DEPARTMENT OF THE ARMY
US ARMY CENTER OF MILITARY HISTORY
WASHINGTON, D. C.
OPERATIONS DESERT SHIELD AND DESERT STORM
Oral History Interview
DSIT C 082
Dr. Robert K. Wright, Jr.
Historian, XVIII Airborne Corps
Interview Conducted 13 December 1991 at Building 159, Southeast Federal Center, Washington, D.C.
Interviewer: Mr. Stephen Everett
OPERATIONS DESERT SHIELD AND DESERT STORM
7 August 1990 - 15 May 1991
Oral History Interview DSIT C 082
MR. EVERETT: This is a DESERT SHIELD/DESERT STORM interview with Dr. Robert K. Wright, Jr., who is currently assigned to CMH's [Center of Military History's] Field and International Division.
Dr. Wright has a long association with the Army's historical community. After completing his undergraduate work at [the College of the] Holy Cross, Dr. Wright served with the Army as an RTO [radio-teletype operator] in Heidelberg [i.e., Helmstedt, Federal Republic of Germany] and later as an NCO [noncommissioned officer] in the 18th Military History Detachment, Republic of Vietnam. Dr. Wright's postgraduate work was completed at [the College of] William and Mary. He worked at CMH for a number of years before taking over as XVIII Airborne Corps Historian in [June] 1989. Dr. Wright returned to CMH in November of 1991 and is the author of numerous books and articles on military history.
Today's date is 13 December 1991. The interviewer is Mr. Stephen Everett, Oral History Activity, US Army Center of Military History.
[There are] a couple of things I'd like to add to the bio. MAJ Wright--or Dr. Wright--is also a major in the Virginia Army National Guard and commander of the 116th Military History Detachment, and covered the XVIII Airborne Corps activities in Panama during [Operation] JUST CAUSE.
Please state your full name and duty positions held during Operations DESERT SHIELD and DESERT STORM.
DR. WRIGHT: Robert Kenneth Wright, Jr.; ***-**-****. I was XVIII Airborne Corps Historian during both operations, and additionally commander of the 116th Military History Detachment from 6 ... effectively, for the Corps, from 6 December 1990 until July 21st, which is the period ... July ... yeah, July 21st, 1991, which is when we were on active duty.1
MR. EVERETT: When and how did you first learn of the XVIII Airborne Corps deployment?
DR. WRIGHT: Ah. In reviewing the diary [that] I kept, Monday, August 7th, . When I reported to work at Fort Bragg, [North Carolina], I had a message that the G-3 Plans Chief at Corps Headquarters wanted to talk to me. I had just gotten in--my family had never moved to North Carolina, so I had gotten into my apartment very early that morning (about 1:30 in the morning), so I was a little foggy coming in to work. Saw the message; before I could even call up to see what they wanted, I got called over to my immediate supervisor [COL Ron Clegg] who was the Director of Plans, Training and Mobilization, and told that Corps was deploying to the Persian Gulf, that I would be deployed with the Corps, and that I needed to go on up to Corps Headquarters to get read in on the operation. This is one full day before there was any public notification.
So I went up, conferred with the Plans Chief, who is ... at that time was LTC Chuck Burgdorf. Got read in on the operation; got told that explicitly as a lesson-learned from how we had covered Operation JUST CAUSE that I had been included in the short list of people to be briefed on the details of the operation. And that at this point we were assuming that we would replicate the working arrangement that we had improvised during JUST CAUSE, which was that the historian would work under the immediate supervision of the Plans Cell, so that I could give them rather immediate feed back. I was told that I should expect to leave for theater probably on the following Sunday, which would have been what, another six days?
I then went and discussed the deployment with the then G-3 of the Corps, COL Frank Akers, and with the then Corps Chief of Staff, BG Edison Scholes. Both of them confirmed intent to deploy me; both of them told me that I could start trying to bring on individuals onto active duty to get them deployed; and [both] asked me to start working up a master plan for how I envisioned performing the coverage.
Then I went down [to the basement] and had a conference with the Corps Public Affairs Officer, LTC Ned Longsworth, with whom I had a very close working relationship both in garrison and on JUST CAUSE. And we basically reviewed the bidding on who would do what, and decided that we would repeat the arrangement that we had in JUST CAUSE, which is that I would be responsible for all the historical record photography whether done by my own assets or by any of the public affairs photographers--which at that point was basically anticipated to be the Corps' 49th Public Affairs Detachment. Again, this is how we had done it in Panama.
At that point I returned [to my office in Building AT-3060], was told by the DPT that I would be going over [to the Directorate of Reserve Components] as soon as public announcement was made to start trying to get activated as ... called to active duty as an individual. [I was told] that I was responsible for starting to show up in uniform, not in civilian clothes.
I tried at that point to do my best to--without breaching operational security--contact the Center of Military History and get them aware that something might be going down. So at that point I called my contact at the Center, which was Mr. Stephen Everett in the Oral History Activity, and in essence told him to start watching television.
The next day, which is the 8th [of August], the President went on TV, made the public announcement ... . Our Corps Assault C[ommand] P[ost] had already flown out, headed up by BG Scholes. On the 8th I received an augmentation, because my office normally had been just myself. I was augmented with two enlisted photographers out of the Post Photo Lab, and we started on that day conducting the photographic coverage missions. I went over, put in a request for orders to get activated--both myself and my driver from the 116th Military History Detachment [who] at that time was PFC John Freund who was an artist by civilian training--in an attempt to get his skills as a driver, as an artist and whatnot.
Started doing coordination. Multiple phone calls that day to Steve Everett at CMH and to the FORSCOM [US Army Forces Command] historian, Mr. Bill Stacy; basically trying to get everybody on board that what we were going to do was a "product improved" version of the coverage plan that we had ad-hoc'd up for JUST CAUSE--that had been quite successful. And then in talking to Mr. Stacy, [the] general discussion at that point and revolved about how things would be orchestrated on a theater-wide basis, which was--at that point in time, we were assuming that Mr. Stacy would deploy as the theater historian--that we would turn to the military history detachment community and try to replicate a field exercise we had just accomplished [between the] 15th to 29th of July out at the National Training Center ... wherein we put three detachments together as a pool and that brought Mr. Stacy to act as the theater historian. And we covered a training rotation of the 24th Infantry Division's roundout 48th Brigade ... Infantry Brigade.
