In 1945, Allied military and newsreel cameramen documented the liberation of Nazi concentration camps as the British, American, and Russian forces pushed ever further into Germany. This footage was compiled and edited by the British government to make the film German Concentration Camps Factual Survey (with Alfred Hitchcock as a supervising director). More than 100 reels of footage were shot to make this documentary, the intended audience was to be German people living inside the former Nazi state to show them what the regime had done in their name.
Earlier this year, HBO launched a new documentary, Night Will Fall, which draws on footage shot by those same military cameramen while using testimony from Holocaust survivors from infamous places like Bergen-Belsen, Auschwitz, Dachau and others. Narrated by Helena Bonham-Carter, the documentary includes interviews from the film’s director, Billy Wilder, and even Hitchcock himself. But the film was never completed.
German Concentration Camps Factual Survey itself was set to include interviews with the camps’ survivors, the soldiers who liberated the camps, and historians looking back to put the events into context. The rough cut of the documentary was put away into the depths of the British Imperial War Museum and was unearthed in an effort to restore this and other films like it. In fact, the sixth and final reel of the film was missing and so Night Will Fall will finally bring this heart-wrenching documentary to a conclusion after 70 years.
The unfinished film was screened on PBS’ Frontline and at the 1984 Berlin Film Festival, and uses the most shocking and riveting concentration camp footage ever seen, fully restored. This restored footage was screened in 2014 at the Berlin International Film Festival. Some of the holocaust survivors in the HBO documentary can recognize themselves in the footage shot by military cameramen. The scenes shot by the cameramen are so striking, they were used against Nazi regime officials in trials at Nuremberg.
In the end, the film was not shown because the British needed the German people to rebuild their economy on their own, as the economies of all of Europe had been derailed by the war. The British government decided showing this film would only demoralize the Germans further.
Night Will Fall aired worldwide in January 2015, but can be seen on HBOGo and HBO Now.
Early last month, Israel buried an ace who had seven kills — more than twice as many as John Glenn — and hundreds of operational missions under his belt. He was known as Ran Ronen.
According to a report by the Jerusalem Post, Ronen, whose real name was Ran Pekker, was buried on Dec. 4, 2016, following his death after a long struggle with blood cancer. Ronen was best known for flying the Mirage III and F-4 Phantom during the Six-Day War, the War of Attrition, and the Yom Kippur War.
Ronen notably gained publicity from the History Channel series Dogfights, providing interviews in two episodes, “Dogfights of the Middle East” and “Desert Aces.” In the former, he described his involvement in both escorting a defecting MiG-21 to Israel and his involvement in the attack on Ghardaka Air Base in Egypt. The latter episode, best known for relating Giora Epstein’s legendary 1-vs.-11 fight, featured Ronen’s encounter with a Jordanian Hawker Hunter.
Ronen later became a diplomat and founded the Zahala project for youth, according to a web site outlining the reasons he received the Moskowitz Prize for Zionism in 2008.
Below are the Dogfights episodes Ronen appears in. His missions are discussed from 13:12 to 32:12 in the first video, and in the first 12:30 in the second video.
In the early days of the Cold War, the United States was working on developing advanced surface-to-air missiles to intercept Soviet bombers. The first and only missile for a while that fit the Air Force’s bill was dubbed the “Bomarc.”
According to Designation-Systems.net, the missile was first called the XF-99, as the Air Force was trying to pass it off as an unmanned fighter. Eventually, the Air Force switched to calling the Bomarc the IM-99.
The system made its first flight in 1952, but development was a long process, with the IM-99A becoming operational in September 1959. The IM-99A had a range of 250 miles, a top speed of Mach 2.8, and could carry either a 1,000-pound high-explosive warhead or a 10-kiloton W40 warhead.
