URGENT Marines Encounter Resistance in Kuwait
WITH U.S. MARINES ADVANCING INTO KUWAIT (AP) _ The U.S. Marines began their largest operation since World War II as they drove into Kuwait early Sunday and within 2 1/2 hours punched through the first Iraqi defenses.
The attack commenced at 5:30 a.m. (9:30 p.m. EST Saturday) under rainy skies and was preceded by nightlong artillery, rocket and air strikes.
There were no initial reports of either Iraqi or American casualties, but 2nd Marine Division spokesman Lt. Col. Jan Huly said three Marine tanks were damaged and other elements were facing mines and Iraqi fire.
He said the Marines had encountered anti-personnel, anti-tank and possibly some chemical mines nine miles from the Saudi Arabian border.
″Based on initial indications we are cautiously optimistic,″ Huly said. ″But we don’t have the full picture, we just have pieces of the puzzle. But we haven’t had any surprises.″
Huly said Iraqi artillery fire was raining on the Marines as they attempted to breach the barriers, but he added that no chemical shells or bombs had been used in the opening phases of the battle.
Huly did not specify the intensity of Iraqi fire - which also included close-range weapons - but said, ″It probably seemed like a lot if you were under it.″
The Marines were taking prisoners along their route of attack and expected a large number of others to surrender. But Huly added: ″They’re fighting. They’re resisting.″
He said he expected resistance to increase as the Marines punched deeper into Kuwait, where Baghdad has deployed some of its better troops, including the elite Republican Guard.
Huly described the morale of the prisoners taken so far as very low. ″Their morale is about boot-top level. They have none.″
According to Marine accounts, infantrymen backed by tanks began the attack from inside the no-man’s land between the defensive sand walls, or berms, built by the Saudis and Iraqis. The thrust was in a northeasterly direction.
At about 6 a.m., half an hour after the invasion began, the Marines ran into the first mines, barbed wire and other obstacles of the Iraqi defenses.
Huly said mine plows and explosive charges were used to clear lanes through the Iraqi barriers.
Elements of the attacking forces broke through the double defense lines despite encountering mines and established defensive positions on the other side.
But two other columns bogged down midway between the two barriers, partly because of a heavy concentration of mines.
Huly said the troops went into battle wearing full chemical protection gear, which includes a full suit, gas masks and even boots and gloves. Troops have also been taking anti-nerve gas and anti-antrax pills for several days.
Smoke continued to pour out of the Umm Qadir oilfield, which was allegedly set ablaze earlier in the war by Iraqi forces. But Huly said it posed no problems for the assault force.
″They can see well enough to shoot at us, and we can see well enough to shoot at them,″ Huly said.
The spokesman also played down the effects of a rainstorm that pelted the desert just as the Marines launched their invastion. The warplanes continued to pour in supporting fire under a heavy cloud cover.