So that meant that the 44th, the active duty detachment, would deploy at the theater level; that I would deploy in my capacity as the Corps Historian; and that we would pull in at the very least the Wisconsin National Guard's 132d Military History Detachment, commanded by MAJ Norm Johnson, and then probably the North Carolina National Guard's 130th Military History Detachment, commanded by MAJ Dennis Levin, and that would probably be--those three, the 116th, the 132d and the 130th--would constitute the corps coverage team and the 44th would be the echelons above corps.
I briefed that on the 8th to both COL Akers and LTC Burgdorf and then by the end of that day things started "going to hell in a hand basket". They immediately ran into the problem of activating reserve component personnel, started getting told "oh, geez, we can't do anything about that, it takes National Command Authority." And things just started really getting slammed into a very complicated nut roll that would take months to get unscrambled. And in the interim morale started going to "hell in a hand basket" for everybody that was involved.
I started spending my time split between worrying about covering the deployment and monitoring the deployment from within the ... what we call the EOC (Emergency Operations Center) at Corps Headquarters. And trying to hand off garrison type responsibilities to the 82d Airborne Division Museum and trying to just clean things up. I pretty much suspended working on Operation JUST CAUSE because I had one battalion left to interview from that and unfortunately that battalion, the 4th Battalion of the 325th Infantry, turned out to be DRF-1 (Division Ready Force 1), and was the lead battalion of the 82d to take off for the Gulf. So my interviews that I had scheduled with them never were executed. And I spent from early August until mid-October in a constant wait ... day-to-day "are you going, aren't you going; are we going to do anything, aren't we going to do anything?" sort of chaos ... of absence of guidance from the top that became very, very disruptive. Particularly after the Corps Main Command Post deployed at the very end of August. That reduced Fort Bragg back to garrison status and at that point my credibility that I had spent a year-and-a-half building for our program pretty much had been severely eroded.
MR. EVERETT: What was the atmosphere around the XVIII Airborne Corps Headquarters during the early phases of the deployments and, if you can, start describing methods used by the XVIII Airborne Corps to track the deployments in the EOC.
DR. WRIGHT: From my position, the first thing that struck me was [that] in JUST CAUSE we had a typical contingency operation that XVIII Airborne Corps is configured for, a relatively small force. We deployed initially one brigade out of the 82d and drew in then subsequently an MP [Military Police] brigade and the bulk of the 7th Infantry Division to augment. But again a relatively small 25,000-man total force done very quickly; done as in-and-out--clean in-and-out--type of operation. We also had a Corps staff and command group that really were at the--coming up on the very end of their tours. So they had been together for a long time, very tightly bonded staff.
As I walked into the first of the twice-a-day shift change briefings for DESERT STORM (which was on the 8th). I walked into the room, looked around and recognized about three faces in the room. We had undergone an almost wholesale personnel swap-out which made things less smooth than they probably should have been. In contrast to JUST CAUSE, we were just in the start of a personnel rotation cycle so things were much rougher.
The second factor was that in JUST CAUSE and in all of our true contingencies, Corps is the command and control headquarters. We really aren't responsible to anybody else. We have priority on everything and we move at our tempo, which is a very, very high tempo. DESERT STORM came up. A): we were not first priority throughout early August. The Air Force was first priority to move to get the air cap [combat air patrol] up and things like that. And we were literally getting only those aircraft that the Air Force couldn't use. So our deployment did not go according to a clean script. It was reactive. Plus, we were not the big players in town. There were two operational echelons over our heads, neither of whom were geared to work at anything resembling high speed and that became overwhelmingly frustrating for the Corps staff. As I just sat there a watched them they were getting almost to the point of ulcers trying to deal with CENTCOM [US Central Command] and Third Army/FORSCOM on getting anything done.
We also had a deployment that was for the first time in the history of XVIII Airborne Corps, the Corps going--not just a tiny piece of it but the whole Corps. And we really weren't good at that.
MR. EVERETT: You may want to outline what major elements were assigned to the Corps. The 82d.
DR. WRIGHT: As it worked out ... as we got some clearer guidance on what the force structure would be, the Corps was to consist of: the 82d Airborne Division, 101st Airborne Division, 24th Infantry Division (Mechanized), which are our normal divisions. And then we also normally had a light infantry division--depending on which scenario we were talking about at any given time--that ... which division filled that slot could change. But instead of the light division for this scenario, we were then given 1st Cavalry Division, which was an armored division out of III Corps. So that was our combat troops. We also were given the 3d Armored Cavalry Regiment from III Corps, a type unit we did not have normally.
So that was a 4 1/3 division combat force plus our usual array of corps support troops: the 1st Support Command (called COSCOM), the 35th Signal Brigade, the 16th Military Police Brigade, the 525th Military Intelligence Brigade, the 20th Engineer Brigade. [The] 11th Air Defense Artillery Brigade was a difficult call at any given time as to did it belong to us, like it did normally in peacetime, or did it really ... had it been scarfed off to go to ARCENT [US Army Central Command, that is Third Army], so we were never really sure on them early on.
We also had a plus and a minus. We had just--while I had been out at National Training Center the Corps staff and the major subordinate divisions had gone through a command post exercise called ... hoo, boy, I'm trying to remember what the name of that exercise was ... INTERNAL LOOK. It was called Exercise INTERNAL LOOK and it turned out to be exactly the same war scenario that was actually called for in DESERT SHIELD. And that was caused by the fact that they had just rewritten that plan to call it--boy I can't even remember--1002-90.
So they had just played that plan out, so we thought that would give us a running head start. And it turned out to be a major problem because the first thing that happened was [that] the plan had a force structure trace that included reserve component units. We asked for our trace to be activated; we got told that "no that's a National Command Authority thing, and we can't ask that, so go ahead and start replacing units" (reserve component units with active duty units from other commands, other corps and whatnot). And it became a nightmare trying to sort that stuff out.
And then trying to orchestrate the troop flow using internal planning resources became extremely difficult. We don't normally do business with trying to move 120,000 people. So the early-on phase that I monitored at the EOC involved our Plans folks trying to build a force structure as they got confirmation of selected units. [They did this] by putting a huge sheet of plexiglass up in the War Room and then using yellow post-it notes--what we called yellow stickies. Writing unit symbols and numbers on those things and sticking the yellow stickies up on the plexiglass which had the time-phased line on it (you know, C-Day, C+1, C+2, whatever) and trying to track it that way. It actually took us maybe about a week to ten days before we finally got a dedicated augmentation from Fort Eustis of transportation movement specialists, who came in with a computer program and things like that to start producing order.