The IM-99A had a problem, though – its liquid fuel needed to be loaded into the booster before launch, a process that took about two minutes. The fueling was not exactly a safe process, and the fuel itself wasn’t entirely stable. So, the Air Force developed a version with a solid booster. The IM-99B would end up being a quantum leap in capability. Its speed increased to Mach 3, it had a range of 440 miles, and only carried the nuclear warhead.
The Bomarc also has the distinction of making Canada a nuclear power. Well, sort of. Canada bought two squadrons’ worth of the missiles, replacing the CF-105 Arrow interceptor. Canada’s Bomarcs did have the nuclear warhead, operated under a dual-key arrangement similar to that used by West Germany’s Pershing I missiles.
The Bomarc, though, soon grew obsolete, and by the end of 1972 they were retired. However, the Bomarc would end up sharing the same fate as many old fighters, as many of the missiles were eventually used as target drones since their speed and high-altitude capability helped them simulate heavy Russian anti-ship missiles like the AS-4 Kitchen and AS-6 Kingfish.
Over 700 Bomarcs were produced. Not a bad run at all for this missile.
With sequestration and troop drawdowns forcing the military to record low levels of readiness, the requirements for joining the U.S. armed forces have become more stringent, and the pool of eligible recruits has become smaller. Out of the 34 million 17-24 year olds in the U.S. only 1 percent are both eligible and inclined to pursue military service, according to the Defense Department.
Here are the nine most common reasons civilians are disqualified from service:
When picturing a member of the armed forces, a fit person often comes to mind, and with good reason. Fitness is an essential part of being in the military. An unfit person is unable to carry the necessary gear in dangerous situations. Lacking physical fitness is a liability, both for the service member and their battle buddy. Therefore, active-duty members go through fitness tests on a regular basis.
The relationship between sports and the armed forces goes beyond the ability to carry a heavy backpack. After all, they both require discipline, commitment, and the ability to constantly push one’s limits. This is why the armed forces encourage active-duty members who wish reach the highest level of competition. Service members have programs, special authorizations, and may even delay active duty service. A Military world-class athlete has the chance to honor and represent our country in sports events all around the globe. Here are five ways they can do so.
The Olympic Games
Members of the military have taken part in the Olympic Games for years. In fact, for a long time, officers completely dominated shooting and horse riding events. Nowadays, active-duty members can compete in the Olympic trials. Officers and enlisted may join the U.S. team in both the Summer and the Winter Olympic Games. They can participate in events such as boxing, wrestling, gymnastics, swimming, climbing, shooting, modern pentathlon, table tennis, triathlon, judo, fencing, kayaking, softball and more. Thanks to the emphasis on physical fitness and the pride of representing Ol’ Glory, service members have succeeded in the past.
The Paralympic Games
If an amputee soldier wishes to remain on active duty, he or she must demonstrate a higher level of function with a prosthesis and have the recommendation of two medical officers. The soldiers are evaluated for prosthetic ambulation that exceeds basic ambulation skills, exhibiting high impact, typical of the prosthetic demands of the active adult or athlete, which is consistent with a K4 Medicare Functional Classification Level.
Gailey RS, Roach KE, Applegate EB, et al. The amputee mobility predictor: an instrument to assess determinants of the lower-limb amputee’s ability to ambulate. Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2002;83:613– 627
Although military personnel with a disability are eligible to qualify for the Paralympic Games, they are usually are no longer active duty military. Only very rarely can a service member remain on active duty while wounded. A number of veterans wounded in action make it to the Paralympic Games. Discipline, mental strength, and determination are necessary to perform in sports and to overcome those life-altering injuries. That is why former military personnel are an important part of the teams who participate in the Paralympic Games. They have a good fitness base, and the right mental framework to overcome any obstacle in front of them and to transcend whatever impairment they face, translating into amazing skills.
The Marathon is the longest foot race in the Olympics. They are harrowing but rewarding challenges. In recent years, their popularity has increased, along with the rise of the fitness trend that started in the 80s. To run a marathon requires stamina, determination, and the will to keep going until reaching the finish line, even when every muscle burns and the lungs cry for help. This makes military personnel very suited for the task. Numerous active-duty members have taken part in popular editions around the world, such as the New York, Boston, London, or Paris marathons. Some hard-chargers love nothing more than a challenge; a few of them have run the race in full gear to establish dominance.
