In the Shadow of Custer (An Intelligence Officer Rides with the 7th Cavalry in the Gulf War)


By Ray Starmann

2100 Hours, 23 February 1991

Forward Assembly Area Butts

Saudi Arabia

G-Day – 1

“All diplomatic efforts by Soviet officials to halt the imminent coalition ground offensive have apparently failed. The final phase of Operation Desert Storm appears to be only hours or days away,” the BBC announcer stated with monotone finality.  With a metallic click, I switched off the tiny shortwave radio and looked at Lieutenant-Colonel Terry Tucker, the commander of the 4th Squadron, 7th Cavalry.

“Looks like we’re gonna have to fight these boys after all,” he responded in his thick West Virginia drawl. Tucker shook his head sadly and clambered out of the M577 armored personnel carrier. He walked over to a large wooden map board and gazed at operational graphics he had seen a thousand times before.

Inside our APC(Armored Personnel Carrier) I rocked back in a metal chair, while drinking coffee and monitoring the 3rd AD intelligence frequency. Seated next to me was Corporal Brian Johnson. Corporal Johnson was an intelligence analyst and cavalry scout. He had a thin smile on his face. I knew what he was thinking. We had already been in the Middle East since December. To have the ground war cancelled because of diplomatic wrangling would have anguished our warrior souls. Within minutes our field fax began humming. Corporal Johnson pulled a sheet of onionskin paper from the olive drab device and handed it to me. It read: THE NATIONAL COMMAND AUTHORITY ORDERS THE EXECUTION OF OPERATION DESERT SPEAR NLT 24/0400C FEB 91. DESTROY IRAQI ARMED FORCES IN THE KUWAIT THEATER OF OPERATIONS.

In a matter of hours at 0400, a total Allied force of 620,000 soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen would launch the final phase of the Persian Gulf War. The VII Corps, which had come from Germany, had moved into position south of the Iraqi border on February 18th after conducting a 160 kilometer move across the Saudi desert. It would launch its attack on G+1. The corps was commanded by Lieutenant-General Fred Franks and consisted of the First Armored Division, the Third Armored Division and the Second Armored Cavalry Regiment from Germany. The First Infantry Division from Fort Riley, Kansas and the British First Armored Division completed the formation of the huge organization. The corps had a total of 146,000 soldiers, 32,000 wheeled vehicles, 6,600 tracked vehicles and tanks and 660 rotary and fixed-wing aircraft. The largest element in ARCENT, VII Corps was given one of the most important missions of the war: to conduct a giant flanking movement and to destroy Saddam Hussein’s elite Republican Guard.

Within VII Corps, was the Third Armored Division, known as the “Spearhead” Division of World War II fame. Leading the Third Armored across the Iraqi border was our reconnaissance unit, the 4th Squadron, 7th Cavalry. On the first day, 4-7 CAV would screen the division’s right flank and maintain contact with the 2nd ACR.

I jumped out of our APC and opened the molding, canvas flap of the TOC(Tactical Operations Center). A strong breeze slapped me in the face. I peered in the blackness; the moon’s illumination was minimal and reached for my red lens flashlight. To my right, was a row of cots where soldiers were sleeping, exposed to the vagaries of the worst weather the Persian Gulf had experienced in 100 years. I climbed into my extreme cold weather sleeping bag. The soggy, desert ground beneath me began to shake violently from the B-52 bombers, which were starting another of their nightly runs against the regular Iraqi Army that was entrenched along the border. Bright flashes in the distance indicated that the bombers had found their targets; weapons systems and human beings.

I fell asleep and a torrential downpour soon interrupted my dreams. Shivering from the freezing rain, I clambered back into the TOC, warmed myself with a cup of Joe and examined the enemy situation on the map board. Even though the Iraqi Army had been repeatedly pummeled from the air since January 17th, the enemy situation still remained ominous. There were 43 Iraqi divisions in the KTO(Kuwait Theater of Operations) with 545,000 soldiers. Another 25 divisions had not been committed to the theater. Our cavalry squadron was immediately concerned with the 48th and 26th Infantry Divisions. These two units were estimated to be at 60% strength. Morale in both divisions was reportedly low. The soldiers, many already weary from fighting in the Iran-Iraq War, were defecting in small numbers each day.