I got very nervous as I'd be up there in the evenings working with the G-3 Plans guys trying to get "read in on" what we were looking at on the ground in Saudi Arabia, what the plans were for the theatre as it matured and things like that. I watched the glue on these yellow stickies give way, you know, occasionally watch a yellow stickie just fall off the wall and float to the ground and somebody would come by, pick it up, and stick it back up on. And I often wondered whether or not anybody had ever had a deployment change based on somebody sticking it on the wrong place on the wall.
MR. EVERETT: Excuse me. [INTERRUPTION]
DR. WRIGHT: Like I said, order eventually emerged out of chaos, but it was not a smooth operation by any means. Forces really started closing in by late August, early September to Saudi Arabia. At this point as we were getting the Corps on the ground--during the month of September--the 44th MHD finally got programmed into the force flow to go to ARCENT headquarters with its commander, MAJ Larry Heystek, serving as the interim Theatre Commander. At that point, I was firmly of the opinion that I wasn't going to go and that there wouldn't be any historical coverage. There appeared to be no particular interest, as far as I could see, anywhere in the chain of command to do it. All our initial planning at Corps at this point had gone completely into the toilet, and quite frankly, I started orienting myself on doing other things. I knew from attending the briefings and the shift changes and stuff like that, and having made my solid contacts with the NCOs that were working the EOC, that I didn't have to worry about document collection, that they were doing a good job of it. I had no idea what was going on forward, but it was very obvious to me that nobody in the Army cared whether they were saving any documents forward. So I just focused my attention on other stuff.
I had gone through--right at the very beginning in August my two photographers and I had gone through that first week--we had gone through all the processing for overseas replacement (POR). We had gotten all our shots, we had drawn our equipment. For two months I had sitting in my bedroom--on the floor of my bedroom in my apartment in Fayetteville--all my field gear to include desert uniforms, flak jacket, gas mask, everything--sitting there laid out waiting to be packed and no instructions coming to pack it. So we were starting to get nervous. I had the two photographers. After working for me for about two-and-a-half or three weeks were returned to their normal duties in the photo lab. My reservists--my National Guardsmen--were told, you know, "forget it." And they had done things like prepared their civilian employers for the possibility that they were going; and then they weren't going. Very disruptive to everybody's personal life.
One of the two photographers' wife was expecting a child, so we eventually got to the point of ... just told him and his wife, no matter what happens now, even if they tell us to go, we won't go until after the baby's born. You've paid enough of a price, we just ... we're not going to do it. So it was pretty chaotic. And then finally, oh, I'd say probably about the 10th of October we got the--I got called in by the DPT and he said "O.K., they've called you forward from the front, you are in fact going to deploy; here's the date you're going to deploy on." At that point, then I got the two photographers back under my control and we started our packing and making our final arrangements and everything. At this point we were told "you're going, but we don't know how long you're going to go for; we don't know if you're just going over to do a visit and then come back; you won't know until you get over there." So I made arrangements with my family to close out the apartment--we'd keep the apartment for a while and I'd call them from over there or send--get--word to them from over in Saudi Arabia as to whether or not ... if it looked like it was going to be an extended deployment to go ahead and close the apartment out. I got my guys to have their personal belongings (the one guy that was living in the barracks) to get his personal belongings inventoried, his lockers banded and put into storage. All those other kinds of things. And then finally when we got ready to roll out, did all the last second little sorts of things.
And on the 18th of October we went over to Green Ramp, which is the ready area at Pope Air Force Base, adjacent to Fort Bragg. Got there about 1300 (for me I was a little late, I got there at 1320). But we were told that's when manifest call was for our flight. We started what was to become typical for this exercise, which is a sit and wait mode. We waited until 2:45 in the morning of the 19th for the chartered 747 to show up and pick us up. The aircraft was a dedicated aircraft for the [1st Support Command] to move their final command group element and what amounted to really trail elements--the trail parties--of a variety of different units, built primarily around the 58th Maintenance Company.
MR. EVERETT: Excuse me. [INTERRUPTION] All right, picking up again.
DR. WRIGHT: We took off, like I said, on that aircraft. We had been sorted out and that was the advantage of moving officially as part of the Corps Headquarters. We were listed first on the manifest, so we got called first as they were sorting us out into smoking and non-smoking sections of the flight. So we ... because the NCO, SGT Randy Yackiel, and I smoked, the third member of our party, PFC (later SPC) Randy Anderson, did not smoke ... but we told him he didn't count, we outranked him so he didn't have a vote in it. We opted that we were going to fly in the smoking section, which obviously is in the rear of the airplane.
The airplane landed, we loaded up and went on board; went to the back of the plane; occupied seats and were sitting there as they finished loading. And they came on over the P[ublic] A[ddress] system and they called for me to come forward to the cabin. So I stood up and everybody started hooting and hollering at us and stuff. I got up to the front of the plane and they said "Dr. Wright, what are you doing sitting in the back? You're a field grade officer [and] you get to fly first class." I said "well I've only got two soldiers with me, I'd rather stay with them and be there for them." And they said "oh we got a couple extra seats, go ahead and get them and bring them up front." So then I was faced with the awkward situation of having to go back and get my soldiers and tell them "come on up and sit in first class" [but to] try to avoid having a riot take place. So I, basically, went back and put on a performance that made it appear that we had just been thrown off the airplane, bumped from the flight. And then when I got them up forward they were allowed to sit in first class with the field grade officers, which made the flight much more endurable for them.
We flew up from Pope Air Force Base to JFK Airport in New York City to refuel. The plane broke there; we were down ... had several hours spent on the ground while they worked on the engines. We then flew from there to Frankfurt.
MR. EVERETT: Did you remain on the plane?
DR. WRIGHT: Yeah, we stayed on the plane. As a matter of fact I didn't even know. I didn't even know we had landed at New York and I didn't even know the engines were broken until we had taken off again. I fell asleep and people had to tell me that after we were airborne again.
We flew to Frankfurt, West Germany, to Rhein-Main Air Base; landed there to refuel. At that point we were told to disembark, [that] the plane was going to be on the ground a couple of hours. They had to change crews, things like that. And we went into a holding area they had for the DESERT SHIELD deployments, which was a cluster of tents set up inside a barbed-wire enclosure. And we wound up--the plane broke completely--we wound up spending 20 hours in there with all our shaving kits and everything still on the airplane (because they told us, you know, "don't take anything with you, go on and get off"). Fortunately, I had told my guys to keep their cameras ready, so we were able to photographically document the different stages of the thing.