Major Leagues (NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL…)
A number of graduates from military academies, such as West Point, the Naval Academy, and the Air Force Academy, have been offered a shot at the pros upon graduation. However, a minimum of two-years of active duty service is required post-graduation. Naturally, most athletes lose that opportunity. In 2017, that rule was challenged. Graduates from the military academies are now allowed to go straight to the major leagues, replacing the two years of active duty by eight to ten years in the reserves. This change will probably allow the academies, who have been producing many brilliant military and business careers, to also produce world-class athletes while upholding the values of the US military.
National and International Championships
The excellent athletes on active duty are present at the national and international competition levels. Thanks to special authorizations, they are allowed to train to reach their peak and travel around the country and the globe to represent the Star-Spangled Banner. Whether national championship, Pan-American championship, qualifying rounds, invitationals, or world championship, they are present across many competitions to represent both their country and the military they serve. Thanks to the values of discipline and hard work promoted by Uncle Sam, these athletes often achieve very good results.
If you’ve seen the blockbuster movies The Longest Day (currently on Netflix) or Saving Private Ryan, a big part of the story is how infantry fought through the obstacles on Omaha Beach (the wisdom of sending two divisions into that meat-grinder can be debated at another time).
But the lack of tank support wasn’t part of the plan. In fact, it was one hell of an instance where that notorious and unwelcome Murphy’s Law put in an appearance, costing the infantry some much-needed support. It would have been their secret weapon: the Dual-Drive, or DD, tank.
The DD tank was a modified M4 Sherman that had a large canvas screen and propellers to enable it to swim in to shore from a distance. Tanks-Encyclopedia.com notes that the M4 had some good firepower for busting up fortifications — a 75mm gun with 90 rounds. At close range, that gun would more than do against the Nazi fortifications.
This is how the DD tank was supposed to work. Note the calm seas. On D-Day, they seas were rough. (YouTube screenshot)
There’s just one problem: the DD tanks weren’t tested in rough seas. Almost all of them ended up sinking when eight-foot-tall waves swamped them. And a tank on the bottom of the channel can’t provide support for the grunts. In short, the grunts had to do the hard by themselves.
So, take a look at this History Channel video, and a piece of D-Day history some folks would like to forget.
One of my direct subordinates, one of my guys that worked for me, he would call me up or pull me aside with some major problem, some issue that was going on. And he’d say, ‘Boss, we’ve got this, and that, and the other thing.’ And I’d look at him and I’d say, ‘Good.’
And finally one day he was telling me about some issue that he was having, some problem, and he said, ‘I already know what you’re going to say.’
And I said, ‘Well, what am I going to say?’
He said, ‘You’re gonna say, Good. He said, ‘That’s what you always say. When something is wrong and going bad, you always just look at me and say, Good.’
Willink wasn’t being snide or dismissive. Rather, he was forcing his troops to find a way to grow from a failure or challenge they were having difficulty overcoming.
If they didn’t get the supplies they needed, for example, he’d force them into a mindset where they could excel in spartan conditions.
It’s an approach he’s applied to his entire life, and one he teaches with his former second-in-command, Leif Babin, through their management consulting firm Echelon Front.
“Didn’t get promoted? Good. More time to get better,” Willink said, giving another example.
In another episode, Willink explained how one of his friends told him he was able to see this philosophy in action even when his father died. It wasn’t literally “good” that his father died, but when he was done grieving he was able to see that he was presented with an opportunity to take responsibilities in areas that he could normally rely on his father for, and to make the most of them.
The “good” approach is a way to move forward without giving into overwhelming emotions, whether on the battlefield, in the office, or in your personal life.