The Iraqi Army intelligence flow was poor. In fact Iraqi Army GHQ Forward in Basrah had failed to discover the gigantic movement of the 18th Airborne Corps and VII Corps to the flanking positions out in the west. Their intelligence effort was focused due south into Kuwait. The enemy believed that the coalition forces could be defeated in a war of attrition, as they had fought against the Iranians. They hoped to halt our advance in their obstacle belts and then rain artillery and chemicals down upon us. In 4-7 CAV’s sector, we would pass through two belts of 14 foot high berms. Behind the berms were anti-tank and anti-personnel minefields. These areas were over-watched by artillery. In back of the fortifications were enemy positions.

After fighting with these two divisions, the squadron’s greatest concern was the Republican Guard Forces Command(RGFC), Saddam’s elite armored and mechanized force. On G-1, there were eight Republican Guard divisions in the KTO. The Air Force had bludgeoned the Guard on a daily basis since the war began. Still, through all of this, they remained at 70% strength. Within the RGFC, the squadron’s focus was on the Tawakalna Mechanized Division. It was a newly-formed unit, equipped with T-72 main battle tanks, BMP-2 APC’s and top of the line artillery from the Soviet Union and South Africa.

Allied casualty estimates were high. Third Armored Division expected to take 1000 casualties on the first day. I wondered who would be alive at the end of it all? Like most of my comrades, I considered myself “marked for death.”

0600 Hours, 24 February 1991

Forward Assembly Area Butts

Saudi Arabia


The cold, wet, nasty night dawned into a cold, wet, nasty morning. As I jumped out of our APC, I thought of Wellington’s famous dictum, “Wars are not fought in grassy meadows on sunny afternoons.”

The weather was awful; low, gray clouds provided a light drizzle. The wind was roaring at 30mph. The division radios had gone silent and we were receiving information by field fax. Troopers were standing outside of their vehicles, eating, talking calmly and listening to President Bush on the BBC.  I heard the whine of a Bradley Cavalry Fighting Vehicle. The Bradley stopped on a dune over-looking the area and LTC Tucker jumped out. Suddenly, all eyes were on him. He raised his M-16 in the air and began yelling. Every soldier in the area raised his rifle or weapon and cheered back with a roar reminiscent of Braveheart.

Thirty minutes later we began to move to the border with a loud grind. As our attack commenced, Captain Paul Adamonis, the S-2 and I, the Assistant S-2 would monitor all radio traffic. Taking information from higher sources and our squadron’s reports, we would attempt to paint the picture for the squadron.

After another sixty minutes, the squadron was in its pre-attack position just south of the Iraqi border. Inside the M577 sand was everywhere; covering everything and everyone. Oil from the engine had leaked and was running in a small stream across the floor. We were loaded down with ammo, rations, water, claymore mines and AT-4 anti-tank weapons. On the top of our vehicle, a large orange panel was tied down. It signaled to the Air Force that we were a coalition vehicle. Painted on the APC’s side was an inverted “V’, another friendly indentification code.  On the other side, of HQ-22, Corporal Johnson had stenciled the word, “Comanche.” Comanche was the only 7th Cavalry horse that survived the Battle of the Little Big Horn.

At 1200 hours, while sitting in Comanche, we received word that because of the great success of the Marines in Kuwait, our attack would be moved to 1500 that day. As I donned my chemical suit and boots, I felt myself trembling. Hopefully, the atropine injectors I carried would also save my life if we were attacked with nerve gas.

At 1430, the VII Corps artillery prep began. A total of thirteen artillery battalions and ten MLRS(Multiple Launch Rocket System) batteries fired 11,000 rounds and 1,600,000 bomblets in thirty minutes. We listened to the whoosh of artillery shells and saw the white streaks of MLRS overhead.

We commenced the attack at 1500 and the radios suddenly came to life. As we crossed the border, I looked out from the hatch and saw berms to my right and left. VII Corps engineers had blown holes through various sections. The squadron passed through in column, then fanned-out in attack formation. As of yet, we had not encountered any resistance.