We waited until another airplane arrived to replace the broken one and then trooped on board the first airplane, picked up all our stuff, marched over to the second airplane and occupied the same seat on the identical second airplane. And that one flew from there straight on in to King Abdul Aziz [Royal Saudi] Air Base in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. And we landed there, I guess, Sunday the 21st of October at 0040 local time. Stood around ... . The one nice thing about that was as we disembarked from that airplane, this was the first flight that the cabin crew from Northwest Orient had--and they had all volunteered to do these missions--that was their first time that they had taken--that any of them had been--on that route to bring people into Saudi Arabia. So we got royal treatment. And when we were all disembarked, formed up on the runway, the flight attendants all came out holding little candles and they lined the stair--the sort of the wheeled set of stairs that had been rolled up--and they all waved goodbye to us in the dark. And that was pretty impressive, it made everybody feel quite good.
We stood around probably close to three hours before our baggage arrived. Now, if you understand, there were 396 people on that airplane, all of them traveling with rucksacks and duffle bags. That made the claiming of your luggage in the dark fairly difficult. They hauled out two flatbed trucks loaded with rucksacks and duffle bags, dumped them on the ground, and it took us about two hours for everybody to find theirs. You had wags running around yelling "mine's the green one," you know, things like that. About ... I guess about 6:50 that morning we finally arrived at the compound that was know as "Dragon City," which was the Corps Headquarters compound. I went in and reported. I was told "just wait outside with your baggage while we try to figure out what to do with you." I said "what do you mean, 'what to do with me,' you called me to come forward?" And they said "no, we didn't, no one even knew you were coming." So that's the first hint that things weren't absolutely perfect. So from 6:50 in the morning until 5:00 P.M. my two photographers and I sat outside on our duffle bags in 115-degree heat while somebody tried to decide what to do with us.
MR. EVERETT: I'd like to make a note here that when Dr. Wright gives you dates and times you can be fairly certain that they're accurate because he's got a journal and he's been referring to that journal to get specific dates and times.
DR. WRIGHT: Eventually, like I said, at 5:00 P.M. they said "Okay, you are going to stay at the main command post," and they sent a non-commissioned officer (SFC Elijah Paine, one of the op[eration]s sergeants from G-3) to get our guys settled in. SGT Yackiel and SPC Anderson were put into a small GP [General Purpose] tent that was used basically for transient quarters; that was next to the minaret of the mosque on this former Saudi compound. And that turned out to be their home for the length of time that we were at Dragon City. It was just supposed to be temporary transient stuff; the tent was getting taken down the next day. It stayed that way for about two months. I got put over in the field grade officers' overflow tent, which was a--what we called a "circus tent." It was a large Saudi tent that housed about ... had about thirty bunks in it. And we got settled in there, got our stuff laid on our bunks and what not.
And then I went back over to the headquarters which was the Officer Club, the Saudi Officer Club we had taken over and were using as a Corps Command Post. I reported in there, got some guidance about where we would be, and got handed a message that basically said the 44th MHD would be arriving the next day to pick me up and take me out on the trip with them to go out and visit all our subordinate divisions. Normally, what we tried to do was give folks a couple of days to get over jet-lag and to go through the body system adjustment to local water and the bugs and everything else. Diarrhea was a critical problem for the Corps Headquarters to the point where we had people--the majority of the people that came over with the main body went through a period wherein they were on I.V.s to restore their fluid levels. A fair number of them were hospitalized, some of them to the point where they were almost MEDEVAC'd out of the theatre because of the severe problem of getting used to the local food. So I had been acutely aware of this and told my guys while I'm gone putter around the local compound getting pictures of the local compound, but don't do anything other than try to get used to the heat and get used to the local food. So I was a little ticked that I had to go straight out and I was afraid of what might happen to me.
MAJ Heystek picked me up and his--MAJ Heystek and his people picked me up the next morning which would have been I guess the 22d. About 2:30 in the afternoon they came up from Riyadh. Picked me up and we drove up to the first of our stops, which was the 101st Airborne Division's main compound, what they called Camp EAGLE II, which was physically located not all that far away from Dhahran at King Fahd International Airport. And there we made contact with the 101st's regular historian, CPT Ida McGrath, who had deployed out with the 101st's command group. The 23d we took a helicopter from there out to a field location where the 101st Headquarters was doing a CPX [Command Post Exercise] and MAJ Heystek and I talked to MG Peay (J. H. Binford Peay, III) who was the Division Commander. He wouldn't do an on-the-record interview with us, he thought it was premature; but he took an hour out of his busy schedule to sit with us and give us background information, discuss various options.
And I left the 101st feeling quite confident that the division had a good handle on its history, responsibilities and that CPT McGrath was an exceptionally conscientious young officer. And subsequent events proved that the division did get exceptionally good coverage because the command group was very supportive of that idea. CPT McGrath later in December had to return to the States for personal emergency reasons, but they sent over 1LT Cliff Lippard to replace her and he carried through. CPT McGrath from back in the States then worked very closely Mr. Rex Boggs, who is the Curator of the Don F. Pratt Museum at Ft. Campbell, Kentucky and between the three of those individuals and a major from the U. S. Army Reserve Garrison element that comes in to...that was mobilized to take over Ft. Campbell. They had a dedicated historian slot identified in that garrison TDA. The 101st had exceptionally good coverage.
We went then from King Fahd on the evening of the 23d of October to the site--the field site--where the main command post of the 24th Infantry Division was set up, vaguely in the vicinity of a dot on the map called As Sihaf (S-I-H-A-F), where on the 24th we conducted interviews with the G-3 and the commanding general of the 24th (MG Barry McCaffrey). Then moved that evening down to--not all that far away--to their rear command post location, near Hanidi (H-A-N-I-D-I), where on the 25th we talked the BG Joe Frazar (F-R-A-Z-A-R), who was the Assistant Division Commander for Support and to the division G-4.
The evening of the 25th we moved to a site called CHAMPION MAIN, which was where this command post of the 82d Airborne Division was.
MR. EVERETT: O.K. let me take this opportunity to switch the tape.
[END OF TAPE 1, SIDE 1]
DR. WRIGHT: O.K. on the 26th of October we then did our interviewing with the 82d key command people, MG Jim Johnson and his G-3 and G-4.
That amounted to, then, over the course of that tour we had been out and seen three of the four divisions that the Corps had. At this point the 1st Cavalry Division, which was our fourth division, was just closing into its desert assembly areas and we made a judgement call at that point that this wasn't the time to go talk to them. They had more important problems of survival that they had to deal with and we'd try to go back and catch them later. So we'd done seven interviews for the record, got some additional briefings, and we felt pretty good that at that point both the 44th down in Riyadh and I had a feel for who was who, who the players were, who the personalities were: how we saw the defensive battle unfolding if we had to execute the general defensive plan under DESERT SHIELD. That was about all we could do given the fact that the assets--the historical assets in theater at the end of October--constituted the three people from the 44th one officer, two enlisteds) based in Riyadh, me based in Dragon City, and CPT McGrath with the 101st. And that was the total asset in theater. And at that point that was all we thought we had. So we were just trying to develop some contingency planning-type of operation.