“That’s it,” Willink said on his podcast. “When things are going bad, don’t get all bummed out. Don’t get startled, don’t get frustrated. If you can say the word good, guess what? It means you’re still alive. It means you’re still breathing. And if you’re still breathing, well then hell, you’ve still got some fight left in you. So get up, dust off, reload, recalibrate, reengage, and go out on the attack.”
News that Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is attending the ceremony remembering the 75th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack has drawn some interest.
Unfortunately, it also seems to have drawn some advice from White House Spokesman Josh Earnest directed toward veterans of the surprise bombardment.
During a recent press briefing, Earnest said that World War II veterans should “set aside their own personal bitterness” over the unprovoked attack on Dec. 7, 1941, that left 2,403 Americans dead and over a thousand wounded.
Japan has refused to apologize for the attack, which sank or damaged 19 American vessels, including eight battleships and destroyed or damaged over 300 aircraft.
“If I were a World War II veteran who was drafted by the United States military to go and fight for our country overseas in the aftermath of the Pearl Harbor attack, I might feel quite embittered. And I think it would be a perfectly natural and understandable human reaction to not be particularly satisfied with the words of the Japanese Prime Minister,” Earnest said during the Dec. 5 briefing.
“There may be some who feel personally embittered,” he added. “But I’m confident that many will set aside their own personal bitterness, not because they’re personally satisfied by the words of the Prime Minister, but because they recognize how important this moment is for the United States.”
Abe is the first Japanese Prime Minister to visit Pearl Harbor, declaring his intent to “mourn the souls of the victims” of the attack. American forces shot down 29 Japanese planes, and sank five midget submarines and one submarine.
Fifteen Americans were awarded the Medal of Honor for their actions during the attack, while 51 received the Navy Cross, four received the Distinguished Service Cross, and 53 received the Silver Star.
It is estimated that 161,000 American military personnel were killed in action while fighting in the Pacific Theater. The war lasted for three years and nine months, with the end taking place when Japan signed surrender documents on board the USS Missouri (BB 63) on Sept. 2, 1945.
While the gunner easily dispatched those first soldiers in the open, hundreds of fighters, many in civilian clothes or firing from bunkers, remained. And they put up a fierce resistance with small arms, mortars, and RPGs.
An early RPG hit disabled a Bradley, and the next major RPG hit disabled the Abrams. For almost 20 minutes, the Americans attempted to put out the flames and save the machine. But more fighters kept coming and Schwartz made the decision to sacrifice the tank wreckage to save the armored column.
The crew was moved to another vehicle and the crucial sensitive items were removed from the tank. Then the tankers filled the vehicle with thermite grenades and took off through the city. The Air Force later dropped bombs on what remained.
In the video below, Schwartz and other tankers involved in the battle discuss the unprecedented decision to abandon an Abrams tank.
The Iraqi government loyal to Saddam Hussein later claimed that the tank was killed, which would have given them credit for the first combat kill of an Abrams tank. The U.S. argued that it was merely disabled, and that it was the U.S. Army’s thermite grenades and later U.S. Air Force bombs that actually destroyed it.
Let’s face it. There are fictional planes from some of our favorite stories that are simply awesome, but life is cruel, so we just don’t have the tech yet.
Still, here are five we wish would happen:
In the 1980s, this TV series was one of the few that was unapologetically pro-American. The creator behind this series was Don Bellisario, best known for JAG and NCIS. Yeah, it has Oscar-winner and former Chief Petty Officer Ernest Borgnine on the cast, but “The Lady” was the real star of this series that lasted for four seasons.
This helicopter could reach altitudes that fighters like the F-15 couldn’t dream of reaching. It had hot avionics and a powerful gun and missile armament. The closest we have come to this awesome chopper was the RAH-66 Comanche, which was cancelled in 2002 in favor of the abortive ARH-70. The OH-58 is being retired without a replacement. Ya blew it, DOD.
