Tag Archives: Operation Desert Storm

For Army Families, Emotions are the First Casualties of War

This story appeared on Page 1 of the Jan. 26, 1991 edition of the Racine Journal Times. It was based on observations during my second trip to Germany during the Persian Gulf War.

By Joseph Hanneman
Racine Journal Times

U.S. BASE, SOUTHERN GERMANY — Some of the first casualties of the Persian Gulf War were the emo­tions U.S. troops and families stationed in Europe, as they worried about loved ones in Saudi Arabia and expressed resentment toward anti-war protests back home.

In the first-week of combat between U.S.-led allies and Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi forces, one U.S. base in Germany displayed fear, anguish, anticipation and a host of other emotions.

People at the base clearly were in anguish. Many of them have relatives deployed in Saudi, as they call it here. Most of the deployed soldiers are in combat units.

Members of the Army’s VII Corps artillery units from this base are now at forward positions in Saudi Arabia. They would be in the thick of it if the United States starts a ground offensive into Kuwait.

“God Bless our Soldiers in Saudi Arabia,” proclaimed a banner inside one of the many post exchange shops on base. Employees wore yellow ribbons in remembrance.

At the U.S. Army hospital here, one nurse in the outpatient clinic said her husband was just deployed to the front lines.

Page 1 story from Jan. 26, 1991.

“I’ve just been pulling my hair out,” she said, adding that she has been glued to the TV set, watching Cable News Network’s coverage of the war. She said she fears a ground war is inevitable.

Discussion on the Army’s base shuttle bus turned to one active-duty soldier, who was supposed to be sent home last week because his unit was deactivated as the United States prepares to shut down some of its bases.

Three days before his plane was supposed to leave, he was told to report for duty in Saudi Arabia.

Fear has also become a staple in the daily routine.

The threat of terrorist attacks on U.S. bases is considered very real, and the military has employed many tools to reduce the risks.

Commercials on Armed Forces Radio and Television warn against speaking about military matters in public, for fear terrorists could be listening. It was reminiscent of the old war slogan, “Loose lips sink ships.”

Soldiers were also warned that Arab terrorists may try to buy military uniforms or identification cards.

Military families were told to venture off base sparingly, and try to blend into the German population as much as possible, lest they attract undue attention.

The Gulf War dominated global news in January 1991.

But the post commander appealed to parents not to pull their children from Defense Department schools on base. Many families here and elsewhere in Europe kept their children home in the wake of hostilities and terrorist threats.

Security was at a peak level, called “Threatcon Charlie.” That puts scores of heavily armed military police at every entrance, checking IDs and searching for bombs. At least two forms of photo identification were required, and every bag and package was searched.

There was growing resentment among soldiers and families as they watched news reports of anti-war protests at home.

Some soldiers who oppose Operation Desert Storm wondered aloud where the protesters were over the past 5 ½  months, when the United States built its war force in the Gulf. Others said it hurt knowing while they were overseas serving their country, some back home didn’t appreciate it.

The growing number of military reservists shipped here to fill in for regular troops sent to the Middle East complained of shabby treatment by regular Army personnel.

Some reservists said regular troops seem to resent the citizen-soldiers, and treat them accordingly. Reservists are performing a host of support duties, such as medical care, transportation and administration.

“The sacrifices we have made are not acknowledged by the regular army,” one reservist said. “They seem to consider us a burden.”

One thought was universal here — a desire for the war to end quickly. For military families, that will mean loved ones come back to Germany. For reservists, it will mean going home.

(Reporter Joseph Hanneman, who covers government and higher education for the Journal Times, travelled to Germany to visit his wife, Susan, an Army reservist called to active duty at the U.S. base in Germany.)

Feature image atop the story: A sculpture outside the museum at the former concentration camp near Dachau, Germany. Photo taken during my second trip to Germany in 1991.

©2020 The Hanneman Archive

Tension Grips Base in Germany as Persian Gulf War Erupts

This story appeared on Page 1 of the Jan. 18, 1991 edition of the Racine Journal Times. I filed the story from the U.S. Army base in Augsburg, Germany.

