Twenty-five years. It’s hard to believe Operation Desert Storm was so long ago. Perhaps that’s because the United States seemingly has been at war in that part of the world ever since. Or maybe because images of the conflict’s high-tech U.S. weapons in action were so indelible. Like many of you, I clearly recall being glued to the TV for much of the conflict.
Otto Kreisher, on the other hand, witnessed the war firsthand as a journalist accompanying the U.S. Marines into Kuwait. A former enlisted Leatherneck, Kreisher is the author of this issue’s cover story about the Corps’ Desert Storm ground assault, “Marines’ Desert Victory.”
He was with a group of journalists and Marine escorts who followed a 1st Marine Division supply column through minefield breaches and caught up with Task Force Ripper. “The landscape was littered with the remnants of the long air war that had preceded the ground assault . . . and burned out Iraqi tanks and armored vehicles, some still smoldering from hits by Marine tanks or TOW missiles,” Kreisher recalled. “But the most striking sight was the hundreds of ragged Iraqi soldiers happily marching south without armed escorts to POW compounds.”
Several days later, the reporter was in liberated Kuwait City, “surrounded by jubilant Kuwaitis recklessly firing AK-47s into the air and hugging me or shaking my hand just for being an American.”
Kreisher’s article is largely based on a remarkable source: the November 1991 issue of Naval History’s sister magazine—Proceedings—which featured interviews by two of its editors with seven of the conflict’s leading Marine commanders. The May 1992 issue included interviews with two more of them.
How did the magazine pull off this feat? According to then–associate editor Brendan “Mac” Greeley, a retired Marine lieutenant colonel, “It was Fred Rainbow’s idea, and we had lots of ‘ins.’” The magazine’s editor-in-chief at the time, Rainbow, who now serves as the U.S. Naval Institute’s director of education, is famous for his extensive network of Sea Service contacts.
Greeley interviewed Lieutenant General Royal Moore, and Major Generals John Hopkins and James Myatt. Managing editor Colonel John Miller, USMC (Ret.), who died in 2009, talked with Lieutenant Generals Walter Boomer and William Keys as well as Brigadier Generals James Brabham and Charles Krulak. The editors also spoke with Major General Harry Jenkins and Brigadier General Peter Rowe.
“I interviewed John Hopkins at the cafeteria at Headquarters, Marine Corps—noisy as hell, a lot going on,” Greeley recalled. What made it easier to get the generals to talk candidly about the recent campaign was the fact that either he or Miller had served with virtually all of them; the two interviewers constituted an air-ground team.
Miller had commanded a rifle company in Vietnam and later was an adviser to the South Vietnamese Marine Corps during two tours. Greeley, who flew A-4s and served with BLT 2/26 during two Vietnam tours, was air officer for the Combined Arms Exercises at the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms, California, from January 1976 to March 1979. Units from battalions to brigades practiced fire-support coordination at Twentynine Palms before deploying to the Mediterranean or western Pacific. Greeley met Keys and Boomer as well as other commanders as they rotated through; he and Miller actually first met there.
Lessons learned and training in mobile warfare at the combat center contributed to Marine success in Kuwait, Greeley said, adding that the Marines “who got to practice at Twentynine Palms were the leaders in Desert Storm.”
Richard G. Latture
Attention Institute Members
Naval Institute members who receive Naval History in lieu of Proceedings should have received a 2016 Naval Institute ballot with this issue. Biographies of Board of Directors and Editorial Board candidates appear in the magazine on pages 68–70. Members who receive Proceedings will receive a ballot with their January issue.