2. The EB-52C Megafortress
Okay, like many recent planes, this star of early Dale Brown novels like Flight of the Old Dog and Night of the Hawk managed to become the subject of a computer flight simulator.
It’s a BUFF, but this BUFF got a multi-role fighter’s radar, the latest air-to-air missiles, and could still carry a lot of firepower to hit ground targets. In the original book, this BUFF slipped through Soviet air defenses, blasted a secret laser, then fought its way out. Much of that technology exists today…and perhaps the B-52 isn’t the only airframe it could be applied to…
3. Blue Thunder
According to IMDB, the movie featured an advanced helicopter that certain folks (mostly military) had sinister plans for. A spin-off TV series lasted 11 episodes opposite the iconic series Dallas.
This helicopter is not as heavily armed as Airwolf, but did feature astounding ISR gear, and a 20mm M61 Gatling gun. The ISR gear would have made this an excellent Kiowa replacement. Add a little firepower, and we have decent scout that could kill anything that stumbled on it. After all…dead men don’t talk.
4. Wonder Woman’s Invisible Jet
The superhero who came to help America fight the Nazis in World War II had perhaps the ultimate in stealth technology: an invisible plane. According to screenrant.com this plane’s been with her since the 1940s.
The plane didn’t have much firepower in earlier iterations; lately, it’s picked up some firepower, but its primary defense is to not be seen at all by radar or the Mark One eyeball. While we have accomplished that with fifth-generation fighters as opposed to radar, we haven’t quite worked out the visual part. Yet.
(On a separate note, we also wish Wonder Woman were real…)
5. MiG-31 Firefox
No, this is not named for the browser. And yes, we know there is an actual MiG-31 called the Foxhound, which is a pretty sweet ride with some long-range firepower (4 AA-9 Amos air-to-air missiles, and four AA-11 Archers).
According to IMDB.com, the MiG-31 Firefox was capable of Mach 6, could be flown by thinking in Russian, and it was invisible to radar. That’s a very sweet ride.
Long before the first bombs fell on Baghdad Jan. 16, 1991, the man who would be in charge of one of the most effective air campaigns in history was hearing whispers from another war.
Then-Lt. Gen. Charles A. Horner, who, as a young captain, flew Wild Weasel missions attacking radar sites during two tours in the Vietnam War, was determined to avoid the same strategic mistakes in the Persian Gulf that plagued the U.S. military in Southeast Asia. Fortunately, his boss – Army Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf – and other military leaders executing Operation Desert Storm had Vietnam, and the hard lessons learned there, in their memories, as well.
An oil storage tank at a refinery that was attacked by coalition aircraft during Operation Desert Storm continues to burn days after the air strike. The refinery is located approximately seven miles west of the Kuwaiti border.
Twenty-five years later, Horner, now a retired four-star general residing in northwest Florida, looks back on the Air Force that struck Saddam Hussein’s forces in Kuwait and Iraq during Desert Storm as perhaps the best-trained force to date. Five days after Iraq invaded Kuwait Aug. 2, 1990, a U.S.-led coalition of about 30 nations placed more than 900,000 troops in the Arabian Peninsula in what became known as Operation Desert Shield, the campaign to prevent Iraqi incursions into Saudi Arabia, and build up forces to expel Iraqi forces from Kuwait should diplomacy fail to secure a peaceful solution. When the United Nations Security Council for Iraq’s withdrawal from Kuwait came and went the following January, Desert Storm kicked off with an air campaign that would become the largest employment of U.S. airpower since the war in Vietnam.
“When I think back on the past 25 years after Desert Storm, I see the immense impact that particular war had on how we planned to fight in the future and the kind of equipment we would need,” Horner said. “But most of all, I think about the spirit and attitude of our young warriors who were going to be faced with the next battle.
“I’m so proud of the way we performed in Desert Storm because of the leadership we had from Schwarzkopf and (Gen. Wilbur L. “Bill” Creech, former Tactical Air Command commander), and the way we had equipment that worked. We had all of the advantages the world had not seen before Desert Storm.”