I got back in to Dragon City I guess about 1600 on the 26th of October. We figured out afterwards we had driven about 900 kilometers. Now as it turns out, because we ate primarily--I mean, almost exclusively--MREs [Meals, Ready-to-Eat] during that little cycle, I made it through ... basically made it through my physical adjustment period without any problems. It gave ... it spread out how my body would absorb the shock. I found out after I got back that my guys had in fact been hit by the bug. Not as bad as when the main body had come through, because, I think, by that point we were getting a little bit smarter. And also I had given them some pretty explicit instructions not to push themselves. So ... so that stuff worked out okay.
Um ... when I got back, I started getting the paperwork together to report up to COL Akers where things stood. And starting to do a little bit of the local interviewing. Get a handle on where the records were. Get my photographers out and about.
And this was the problem for us throughout the early ... throughout the true DESERT SHIELD operation. By neglecting to call up MHDs, I had two photographers but I didn't have any trained historians. But more importantly I didn't have any fundamental equipment and I had no transportation at all. And that became a major obstacle and a major fact that conditioned how I would work for the first two months. We had to beg rides; we had to hitchhike.
And what I opted to do as the most efficient utilization was ... since I couldn't get out and around, I concentrated for two months on networking (developing contacts), observing things from the command post perspective, and working with the documentary records. I got my guys connected up and tried to get them out into the field on specific photographic missions; to get them as far as I could and as widely spread as I could. And together with LTC Longsworth that first week or so we sat there and built up a list of those things that we considered critical to make sure we had pictures of.
This is something that we had done in JUST CAUSE; it was one of the few things from JUST CAUSE that we were able to actually use over again, although I did not have the PAO photographers under my control. The Defense Department at that time had opted for a ... what they called a Joint Visual Information perspective on things. Which meant all PAO assets weren't allowed to keep their own pictures. Everything taken had to be funnelled through a Joint Operations Center in Riyadh and then back through the Pentagon. So we had no chance to do what we had done in Panama.
LTC Longsworth then made the reading to me, with the support of the command group, [that] historians didn't count as public affairs. And that was literally the only way XVIII Airborne Corps kept any pictures that they could use--of the photographs that the history office wound up accumulating. And we took, by the time we redeployed, probably some 20,000 photographs and slides. That group became the only resource when we got back for the developing of the command briefings and things like that.
So anyway we sat down and figured out what we should do, and then we tried to execute it by my putting my photographers out wherever they could beg, borrow or steal rides. We got support from the Range--the firing range--personnel that were sent over from Fort Bragg that we work with on a day-to-day basis back at Fort Bragg (because they belong to the DPT just like we did). They were very good about loaning us vehicles.
And we made contact with the Joint Combat Camera Team that was established. They set up a portion of that team that was tasked to support XVIII Airborne Corps. They reported in to the Corps; Corps then told them "Ah, yeah, you'll work ... the Historian will be ... will exercise operational control over you guys." And that turned out to be an absolute godsend. One, they had--for DESERT SHIELD--they had commercial vehicles, so at least they had mobility. They needed to see the same things we needed to see. It ensured that I didn't have loose cannons wandering through the AO area of operations]. And it just turned out that at the 'worker bee' level those guys were fantastic. They were real quality people. They were headed up by SFC Ken Conner. I could get them access; I could tell them what was coming up. I could make all the arrangements and contacts for them. They could go out and execute and take my photographer.
And this expanded our coverage, because we had 35mm systems, basically--primarily--Canon F-1s, the standard Army [KS-99C(1)] kits. They had not only 35mm equipment, they had the [Mavica] still video imaging system that digitalized onto computer disk, and they had video camera equipment. And it was the video equipment that was critical to us, because, obviously, 35mm stuff is a little difficult when the TASC (the Training Aids Support Center) that's going to develop the stuff is 8,000 miles away and you can't get your film developed. It's very hard to support the command group. But having the video tape, we could come back in from the field and show the video tapes to the command group. And they could actually get real-time value from the historical record stuff.
Particularly useful in the coverage we wound up doing of the deception operations. We covered the rehearsals. Based on the visuals that we collected from the rehearsals, MAJ Gary Melton was able to tweak the deception cell's efforts and produce the ... I mean, we had a very small role in that, but they were able, then, to use our material to develop the superb deception effort that covered the displacement of the Corps to the west for DESERT STORM. And it's that kind of immediate value stuff that had been the emphasis that we had put on the history program from when we had set it up at Fort Bragg. So that was a tremendous asset to us as we developed it.
Beyond that, though, like I said, I was pretty much trapped in the TOC [Tactical Operations Center], except for on occasions when I could use my network of NCO contacts and junior officer contacts to get a helicopter. By hook or by crook, periodically I could get a flight authorized where I'd get a helicopter for a day and we'd go up and do aerial photography of the Corps operations area. And it was also done ... I mean, a map is one thing, but the maps we had of Saudi Arabia were horrid. They were inaccurate and you really couldn't tell anything from looking at the map. By flying up over the areas ahead of time, I was trying to prepare myself to cover the war, should war break out.
Things got a little more serious for us on the 9th of November, which is when we were briefed on the deployment of VII Corps--that VII Corps would be coming. And at that point in everybody's minds, we were convinced we were going to go to war. There was no ... there was no reason to bring in any more troops if all we were doing was defending Saudi Arabia. Our defense plan was such that Saudi Arabia was defended. The only reason you'd bring in additional divisions was to go on the offensive. So at that point we started thinking things through.
MR. EVERETT: Who briefed you on the VII Corps deployment?
DR. WRIGHT: It was briefed to shift change.
I might point out here that one of the other changes that did take place was in spite of all our earlier prior planning, I did not wind up working for G-3 Plans on this operation like I had in Panama. Instead, I was placed under G-3 Operations. Which, as it turns out, I think was a correct decision. It gave me ... I was watching something unfold, therefore it placed me where the unfolding was taking place. Had I been in Plans, I'd have been out of synch with the way the operation was going. For Panama, we were playing off a set script. That was a locked-down script. This was a much more fluid operation, and I think G-3 Ops was fine. Although everybody knew that I belonged to the Command Group, and in fact was routinely tasked by any one of the generals out of the command group to do things. So they understood that. But just for day-to-day in an element like XVIII Airborne Corps, the G-3 drives everything. That is the ... perceived as the center of smart guys, the center of good stuff, so that's where we went.
