During the 1st Persia Gulf War I was assigned to 3rd Battalion 3rd Marines which along with the rest of the 3rd Marine Regiment made up the ground component of Task Force Taro. This is a short war story of one night in January that we thought the Mother of All Battles had started and was going to be bloody.
My unit was among the first combat units in Saudi Arabia arriving in mid August and within days we had taken up defensive positions in northeastern Saudi Arabia and began the long run up to the 1st Gulf War.
The months leading up to January were filled with adjusting to the constant unknown and changing conditions. The world press was reporting the possibility of staggering casualties among Coalition Forces and of a long drawn out war. In the War of 1990 we received information through Stars and Strips and eventually we acquired a small battery powered short wave radio that we used to pick up a few English speaking stations. These along with letters were our life line to the outside. No internet, no email and no information super highway.
As the months passed we patrolled our positions and trained to breach barb wire defenses. We learned how to make water a few degrees cooler than air temperature. We trained to destroy and disable tanks and armor by hand. We trained how to live and fight in biological suits. And we listened as the world press speculated how events might play out which included bloody assaults, scud missile attacks, the use of poison gas and would the coalition fall apart if Israel was attacked and drawn into the war.
With the start of the air war news speculation seemed to intensify along with diplomatic efforts. Large numbers of dead and wounded, Israel drawn into the Gulf War and the coalition falls apart, poison gas used. As events progressed day after day the emotional highs and lows were intense. Task Force Taro moved further north and east to a point 30 miles south of Khafji. We were the northern most Marine position. As one after another diplomatic efforts failed our positions began to receive artillery, rocket and missile fire. Poison gas drills and non drills happened on a regular basis.
After 20 years timelines become blurred but as events unfolded for 18 Marines on our portion of the front lines we knew that for us The Mother of All Battles was starting. Sometime on the night of 29 January we were ordered to man our fighting holes for vague reasons. Something was going on up north. As we settled into our holes and waited we received word poison gas had been detected and to put our biological suits on. After a short wait we get the all clear to remove our masks. We receive information that fighting is going on up north. Another gas alert and back into the masks. A short time later the all clear is given. Fighting around Khafji but not clear what is happening. A little later headquarters is saying the Iraqis have crossed the border in force and are fighting south. Now we receive word a large tank column is moving south but not certain who they are, stand by. The atmosphere is tense. We load our weapons and ready ourselves for the unknown. The Mother of All Battles is here!!!! The tank column is still moving south, stand by. Stand by. Finally we receive the call that the column is a Saudi unit that is repositioning south. Sweet overwhelming relief!