Forty kilometers into Iraq the squadron made contact with the enemy. The Iraqis were defending from bunkers and trench lines. They engaged us with small arms and RPG-7’s. We sprayed the bunkers and trenches with 7.62 mm coaxial, .50 caliber machine gun and 25mm cannon fire. The Iraqis refused to surrender and we opened up with TOW-2 missiles. These soldiers were from the 3rd Battalion, 807th Brigade, 48th Infantry Division. They had the highly important mission of screening the Iraqi VII Corps’ right flank. The firefight lasted for thirty minutes. Finally, 59 Iraqi soldiers surrendered.

As the attack continued the squadron was feeling the effects of our nerve agent anecdote pills we had been ordered to take. I felt as if I had had ten martinis. SFC Linder, the S-2 NCOIC, was vomiting out the back door of Comanche. We vowed not to take any more pills; regardless of the consequences.

Sometime near EENT(End of Evening Nautical Twilight) the squadron halted almost 60 kilometers inside Southern Iraq. The weather had cleared and a brilliant sunset was glistening. The sun warmed our faces and we felt confident now. We had survived our first few hours of the war. In the distance I could hear scattered small arms and tank fire from the 1st Infantry Division on our flank.

I soon received a radio call from Dauntless 2, the forward element of G-2, division intelligence. I heard the familiar voice of Colonel Ferguson, the G-2. He reported that casualties among the coalition forces were light. Across the whole ARCENT front, enemy resistance was minimal. What he did not know is that Iraqi GHQ in Basrah had received reports of an “unidentified threat” coming from the west. The RGFC was directed to block the VII Corps move by orienting southwest. Six heavy brigades would begin to move into place west of the IPSA Pipeline Road. They would set-up in a rear slope defense, a classic Soviet Army tactic.

0500 Hours, 25 February 1991

60 Kilometers Inside Southern Iraq


After four hours of sleep on the bolted steel floor of Comanche, I awoke at 0500 and received an update from Captain Adamonis. The enemy situation had not changed. The squadron would continue the attack at 0600. The rest of the morning, we moved at 40mph, encountering scattered resistance from soldiers manning bunker complexes.

By 1200 JSTARS(Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System) had indentified the Tawakalna moving out of its laager positions and into blocking positions east of VII Corps’ Phase Line Smash at the 50 Easting grid line. This was confirmed by SIGINT interceptions of the Tawakalna commander ordering his troops to form a defensive line oriented to the west/southwest.

1900 Hours, 25 February 1991

10 Kilometers East of 3rd AD Main Body

Phase Line Eye, Southern Iraq


By 1900, the squadron had advanced another 70 kilometers inside Iraq. In the late afternoon, 4-7 CAV had continued to fight its way through Iraqis manning trench lines and bunkers. Another 88 soldiers were captured. The weather was worsening again. Violent winds were blowing and rain started to fall. Our chemical over-garments were soaked with rain and sweat and grime. I hadn’t bathed in over a month and I felt like I was dragging 50 pounds of equipment and filth. Captain Adamonis and I were sitting in Comanche when LTC Tucker entered. He seemed distressed and fatigued. His face was covered with sand. He carried a small map board. The rain had caused his writing in red and blue to run like a watercolor. He told us he was concerned about the fighting taking place several klicks away, on our right flank. We could here sporadic machine gun fire in the distance. He told us that if the Iraqis broke through the 2nd Squadron, 2nd ACR thin screen, we would soon be in contact.

That night, the squadron stayed at 50% security. The weather was wretched. I spent part of the night in the rain, manning our .50 cal machine gun, watching yellow flashes of battle and listening to the sounds of war several miles up a road. After being replaced by Corporal Brian Wallis, I slept under a lean-to that collapsed on me an hour later. Dripping wet and shivering, I finally grabbed a couple hours of sleep in the front seat of our Hummer. That night, LTC Tucker’s fears almost came to pass. The Iraqi recon company fighting elements of 3rd Squadron, 2nd ACR, almost found a seam between the 2nd ACR and us. Luckily, the 2nd ACR destroyed the company, saving us any problems for the meantime.

