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Posted on Feb 3, 2004 in Books and Movies

The Gulf War Chronicles – Book Review

By Richard S. Lowry

On February 26, 1991 the 2d Armored Cavalry Regiment led the U.S. Army’s Armored VII Corps into one of the largest armored battles the world has ever seen. The battle between VII Corps and the Iraqi Republican guard involved over two thousand armored vehicles, stretched over a 65 kilometer front and lasted more than 36 hours. Colonel Don Holder’s Dragoon Battle Group was the first to encounter the enemy in what has come to be known as THE BATTLE OF THE 73rd EASTING. The following is an excerpt from the newly published book; The Gulf War Chronicles by Richard S. Lowry.

By now, the Iraqi command had received reports from Southern Iraq. They knew that the Americans were sweeping around Kuwait. They had frantically been repositioning units for the last thirty-six hours. The Iraqi mechanized Republican Guard Tawakalna Division had been moved into blocking positions along the 73rd Easting. The armored Republican Guard’s Medina Division was dug in to its rear and on its right flank, to protect the Basrah Highway. The Adnan and Hammurabi Divisions extended the defensive line north to Highway 8 and the Euphrates River. What was left of the Iraqi 12th Armored Division occupied hasty positions to the south of the Tawakalna. The commanders in Basrah hoped that these units could stop the Allied advance long enough for the remaining Kuwaiti occupation force to retreat north through the corridor between the 73rd Easting and Basrah.

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Leading VII Corps, one hundred twenty M1A1 tanks and more than a hundred and fifty Bradley Armored Fighting Vehicles of the 2d Armored Cavalry Regiment (2d ACR) rumbled east toward the 73rd Easting and northern Kuwait. General Franks ordered VII Corps to advance cautiously. Only scouts were to close on the Republican Guard positions. Colonel Don Holder charged forward with his entire Dragoon Battle Group. When asked about General Franks’ orders, he replied, "we’re all scouts."

In the early afternoon, the regiment encountered and engaged security elements of the Tawakalna Division. The troopers then encountered dug-in armor and infantry. These forces were screening the Iraqi retreat. The 2d ACR engaged the enemy in the beginning of "The Battle of the 73rd Easting."


SPC Dennis Musselmen sits atop his M-113

As the 2d ACR approached the Iraqi’s prepared positions, a ferocious sandstorm drastically limited visibility. The swirling sand swept across the desert floor clearing at times to reveal objects over a mile in the distance. Then, in the bat of an eye, the troopers would be enveloped so that they could barely see the length of a football field. Ghost Troop advanced east all afternoon, encountering and killing several Iraqi scout vehicles. At 1500, Ghost Troop destroyed three tanks.

With one hundred forty soldiers in nine M1A1 tanks, twelve Bradley Fighting Vehicles, two 4.2" mortar carriers, and other armored support vehicles, Captain H.R. McMaster’s Eagle Troop headed east searching for the enemy. At 1525 Eagle Troop was ordered to advance toward the 70th Easting and find the Republican Guard.

As the troopers approached the 60th Easting, the concentration of Iraqi forces began to increase. By 1530, Eagle Troop had come under fire from Iraqis occupying a group of buildings at the 69th Easting. The troopers returned fire and kept moving forward. Artillery rounds began falling on Eagle Troop. They continued to "hit the leather and ride" forward.

At 1556, Eagle Troop approached an Iraqi bunker that lie directly in its path of advance. As the cavalry troopers closed in, the defenders dropped their weapons, came out, and surrendered. The troopers ignored the surrendering Iraqis and continued to grind forward. At 1607, Eagle Troop encountered dug-in T-72 tanks. McMaster had found the Republican Guard. The Troop’s tank platoons moved forward and attacked through a minefield. At 1618 McMaster’s gunner fired on and destroyed a T-72 tank. By 1622 Eagle Troop tankers had destroyed eight more Iraqi T-72s. The Troopers continued to plow forward.


Destroyed Iraqi T-72

By 1636, they had destroyed many Iraqi tanks and were attacking into the bulk of the Iraqi defenses. McMaster had advanced far beyond the 70th Easting. His orders had been to stop the Troop’s forward progress at that point. This was no time to stop the attack and become sitting ducks for the Iraqi gunners! McMaster told First Lieutenant John Gifford (who was in radio contact from the command post), "I can’t stop. We’re still in contact. Tell them I’m sorry." Eagle Troop pushed forward, destroying more tanks ahead. At 1640 McMaster’s Troop finally reached a point that was just out of range of seventeen T-72 tanks coiled on the edge of the next defensive perimeter. Eagle Troop stopped its advance. They had arrived at the 73rd Easting.

In the south, Iron Troop attacked the fortified buildings that Eagle Troop had bypassed earlier. By 1630, the troop had smashed through T-72s and BMPs and destroyed the position. Apache helicopters swarmed behind the enemy and continued the attack of Iraqi artillery as far as twelve kilometers behind the 73rd Easting.

Just north of McMaster and Eagle Troop, Ghost Troop’s one hundred and fifty men, commanded by Captain Joseph Sartiano, reached the 73rd Easting at 1630. "Everybody else was making contact. So I kicked all my scouts back, and put my tanks up front." By 1642, the troop was in position on the western slope of a small wadi. Iraqi infantrymen and vehicles were dug-in all over the opposite bank. Ghost Troop opened fire. 25-mm cannon fire and M1 main gun rounds tore into the enemy.

At 1700, the Iraqis started firing back. Artillery rounds began to fall around Ghost Troop. Small arms fire and shrapnel began to pepper the M1s and Bradleys. Iraqi infantry charged forward across the wadi. They were mowed down by the Bradley’s automatic weapons fire. The enemy fire increased. Enemy artillery airbursts were exploding over the troop.

At approximately 1740, enemy tank rounds began impacting the berm in front of Ghost Troop. The second round hit directly in front of Bradley A-16. The gunner, Sergeant Nels A. Moller couldn’t see out in front of the vehicle. "What was that!" he exclaimed over the Bradley’s internal communications system. That was the last thing the sergeant said. An instant later, a third round slammed into A-16’s turret. Sergeant Moller was killed instantly. The two remaining crewmen scrambled out of the disabled Bradley and took refuge in A-15.

By 1800, the men of Ghost Troop were involved in a fight for their lives. They fired across the wadi. They would stop an infantry charge and another would follow. They would kill enemy tanks and armored personnel carriers and more would appear to fire on the troop. To make matters worse the sandstorm intensified, limiting visibility to only fifty yards.

The Iraqis swarmed forward for four more hours – six tanks, twelve tanks, and twenty-five tanks – wave after wave. Lieutenant Garwick, a Bradley platoon leader, called for air strikes. No aircraft were available. The regiment’s artillery pounded each successive wave, stopping several assaults dead in their tracks.

The 2d ACR held its ground, and it is estimated that Ghost, Eagle, and Iron Troops alone stopped an entire Iraqi brigade. In the course of the battle, the troopers had destroyed fifty T-72/T-62 tanks, more than thirty-five other armored fighting vehicles, and forty-five trucks. The troopers had killed or wounded more than six hundred Iraqis and an equal number were captured. Nearly six weeks of relentless air strikes had only destroyed two T-72 tanks in one Iraqi unit. The 2nd Armored Cavalry destroyed the remaining thirty-seven armored vehicles in less than six minutes!


Ghost’s fighting command post in action. Ghost Base led by 1LT Mecca escorts 6 captured MTLBs to Cougar Forward during a lull in the attack.

For more information on The Gulf War Chronicles, visit the author’s website at http://www.gwchronicles.com/

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