A framed photo on a bookshelf, of then Colonel, and now retired Gen. Charles A. Horner and his wife Mary Jo, in front of his F-15 at Luke AFB, where he was wing commander in March of 1981. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Andrew Lee)
One of Horner’s first priorities, while planning the air strategy as Schwarzkopf’s joint force air component commander, was to avoid making what he considered the main mistake from Vietnam. He didn’t want bombing target selection to come from the president or defense secretary. As the architect of the air campaign against Iraq, Horner wanted targeting decisions to be made by commanders directly involved in the area of operations. “Washington was not the place to plan a war,” he had said. “If people there wanted to fight, let them come to the theater (of combat).
“That is the lesson of Vietnam,” Horner said in “Airpower Advantage: Planning the Gulf War Campaign 1989-1991,” a book by Diane Putney for the Air Force History and Museums Program. “Remember our great president (Lyndon B. Johnson) saying, ‘They don’t bomb a shit house in North Vietnam if I don’t approve it.’
“Well, I was the guy bombing the shit houses, and I was never going to let that happen if I ever got in charge because it is not right. If you want to know whether war is going to be successful or not, just ask where the targets are being picked. If they say, ‘We picked them in Washington,’ get out of the country. Go to Canada until the war is over because it is a loser.”
The day Horner, then the commander of 9th Air Force and U.S. Central Command Air Forces at Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina, received the call that eventually launched Desert Storm, he was flying his F-16 Fighting Falcon on an air-to-air training mission near the North Carolina coast with two F-15 Eagles from Langley AFB, Virginia.
He’d expected the call from Schwarzkopf since the invasion of Kuwait. But once the call came from the Federal Aviation Administration to notify him to return to Shaw AFB, he instantly knew what it meant. He and his staff had to prepare the air portion of a CENTCOM briefing for President George H.W. Bush at Camp David, Maryland, the next morning.
After the invasion of Kuwait, the coalition’s first priority was protecting Saudi Arabia. Horner developed friendships with the Saudis earlier in his career during Operation Earnest Will in 1987-88 and other exercises and remained in Saudi Arabia after he and Schwarzkopf went there a few days after the invasion of Kuwait. The coalition organized for Desert Shield and Storm gave the U.S. military an opportunity to work closely with each other, as well as with forces from other nations, as they would later do during Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom.
A massive prepositioning of equipment, supplies, munitions and fuels around the Persian Gulf, begun by the Joint Rapid Deployment Force in the 1980s, expedited preparations to conduct military operations in the area of responsibility, Horner said.
“When our aircraft landed in the Gulf airfields, they were met with spares, fuel, munitions, living facilities and all the other things they would need to survive and fight,” he wrote in “Desert Storm: A View From the Front.” “This material had been stored on ships anchored in theater and in leased warehouses throughout the AOR.”
Well before the crisis in the Gulf began, the military had trained for an eventual showdown with Iraq. A month before the invasion, a CENTCOM war game used a scenario of a “Country Orange” attacking Kuwait and Saudi Arabia from the north. When Schwarzkopf, who died in 2012, accepted command of CENTCOM in November 1989, he told his military leaders that since a war with Russia wasn’t likely to happen, “we have to find a new enemy or go out of business,” Horner said.
At the time Iraq invaded Kuwait, it fielded the world’s fifth-largest army at a million soldiers; larger than the U.S. Army and Marine Corps combined, according to a Los Angeles Times article on Aug. 13, 1990. The weaknesses coalition military planners hoped to exploit included an incompetent senior staff chosen for their devotion to Hussein rather than their military prowess, and only about one-third of its soldiers were experienced combat troops, according to U.S. officials quoted in the article.
After its eight-year war with Iran, Iraq owed a huge debt to Kuwait and many other Arab nations, which funded Iraq’s purchase of high-tech weapons, according to an American Patriot Friends Network article published in 2004. Kuwait’s oil made it one of the richest countries in the world and cash-strapped Iraq wanted it.