At dawn Captain Adamonis informed me that 26 out of the original 43 Iraqi division in the KTO had been destroyed or rendered combat ineffective. All communications between Baghdad and GHQ Basrah had been severed. Thirty-eight thousand prisoners had been taken. Most importantly, he indicated that the RGFC had placed only TWO brigades in the path of VII Corps. One brigade was apparently north of us in 1st AD’s sector. The other was in 2nd ACR’s southern sector near 1st ID.  Unfortunately, new intelligence from JSTARS had never filtered down to the troops on the ground. In actuality, the RGFC now had three divisions defending in place, along with two regular armored divisions supporting them. We had no idea that there were so many enemy forces in front of us.

I sat on the ground, eating an MRE for breakfast. Two Iraqi soldiers approached the TOC and surrendered. After being searched, they were given food and water. One of the soldiers sat down next to me under guard. I noticed he wasn’t wearing the familiar RGFC triangle on his jacket. We ate our breakfast in silence, each lost in his own fears and dreams.

At 0715, 4-7 CAV received FRAGO 7 from division. It ordered VII Corps to shift 90 degrees due east and attack the RGFC. 4-7 CAV was ordered to conduct a movement to contact against the Tawakalna, while screening the right flank of 3rd AD. The squadron would now be in front of the corps. We would also be one klick from Golf Troop, 2nd Squadron, 2nd ACR. We were also ordered to maintain contact with 4-34 Armor/1st Brigade.

By mid-day the rain had stopped and a horrific shamal(sand storm) had begun. Visibility was terrible. At 1400 the air cav had been grounded. Visibility worsened and was down to 300 meters with naked eye and 900 meters with thermal sites. At 1500, Spearhead 6, General Funk, advised us that all of the RGFC was retreating and we were in a pursuit. LTC Tucker relayed the information on the squadron net and told us to “go get ‘em boys.” A few rebel yells echoed across the squadron nets. There seemed to be two different intelligence pictures developing. The corps appeared to know that the RGFC was building a defense in depth. Meanwhile, at division and lower, the word was “it’s a pursuit.”

To our immediate right, not more than one or two kilometers away, elements of 2nd ACR were in contact with dismounted infantry. Minutes later, as they crossed the 70 Easting grid line, the 2nd ACR hit a BMP-2 mechanized company reinforced with T-72 tanks. The Battle of 73 Easting had begun. We knew BMP’s and T-72’s meant the Republican Guard. But, we interpreted this information as nothing more than a small delaying force covering the retreat of the rest of the RGFC. If there was to be any fight with the RGFC, it was at least 12 hours away. As the shamal raged, the squadron was squeezed from a five to a one kilometer sector. The TOC, Apache and Blackfoot troops were on top of one another.

1530 Hours, 26 February 1991

Grid Coordinate PT 7311

Phase Line Bullet, Southern Iraq


At 1530, Sergeant Ronald Jones from Apache reported dismounted infantry manning RPK-74 machine guns and carrying RPG-7’s and Sagger anti-tank missiles. Soon BMP-2’s and T-72’s were spotted. I immediately radioed 1st Brigade and sent them a report of a mechanized company reinforced with two tank platoons. Through the ether, I could hear the report radioed back to division. We had found the 9th Armored Brigade of the Tawakalna, or, in actuality, they had found us. Stumbling through the shamal, 4-7 CAV had driven into their kill sack. 1LT Mike Vassalotti’s 3rd Platoon, Apache Troop began to engage three BMP-2’s. The enemy vehicles were destroyed at distances ranging from 100 to 400 meters. Captain Gerry Davie, the Apache Troop commander, ordered 1LT Windsor King’s 2nd Platoon to flex around 3rd Platoon and engage the enemy.

I popped up in the TC hatch and saw green tracer fire ripping through the air. Artillery from 3rd AD was flying through the air above us. LTC Tucker ordered Apache to shift one klick to the south, in order that 4-34 Armor could pass through us. While Apache shifted, the TOC and Blackfoot troop started to receive incoming mortar fire. The booming of tank fire from the Tawakalna T-72’s crashed in shock waves across the desert floor.

