DEADLY MISSIONS AGAINST SADDAM

From the earliest days of the war, the B-52s flew low level penetration missions to bomb the Republican Guard, communications centers, infantry units, and supply depots. Flying lower than 500 feet, the planes blazed over the desert surface, dodging between SAM sites on the way to their targets. They dropped conventional "iron" bombs by the thousands, alone accounting for 40 percent of all ordinance dropped during the war.

A pair of B-52s passes overhead. In all, the B-52s flew 1,620 missions against the Iraqis. The ultimate testimony the effectiveness of the plane was heard from an Iraqi general who defected to Saudi Arabia early in the war. He stated that the reason he defected was that he had seen the effect of the B-52s. When the US military intelligence debriefers checked the records, it was determined that the general's division had never been hit by a B-52. His reply: his brother's division had been. In short, the B-52 shattered the morale of the Iraqi Army.

When the ground war finally commenced, Iraqi soldiers surrendered by the tens of thousands. The effect of the B-52s, combined with pinpoint bombing by smaller attack aircraft, had sapped the enemy's will to fight. When the US forces first crossed the border, the Iraqi soldiers stood up with white flags. In one case, over a hundred soldiers surrendered to a single helicopter that happened to pass by.

This was not, however, the case with the Republican Guard, Iraq's elite armored force. The were dug in and ready to fight to the last man in northern Kuwait. As US forces closed in, B-52s flew mission after mission against the Guard, dropping thousands of bombs. The devastation was extraordinary. Nonetheless, many battalions of the guard held together and fought like tigers against the US ground forces.

Ultimately outmaneuvered, outgunned, and without any air support, even these defense crumbled before the weight of the Coalition advance. In the end, perhaps 200,000 Iraqi soldiers perished. Conversely, Coalition losses were less than 200, including a number who died in friendly fire incidents.

Throughout the campaign, not a single B-52G was lost to enemy action. However, several were hit by AAA and missiles. One was extensively damaged by a SA-3 missile that only barely missed the plane. Finally, in one bizarre case of "friendly fire," a B-52G was struck in the rear fuselage by an AGM-88A HARM missile that had been launched against an enemy ground radar. Instead, the HARM tracked in on the tail-mounted radar fire control system of the B-52. With part of its tail blown away, the plane limped back to Jeddah and landed safely, testimony to the toughness of the design.

Another B-52G crashed into the Indian Ocean while returning to its base at Diego Garcia. A complete electrical system failure occurred -- not in any way due to combat damage -- and in addressing the problem the crew made a critical fuel system error. Five of the plane's eight engines flamed out and could not be restarted. Three of the crew ejected safely, but three others (in the rear cockpit where ejection systems fire downward) were killed when they ejected from too low over the Indian Ocean.

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