View Full Version : U.S. Marines: Again Into the Breach

03-13-03, 07:55 AM
U.S. Marines: Again Into the Breach
Dave Eberhart, NewsMax.com
Wednesday, March 12, 2003
When President George W. Bush picks up the phone or turns to his military aide and gives the nod for war, the cruise missiles will roar, but the first sound of the ground offensive against Saddam will most likely be an eager Marine Corps corporal firing up his light armored vehicle.

The anti-tank LAV will rally up with a convoy of similar engines-of-war and race in the darkness through freshly cut holes in the fence that separates Kuwait from Iraq. The hard charging reconnaissance unit will lead the way for the rest of the men of the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade, part of Task Force Tarawa -- all falling under the command of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force.

The fabled 7th Marine Regiment, along with elements of the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division, will follow most immediately behind the recon vehicles as the officially designated “breaching force.” In overall command of the mixed force: Army Lt. Gen. David D. McKiernan.

'Suicide Charley'

Bristling at the point of the spear will likely be the most infamous company of the 1st Battalion of the fabled regiment, “Suicide Charley,” the modern reincarnation of an embattled and bloodied Marine company that fought the Japanese to a standstill at World War Two’s Guadalcanal. Like their predecessors, the modern Marines fly flags inscribed with a grisly skull-and-crossbones and the moniker “Suicide Charley.”

During the long wait for the balloon to go up, the Marines in Kuwait have been camped in tent cities alongside their fellow comrades-in-arms in the Army division, itself a mechanized unit with about 21,000 soldiers and hundreds of tanks and armored vehicles. It, too, has a proud heritage -- under a different designation, it executed the famous left-hook advance into southern Iraq during 1991’s Desert Storm.

At the moment, there are some 60,000 Leathernecks poised at desert camps like Cyote, Ripper, Bullrush, Shoup, Peleliu, Tarawa, Iwo Jima, and the less colorfully named Living Support Area 7.

Organized under the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, the Marine forces in Kuwait represent contributions from the West coast’s 1st Marine Division, the East coast’s 2nd Marine Division, and the 3rd Marine Division from Okinawa, Japan -- units like the 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines; 7th Marines; 3rd Battalion, 11th Marines; 1st Battalion, 10th Marines; 1st Force Service Support Group; and 2nd Force Service Support Group.

'The Way Home is Through Baghdad'

Every man and woman of the force knows and repeats the local mantra: “The way home is through Baghdad.” And the question on everyone’s mind is whether the fighting Marines will easily duplicate their proud Corps' feats during the liberation of Kuwait in 1991.

During the Gulf War the Marines had two full divisions in the field and were meant to serve mostly as a diversionary force, but they surprised everyone by driving through the enemy and straight into Kuwait city -- before the Army’s main flanking operation got fully engaged.

Unlike in 1991, when a sizeable force of Marines remained on ships in the Persian Gulf in a bluff to make Saddam suspect an amphibious assault, most Marines are on terra firma in Kuwait. The 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, however, with 2,300 Marines, remains afloat for now in the eastern Mediterranean.

Although configured somewhat differently this time, the Marine Corps elements are again expected to repeat the successes of the Gulf War and go for Saddam’s military jugular with a fast, furious, and deadly assault.

In 1991, it went like this: after confusing Saddam by rapidly shifting both Marine divisions some 50 miles northeast from their original staging area, the Marines stepped across the line of departure.

The 1st and 2nd Marine Divisions, each more than 18,000 strong, and the U.S. Army’s 1st Brigade of the 2nd Armored Division went into attack mode, supported by thousands of combat service support staff from the 1st and 2nd Force Service Support Groups – and Navy/Marine air cover.

The Marines had to cross two belts of minefields, 12-foot high sand mounds, barbed-wire defenses, booby traps and trenches while under attack by Iraqi artillery.

A Tradition of Victory

The Marine advance was later described by Desert Storm commander Gen Norman Schwarzkopf: “It was a classic, absolutely classic military breaching of a very, very tough minefield, barbed wire, fire trench-type barrier. They went through the first barrier like it was water. Then they brought both divisions steaming through that breach. Absolutely superb operation -- a textbook, and I think it will be studied for many, many years to come as the way to do it.”

Even though the 1st Division Marines encountered artillery fire and a mechanized counter-attack, their attack prevailed with most Iraqis fighting for only a few minutes before surrendering. Massive artillery and air support from Navy and Marine aircraft sparked a frenzy of surrender.

The 2nd Marine Division with the Army’s Tiger Brigade on the west flank, the 8th Marine Regiment to the east, and the 6th Marine Regiment in the center within hours breached all defensive belts. Facing enemy mortar and small arms fire, the 2nd Division drove into Kuwait and took more than 5,000 prisoners by the end of the first day.

This time, however, the sacred grail of the conflict is the lair of the unlucky dictator himself, who despite his bravado will have to face down the meanest in the valley of the shadow of death -- Suicide Charley.