'America Has No Finer Ally Than the United Kingdom'

By Royle, Trevor | VFW Magazine, September 2003 | Go to article overview

'America Has No Finer Ally Than the United Kingdom'


Royle, Trevor, VFW Magazine


These words, spoken by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, reflect the views of most Americans. As he also said, "Our two nations stood together during two world wars, the Cold War, in Afghanistan and in the global war against terror. Today, we stand together again."

Operation Iraqi Freedom was in its eighth day and things were going well for the allies. Despite fierce sand storms which threatened to hold up the advance, U.S. forces were racing toward Baghdad, key targets had been destroyed by air power and the city of Basra was surrounded by British troops.

All over the country, Iraqi resistance was crumbling, but the fighting was far from over. The will to resist continued not just from the much-vaunted Republican Guard, but from the Saddam Fedayeen, extremist paramilitaries who were prepared to fight to the death to defend Saddam's ruling Baath Party.

As Sgt. Mark Smith of the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards told the London Guardian: "The Iraqis are smiling assassins. They wave at you as you go past, then shoot you in the back."

Inside Basra, the Fedayeen held 1.3 million Iraqis in a state of fear. British tanks stood outside the city hoping their intimidating presence would encourage the inhabitants to surrender or rise up against their oppressors. But Saddam's henchmen were merciless in their oppression.

Realizing that time was running out,

British special forces from the Special Boat Service (SBS) entered Basra on March 28 and made their way under cover to the Baath Party headquarters on al-Jumhuriya Street.

By then, Maj. Gen. Robin Brims, the British land forces commander, had ordered an air strike. By the time two U.S. Air Force F-15e Strike Eagles arrived over the city, SBS troopers had trained laser-designators on the target.

Three JDAM bombs were dropped, and the Baath Party headquarters building was destroyed. The Fedayeen had been dealt a heavy blow, and notice had been given of the strength and purpose of the U.S. and U.K. military alliance.

'Staunch & Steadfast Ally'

From the outset of President Bush's plans to use military force against Iraq, the United Kingdom proved to be the staunchest ally of the U.S. During the U.N. debate over the implementation of Security Council Resolution 1441, Prime Minister Tony Blair made it clear that he would stand "shoulder to shoulder" with the U.S.

That promise was made good on Jan. 7 and 20 when U.K. Defense Minister Geoffrey Hoon announced the deployment of substantial maritime, land and air packages for operations against Iraq. Overall, some 45,000 personnel were involved in what became known as Operation Telic.

There was nothing new in the cooperation: U.S. and U.K. forces had fought together since May 1943 when soldiers of U.S. II Corps joined up with men of the British 8th Army in the final stages of the attack on Tunisia. They continued together in Italy, France and Northwest Europe.

After WWII, they served in Korea (1950-1953) and the Persian Gulf (1991). Now the cousins were about to do it again in the war to liberate Iraq.

U.S. and U.K. air forces had already been flying to protect the northern and southern no-fly zones, which had been in existence since 1991, and had created a unified command and control system. When the Royal Air Force deployed an additional 100 fixed-wing warplanes, including Tornado GR4 and Harrier GR7 strike aircraft, they were placed under U.S. command. They were part of the integrated air operations against Iraqi military targets and in support of ground operations.

The Royal Navy sent a task group of 20 warships, including the carrier HMS Ark Royal and the helicopter carrier HMS Ocean, as well as 3 Royal Marine Commando Brigade consisting of 40 and 42 Commando Royal Marines.

The main land force component, 1 U.K. Armored Division, contained two principal combat formations-7th Armored Brigade and 16th Air Assault Brigade. …

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