I would point out, I guess, at this point, that one thing that did happen to me while we were going through all this stuff. On November ... no, correction ... yeah, November 1st, at 1500 hours, I had to go brief COL Akers concerning the plan and the history operation as I now proposed it--having been out to the field, having had a chance to see things and to evaluate things. And that briefing consisted of: I walked in the door, he said "sit down, Bob." I sat down. And I proceeded to receive about 45 minutes worth of the worst personal attack and professional attack [that] I've ever gone through in my life.
COL Akers, with a great deal of emotion--although you've got to know Frank Akers to know he would never curse; I mean, the idea of him cursing is alien--so he never cursed. But he was just very, very, very adamant that he thought military ... and this from a man who has a Ph.D. in military history from Duke University. He proceeded to unleash on me a round of criticism of the Army history program that went up one side and down the other. He said it was totally irrelevant. He didn't understand how the hell I was in theater, but that from his point of view I was absurd; the whole program was absurd. If it was up to him I'd be on the return plane that night.
And he criticized that the history program was not responsive, that it does you ... it does the Army no good to get a book on a subject 45 years after the war is over; they need something right now. The formats are all wrong; it's not useful. And that as far as he was concerned, the Center for Army Lessons Learned at Fort Leavenworth (which is also where he had just come from when he took over as G-3 at Corps) that that was all that the Army needed to learn anything useful from history. So needless to say ... he said "So basically I'm not sure why you're here, but you are here, so you get to stay here only as long as you are not a problem; that the first time I hear anybody say anything about history being a headache, history being an irritant, anything like that, I will throw you out of theater."
So, obviously, I went back to my tent and contemplated ... if I had had a gun that night, I would have killed myself. I was suicidal I was so depressed. So that colored everything that I did from there on. That under no circumstances was I allowed to ask for anything; under no circumstances was I allowed to get in the way of anybody. Everything had to be done on the basis of dead last on priority. I mean, absolutely dead last on priority. Not the way it had been in Panama; not the way I had thought we had created the program at Fort Bragg.
So, again, that ... that ... I offer in my own defense as to why I didn't do more on DESERT STORM ... DESERT SHIELD (correction, not DESERT STORM but DESERT SHIELD). That I just felt that if I opened my mouth about anything I was placing the entire history program at risk, and it was better to take half a loaf than get no loaf at all. So, I mean, I just kept a low profile and tried to "gut it out." And worked on building low-level networks.
MR. EVERETT: You mentioned before that you had answered some taskers from various general officers. Can you name some of the general officers that ... did your responses to them help your position? Was LTG Luck, the Corps commander, aware that his historian was in theater?
DR. WRIGHT: Uh, yeah. Basically during DESERT SHIELD we had a tactical command post that was set up up at CHAMPION MAIN with the 82d and co-located there with them. And we always tried to keep one of the generals up there for an evening. But really everything operated out of the Main CP, and I got kind of fortunate in that when they eventually decided where they were going to permanently stick us, they found a vacant corner. [INTERRUPTION] Um ... the cubbyhole corner that they stuffed us into was basically a hallway that we had some portable room dividers that kept everything separate. What was right next to Protocol/Executive Services--protocol and the SGS [Secretary of the General Staff] section. Which was right next to the Command Group.
So we had ... we had daily visibility. The generals were there; they saw us every day. LTG Gary Luck, the Corps Commander; BG(P) Scholes, who was our Chief of Staff officially, but since we'd had to leave [MG William Roosma], the Deputy Commander, back as the garrison and contingency responsibility team leader back at Fort Bragg, BG Scholes became the acting Deputy Commanding General, a position he inherited full-time once the operation was over and we came back to Fort Bragg. And then we had two different colonels that served as the chief of staff: initially it was COL [James L.] Frederick who was our G-1 and was double-hatted. And then eventually we got an extra colonel, COL Walter Mather, from ... who had just given up a brigade in the 24th Infantry Division. He'd been 1st Brigade commander in the 24th when it deployed. When he came out of his normal rotation, then he was moved up to the Corps and he became the Corps Chief of Staff for the last little bit of DESERT SHIELD and then all of DESERT STORM. All of them knew that I was there because I had to walk by their office every day.
LTG Luck is a great soldier's commander. And he had ... he had a habit of ... he's a weight lifter as a hobby, so he's an extremely physically fit officer who's incredibly strong. And his idea of being comradely is as you walk by he'll punch you in the arm or punch you in the chest, and ask you how things are going. And it became ... when he felt a lot more comfortable, maybe, than I would have been comfortable with, because I kept getting beat up on a fairly regularly. Because once he started doing it, BG Scholes started doing it, you know.
So we had good visibility with the Command Group and they tasked me to do things like ... I think probably the biggest tasker that I got early on was the President [George Bush] came to spend Thanksgiving, to eat Thanksgiving dinner with the Corps. And then we had to produce a media guide that explained the history of the corps and its major subordinate elements, and the new high-tech[nology] weapons systems that we had that were selected to be set up for a static display. And the PAO published it, and the PAO selected the photographs, but my tasker was to write the whole text, both the technical spec[ification]s on the weaponry and the unit histories.
Unfortunately, nobody told me I was going to be doing things like that when I deployed, so I deployed with no assets, no reference materials. I policed up odd bits and pieces by asking the liaison officers to ask if anyone had copies of their Lineage [and Honors] Certificates and stuff like that. And then wrote the whole thing basically off the top of my head from memory. Got no idea of how accurate it was. The weaponry turned out to be very easy, because I had been issued a laptop computer at Fort Bragg and had uploaded onto it a large set of reference files derived from open sources, things like Jane's Ships and Jane's Artillery Systems and things like that. So I had all the technical data uploaded in reference files on the computer. That part of it was a piece of cake.
It was doing things like that. It was working up information papers. Working also with Plans, trying to get word back to the Center to ... "Have anything on obstacle-breaching? Do you have anything on this, that or the other thing?" Trying to collect information like that. I wouldn't say those things were a big part of my job, but they were a fact of life.
MR. EVERETT: The media guide. Did you bring back a copy of that?
DR. WRIGHT: That was done in extremely limited quantities. There ... there is ... I don't have a personal copy, I was never able to steal a personal copy as a souvenir. But there is a copy in the Corps History Office files. It was a very slick thing, done in four-color printing; very, very slick. And like I said, I was really skating on thin ice trying to come up with what the umpety-umpth division did in World War II. I mean, I was reading battle streamers off of lineages and trying to guess at what ... at whether they actually ... you know, where they went and what they actually fought in.