Pilot gazes out into the wild blue yonder.
“When General Schwarzkopf took command of (CENTCOM), he said we have to plan for an Iraqi invasion of Kuwait and Saudi Arabia because Iraq came out of the Iran-Iraq War very powerful militarily,” Horner said. “So, of course, they were sitting right next to the Fort Knox in the Middle East. So when it happened, I wasn’t surprised. We’d anticipated it was going to happen, but the speed with which we had to react was surprising.”
A United Nations Security Council deadline for Iraq’s withdrawal from Kuwait passed on Jan. 15, 1991, with no action from Iraq, so at 2 a.m. Jan. 17 (Baghdad time), coalition forces began a five-week bombardment of Iraqi command and control targets, beginning with eight Army AH-64 Apache helicopters led by two Air Force MH-53 Pave Hawks that destroyed radar sites near the Iraq-Saudi Arabia border, according to Putney. About an hour later, 10 Air Force F-117 Nighthawk stealth bombers, protected by three EF-111 Aardvarks, and Navy BGM-109 Tomahawk cruise missiles struck targets in Baghdad. The initial attacks allowed the coalition to gain control of the air for its fighter aircraft.
At the cessation of hostilities, coalition forces had destroyed 3,700 of Iraq’s 4,280 tanks and 2,400 of its 2,870 armored vehicles. The bomb tonnage dropped by U.S. planes per day equaled the average tonnage dropped on Germany and Japan during the entirety of World War II, according to the “White Paper – Air Force Performance in Desert Storm, Department of the Air Force,” published in April 1991.”
“The things that guided our strategy was to be unrelenting and to bring such a powerful force, so quickly and so thoroughly on the enemy, that they would be forced to leave Kuwait,” Horner said. “It was not going to be piecemeal. It was not going to be to play Mr. Nice Guy. It was going to be as vicious as possible, and that drove the strategy. The second part of our strategy was to get control of the air first and foremost, which we did not do in Vietnam.”
Civilian and military officials pose for a group photograph prior to discussing U.S. military intervention in the Persian Gulf during Operation Desert Shield. Dignitaries include, from left: P. D. Wolfowitz, under sec. of defense for policy; Gen. C. Powell, chrm., Joint Chiefs of Staff; R. Cheney, sec. of defense; Gen. N. Schwarzkopf, cmdr-in-chief, USCENTCOM; Lt. Gen. C. Waller, dep. chief of staff, USCENTCOM; and Maj. Gen. R. Johnston. Back row: Lt. Gen. C. Horner, cmdr., 9th AF, TAC; Lt. Gen. J. Yeosock, cmdr., 3rd Army; Vice-Adm. S. Arthur, cmdr., Seventh Flt. and Col. Johnson.
The result was a prolonged air campaign that set up a short but decisive ground campaign. As the air war kicked off the first night of Desert Storm, Horner watched from the tactical air control center in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, as coalition aircraft flew north. At first, he wasn’t completely confident about how successful the attack would be or the cost it would take in aircraft and personnel.
However, Horner knew it was going well when he saw CNN’s live feed from Baghdad disappear. As CNN’s television satellite transmission equipment was not allowed entry into the highly controlled, secretive, authoritarian state, they had to transmit through antennas atop the ATT building in downtown Baghdad. It was the same building that housed Iraq’s air defense operations and from which communications emanated from Iraq’s air command control system. It was the target of one of the first bombs dropped from U.S. planes. When CNN reporter Peter Arnett went off the air at the precise moment the strike was scheduled, cheers went through the air operations center, Horner said. If CNN was off the air, so was Iraq’s air defense system.
“So as the sun came up the next morning and all of our airplanes were coming home except one, we became aware that this was going to go a lot better than even the best critics thought it might,” Horner said.
