100 Miles from Baghdad: With the French in Desert Storm

By James J. Cooke | Go to book overview

6

EPILOGUE: FOLDING THE TENTS

The old baggage claim area, where so many Rafha' briefings were conducted and where General Luck had made so many decisions, was empty. Only a few boxes remained to be loaded onto trucks for the return to Dragon City at Dhahran. Fred Querry, Ron Wilson, and Colonel Burckhardt had left, and they were on their way back to Fort Bragg. Only Lieutenant Colonel Joe Umbarger from the G2 section was there, and we were scheduled to leave on the C-130 flights out the next day, 25 March.

It seemed alien to be in that place where only a month before the entire staff of the XVIII Airborne Corps and the LNOs from all the divisions, including the French, worked at such a frantic pace. All of that was only a memory now. Even the sacred room of High Porcelain was empty; no waiting lines existed for those who wished to worship at that shrine of Western culture.

Where once there had been row upon row of army-brown tents, there now was only the desert; heaps of rock, which had been bulldozed to one side so that the tents could be pitched, stood like prehistoric burial mounds. Those piles of stark, tan rocks did not now look unnatural. We had never been there as far as the terrain was concerned. It was barren, ugly, hostile to humans before we came and had rushed back to that state of nature. In a few short days the desert had expunged our memory, and since the army had its mania for neatness, picking up every scrap of trash, there was not even a soft drink can or plastic water bottle to mark the Corps' passing.

Inside buildings, sergeants oversaw a small legion of lesser ranks in sweeping, mopping, and dusting away the American and French presence. In a few days, when the last GI had left, the terminal baggage area would be full of Saudis and other travelers who would be unaware of the dramas played out in that room. Devout Muslims would never know that where their luggage came down black rubber conveyor belts, U.S. Army Christian chaplains stood

-189-

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100 Miles from Baghdad: With the French in Desert Storm
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Maps vii
  • Acronyms ix
  • 1 - Introduction: Crisis in the Gulf 1
  • 2 - The Line in the Sand 9
  • 3 - Haute Cusine and the French Army 43
  • 4 - Fighting the Iraqis 95
  • 5 - As Salman Interlude 143
  • 6 - Epilogue: Folding the Tents 189
  • Index 215
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