MR. EVERETT: And you were also able to get a phone call through to the [Center's] Organizational History Branch?
DR. WRIGHT: I got a phone call through but the faxs [facsimile transmissions] never arrived. So ... which ... which was the biggest problem, I think. The communications were appalling. It was virtually impossible to get a line through to the States. There were very limited AUTOVON circuits and you constantly got preempted. I mean, there were times when I would try every single night for a week. And given the time differential, for me to call back to the States meant that I stayed up till two or three in the morning to try to get the phone calls through. And it just couldn't get through. I ... I ... sometimes I'd get it to ring seven or eight times, but before anybody could even pick up the phone we got preempted.
Because, and this is a personal opinion only and I'm sure you'd get things like this from everybody, but this was a war in which ... or a deployment in which those who were actually doing got treated like dirt. And in twenty-three years of military experience I have never seen more of a ripping off of asset and more of a hoarding of all the good things in life by the support echelons at the highest headquarters, and to hell with ever giving anything to the people who are actually out there doing stuff. Riyadh preempted everybody, and I would talk to people from Riyadh, I would talk to our officers who went down to Riyadh on liaison visits, and would come back and talk about "yeah, everybody back there was calling home every night because they had it set up in such a way that they preempted every other call." So those of us trying to do real crisis official business couldn't get a damn call through because the clowns in Riyadh were hogging things for their own personal ... .
Now, that is just a way to get anybody that was out there sweating in the desert excited. And hell, I wasn't even all the way out. I was at a headquarters where ... I mean, I sweated when I wasn't in my office, but the working area I was in was at least air conditioned, so room temperature normally didn't get up above about 85 or 90 in our building.
It became very hard to do any coordination. I could not call, for example, down to Riyadh to talk to the 44th MHD, and then later to the ARCENT historian when he [COL Rick Swain] arrived, with any kind of regularity. I didn't have my own phone. I was not authorized a phone. By the same token, the phone number that I had to give out in DRAGON CITY, it was "call G-3 Operations War Desk," because that was the phone number. And then I would have to go in and pick up one of the phones and be standing there next to one of the desk officers who was trying to track, you know, a live-fire exercise. Or, during the war, a, you know, "where is unit X in combat?" I mean, that was what I had to work with on that stuff.
Once we got up to Rafha, which was our DESERT STORM location, the only phone I had that I could give out a number on was the MP desk. Which wound up getting me into long-standing fights with an MP platoon sergeant over and over and over again. But, I mean, I didn't have a phone; I couldn't call people and I couldn't get phone calls. So it made coordination very difficult, especially since the folks in Riyadh and the folks back here in the States could never understand that. No matter how many times you told them, it never sunk in. So I'd get ... I'd get berated by people calling me, wanting to know, you know, what kind of a butt-head was I that I wouldn't return their phone calls. And the answer is I ... a) I can't; and b) how can I return something I don't even know that you made? So that got very frustrating.
MAJ Heystek, for example, was very, very uncomfortable with having, in November and early December, the responsibility of trying to develop theater guidance on the preservation of records. Because he just didn't have much experience in doing that. That wasn't the kind of work he had had to do during his earlier deployments, say, for example, during Operation NIMROD DANCER and his FTXs. And he was getting beat up by the information management folks at ARCENT headquarters for "what's your input?" And he kept trying to get me to come down to Riyadh to help him with that, and I couldn't physically get there. And coordinating by phone was very difficult. The same way the eventual revelation that reserve component units were going to get deployed ... uh ... was, for all practical purposes, uncoordinated, because of the inability to get any messages, phone calls, messages back and forth.
MR. EVERETT: I'd like to make a comment concerning communications. And I'll offer this as a comparison. Dr. Wright being unable to communicate from his headquarters. The Center of Military History received daily 'phone calls from MAJ Heystek of the 44th in Riyadh. And there was frequent correspondence over the fax machines. So that's probably one of the main reasons they expected you to have the same access. Obviously, the conditions were not the same. MAJ Heystek was living in a villa in Riyadh.
DR. WRIGHT: And I was stepping on scorpions. But you know that sort of stuff happens.
The other thing, I think, to understand is the mail system. The surface mail system was bizarre. I would get ... MAJ Heystek would yell at me, at one point we had ... he had developed a interim theater SOP or something that he was going to put out as guidance. You know, since it involved [only] me and him, I'm not sure why he had to get something in writing, but anyway this was what he was going to do. And he staffed it to me for comment with a suspense date, and then called me up and screamed at me "why haven't you responded?" And I said "responded to what?" And he said "Well, I mailed you ..." and I said "You did what?" And he said "I mailed you ..." And I said "Why did you mail it? Why didn't you put it in a courier run?" Because the only way that you could move anything in theater was by courier. It was physically impossible to mail anything from one APO [Army Post Office] in theater to another. And to this day (we are now talking well over a year after it happened), that document he says he mailed me still has not shown up in the mail. The mail ... the surface mail ... the problem was broken. So that was an additional aggravation from a communications standpoint.
From my point of view, basically, I opted for a "nobody knows the problems I've got to work with; and I know enough about what I'm doing." So I made the best of a bad situation by just proceeding to ignore everybody up the chain of command from the military history channels and doing what I thought was right. And since some of the guidance that I got was pretty bizarre, when it did filter through, I just chose to ignore it all.
MR. EVERETT: One more comment, if I may, as far as communications. The Oral History Activity as a source of resupply of cassettes sent tapes over, through the mail [LAUGHTER] and I guess you never received them?
DR. WRIGHT: Never got them.
MR. EVERETT: We sent some to Riyadh ... .
DR. WRIGHT: There was never any ... there was never any distribution made, because I know Forces Command also sent supplies for all the historians in theater to Riyadh, and none of the other historians in theater ever got any support in terms of logistics out of Riyadh for those mission-specific things.
Which was kind of disappointing because basically what Mr. Stacy and I had discussed during the planning phase was to go to something I had written for USAREUR [United States Army Europe] when Mr. Stacy was working over there in 1985 when I deployed over for about three weeks to develop their war plan for historical coverage. Which is where we had generated this whole notion of pooling and things like that. We had called for technical resupply to come through that kind of a channel. And he and I had said "how are we going to do this? We're under-resourced, humma-humma." And he said, "Okay, let's go with the USAREUR plan; we'll just use the USAREUR plan." Which saved us a lot of communication problems because we both knew what ... exactly what it meant.
