View Full Version : The fog of myth: Former Marine details the 1991 Gulf War you didn’t see on TV

03-06-04, 01:37 PM
Issue Date: March 08, 2004

Book Review
The fog of myth: Former Marine details the 1991 Gulf War you didn’t see on TV

By Joseph E. DeYoung Jr.
Special to the Times

We often find ourselves in the position of having historians show us how badly our myths and campfire stories fall short of reality.
Every once in a while, an author comes along and shows us that myth was far greater than we imagined.

The battle at Khafji only briefly made headlines during the 1991 Persian Gulf War; the air war that started days before this battle overshadowed it.

Yet the fight at Khafji, some of the most intense ground combat during the war, was a pivotal point in the war. Its story needed to be told. The battle lay bare the politics of war, as well as the emotions and, most important, the dedication of America’s fighting men and women.

David J. Morris does an excellent job telling the tale.

Part of the pleasure in reading this work comes from the way Morris tells the story from the war fighter’s point of view. We come to know the characters and terrain through Morris’ vivid detail: from peacetime Okinawa, Japan, to sweat-wringing moments of fear on rooftops of buildings surrounded by the enemy.

The book is rife with controversy and the raw emotion of combat, yet covers the national political aims and the operational and tactical objectives of the war. It reveals the devastating effectiveness of America’s arsenal of weapons systems and tactics but, most of all, it is about the men and women who fought this battle and the Gulf War.

Gleaned from military histories and detailed interviews, “Storm” reads like fine literature. Characters come to life; fear and anger smack the reader between the eyes.

I could feel the pain of those who watched men die at their side, and I could feel the tension of a TOW missile gunner as he tried to decide whether to fire during a firefight. These moments exemplify the best parts of the work.

At one point, an unseasoned reconnaissance team of six led by Marine Cpl. Chuck Ingraham was trapped on the top of a building in Khafji. They were lightly armed; they had no transportation save shoe leather; they had little contact with other units; and they were out of time for decision-making. It was leave immediately or stay and face almost certain death.

“Ingraham looked around at the faces of the five of them and asked them what they wanted to do,” Morris writes. “Among the troops was Kevin Callahan, the team’s Navy medical corpsman, known universally as Doc. A fourteen-year recon veteran with a walrus mustache, Doc was far more than the team’s patch-’em-up guy; he was their big brother, their sober sage, a moral force, the lone cool head in the storm. The Marines felt better just having him around. He did not have to say a word. Doc Callahan regarded Ingraham, and in his calm, almost drowsy, Floridian drawl settled the matter. ‘Ingraham, we’re recon Marines. This is what we are trained to do. If we remain behind, we can wreak havoc on these guys. We should stay.’” And wreak havoc they did as the reader hears and sees vividly through Morris’ words.

Apart from the compelling human side of the battle and the lessons learned, there were the controversies: the failure of the Saudi armed forces to hold up their end of the coalition, the stories of fratricide and the examples of poor decision-making at senior levels. This work is loaded with political land mines, especially as America fights a war in the Middle East. I will not offer political commentary here, but Morris does not hesitate to do so, and for that I congratulate him.

This is a story that ought to be told around campfires, most properly with bad whiskey and good cigars. We all should hunker down with it for a time, so we can tell the tale ourselves someday.

Storm on the Horizon: Khafji — The Battle that Changed the Course of the Gulf War by David J. Morris. Free Press. 280 pages, $25.

Joseph E. DeYoung Jr. is a retired Marine officer. He lives in Stafford, Va.




03-17-04, 02:25 AM
I remember hearing about Khafji after getting back on ship. I was with 5th MEB. We did part of the famous "Almost Amphibious Landing". Anyway, after getting back on ship we got the scuttlebutt about a lot of things. I'll elaborate in later posts but Khafji was definitely one of the ones that stuck out in my mind. The thing that makes it stick out to me is that I am an artilleryman and that was the thing that made that battle. The RECON team on the roof of that building calling in fire missions on the bad guys was great to hear about.

03-17-04, 02:51 AM
One story that strikes a little too close to me is the story of Sgt. Aaron Pack A.K.A. PAC-MAN. He was a radar tech with 11th Marines Counter Battery Radar in the Gulf. It was around noon and PAC-MAN was in the radar shelter he had sent the rest of the section to have chow while he monitored the radar. He was doing his job and the next thing you know BOOM. A missile vaporizes the shelter. Now we heard that the missile was a Chinese Silkworm but it turns out that was a cover up of a very negligent mistake. The missile was a HARM, which was fired by a U.S. F-16.

To give a little background on how it works, and I'll give the unclassified version, is the radar set transmits a radio signal that bounces off stuff and back to the radar. Any intelligent person could probably tell you how radar works right? O.K. well the HARM and the Silkworm are made to home in on radio signals.

The thing that bothers me most about this tragedy is that some Poge in Division "Hindquarters" decided not to send the message they had received about radio signals to the artillery regiment because, he did not see why they should need to know it. The message was to the effect that there would be HARM missiles launched to home in on certain frequencies, on certain dates, at certain times and to not transmit on those freq's, dates, and times.

If the Regiment had gotten this message PAC-MAN would probably still be with us today.

Semper Fi PAC-MAN

03-17-04, 03:12 AM
There is one more story that hits close to home for me. This story involves a self-propelled artillery battery going into Iraq on a winding twisting road. The lead vehicle comes under fire from a jet. The driver does a few evasive maneuvers and gets hit by a 500-lb. laser guided bomb. The driver and two other Marines where killed. The really bad news is a Harrier dropped the bomb. The driver’s name was Alicio Felix he was a buddy of mine from boot.

The Harrier pilot had gotten his info. on an Iraqi column moving into Kuwait. The column was my buddy’s battery on that winding road that just happened to have a curve that actually leads back into Kuwait.

The good news is that since Desert Storm the military has gotten an I.F.F. (Identify Friend or Foe) system.