Thursday, February 4, 2021

"WAR AND REMEMBRANCE" 30th Anniversary of The Gulf War (Operation Desert Shield/Storm)

by George Haloulakos

Believe it or not, this month marks the 30th Anniversary of Victory in Operation Desert Shield/Storm for a US led military coalition that liberated Kuwait while exemplifying courage, honor, sacrifice and striving to do the right thing.  The passage of time and selective memory tends to obscure the uncertainty and challenges associated with this war, including the threat of biological and chemical weapons on a massive scale.  Operation Desert Shield/Storm is unique in American history for having occurred not only between the Vietnam War and the War on Terror, but coming into play as the Cold War was reaching its climax with the dissolution of the USSR.

A memorial to Desert Shield/Storm is scheduled to open later in 2021 in the National Mall in Washington, DC and so we take this opportunity to pay tribute to all those who served and fulfilled this mission three decades ago.  A topic such as this cannot be fully appreciated in a short column such as this, but we can, so to speak, offer a "sniff of the cork" in reflecting upon a couple of outcomes associated with The Gulf War that resonate to this day.

Our parents experienced war through radio news broadcasts (some of which were transmitted live by Edward Murrow and his colleagues covering the London Blitz and D-Day in World War II).  The weekly news magazines such as Time and Life carried in-depth war coverage as well.  As baby boomers, we watched vintage newsreel footage of World War II combat integrated into major dramatic films and TV shows.  In our coming of age, we can recall seeing the Vietnam War shown on the prime time evening network TV news broadcasts with commentary from correspondents on the scene.  Similarly, the aforementioned news magazines offered detailed insights.  Few of these accounts we or our parents were tracking via print, radio and TV were unfolding in real time.  We were learning after the fact.

By the early 1990s, 24/7 cable TV news coverage became part of the many offerings available to consumers of news content.  Therefore, the Gulf War is remembered by most people as an event that was viewed by millions of viewers worldwide as events unfolded in real time.  This had a dramatic effect that has only accelerated now in the Internet Age, namely that print media found itself replaced by 24/7 cable TV news as the primary source of information for mass market consumption.  As such, subscription rates and readership for the iconic news magazines and major newspapers declined sharply in the decades since causing many such publications to either rebrand / restructure themselves for the digital age or simply cease operation!  If one includes both Desert Shield/Storm together, the Gulf War essentially began in the summer of 1990 and ended in February 1991, or roughly six months.  Yet the continuous 24/7 news coverage made it seem much longer if not more intense compared with how we followed similar events in prior generations!  If you had friends or loved ones who were deployed, the passage of time marking their absence seemed interminable.

Another memory of the Gulf War was the full unveiling of the Lockheed F-117 Nighthawk Stealth attack aircraft that has forever changed our national defense capabilities.  Who can forget seeing the nighttime coverage shown of the F-117s in the midst of a hornet's nest of anti-aircraft fire in which the Nighthawks delivered their ordnance on target and with little or no collateral damage while returning all of the pilots safely home?  As one who vividly recalls reading or watching classic newsreel footage of World War II bombing groups (B-17s, B-24s and B-29s) and watching news accounts of the B-52 bombing missions in the Vietnam War, I was struck by the enormous attrition or loss rate of those historic aircraft and their brave crews.  While bracing myself to expect the same with the Gulf War, the highly advanced F-117 stealth aircraft completely and forever changed that scenario.

I started this Blog noting that it was hard to believe it has been 30 years since Desert Shield/Storm.  Now I will close by sharing a poem that reflects this observation.
" It lasted so long
it went so fast
it seems like yesterday
it seems like never. " 
— “A Career,” from Days Like This, by Dan Quisenberry  

What are your memories about Desert Shield/Storm?  Please share your thoughts and memories via posting on to the Galaxy FACEBOOK page (and be sure to "like" us when doing so) or via e-mail to the GNN web site.  Likewise, I am always receptive to hearing from our wonderful Galaxy audience and/or connecting via LinkedIn.