View Full Version : Bunker Hill launches 13 cruise missiles at Iraq

03-20-03, 06:31 AM
March 19, 2003

Bunker Hill launches 13 cruise missiles at Iraq

By William H. McMichael
Times staff writer

ABOARD THE CRUISER BUNKER HILL, Persian Gulf — The second Persian Gulf War began for the cruiser Bunker Hill at 5:15 a.m. March 20, when the warship launched the first two of 13 Tomahawk cruise missiles Thursday morning.
The first launches over a half-hour period on a gray, foggy morning in the northeast Persian Gulf took place one hour and 15 minutes after the expiration of the 48-hour deadline President Bush issued Tuesday morning local time, demanding that Saddam Hussein and his sons leave Iraq or face a U.S.-led military strike aimed at deposing Saddam and ridding Iraq of weapons of mass destruction.

The missiles, fired mostly in pairs, shot out of the Bunker Hill’s fore and aft vertical missile launchers and straight up into the air with a roar and the whoosh of burning rocket motors. The missiles then curled toward the north, the fading roar accentuated by a distant “popping” sound made as their boosters fell off into the Gulf and the missiles shifted into cruise mode before disappearing from sight.

The first two missiles were launched in near-total darkness, lightened only by a heavily veiled, nearly full moon. As the Bunker Hill rapidly repositioned for the next launches, daybreak began approaching, and observers could see the black plume of smoke that trailed behind the white-hot blast of the missiles on the subsequent 11 launches.

After the missiles were launched, spotters on the port bridge wing called out, “Happy trails forward!” or “Happy trails aft!” to inform the bridge and, subsequently, the combat information center down below, that the missiles had in fact safely left the tubes.

Members of the crew not involved in the missions gathered on the ship’s O-3 level, amidships, to watch the launches. Many carried digital video cameras. But while the mood seemed positive, it was subdued; there was no cheering.

Asked if the launches had gone well, commanding officer Capt. Faris T. Farwell, walking from the combat information center where he’d been working during the strikes up to the ship’s bridge, replied, “Just like it was supposed to, right?”