30 Years Later Analysis in Combat — Desert Storm
Over the five months of Desert Shield and Desert Storm, 40 CNA field representatives supported and analyzed operations. Of those, 22 deployed with their commands to the Middle East, serving on Navy ships, Marine Corps forward bases, and Joint command centers. And after Kuwait had been liberated, these analysts returned to CNA headquarters to assemble the definitive, 18-volume reconstruction and account of lessons learned by the Navy and Marine Corps in the Gulf War.
Commander of Naval Forces in Desert Storm
(from Desert Storm at Sea)
Desert Storm Stories
The Plan in My Pocket
When I deployed as a CNA ﬁeld representative with I Marine Expeditionary Force for Desert Shield and Desert Storm, the commanding general asked me to focus on logistics issues. At one logistics meeting, the officers were discussing plans for the movement of enemy prisoners of war, or EPWs, once the ground war started. You've got to make sure you have enough food, accommodation and medical care for them. You also have to make sure they don't escape, so it's not a trivial plan to put in place. Read more
Just after New Year’s Day 1991, I headed to the Red Sea, where I was to conduct analysis to support commander of the Red Sea Battle Force aboard John F Kennedy. After a night in a hotel in Jeddah, I knew I had to get to a base in the morning to catch what’s called a COD ﬂight, or carrier onboard delivery — a small airplane that brings supplies out to carriers at sea.
The hotel clerk could speak English, so I asked him to tell the cab driver that I wanted to go all the way to the airﬁeld at Prince Abdullah Air Base; I didn’t want to be left at the gate of the base for a long walk. Apparently he told the cab driver not to stop at the gate but to keep going to the destination. And that’s what happened. Read more
Podcasts and Videos
In recognition of the 30th anniversary of Desert Storm, CNA Talks presents Analysis in Combat. In this mini-series we’ll be bringing you interviews with CNA field representatives, military officers and historians about the conflict and the impact of CNA's Field Program on the war effort.
Podcast highlights are featured in video interviews with CNA analysts who were supporting forces in theater during Desert Storm.
On our final episode, Admiral Arthur and Christine Fox sit down to discuss CNA's reconstruction of Operation Desert Storm. This effort examined all the data that CNA analysts gathered during the operation and looked for lessons on how the Navy could learn from it.
On this episode of Analysis in Combat, Admiral Stanley Arthur, Major General Harry Jenkins, and Dr. Marvin Pokrant tell the story of the amphibious landing that never was.
On this episode of Analysis in Combat, Bill Morgan and Mark Geis discuss how the Maritime Prepositioning Forces made the rapid deployment of the Marines to Saudi Arabia in August 1990 possible.
This episode of Analysis in Combat tells the stories of two CNA analysts who were assigned to command ships during Desert Storm. Robert Ward was stationed aboard USS John F. Kennedy, the flagship of the Red Sea Battle Force, commanded by Rear Admiral Mixson. And Steve Karppi was stationed aboard USS America, the flagship of Cruiser Destroyer Group Two, commanded by Rear Admiral Katz.
On this episode, Dr. Steve Wills, CNA’s resident naval historian, joins us to tell the story of the Navy's role in the first Gulf War and the impact of CNA's Field Program on the war effort.
By Larry Lewis and Don Boroughs
Desert Storm ushered in what would be called “the new American way of war.” Precision-guided munitions, combined with reconnaissance and battle networks, were pivotal technological developments that contributed to Desert Storm’s sweeping success. Ironically, these weapons and systems were developed for an adversary and battlefield nothing like the one faced in the Persian Gulf 30 years ago. The history of their development and their successful — and sometimes unsuccessful — use should inform the development of the next generation of defense systems.Read more
By Admiral Stanley R. Arthur, USN (Ret.)
The U.S. Navy achieved a lot of successes in Desert Storm. But I am a big believer that we should never miss an opportunity to relook at every decision and performance metric of man and machine so that we can do better the next time. In order to learn those lessons, I discovered early on in my career that it helps to use the right metrics and the right analytical partner.Read more
Desert Storm was a powerful learning experience for the Navy and the Marine Corps — and for the more than 20 CNA analysts who were there supporting their commands in the conflict. I know, because I was one of those analysts, serving eight months in the Arabian Desert with I Marine Expeditionary Force. When we returned to headquarters, CNA was tasked with a reconstruction and analysis of naval force operations during the war. The analysis filled 18 volumes. I’d like to highlight three takeaways from Desert Storm that can still inform defense planning in the era of great power competition. Read more
CNA Case Studies
Calculating Unseen Dangers
CNA analysts in the race against Persian Gulf mines
At the outset of Desert Storm, the U.S. Navy had plenty to worry about in Iraq’s high-tech arsenal. Saddam Hussein could launch Exocet missiles from Mirage fighters and Silkworm cruise missiles from land. But the most dangerous weapon threatening the U.S. fleet turned out to be one of the cheapest and least sophisticated: underwater mines. Mines had the potential to partially paralyze the Navy and would eventually blast two ships out of commission, injuring several sailors. So CNA field representatives supporting the naval forces were asked to calculate the risk to protect the mission — and save lives. Read more
FLOATING WAREHOUSES AND FLYING MARINES
CNA and Maritime Prepositioning satisfy the need for speed
In August of 1990, the Iraqi Army amassed on the border of Saudi Arabia. Many believed that Saddam Hussein — who had just barreled through Kuwait — would overrun the Saudi Kingdom before the United States could assemble an adequate deterrent force. So when President George H. W. Bush gave the order to send in the Marines, speed mattered.
Marine Corps Expeditionary Forces traveled via two methods. Some sailed the traditional way, in amphibious ships that embarked from North Carolina and Virginia. They reached the Persian Gulf more than five weeks later. But the 7th Marine Expeditionary Brigade of Camp Pendleton, California, arrived using a novel approach that had never been a tested in a time of war. And in just 12 days, they put more than 15,000 Marines, their tanks, helicopters and artillery, into position and ready for combat. Read more
News and Information
- 'Most Successful War of the 20th Century:' What the US Did Right in Desert Storm, Military.com, January 18, 2021, Richard Sisk
- Panel: First Gulf War Proved the Value of the Reserve Force, Destructive Power of Simple Weapons, USNI News, January 12, 2021, John Grady
- Lessons from Desert Storm, 30 Years Later, Media Release, January 15, 2021
- Fact Sheet: Desert Storm Firsts: Desert Storm was the first major war in a generation for the U.S. military. The Gulf War demonstrated a number of important firsts.