Battle of Norfolk; 26 years ago today

| February 27, 2017

The Battle of Norfolk was the cousin of the Battle of 73 Easting. Objective Norfolk was just the other side of that invisible line in the sand. Wiki says of that battle;

The Battle of Norfolk has been recognized by some sources as the second largest tank battle in American history and the largest tank battle of the 1st Gulf War. No fewer than 12 divisions participated in the Battle of Norfolk along with multiple brigades and elements of a regiment. American and British forces destroyed approximately 750 Iraqi tanks and hundreds of other types of combat vehicles.

Task Force 1-41 passed through elements of the 2d ACR at about 30 minutes after midnight in total darkness after a day-long march to get to the battle. The horizon in front of 2/2 Cav was dotted with burning armored vehicles, hundreds of Iraqi prisoners sat in tiny groups waving white flags so they wouldn’t get shot by the advancing armored vehicles. We could make out them and their flags through our thermal optics. As soon as we passed through the Cav’s vehicles, it became a 360-degree battle. Bravo Company’s commander became disoriented and led a platoon diagonally across the battlefield where they were mistaken for Iraqi armor by M1 gunners who immediately destroyed three of the Bradleys. Remarkably, only six of that 35-member platoon were killed.

The rest of Task Force 1-41 watched the sun come up six miles from where they had passed through 2/2 Cav’s line.

The two attacking brigades of the U.S. 1st Infantry Division, including the 3rd Brigade of the 2nd Armored Division, were positioned along the 75 Easting, 2,000 meters east of 73 Easting. The Brigades clashed with the Iraqi Tawakalna Division of the Republican Guard, including the 37th Brigade of the 12th Iraqi Armored Division. The 12th Iraqi Armored Division would be destroyed during this engagement. A total of 80 Iraqi armored vehicles would be destroyed in the process.

4-3 FA Battalion, 2nd Armored Division(FWD) conducts artillery strikes on Iraqi positions during the 1st Gulf War. 4-3 FA was the primary fire support battalion for Task Force 1-41 during the 1st Gulf War, February 1991.

British Army Challenger 1 main battle tank during Operation Desert Storm. The Challenger proved to be a deadly opponent at the Battle of Norfolk.

With air support from the 2nd Battalion, 1st Aviation’s attack helicopters and fire support from both the 4-3 FA Battalion and the 210th Field Artillery Brigade preventing Iraqi artillery from interfering, the U.S. 1st Infantry Division conducted a passage of the 2nd ACR’s lines. In the following three hours the U.S. 1st Infantry Division methodically crossed the 6.2 miles (10.0 km) of Objective Norfolk, destroying Iraqi tanks, trucks, and infantry through thick fog. The 3rd Brigade of the 2nd Armored Division destroyed 60 Iraqi tanks and 35 AFVs along the IPSA pipeline. In the thick of the fog of war, U.S. units became mixed with Iraqi units dispersed throughout the desert. This confusion led to some friendly fire incidents.

By dawn, the U.S. 1st Infantry Division controlled Objective Norfolk and the Tawakalna Mechanized Infantry Division had ceased to exist as a fighting force. A total of eleven Iraqi divisions were destroyed. American casualties were six soldiers killed (all but one by friendly fire) and 25 wounded.

We reconsolidated after a sleepless night and set out for Kuwait from there. Eventually, we began running out of fuel and the whole Brigade lagered up the night of the 27th and waited for the fuelers – and we got our first real sleep since we’d crossed into Iraq three days before only because our fuel tanks were nearly empty. I laid on top of our TOW missile launcher while I waited for the troops to get their own sleeping gear situated and woke up with the sun in my face the next morning with a few hours left before the ceasefire so we mounted up and moved out.

As the ceasefire deadline approached, we engaged with remnants of the Iraqi Army left behind by their leadership (which had fled back to Iraq on the nearby Highway One – the Highway of Death) and at 0800 local time, we turned left and stopped firing.

