book "Certain Victory", the official U.S. Army history of the battle. Time ran out for the Air Force's Instant Thunder campaign. Once a large Army force had been placed in Saudi Arabia, maintaining it in place was very expensive. It had to be used, or removed, and the latter option was not an option. The assualt was launched almost as soon as the last VII Corps units made it to the theater.
The plan was relatively straight forward, strategy wise, though exceptionally difficult logistics wise, because of the compressed time scale. The XVIII Corps was deployed to the far left flank, tasked with isolating the battlefield and protecting the flank and rear of VII corps. The French 6th Light Armored Division and the U.S. 82nd Airborne Division extended along the far left to keep any Iraqi units from entering the area. The 101st Airborne Division and the 24th Mechanized Infantry Division would move forward to the highway along the Euphrates River and prevent any Iraqi units (particularly the Republican Guard) from getting out of the area. The 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment (USA) acted in a scouting role, and also was assigned to patrol the boundary between XVIIIth Corps & VIIth Corps.
The units of VII Corps were in the center, tasked with directly assaulting the Iraqi armored forces, and the Republican Guard, with the object of destroying them. The U.S. 1st and 3rd Armored Divisions and 1st Mechanized Infantry Division, along with the U.S. 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment (as scouting force) and the British 1st Armored Division were given this task, all under VII Corps control and Lt. Gen. Fred Franks.
The Marine and Arab units were on the right flank, tasked with frontally assaulting the Iraqi fortifications along the Saudi-Kuwaiti border. There two-fold object was to (a) entice the Republican Guard forces forward and into the path of VII Corps, and (b) to penetrate the fortifications and move on Kuwait City (but the Marines were not to enter the city, until Kuwaiti units had preceded them). The Marines were supported by the 1st ("Tiger") Brigade, 2nd Armored Division, from the U.S. Army, because the Marine Corps Sherman tanks could not take on the Iraqi T-72 tanks evenly, whereas the Army M1-A1 Abrams tanks could.
Finally, the Marine expeditionary forces afloat would act as a probable decoy, pinning down large Iraqi forces on the Kuwaiti coast, in anticipation of an amphibious assault. In fact, there was never any real consideration of an amphibious assault on the heavily defended urban coastline, which would expose the Marines to heavy casualties without good reason. However, the option of an amphibious assault on Basra, up the Shat al-Arab, was kept open until well into the ground assault. Such an assault would have put a major force deep in the Iraqi rear area, but was in the end unnecessary.
The actual pace of events was rather different than planned. The XVIII Corps carried out it's task much as planned. However, the Marine Corps' lesson from Khafji didn't quite sink into the Army's thinking. The plan called for the Marine and Arab forces to be hung up in the Iraqi fortifications for 18 to 24 hours, and maybe longer. Long enough, in any case, to entice the Republican Guard to come down in support, giving VII Corps a straight shot at them. But the reality was that the Marines blew through the Iraqi fortifications and accomplished in a few hours, what was expected to take days. Instead of being enticed into the path of VII Corps, Iraqi units were reeling backwards.
The surprising success of the Marine assault motivated CENTCOM to launch the VII Corps attack somewhat early. According to some of the post war pundits, this was a sign of panic on Schwarzkopf's part, reflecting his belief that the Iraqis were in full retreat. General Franks (CG, VII Corps) disagrees, and points out that if this were really the case, CENTCOM would not have insisted that he hold his attack until the Egyptian corps was ready to go. He says that VII Corps was ready, willing, and anxious to go even earlier (tp preserve limited daylight). The fact that they were held back for a coordinated assault leads Franks to conclude that the motivation for an early assault was simply to ensure the safety of the Marine Corps west flank. However, there is also no doubt but that Schwarzkopf did soon come to the conclusion that the Iraqis were in full retreat, and that VII Corps should have moved faster in pursuit. Franks tells the story in his own words in the book "Into the Storm" (Tom Clancy & Fred Franks), which contradicts some arguments made by Schwarzkopf in his own autobiography "It Doesn't Take a Hero".
One interesting aspect of the operations is that map symbols can be misleading. For instance, the 1st Mechanized Infantry Division deployed with only two of its own brigades, with 3rd Brigade, 2nd Armored Division as its round-out brigade. As a result, the division deployed with 6 armored battalions, and 3 mechanized infantry battalions. A normal mechanized infantry division would deploy with 6 battalions of mechanized infantry, and 4 armored battalions. So, in fact, the 1st Mechanized Infantry Division deployed as an armored division that was short one maneuver battalion of mechanized infantry. Likewise, the 24th Mechanized Infantry Division also deployed with only 2 of its own brigades, the round-out brigade was the 197th Mechanized Infantry Brigade from Ft. Benning. That gave the 24th 5 armored and 5 infantry battalions, a hybrid division.
The Air Force planners had high hopes that the Instant Thunder campaign would be enough to compel the Iraqis to withdraw. They were disappointed when this did not happen. Nevertheless, a month or so of incessant bombing has a deleterious effect on immobile soldiers, to say the least. When the Army and Marine Corps, and other coalition forces struck the Iraqi front line positions, most of the Iraqis were more interested in surrenduring than fighting, and breeching operations that were expected to take from 18 to 24 hours were finished in as little as 2 hours.
The entire Desert Storm operation was finished in a politically satisfying 100 hours of extremely one-sided combat (the 1st battalion, 37th Armor, 3rd Brigade, 1st Armored Division USA, encountered the 29th Mechanized Infantry Brigade of the Tawakalna Division of the Iraqi Republican Guard on February 26, 1991; they destroyed 76 T-72 MBTs, 84 BMP IFVs, 3 Air Defence Artillery pieces, 8 howitzers, 6 command vehicles, 2 engineer vehicles and "a myriad of trucks", at a cost of 4 USA M1-A1 MBT's knocked out of action and zero KIA - a single U.S. Army battalion destroyed an entire Iraqi brigade, while itself remaining intact and essentially undamaged, and this is not the only example).