He also presents several appendixes with facts and data about the Gulf War, from lists of coalition and Iraqi forces in the war, to lists of prisoners of war and coalition members killed. In fact, the appendixes are so detailed; they take up more than half the pages of this book.
This book is much more than a promotional piece, it is a detailed and important history of the war, from start to finish, and it is a good reference for anyone wishing to dig deeper into the war and its outcome. He writes of the end of the war, President George Bush addresses the United States. He announces that 'Kuwait is liberated. Iraq's Army is defeated.' He further states that at 12 a.M. Eastern Standard Time 'all U.S. And Coalition forces will suspend further offensive combat operations.'"
One of the best features of the book are all the illustrations. Many are of the action on the ground, but many more are official portraits of the commanders and fighting men who led the offensive, which helps put faces with the many names the author uses throughout the book. This is a definitive look at the Gulf War and the people who fought it, and it is probably one of the best available books on the Gulf War.
Desert Shield at Sea
Desert Shield at Sea: What the Navy Really Did by Marvin Pokrant is another detailed look into Desert Shield operations, this time from the U.S. Navy point-of-view. A huge assortment of ships also took part in the Gulf War, something that many people may forget entirely. This book is somewhat of a blending of the last two. It attempts to show the day-to-day operations and decision-making processes naval leaders faced. The authors write, "A major goal of this book is to be objective. We describe candidly how command was exercised, how decisions were made, and what alternatives were considered.
Unlike Hutchison's book, which simply narrates the facts, this book attempts to show both sides of the issues the command faced, along with removing judgement or speculation. Like Hutchinson, they based their book on military documents and other formal sources, along with personal interviews of many of the sources of the book.
This book is mostly a narrative, although it does contain some day-to-day diary entries, which makes it more compelling to read. The authors are nearly compulsive about listing their sources, and note sources for what they write at the end of every chapter. Many of the sources were military records and messages taken directly from military transcripts, along with speeches, treaties, and other primary sources. One interesting aspect of the book is that it details earlier naval actions in and around the Persian Gulf and the Middle East, beginning in 1980, that had given the U.S. A poor reputation with at least some of the Arab nations. For example, they write, "On 3 July 1988, the Aegis cruiser USS Vincennes (CG 49), believing she was about to be attacked, shot down an Iranian civilian airbus, killing 290 people."
This is just one example of what many viewed as U.S. aggression in the area, which helped lead to some unrest about the United States operations in the area. This book also looks at more than just the command operations and deployment. It delves into the surrounding incidents, from the United Nations issuing its sanctions to the reactions of top foreign leaders and their actions. Thus, this book is more than a military history; it is a history of each of the different areas of the war, with concentration on the naval operations and decision-making.
The author uses a lot of military jargon and abbreviations in the book, which makes it a bit more difficult to read. Here is an example of the jargon and how it is often difficult to follow, even with the author's explanations. He writes, "Initially, the Army's 82nd Airborne Division occupied defensive positions on the approaches to al-Jubail. On 20 August, the 7th MEB Marines relieved it. Marine AH-1W helicopters and AV-8B Harrier 'jump jets' (fixed-wing aircraft capable of vertical takeoffs and landings) arrived in-theater."
While he does offer explanations and additional information, it does tend to jumble together to seem like gibberish when too much of it is contained in a paragraph. This book ends with the preparations for Desert Storm, because it is the first volume in a set that looks at the naval operations during both Desert Shield and Desert Storm. That means that it can be much more detailed and informative about the command operations for Desert Shield, and that it can go into more details about the background information, as well.
This book is the most detailed in that it uses other history and background besides the military. For example, near the end of the book the author writes, "More than half a decade after the war, it is difficult to remember that the coalition expected -- and greatly feared-that Iraq would use chemical weapons. At the time, all indications were that Iraq would use chemical, and perhaps biological, weapons."
This is the type of information that helps readers understand what was going on at the time, what the people feared, and what demands the military faced, and it adds credibility and depth to this book. The author also includes numerous maps and illustrations, so the reader understands where the Navy was positioning their vessels in relationship to the fighting on the ground, which helps orient the reader and give perspective.
The Gathering Storm
The Gathering Storm is an official U.S. Navy document describing, without much detail, how forces ramped up to get to battle readiness in the Middle East. Like the Army document, this history is more like a PR piece for the people, rather than a detailed look into the command decisions of the officers and men. Near the beginning of the document the authors write, "We do know that the sustainable combat capability and control of the sea provided by naval forces afforded protection for the introduction of ground and air forces arriving in theater in response to the deployment order."
The article continues, in a very general way, to describe the build-up of forces in the Persian Gulf and Red Sea, how ships were managed, and it looks at the airpower of the Navy fighter squadrons and other air power, as well.
It is easy to see that this was an in-house piece, because it does not criticize any aspect of the operations, but it does talk in very positive terms about the build-up and its outcome. Another example, indicates how the Navy could "do no wrong" during the operation. The authors continue, "About three-fourths of DESERT SHIELD/STORM deliveries were made by ships resulting from the 7 billion investment in strategic sealift programs during the last ten years. Without these programs, there would have been no afloat prepositioning ships, no fast sealift, and no RRF."
While the facts in this piece are numerous, its obvious intention to tout the Navy's success in the operation takes away credibility and seriousness from this article, and makes the reader feel that they are being manipulated in a way, since the PR aspect is so blatant and obvious.
One of the most interesting aspects of this document is the attention to naval medical personnel deployed to the region during the operations, something the other documents analyzed here addressed in detail. The Navy had thousands of medical personnel deployed on their medical ships and on the ground during the war. For example, the authors note, "In addition to personnel of the Navy medical corps, medical service corps, and nurse corps, more than 5,800 Navy hospital corpsmen served with Marines during DESERT SHIELD/STORM. Eleven corpsmen were attached to each company of Marines."
Like some of the other documents, this document addresses something that many Americans do not think of when they think about mobilizing and fighting a war - the people who are injured and killed during a war, and who takes care of them. This part of the article is extremely informative and helpful to the reader, and it adds value and depth to the overall impact of the article.
In conclusion, evaluating and discussing primary historical documents regarding the Gulf War has been an enlightening exercise. The different documents and their sources indicate how there are many different outlooks on war and the results of war, and these are presented in many different ways. Many of these articles "spin" the information to suit their own purposes, while others present factual, unemotional accounts of what happened. This indicates the historian should pay particular attention to the source of their information before they use it for research.
Bush, George H.W. Address to the Nation on the Invasion of Iraq (January 16, 1991). Miller Center for Public Affairs. 2009. 1 April 2009. http://millercenter.org/scripps/archive/speeches/detail/3428.
Editors. The Gathering Storm. Naval Historical Center. 2009. 1 April 2009. http://www.history.navy.mil/wars/dstorm/ds2.htm.