25th Anniversary of the Persian Gulf War

[This blog post comes from Matthew Peek, Military Collection Archivist for the State Archives of North Carolina.]

Oil fields and refineries still burning in Kuwait, Frederick E. Stoehr Papers, Military Collection, State Archives of North Carolina

Frederick E. Stoehr of Carolina Shores, North Carolina, worked in Kuwait in 1992 as an engineer with a task force from Foster Wheeler, an international engineering and construction company, to rebuild three heavily damaged oil refineries in the kingdom after they had been set on fire during the Persian Gulf War by Iraqi military forces. Stoehr took photographs, such as this one, of the oil fields and refineries still burning in Kuwait. Frederick E. Stoehr Papers, Military Collection, State Archives of North Carolina.

January 16-17, 2016, marks the 25th anniversary of the beginning of Operation Desert Storm, part of what we now call the Persian Gulf War. The Persian Gulf War began on August 2, 1990, when the nation of Iraq invaded the kingdom of Kuwait. Iraq’s leader Saddam Hussein initiated the invasion and occupation of Kuwait with the hopes of acquiring the nation’s large oil reserves, canceling a large debt Iraq owed Kuwait, and expanding Iraqi power in the region. On August 3, 1990, the United Nations Security Council issued a call for the invading Iraq to withdraw from Kuwait. After Iraq annexed Kuwait as part of its country on August 8, 1990, Iraq’s threat to the world’s largest oil producer—Saudi Arabia—led ultimately to the United Nations authorizing on November 29, 1990, use of force by “all means necessary” after January 15, 1991, to expel Iraq from Kuwait. The military buildup for a potential armed conflict by a coalition of 700,000 troops from 39 countries became known as Operation Desert Shield (though there are variations in the total number of troops involved). About 540,000 of these troops were from the United States, and it is reported around 75,000 service members from North Carolina military installations served during the war period. Iraq grew its occupying army in Kuwait to about 300,000 troops.

After the January 15, 1991, deadline for Iraqi troop withdrawals from Kuwait passed without any compliance, United States President George H. W. Bush announced on January 16, 1991, the start of Operation Desert Storm, intended to expel occupying Iraqi forces from Kuwait. Kuwait was liberated on February 27, 1991. When Iraqi troops withdrew from Kuwait at the end of the war, they set fire in Kuwait to more than 600 oil wells and pools of spilled oil through explosive charges and other means. The sky throughout the country was filled with thick black smoke that blocked out visibility all around as coalition troops moved in. The war ended officially on February 28, 1991, when President Bush declared a cease-fire. Iraq accepted the terms of the United Nations cease-fire agreement on April 6, 1991. There were 383 U.S. fatalities in the Persian Gulf War, of which there were 17 who were from North Carolina.

Engineers and construction workers attempting to repair refineries in Kuwait amidst burning oil fields and refineries in 1992

Another image of engineers and construction workers attempting to repair refineries in Kuwait amidst burning oil fields and refineries in 1992. Frederick E. Stoehr Papers, Military Collection, State Archives of North Carolina

The Military Collection at the State Archives of North Carolina would like to honor those North Carolinian military service personnel who served in the Persian Gulf War and those 17 North Carolinians who gave their lives in the conflict. We work to preserve the memory and service history of the state’s recent veterans through conducting oral history interviews with Persian Gulf veterans and collecting records from the war period. In order to commemorate our veterans’ service, we use original materials to demonstrate the different ways in which military service and conflict has impacted the service member, North Carolina, the United States, and the world. In order to help us have enough materials to develop educational materials and support historical research, we ask that if you are a Persian Gulf War-era veteran and have any original Persian Gulf War photographs, documents, maps, training manuals, or other archival materials, or would like to conduct an oral history interview about your service in the war, please contact the Military Collection at 919-807-7314, email at matthew.peek@ncdcr.gov, or visit our webpage at http://archives.ncdcr.gov/Public/Collections/Non-Government/Military-Collections to learn more about the Military Collection. We thank you again for your service.