The Liberation of Kuwait was the campaign to retake
Kuwait from Iraq after the massive air campaign,
between 24–28 February 1991. U.S. troops and the
Coalition entered to find the Iraqis surrendering en
masse; however, pockets of resistance existed,
particularly at Kuwait International Airport where
Iraqi troops, seemingly unaware that a retreat order
had been issued to them, continued to fight,
resulting in a fierce battle over the airport
itself. The majority of the fighting took place in
Iraq, rather than Kuwait.
Days before the attack, an amphibious force made
repeated feint attacks and landings at Kuwait City,
attempting to fool the Iraqis into thinking the
Coalition would attack via amphibious assault.
Instead, the troops were to enter by the southern
border of Kuwait. The Coalition forces based there
were weary from constant Scud missile threats,
chemical missile threats and near-constant shelling
by Iraqi artillery. When the first troops began the
assault, they were warned that casualties could be
as many as one in three.
At 4 a.m. on February 24, after being shelled for
months and under the constant threat of a gas
attack, the U.S. 1st and 2nd Marine Divisions
crossed into Kuwait. They maneuvered around vast
systems of barbed wire, minefields and trenches.
Once into Kuwait, they headed towards Kuwait City.
The troops themselves encountered little resistance
and, apart from several minor tank battles, were met
primarily by surrendering soldiers. The general
pattern was that Coalition troops would encounter
Iraqi soldiers who would put up a brief fight before
deciding to surrender.
On the 27th of February, Saddam Hussein issued a
retreat order to his troops in Kuwait; however, one
unit of Iraqi troops appeared to have not gotten the
retreat order. When the U.S. Marines arrived at
Kuwait International Airport, they encountered
fierce resistance, and it took them several hours to
gain control and secure the airport. As part of the
retreat order, the Iraqis carried out a "scorched
earth" policy that included setting hundreds of oil
wells on fire in an effort to destroy the Kuwaiti
economy. After the battle at Kuwait International
Airport, the U.S. Marines stopped at the outskirts
of Kuwait City, allowing their Coalition allies to
take and occupy Kuwait City, effectively ending
combat operations in the Kuwaiti theater of the war.
After four days of fighting, all Iraqi troops were
expelled from Kuwait, ending a nearly seven-month
occupation of Kuwait by Iraq. A little over 1,100
casualties were suffered by the Coalition. Estimates
of Iraqi casualties range from 30,000 to 150,000.
Iraq lost thousands of vehicles, while the advancing
Coalition lost relatively few; Iraq's Soviet T-72
tanks proved no match for the American M1 Abrams and
British Challenger tanks.
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