The Battle of Al Busayyah
The Battle of Al Busayyah
The IRON SOLDIERS’ First Encounter in Iraq
The following is an excerpt from the newly published book; The Gulf War Chronicles by Richard S. Lowry.
At 0630 on Tuesday, February 26, 1991 , the 2d Brigade of the 1st Armored Division opened the assault on Al Busayyah. In preparation for the attack, Division artillery had been pounding the town all night. Then at 0635, Team Gator mounted a small ridge and paused momentarily. Team Gator, commanded by Captain Dave Bither, was the lead element of Lieutenant Colonel Mike McGee’s 6-6 Infantry Battalion. Moments later, the entire Battalion rolled over the ridge. One more ridge lay between the "Iron Soldiers" and the Iraqis in Al Busayyah. 2-70 Armor rolled into position on 6-6′s left flank. Open desert stretched out to the horizon, on 6-6′s right flank. Over a hundred armored vehicles ground to a halt at the face of the final ridge. The Iron Soldiers could see the town, some four kilometers in front of them.
Al Busayyah was a critical crossroads and an Iraqi Army stronghold. The town consisted of forty to fifty buildings, most located along one main north-south road. A reinforced Iraqi commando battalion defended Al Busayyah. The town was heavily fortified with rooftop, sandbagged, machine gun nests and fighting positions. Eleven Iraqi tanks and twelve other armored vehicles were dug-in deeply at strategic positions in, and around, the town. Trenchlines stretched fifteen hundred meters south of town, radiating out to perimeter strong points.
2-70 Armor and 6-6 Infantry rolled forward over the ridge. Both battalions ground methodically forward on line. Team Gator was on the point of the spear. Bither’s lead tanks headed straight for one of the more prominent defensive positions?two thousand meters ahead. Team Gator rolled forward and the Iraqi defenses grew closer?fifteen hundred meters?fourteen hundred meters. Each M1 gunner carefully selected and locked on to his target?thirteen hundred meters?twelve hundred meters. This was it. The Iron Soldiers were going into battle. Each man nervously awaited the first blow. The Iraqi defenders opened fire on the advancing tanks and Bradleys with heavy machine guns. Sparks flew as the rounds bounced harmlessly off the American armored vehicles like bbs hitting an oil drum.
For a moment the scene before their eyes mesmerized the Iron Soldiers. Captain Bither quickly broke the spell. He ordered his mortar teams to cover the battlefield with smoke, then ordered his men to "return fire." The company’s mortars responded immediately and dumped smoke rounds right on top of the forward Iraqi positions. Bither’s men snapped out of the trance induced by first contact with the enemy and all the advancing vehicles opened fire with their full force. Gator’s M1s pounded the Iraqi bunkers with their main guns and the Bradley gunners raked the enemy lines with machine gun fire.
M1A1 Abrams Tank
Then came the excited cry from the tank platoon leader on the left flank. "Gator Six, this is White Six! Tanks, we got tanks! Over!"
Bither calmly responded, "White Six, this is Gator Six. Kill them. Out."
White Six had spotted two T-55 tanks and an Iraqi armored car, dug in some twenty-two hundred meters away. Over a dozen Abrams gunners that were all itching for their first tank-kill had spotted the unfortunate Iraqis. Within seconds, a dozen rounds slammed into the three vehicles, turning them into a tangled mess of blood and metal. Team Gator ground forward killing more tanks, armored vehicles, and bunkers.
The Iraqis continued to fight. The Iraqi tanks fired on the advancing juggernaut. Machine gun fire bounced off the American vehicles. Team Gator continued to advance, destroying everything in its path. Once the Iraqi tanks were destroyed, the only real threat to the American vehicles were RPG teams. All of the Iron soldiers scanned the battlefield and as soon as an RPG team would pop up, they would be mowed down by machine gun fire. The Iraqis managed to get off a few shots, but they all missed. 2-70 and 6-6 slammed through the outer defenses.
Around two kilometers from Busayyah, 2-70 turned to skirt the town on the left, while 6-6 swept around the right side of town. Both battalions swept north past the buildings, firing at anything and everything in the Iraqi position.
Once past the town, 2-70 continued north into Iraq . 6-6 stopped two kilometers north of the town and regrouped for the assault on Al Busayyah. Mike Ferris and Team Bandit remained in position north of town. The Team’s eight M1s and four Bradleys blocked a retreat from Al Busayyah. The rest of the battalion strung itself out along the east side of town. At 1100, Captain Dane Tkacs led the battalion Engineers in the final assault on the town. A Combat Engineer Vehicle (CEV), two Armored Combat Earthmovers (ACEs), and five Bradleys attacked from the south. The CEV and ACEs rolled into town, in the center of Main Street , like desperados in the Wild West. The CEV knocked over buildings and destroyed enemy vehicles with its 165-mm gun. The ACEs rolled over and crushed everything in their path and the Bradleys shot at anything that moved. They rolled north for seven hundred meters. At the north end of town they turned around and headed south, continuing the havoc.
6-6 Infantry completely demolished the town. No Iraqis were left alive. While 2d Brigade was attacking Busayyah, the 3d Brigade had attacked remnants of the Iraqi 26th Infantry Division, southeast of Busayyah. Farther to the east of the Iron Soldiers, the 3d Armored Division attacked what was left of the Iraqi 26th Infantry Division. By noon Iraq ‘s 26th Infantry Division was decimated. The victorious soldiers had little time to reflect on the morning’s events. They quickly refueled and rearmed, turned and raced north to catch up with the rest of the corps. This battle had broken the ice, but the Republican Guard still lie ahead, waiting for the American tankers.
Combat Engineer Vehicle ? CEV
Richard S. Lowry, author of The Gulf War Chronicles, (see: www.gwchronicles.com) is currently working on his next book, Marines in the Garden of Eden . It will tell the complete story of Task Force Tarawa’s week-long battle for An Nasiriyah.