100 Miles from Baghdad: With the French in Desert Storm

By James J. Cooke | Go to book overview

4

FIGHTING THE IRAQIS

We had finally reached the first stopping point, our first night in Iraq, drawing the vehicles of the main PC up into a defensive circle, with foxholes and fighting positions ringing the perimeter. Somewhere about 15 kilometers north of us were the marines, the paratroopers, and the Dragoons, and a few kilometers away, in front of them, were the Iraqis, possibly willing to fight for this expanse of rocky soil and a hard-surface road. Every man had his own thoughts, and there was a silence as we surveyed our new surroundings.

The Americans were clustered together, and we all grabbed shovels and picks and started digging entrenchments. It crossed my mind that according to American Civil War historian Bruce Catton's Stillness at Appomattox, wherever the Army of the Potomac stopped on their bloody 1864 march to Richmond and Petersburg, they entrenched. We now did the same, and lieutenant colonels and sergeants took turns at digging holes that were rectangular, about seven feet long and five feet wide by two feet deep, just enough to give some protection against enemy artillery if the Iraqis decided to shell us that night. We all felt they must know by now that a sizable force had crossed their border and was preparing to give them battle the next day. No rank really mattered at that point—everyone dug in as best they could.

We were told that the PC would become actually operational the next morning about an hour before dawn and that it would be a good idea to catch a few hours' sleep before we had to be at our posts for the first battle for Rochambeau. Behind us, moving slowly along the dirt track MSR Texas on the Saudi side of the border, was the remainder of the 82nd Airborne Division, and sometime later, we would see them pass through our positions to go on to other battlefields. At this point, however, the show belonged to an integrated force of Americans and French under the command of General Bernard Janvier. Someone had concealed a heater so that the flame could not be seen, and we heated coffee and ate some crackers and cheese from the French MREs while watching the night become very black indeed.

-95-

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