SFC Raymond Egan’s Bradley, A-24 was hit below the turret ring. Egan was thrown from the hatch. He was seriously wounded. Sergeant Kenneth Gentry had been fatally wounded in the upper thighs. The driver of the Bradley had sustained flash burns to his head. SSG Jeff Rousey moved his vehicle in front of the stricken Bradley and engaged the enemy with 25mm cannon fire. Command Sergeant Major Ronald Sneed ordered his Bradley forward and while under heavy fire carried SFC Egan and the dying SGT Gentry to his vehicle. CSM Sneed was a living legend, who had served five tours in Vietnam with the 173rd Airborne Brigade. On the squadron net, Sneed reported, “I’m with one and he’s gone.” After hearing that someone had been killed, all radio chatter seemed to stop for a moment. Captain Adamonis and I shook our heads. We wondered who would be next?

From Apache’s 3rd platoon, A-33 was suddenly hit by 14.5mm machine gun fire. Corporal Efrem Evans reported that Sergeant Strong was wounded and bleeding. Captain Davie ordered 2LT Rob Rick’s 1st Platoon forward. Under fire, Ricks directed his platoon forward. A-36 was hit by a Sagger. The round ripped through the vehicle’s transmission. 1LT Vassalotti, in A-31, moved to protect the stricken A-36 and to rescue its crew. While A-31 was moving, another Sagger hit the front of the vehicle. Five soldiers were wounded. They all managed to climb into the back of A-31. As 1LT Vassalotti moved toward the TOC, his Bradley was hit by two tank rounds that caused him to be blown out of his hatch: flash blinding and burning him. He was still connected to his radio and was screaming on the squadron net for a medic. 1LT King moved forward to assist Vassalotti and he engaged and destroyed a T-72.

Meanwhile, LTC Tucker noticed muzzle flashes behind him. 4-7 CAV was also taking fire from 4-34 Armor! Tucker, believing he was on 4-34’s radio frequency, but actually still on ours, was yelling, “Centurion, your M1’s are shooting my Bradleys. Cease fire, over!” As he was yelling, A-22 was hit in the turret by a tank round. Sergeant Edwin Kutz received a fatal wound in the upper torso. SSG Wimpy Myers was catapulted out of the hatch and PFC Cory Daniels was also wounded.

An M113 scout vehicle from 4-34 Armor pulled up next to Comanche. I heard the whine of an armored vehicle and kicked open the back door. The scout platoon leader was yelling at me. Captain Adamonis and I ran out of the APC and climbed on his vehicle. He wanted to know where our unit was located on the battlefield. We told him to order a cease-fire ASAP. Within a few minutes, the friendly fire stopped, but we still had to contend with the Tawakalna. With 4-34 Armor moving into the melee, Apache Troop fired smoke and moved back toward the TOC and Blackfoot troop. In Apache Troop, two men were dead and another 12 wounded in the two-hour battle. Every vehicle in Apache had been hit by small arms or indirect fire. Four vehicles were combat ineffective.  Three others were destroyed. 4-7 CAV had destroyed 18 BMP-2’s and 6 T-72’s. We had done our job by locating the enemy, but for various reasons, we had broken the cardinal rule of the cavalry. We had become decisively engaged and we had paid a heavy price.

As darkness fell, 4-34 Armor and other elements of 1st Brigade were passed forward on our left flank. 2nd ACR was now behind us and moving due east on our right flank. More problems were brewing for the squadron. At 1740, a reinforced Tawakalna tank company was 2500 meters from us, and counter-attacking.

Along an 80 mile front, a 12 hour climatic battle was commencing between elements of VII Corps and the Republican Guard.  To our left, 4-34 Armor was in heavy contact. The ground shuddered with M1 tank fire from 4-34 Armor. MLRS rockets and 155mm artillery rounds were sailing over us and into the enemy.