By Joseph Hanneman
Racine Journal Times

U.S. BASE, SOUTHERN GERMANY — Heavily armed military police patrolled in front of a U.S. Army base elementary school Thursday, with battle helmets on their heads and M-16 semiautomatic rifles slung over their shoulders.

It was an unmistakable sign that the United States had entered a war with Iraq, and that any U.S. citizen — even children — was a potential target for terrorists.

As Germany slept Wednesday night and early Thursday, U.S. and allied war planes screamed into Iraq as the offensive began to drive Saddam Hussein’s forces from Kuwait.

And overnight, this large military base in southern Germany transformed from a bustling community into an armed camp, where tension was high and fear so palpable you could almost taste it.

The Army was taking no chances amid terrorist threats against U.S. facilities around Europe and the Middle East.

At every housing facility, school and entrance to the base, military police were out in force. The grim-faced soldiers wore bullet-proof vests and carried high-powered weapons. The protective gas masks were clipped to belts at their sides.

An MP, his rifle on the seat next to him, rode the school bus with children as the vehicle darted off and on base, taking students home. This military base is home to more than 2,500 children.

And while children were being zealously protected, they also were not beyond suspicion. Youngsters returning home from school were required to show ID cards before entering housing complexes.

The author in the German countryside during one of two trips to Germany.

At each gate leading to the base, cars were stopped and searched. Guards looked in trunks and under hoods; they pushed large mirrors under vehicles to check the undercarriages for bombs.

No one, soldiers of all ranks included, escaped scrutiny.

At the entrance to the post exchange, 55-gallon drums filled with concrete were lined up to prevent cars or trucks loaded with explosives from reaching the building, which is usually filled with soldiers and family members.

Barbed razor wire was laid along the length of the sidewalk. Visitors had to pass through an armed checkpoint and were only allowed in the building with two forms of photo identification. Bags were searched.

Inside the PX, yellow ribbons hung fro the ceiling outside the cafeteria. Many soldiers from this base — including medical units and some of the heaviest armor units in the U.S. Army — were sent to Saudi Arabia as part of Operation Desert Shield, transformed Wednesday into Operation Desert Storm.

At the commissary (the Army’s version of the grocery store) aisles normally crowded on a weekday were deserted. Families, it seemed, preferred to stay home this day.

Area car dealerships that cater to U.S. soldiers closed early, and one U.S. club posted a sign that it would not be open Thursday, a day the sign labeled “Doom’s Day.”

Even the Burger King just outside the boundaries of the post was surrounded by armed guards. Only persons with military ID cards were allowed to eat.

At the U.S. Army Hospital, soldiers, nurses and visitors crowded around a television set in the internal medicine department, watching live cable news network accounts of the air attacks on Iraq and Kuwait.

Faces were stern. No one spoke. The expressions told of concern and relief that the operation had finally started.

Hospital officials refused to discuss the hospital’s role as a possible airlift treatment center for wounded soldiers. A reporter was told he could have access to medical staff only if he did not discuss Operation Desert Storm.

But it is widely expected here that the medium-size hospital would be pressed into service if casualties in the Middle East become heavy.

Soldiers said mobile hospital beds arrived in recent days to expand the facility’s capability.

And members of the 44th General Hospital, an Army reserve unit from Madison, began arriving here Thursday to fill in for medical staff shipped to the Middle East.

Bases all over Germany were setting up temporary hospital facilities to handle the wounded. German hospitals say they would assist with casualties. And the U.S. Veterans Administration was making ready 25,000 beds in the United States for possible casualties, according to local news accounts.

Elsewhere on base, soldiers listened to Armed Forces Radio for news about the start of the war. In between news dispatches, soldiers called in to request songs. Some were love songs for family members stationed in Saudi Arabia. Others, with titles like “We Will Rock You” and “Heads Will Roll” were dedicated to combat soldiers at the front.

(Joseph Hanneman is the state government/higher education reporter for the Journal Times. He flew to Germany last week to visit his wife, Susan, who is a reservist called to active duty there. Both live in Racine.)