On 2 August 1990, Iraq invaded Kuwait. A week later President George Bush dispatched the first elements of the 82nd Airborne Division and the XVIII Airborne Corps to Saudi Arabia. What started out as a deployment to the Persian Gulf to protect Saudi Arabia from any further aggression on the part of Saddam Hussein's Iraq turned into the largest overseas operation of its kind since World War II and culminated in the Persian Gulf War of 1991.
Two dozen nations, acting to enforce numerous United Nations resolutions, took part in the operation. Arab, African, and Asian states stood beside the United States, France, England, Italy, and other European nations in a UN coalition that would have been unthinkable a year before. The very idea of non-Muslim, non-Arab ground forces in Saudi Arabia preparing for a possible armed conflict with another Arab state would have sent waves of laughter through the ranks of the experts. That was utterly impossible. Saudi policy had been simply to rely on the possibility of Western, primarily American, naval and air contingents, if a crisis arose, being sent only temporarily to Saudi Arabia. By the time the Persian Gulf War was over, the United States had deployed two army Corps, two marine expeditionary divisions, air and naval forces, large numbers of logistical troops, and active duty and reserve components to number about half a million. U.S. reserves and National Guard forces were mobilized in the greatest numbers since the Korean War; many went to the Gulf, and some died there. This was unprecedented, altering world history in the last decade of this century.
The Persian Gulf War rallied the American people as they had not been since those grim days of 1941 to 1945, and in the end, Americans were able to write a finish to the dark chapters of Vietnam and Korea. An objective was stated and carried out. The military mission by January 1991 was simple: Get Iraq out of Kuwait, restore the legitimate ruler of Kuwait, and smash the offensive power of Saddam Hussein. Those missions were accomplished by