In front of us, the Iraqi tank company was closing in. 2nd ACR began to engage them with their M1’s and Bradley’s. From horizon to horizon, Iraqi armor was engaging American armor. Many Iraqi vehicles were being hit and burning orange and crimson against the black stormy sky. The noise was deafening. Behind us, Apache attack helicopters opened up with Hellfire missiles. Air Force A-10 Warthogs came in low over us and fired countless Maverick anti-tank missiles at the enemy. I watched four T-72 tanks take direct hits. As a turret from one T-72 spun fifty feet into the air, like a bottle top, I thought of the men inside those machines: burning, screaming, and gasping their last breath. The Iraqi counter-attack had failed. All 13 tanks were burning brilliantly. To my center and left, another 20 to 30 Tawakalna vehicles were on fire.

The Tawakalna began to fire flares into the air. LTC Tucker thought a chemical attack was imminent and ordered us to go to MOPP-4. Captain Adamonis and I waited for the deadly gas to arrive. After ten minutes, we realized the flares were a maneuver signal, rather than the openings of a chemical attack. The fighting continued all night with direct fire engagements shifting to indirect fire attacks.

By 0500, the sounds of battle were distant. The soldiers of the Tawakalna had chosen to fight to the death instead of surrendering. The night before I had heard about only one prisoner; a major, who was missing an arm and bleeding profusely. He had somehow made his way across the battlefield with the intent of asking for a cease-fire. The officer was taken prisoner and evacuated to the rear. The Tawakalna had fought bravely, but had been out-classed by the most professional army in the world.

0500 Hours, 27 February 1991

50 Kilometers west of Kuwait


At dawn, I listened to an update on the enemy situation. The Tawakalna was officially destroyed. The rest of the RGFC was establishing blocking positions south of Basrah. 4-7 CAV was understrength now and was placed behind 1st Brigade, while our air cav screened ahead of the division. I ate a quick breakfast and learned that Kuwait City had been liberated. After breakfast, I watched an A-10 strafe two T-72’s. The two tanks were ripped apart and exploded. Behind us, MLRS continued an unrelenting barrage on deep targets.

For the next two hours while moving east towards Kuwait, we traveled through the remains of the Tawakalna underneath a gray pall.  The wind was blowing hard and burning Iraqi vehicles of all types dotted the landscape, like smoldering orange beacons leading to hell. Hanging over the turrets of tanks were burned and shattered bodies. Corpses littered the sandy battlefield. The smell of burning and rotting flesh permeated the air. Strewn everywhere were helmets, boots, weapons, severed arms and legs and cans of Kraft Cheese. The Iraqis had taken many dogs with them to be used as primitive chemical alarms. Many of the animals were wounded or dead. Wild dogs with missing limbs hobbled about the desert. I watched as a dog with its intestines hanging out, ate the remains of a soldier’s leg that still held a shined brown boot.

Later in the afternoon, we reached the Kuwait border. The oil soaked sky was pitch black from the burning oil wells. We could see oil fires in the distance. After the carnage of the night’s battle, the destruction I had witnessed that morning and the flaming oil wells, I believed I was in the depths of Dante’s Inferno.

0600 Hours, 28 February 1991

Phase Line Kiwi, Kuwait


At 0430 we were awakened and informed that a cease-fire would go into effect at 0800. Artillery fire continued to boom. We wondered about the cease-fire. We were well on the way of completely destroying the RGFC and we had not yet accomplished our mission. Now, when total victory was within our grasp, the politicians had decided to end the conflict.  The squadron continued to move east that morning, encountering light resistance reminiscent of the first two days of the war. Most of the Iraqis were surrendering and waving white flags. An Iraqi lieutenant attempted to surrender to us. But, we were moving and didn’t have time to take him prisoner. I told him to move towards Basrah. After receiving food and water from us, he came to attention and executed a perfect British-style salute. I saluted him back. As in a Hollywood film, he did an expert about-face and marched off across the desert, waving his white flag.

For the next week, 4-7 CAV remained at its position on the Iraq/Kuwait border. There were numerous encounters with Iraqi soldiers hiding in bunkers. They were still unsure of the war’s outcome. None of our soldiers were wounded, but there were some close calls.

