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In Pictures: The Grim And Absurd Reality Of The First Gulf War

"Our strategy to go after the Army is very, very simple. First we are going to cut it off, and then we're going to kill it." —Colin Powell

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On Aug. 2, 1990, Iraqi forces invaded neighboring Kuwait over alleged violations of the Iraq border. Within a matter of hours, the small, oil-rich nation had surrendered to the invading forces. On Jan. 16, 1991, Operation Desert Storm commenced as a US-led coalition of nearly three dozen nations — consisting of 956,600 troops, 700,000 of which were US military — launched an intensive war against the invading Iraqi army. By Feb. 28, the Iraqi military was crippled as President George H. W. Bush signed an official cease-fire and end to the first Gulf War. In total, 148 US soldiers were killed and another 457 wounded. While there is no official count of Iraqi casualties, it is believed that some 25,000 soldiers were killed and another 100,000 civilians perished.

Pascal Guyot / AFP / Getty Images

French soldiers from the Foreign Legion Infantry regiment wear full chemical warfare equipment during a training session in the Saudi desert near Hafr al-Baten on Oct. 23, 1990.

AFP / Getty Images

Egyptian army commandos practice a hand-to-hand combat drill at their camp in the Saudi desert as numerous TV journalists and photographers record the scene on Nov. 27, 1990.

Patrick Durand / Getty Images

Sailors and crew crowd the flight deck of the USS Saratoga as the enormous aircraft carrier steams past a mosque on the Suez Canal, on its way to the Persian Gulf to take part in Operation Desert Storm.

Diana Walker / Getty Images

President George H. W. Bush addresses the nation from the Oval Office at the start of Operation Desert Storm, ushering in the Gulf War on Jan. 16, 1991.

Steve Liss / Getty Images

Three men read copies of a local Daily Gazette newspaper with the headline "WAR!" on the morning after the launch of Operation Desert Storm, Jan. 17, 1991.

William F. Campbell / Getty Images

Families of 71st Fighter Training Squadron pilots watch TV coverage of action against Iraq by US–UN troops after the start of Operation Desert Storm on Jan. 17, 1991.

Paul Sakuma / AP

A protester dressed like President George H. W. Bush drives a cart through downtown San Francisco on Jan. 16, 1991. About 5,000 people marched in the demonstration calling for a peaceful solution to the Gulf crisis.

Historical / Getty Images

A mother weeps as she holds her daughter after her husband, a member of the 24th Infantry Division, departed for Saudi Arabia in support of Operation Desert Shield.

Left: An unidentified American Gulf War soldier poses for a portrait before the coalition-led ground invasion of Iraq. Left: Sgt. Jeff Theim from the 82nd Airborne applies camouflage paint to his face in the Saudi desert on Aug. 31, 1990.

Historical / Getty Images

A Mark 7 16-inch, 50-caliber gun is fired aboard the battleship USS Missouri (BB-63) during night-shelling of Iraqi targets along the northern Kuwaiti coast on Feb. 6, 1991.

Sven Nackstrand / AFP / Getty Images

A wounded Israeli woman is evacuated by rescuers after an Iraqi Soviet-made Scud missile exploded in downtown Tel Aviv on Jan. 22, 1991, injuring 60 people.

Pascal Guyot / AFP / Getty Images

A US soldier (left) and Saudi police officers examine the wreck of a missile, believed to be a Soviet-made Scud, that landed in downtown Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on Jan. 22, 1991.

Greg Gibson / AP

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Colin Powell points to Iraqi airbases that show enemy activity, at a Pentagon briefing on Jan. 24, 1991, in Washington, DC.

Kaveh Kazemi / Getty Images

Kurdish refugees in the thousands, having fled northern Iraq territories, reach for bread thrown in the air by Iranian border guards in Doab, Iran.

Left: US Marines with the 1st Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, conquer Iraqi-style trenches during an exercise in the Saudi Arabian desert on Jan. 12, 1991. Right: US Army Pvt. Christopher Willard plays with the company mascot, Bernard, while relaxing from duty along the front line near Safwan, Iraq, on March 5, 1991.

Pascal Guyot / AFP / Getty Images

An Egyptian light-armored vehicle explodes after driving over an Iraqi mine, on the second day of the massive ground assault of allied forces into Kuwait and Iraq on Feb. 25, 1991.

Peter Turnley / Getty Images

A number of dead Iraqi soldiers lie along the "Highway of Death" between Kuwait City and Basra, north of Kuwait City in February 1991. On the night of Feb. 26–27, coalition forces cut off the retreating Iraqi army and destroyed the convoy entirely. No one has ever known precisely how many Iraqis were killed.

Laurent Rebours / AP

An Iraqi soldier holds up the Qur'an and a white flag as he surrenders to Saudi and American forces inside Kuwait on Feb. 25, 1991. Large numbers of prisoners were taken from fortified Iraqi positions by the allied forces in this operation along the coast highway north of the Kuwait–Saudi Arabia border.

Sadayuki Mikami / AP

A devastated convoy of vehicles on the infamous "Highway of Death" north of Kuwait City is visible in this aerial photo on March 1, 1991. Iraqi forces fleeing the city in every available vehicle were intercepted by allied forces and destroyed.

David Turnley / AP

A wounded soldier, Ken Kozakiewicz (left), cries after being given the dog tags and learning of the death of a fellow tank crewman, in the body bag to the right, after a friendly fire incident on Feb 28, 1991. The widely published photo came to define the Persian Gulf War for many. The soldiers, including Michael Santarakis (in bandages), were from the 24th Mechanized Infantry Division.


Kimberly Mongrella (seated to the right), the widow of Marine Sgt. Garett Mongrella, bows her head as Marines fold an American flag at his funeral services in the Stanhope-Union Cemetery of Mount Olive, New Jersey, on Feb. 8, 1991. Mongrella was killed as allied forces fought in the Saudi Arabian town of Khafji.

Mark Reinstein / Getty Images

A woman wipes away a young boy's tears during the funeral of an unidentified service member at the Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia, on April 6, 1991.

Don Emmert / AFP / Getty Images

A Navy A-7 Corsair jet is pulled down Broadway as sailors rejoice on its wings during the Operation Welcome Home ticker-tape parade in New York City on June 10, 1991. An estimated 1 million people came to welcome some 24,000 Desert Storm veterans.

Left: US Armed Services troops march in the Operation Welcome Home ticker-tape parade in New York City on June 10, 1991. Right: A woman in an American flag bikini top joins patriotic spectators at the victory parade.

Andrew Holbrooke / Getty Images

Veterans of the Gulf War's Operation Desert Storm march up Broadway's Canyon of Heroes, in the Financial District of lower Manhattan on June 10, 1991.


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