Battle of the Bridges
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Battle of the Bridges

Gulf War

Battle of the Bridges
Iraqi T62 tank during the First Gulf War. ©HistoryMaps
1990 Aug 2

Battle of the Bridges

Al Jahra, Kuwait

On 2 August 1990, shortly after 00:00 local time, Iraq invaded Kuwait. The Kuwaitis were caught unprepared. Despite the diplomatic tension and the Iraqi buildup on the border, no central orders were issued to the Kuwaiti armed forces and they were not on alert. Many of the personnel were on leave as 2 August was both the Islamic equivalent of New Year and one of the hottest days of the year. With many on leave, some new crews were assembled from personnel available. In total, the Kuwaiti 35th Brigade managed to field 36 Chieftain tanks, a company of armoured personnel carriers, another company of antitank vehicles and an artillery battery of 7 self-propelled guns.

They faced units from the Iraqi Republican Guard. The 1st "Hammurabi" Armoured Division consisted of two mechanised brigades and one armoured, whereas the Medinah Armoured Division consisted of two armoured brigades and one mechanised. These were equipped with T-72s, BMP-1s and BMP-2s, as well as having attached artillery. It is important to note that the various engagements were against elements of these rather than against the fully deployed divisions; specifically the 17th Brigade of the "Hammurabi", commanded by Brigadier General Ra'ad Hamdani, and the 14th Brigade and 10th Armoured Brigade of the Medinah. Another challenge resulted from the fact that neither Hamdani nor his troops held any enmity for the Kuwaitis and therefore planned to minimise casualties, military and civilian. According to his plan, there would be no preliminary shelling or “protective (artillery) fire." Hamdani went so far as to require his tanks to fire only high-explosive shells, instead of SABOT (Armour Piercing) in an attempt to “frighten the occupants, but not destroy the vehicle.”2.

The Kuwaiti 7th Battalion was the first to engage the Iraqis, sometime after 06:45, firing at a short range for the Chieftains (1 km to 1.5 km) and halting the column. The Iraqi response was slow and ineffectual. Iraqi units continued to arrive at the scene apparently unaware of the situation, allowing the Kuwaitis to engage infantry still in trucks and even to destroy a SPG that was still on its transport trailer. From Iraqi reports, it appears that much of the 17th Brigade was not significantly delayed and continued advancing on its objective in Kuwait City.

At 11:00 elements of the Medinah Armoured Division of the Iraqi Republican Guard approached along Highway 70 from the west, the direction of the 35th Brigade's camp. Again they were deployed in column and actually drove past the Kuwaiti artillery and between the 7th and 8th Battalions, before the Kuwaiti tanks opened fire. Taking heavy casualties, the Iraqis withdrew back to the west. After the Medinah regrouped and deployed they were able to force the Kuwaitis, who were running out of ammunition and in danger of being encircled, to withdraw south. The Kuwaitis reached the Saudi border at 16:30, spending the night on the Kuwaiti side before crossing over the next morning.

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