By Feb. 23, the air campaign was mostly complete and coalition ground forces swiftly drove the Republican Guard from Kuwait and advanced into Iraq, forcing a ceasefire within 100 hours. Desert Storm was won at a much lower cost than even in the most optimistic prognostications, with 148 Americans killed in action and another 145 non-battle deaths. The Defense Intelligence Agency numbered the Iraqi casualties at about 100,000, although later the figure was disputed to be more in the 20,000 to 40,000 range.
Horner said bombing campaign proved most productive attacking Republican Guard and armor units because Hussein depended on them to retain power. The attacks to gain control of the air, coupled with medium-altitude operations, air-to-air excellence and defense suppression attacks were also effective, he said.
“When the ground war started, I expected rapid gains given the fact that we had reduced the Iraqi ground units to a level of ‘not combat ready,’ using our Army’s definition,” Horner said. “What surprised most of us was the surrender rate. That was beyond our expectations. Once I became certain, early in the war, that our losses were manageable, I knew the ground war would go well, but I underestimated how well.”
Horner, who co-wrote his account of the air war with the late Tom Clancy in “Every Man a Tiger,” gives much of the credit for the training of the force he led during Desert Storm to Creech and Marine Corps Gen. George B. Crist, Schwarzkopf’s predecessor as CENTCOM commander-in-chief, who both placed great importance on making training as close to real world as possible. They led the push for more realistic exercises, an emphasis on aircraft maintenance, bomb scores, and the right tactics, which all came together during Desert Storm.
A close-up view of M-117 750-pound bombs loaded onto the pylon of a B-52G Stratofortress aircraft prior to a bombing mission against Iraqi forces during Operation Desert Storm.
Another lesson from Crist that played into Horner’s strategy was to force decisions down to the lowest level and hold those people responsible. Horner saw the benefits of that policy during a meeting with a munitions technical sergeant. Horner was visiting the bomb dock where munitions were built and saw the NCO sitting on a dust-covered wooden crate, and he asked him how things were going and if he was running into any problems.
“He said, ‘Well, those dumb guys in Riyadh, (Saudi Arabia), meaning me, told me one day to load 2,000-pound bombs on each F-16,” Horner said, smiling. “Those dummies didn’t know that I didn’t have any 2,000-pound bombs, so I went ahead and put four 1,000-pound bombs on each of the airplanes, and the mission flew. If he had not been empowered, all he had to do was say I don’t have two 2,000-pound bombs, and we would have never gotten those two planes off. It was empowerment that made the difference, and that was one of the secrets we saw in Desert Storm.”
F-16A, F-15C and F-15E flying during Desert Storm. (U.S. Air Force photo)
Iraq’s air force was almost non-existent during Desert Storm. Hussein hoped to wait out the coalition bombardment, which he didn’t expect would last more than four or five days. As a result, gaining control of the air almost immediately allowed the coalition forces to interdict supply lines and degrade command and control links, according to a GlobalSecurity.org article. Air supremacy also drastically destroyed the will of the Iraqi army; they surrendered in droves when the ground war began 38 days later.
Aside from the superior training that was on display during Desert Shield and Storm, Horner believes another legacy of the first war in the Gulf was the technological advances it put on display for the Air Force.
Retired Air Force Gen. Charles Horner had a major role in the air power strategy of the Gulf War of 1990-1991. Horner commanded U.S. and Allied airpower during Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm. He had previously served as a combat pilot flying F-105s in Vietnam where he was awarded a Silver Star. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Andrew Lee)
“I think the American public and the world were amazed at the technology that was exposed by Desert Storm,” he said. “The stealth of the F-117 and its ability to go anywhere in heavily defended areas of the world and carry out its mission with absolute precision, the training of our air-to-air combat people and the ability to defeat a very sophisticated surface-to-air missile threat all came into play, and they weren’t appreciated because of our experiences in previous wars such as Vietnam. It served us very well and created an illusion that we were more successful than we really were. But I’ll accept that.”