Task Force 1-41 was awarded a Valorous Unit Citation which read;

For extraordinary heroism in action against an armed enemy. Task Force 1-41 was the first coalition force to breach the Saudi Arabian border on 15 February 1991 and conduct ground combat operations in Iraq engaging in direct and indirect fire fights with the enemy on 17 February 1991. The Task Force was part of the VII Corps main attack beginning 24 February 1991 as it conducted a forward passage through 1st Infantry Division elements and began a mission to clear a zone which again resulted in enemy contact. On 26 February, following a 60 kilometer road march, the Task Force immediately engaged in ground combat with armored and dismounted enemy of brigade size. For six hours it was involved in continuous combat with a tenacious and determined enemy occupying extremely well prepared and heavily fortified bunkers. Task Force infantry elements dismounted and engaged the enemy in numerous short range fire fights while methodically clearing the extensive bunker complex. By morning the Task Force had systematically reduced the entrenched enemy positions in zone. Continuing as part of the VII Corps attack the Task Force travelled 85 kilometers in less than 24 hours while engaging at short range multiple, dug in enemy tanks in ambush positions. The Task Force reached its final objective 28 February 1991 with a push which continued the destruction of enemy armored vehicles. During the entire ground campaign, involving their attack through Iraq into Kuwait, Task Force 1-41 travelled over 200 Kilometers in 72 hours and destroyed 65 armored vehicles and 10 artillery pieces, while capturing over 300 enemy prisoners.

Category: Historical

Comments (16)

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  1. Thunderstixx says:

    It was when you guys came marching home to parades and such that we Vietnam Era and moreso guys that served in Vietnam were finally accepted as Veterans and were finally proud to say that we had given part of our life to our country.
    That was a real sea change in the attitudes of Americans and it was palpable for those that stood where we stood.
    Prior to that I rarely told anyone that I was a Veteran and when I did I always got the sideways glance wondering exactly what I did that turned me into a lousy human being and quite possibly a baby killer or drug addict….
    So thank you for bringing us home with you, your work enabled us to take a good long look at ourselves and not be ashamed of what we were…
    And this is no shit…

    • OC says:


    • Cacti35 says:

      They made us old Vietnam veterans feel damned proud! I remember being glued to the news watching this whole thing unfold. It did my heart good to see the American people cheering for the troops! Thanks Jonn!

    • Michael Headrick says:

      As a Gulf war 1 vet I always tell people to thank those before me especially the Nam vets because of the treatment when returning home from war. We were treated as heroes upon our return and I never ever felt accepting of that word.

  2. OWB says:

    Y’all did good. Very good.

  3. rb325th says:

    To those lost, may they never be forgotten. To those who came home, Welcome Home and thank you.
    We can never say that enough to, and of those who have gone to war for our Nation.

  4. Bill says:

    Longest night of my life. Platoon in B co had four soldiers killed

    • Jonn Lilyea says:

      Bill’s platoon was shot up by M1s that couldn’t properly identify armored vehicles. He lost three Bradleys when his company commander led his platoon into the tanks’ lanes of fire.

  5. Sapper3307 says:

    Starting to feel old.

  6. Wilted Willy says:

    It seems like that was just last week? Now I really feel old! How fast time flies, a big BZ to all of you that were there, I’m so glad you came home as heroes! It is certainly well deserved. I watched the coverage of that all night on FOX. It seems like only yesterday……………

  7. Ex-PH2 says:

    All of the Gulf War was on C-Span. They have their faults, but it was entirely unedited stuff, no commentary. It was almost hypnotic, like watching a legend unfold right in front of me.
    I’m gland so many people were able to come home.

    • NavyEODguy says:

      Yep. As a Navy EOD Tech, I got a lot of OOB info because SFB sadam had about every network in the world shooting video of him and his pompous krewe doing “show and tells” of most of their stuff.

      That was one way we found out they had “more modern” sea mines rather than what we knew they had; like the 2,000 pound ship killer from the former USSR, and multi-sensory bottom mines from Italy.

  8. COB6 says:

    When I think of that fight I always recall it as some psychedelic, like a LSD trip gone bad, event. Imagine doing close quarters battle with hundreds of tanks and armored Infantry. When that much firepower manages to get interspersed with each other bad things will happen.

    I always remember that night when some young lad brags about making a tank shot at 2 miles. We were killing armored vehicles at 50 yards!

    Patton’s famous quote certainly applied; “Anything you do on a battlefield can get you killed, especially doing nothing”

  9. Chip says:

    I have not thought about this as much as I thought I would.