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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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George Bush Library hosts veterans of historic battle

The 25th anniversary of the Battle of 73 Easting — a defining moment in Operation Desert Storm — was commemorated Thursday night by a panel of retired colonels and generals.

The event was held at the Annenberg Presidential Conference Center and directed by the George Bush Presidential Library. The panel was moderated by Lieutenant Colonel Dan Holder and consisted of five colonels, lieutenants, and generals that had direct involvement in the battle.

The panelists who presented their views and experiences were part of the Second Armored Cavalry Regiment in charge of providing reconnaissance in the Iraqi desert for the larger VII Corps, a massive unit that consisted of 1500 tanks. The Battle of 73 Easting is considered the decisive battle that allowed United States to keep Iraqi forces from entering Kuwait.

Colonel Don Holder assisted in commanding the Second Armored Cavalry and said United States forces defied expectations.

“Initially, forces were expected to take heavy losses of at least more than 50 percent of its forces in that battle,” Holder said. “The battle was over in half an hour.”

Holder described the the tactics of the personnel in the operation, which took place against the Republican Guard of Iraq. Holder said the offensive was spearheaded by Eagle Troop, the leading troop in the 2nd ACR.

Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster commanded Eagle Troop and said the weather patterns, such as nighttime rain showers, played a large role in the battle.

“What we all seem to remember about that night is the lack of visibility, but then we could see the enemy’s position, and we were able to deliver a strong blow to the enemy,” McMaster said. “We destroyed 50 enemy tanks, hundreds of infantrymen, and yet we received no casualties.”

McMaster said the most prominent thing he took from the battle was the human connection his team formed.

“There is a psychological strength,” said McMaster. “It comes from your faith in your team and your leaders. That’s what suppresses fear. Our group was bound together by strong bonds of respect and affection.”

Following McMaster’s account, Lieutenant Tim Gauthier told his side of the story by describing his most vivid memory of the confrontation.

“I remember my driver stopped. I popped out of the hatch, and there was a T-72 a couple of hundred yards away,” Gauthier said. “Meaning if he had a better aim, I would not be here today.”

Gauthier said one of the things that stayed with him was a lesson of adaptability. Holder agreed and compared the Iraqi landscape to the troops’ previous post in Germany.

“What you have to know is that this regiment had no previous experience,” Gauthier said. “We had education in the classroom, but all commanders were aware that we were dealing with an inexperienced force.”

The testimony of Michael Rhodes followed. Rhodes was a crewman in in Eagle Troop’s Third Platoon who was en route when the battle began. Even before the action started, Rhodes says he already had a feeling beforehand.

“You could feel this energy in the atmosphere — there [was] something coming,” Rhodes said.

Rhodes didn’t arrive at the site of the battle until it was already over and recalled molten parts of armored vehicles that had been destroyed and burnt hair of bodies of the enemy in the aftermath. Rhodes said these encounters taught him the ugly side of war, but he was nonetheless proud to be a part of his team.

“My takeaway of the battle was that I was part of an army, but I was part of a unit,” Rhodes said. “I remember the camaraderie.”
The Battle of 73 Easting was one of the most closely documented fights in Desert Storm and is still referred to in military classes today.

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