Army Intelligence began to receive reports of the Shiite uprising taking place in Southern Iraq. Shiite insurgents were fighting the Republican Guard. One of the hotspots of trouble was Basrah. Tremendous fighting was taking place there. On 10 March 1991, the squadron was ordered to move north to Az-Zubayr on Highway 8. We would conduct reconnaissance south of Az-Zubayr and north of the Rumaila Oil Field. The squadron was ordered to stop the RGFC from taking ammo from a logistics site south of Highway 8. It took us several hours to move to Basrah. As we were the only allied unit in the area, we would receive air and fire support from the Navy.  We traveled along a narrow highway, which ran parallel to tomato field and an oil pipeline. Devastation was everywhere long the road.  By mid-afternoon the squadron was stretched along this narrow road. We began to take fire from soldiers in a stone house and in a T-55 tank. Apache Troop returned fire and the soldiers soon surrendered. The air cav destroyed the tank. During the afternoon, we dodged some mortar fire by the Rumaila Oilfield. By nightfall, we were in position along Highway 8. There were unexploded munitions everywhere and troopers were afraid to step out of their vehicles.

For the next two weeks, the squadron remained in this area, engaging the Republican Guard in small, sporadic firefights and most sadly, standing by helpless while they butchered the resistance in Basrah. Every night turned into a macabre theater as we watched BM-22 rockets saturate Shiite targets for hours. The Shiite resistance fighters begged us for assistance. All we could offer them was food, water and medical supplies. Without support, the resistance eventually crumbled and refugee crisis ensued.

On 16 May 1991, 4-7 CAV returned to Germany after six grueling months in the desert. In the coming weeks, during numerous celebrations, I occasionally thought of a quote from Southey’s poem, After Blenheim. “But, what good came of it at last? Why, that I cannot tell, said he: but, twas a famous victory.”[1]


Atkinson, Rick, Crusade (The Untold Story of the Persian Gulf War): NY, NY, Houghton Mifflin, 1993.

Gordon, Michael R., Trainor, Bernard General (Ret.), The Generals’ War: NY, NY, Little Brown and Company, 1995.

U.S. News and World Report, Triumph Without Victory: NY, NY. Random House, 1982.

FRAGO 1 to 4-7 CAV Operations Order 91-3, 26 0600Z JAN 91

FRAGO 2 to 4-7 CAV Operations Order 91-3, 20 1300Z FEB 91

3 comments on “In the Shadow of Custer (An Intelligence Officer Rides with the 7th Cavalry in the Gulf War)
  1. Excellent article. Too many Americans seem to think that Gulf War l was a cake walk with no real war. That, of course is not true, as you so well stated.

    The war looked easy because our armed forces had been completely rebuilt by President Reagan to be capable of defeating the red menace on two fronts, simultaneously. It was the best trained and best equipped Army that America has ever had. It is the exact Army we need today.

    Once again; however, our politicians didn’t allow our troops total victory; it was the reason Bush 41 lost to Clinton. He could have been totally victorious, but was too afraid of bad press, so he ended it only weeks short of total victory. It is why his son invaded Iraq in 2003, to make up for his father’s mistake.

    I am afraid that our Presidents have forgotten how to be winners.

      • A great read. I agree with Joe on all points relative to the “article”. Precise and honest therefore honorable.Not to be confused with the “new honorable” or “the new normal”. Every time I hear the term new, followed by a long earned *”by blood, sweat and tears” Etc. redeeming behavioral trait.I feel like SFC Linder on G-Day as you astutely described..Additionally think of the book potential available in your great story, if you were to apply some P.C. morality injections such as skullduggery, salacious 3rd hand information, multifaceted groping and my favorite,(Passing Blame) insuring any fundamental lesson is lost.You could have produced volumes.Hey everyone doing it! But seriously, I really appreciate the old honorable description, it is a extremely important piece of History. One that should, and I pray will, stand the test of non revisionist time.The tactical combat objective was dutifully met. The Strategic War objective was too nice and on the light side. Keep up the great work Captain.

        A 60+ year old Army ASA/INSCOM Veteran
        Self identifying as a 28 year old a.. kicker

        * W. Churchill 1940

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