But apparently he and I knew what it meant, and nobody in the intervening ... nobody else in the system did. Because all the things that I built the premises on went into the toilet because nobody understood that. Apparently nobody in Riyadh realized that they were supposed to be dealing with anybody else and ... and, like I said, we never saw anything. And ... and I maybe have a little bit of easier time of that because I had already basically written them off before 1991 started. I had just figured that the distances and the communications problems were such that I couldn't rely on them for anything. Because with the best of intentions they couldn't react. It was just too hard. But apparently most of the other MHDs that were deployed had much more trouble coming to grips with that reality, because they all ... they all got quite bitter and they all made a lot of trips down to Riyadh whenever they could to "untangle" issues like that.
MR. EVERETT: Before we get into DESERT STORM operations, from you perspective could you comment on the historical community's ability to provide coverage and adopt to changing circumstances? Was guidance issued? Or was it more catch-as-catch-can? And then also touch a little bit about the development of your own oral history program.
DR. WRIGHT: Basically there is no Army history program for doing this stuff. That's the bottom line. On day one open source--in other words, the day the President made the phone call, I started asking up the trace "what's the book program look like so I know what to collect, so I can support the writing effort?" To this day I still haven't gotten an answer back on that. And then I got to the point, after about the 200th time I asked it, I just stopped asking because it was fairly obvious that nobody could envision what they wanted to do with it.
There was no ... no planning, no concept, no identification of issues of interest to anybody. I tried almost at once, based again on the ad hoc way we had stapled it together for DESERT--uh, for JUST CAUSE. The only answer I ever got back was from oral history, and that was to generate up a coherent scheme for marking, numbering, and identifying the oral history effort. And the idea being that we would go to a centrally coordinated and supported system wherein everybody's work would be duplicated and sent on in to the Center. Therefore, if I needed to have access to a tape done by VII Corps, for example, I could go to CMH when I sent in my XVIII Corps tapes and say "hey, by the way, do you have anything from X?" And they could get the transcript back to me or something like that.
The other thing is, as a one-man shop, as we learned in JUST CAUSE, I can do interviewing but it would be the year 3001 before I ever get the time to transcribe. And an oral tape that's untranscribed is worthless for all practical purposes as a reference tool because it's just too awkward to use. So I called up on the 8th of August of 1990 and asked of CMH's Oral History Activity "how about if we do it this way: you tell me what numbers you want me to put on them; I'll make copies of everything and get it to you; any, by the way, you do the transcribing; and send me the raw transcripts, because I can clean up a raw transcript but I just don't have the time to do the other ones." So that's the way we've worked it, and believe it or not that's the only prior planning thing that ever worked through this whole operation. And it's worked beautifully.
Um ... in terms of coordinating, I didn't see any coordination whatsoever done, or any interest in coordinating stuff. Um ... I didn't see any cooperation or any sense of professionalism on the part of anybody involved in the program about sharing. Knowledge is power and nobody wanted to share anything with anyone. Even though that meant that nobody ... that everybody had to work twice as hard. If people had been cooperative, we could have done things a lot more efficiently, and with a lot less stress to everybody else involved. That kind of appalled me, that people kept that kind of an attitude, but so be it.
And I guess that's ... if I had any lesson to learn from this, I would say that in anything other than a very small contingency, where basically a one-man shop can do it, that the assumption should be made up front that history coverage is going to be poor, it's going to be spasmodic, and its going to be very uneven. Some topics will be covered quite well; other topics won't be covered at all. Simply because there is no way that the system will respond, or that it can respond.
And in the Army's perspective, history is such a low priority that it will not be resourced. It will be demanded as soon as the operation is over, but no matter how much you can look them in the eye and say "you know damn well you're going to have to do an after-action report as soon as we get back." They still won't give you the resources to support that, even though they know they're going to have to do it. It was far more important, for example, to bring over another two civilian range control workers to set up targets than it was to bring over a second historian. I mean, that's just reality. That's never going to change. And I think that there are a lot of people in the Army history community who basically live in a dream world because they don't understand it.
The second problem is there are not enough historians, whether they be green-suited 5Xs or civilian [GS]-170-series workers that have the foggiest notion of the modern army and how it operates at the tactical and operational levels. They just ... they don't know; they're out of the loop completely. And that means that they cannot possibly plan. And they react very poorly. You know, we always used to make the big comment that what we wanted was to be tactically and technically proficient. And I would argue that at least the tactically ... that that side of it is broke big time. It is very hard to try to explain to someone why they needed to go someplace and do something when they didn't have the foggiest notion of what it was ... why that ... they couldn't even begin to understand why that was important. So they'd argue with me about giving them the assignment.
MR. EVERETT: Okay, there are still a few minutes left on this side. If you would, quickly, sort of discuss the circumstances surrounding the deployment of the rest of your unit (the 116th MHD)?
DR. WRIGHT: Oh boy. That was sort of one of those on-again, off-again things. Yeah, we're going to send reserve detachments; no, were not. What we'll try to do is cannibalize them for people; no, we can't do that.
Our initial efforts to try to get selected individuals called up was trash canned because units on the TPFD (Time Phased Force Deployment List), TPFDL technically, were frozen. You couldn't grab individuals out of them. Then there was "how many are we going to get/how many aren't we going to get; what are we going to do/what aren't we going to do."
I had left ... the weekend before I deployed to Saudi Arabia I thought I had given up command of the 116th Military History Detachment. I had to deploy; I could not remain with the unit. So I went through a formal change of command: property book inventory, signed, witnessed, everything else; and submitted my request for transfer (at the direction of the Virginia State Headquarters), a request for transfer to the inactive reserve so I could deploy. All that was signed, sealed, delivered. I got on the plane and went to Saudi Arabia. As we suddenly realized something's about to happen, and in fact something maybe going down, I got contacted. As a matter of fact, I got a phone message that said "Call the Virginia National Guard." And this would be ... uh ... oh, the ... on or about the ... uh ... what ... exactly, it was on the 27th of November, in the evening. At that point I was able to eventually, by going in and begging ...
[END OF SIDE TWO, TAPE ONE]
DR. WRIGHT: O.K. Resuming on the second tape.
Like I said on the evening of the 27th of November I found out that, in fact, what I had thought had happened legally they had ripped off and had hadn't happened and I was ordered by Virginia to get on a plane and come home to mobilize my unit. I then told ... the individual who was talking to me was the operations and training officer, COL Franklin Simmons ... I told him that he was smoking dope. That, in point of fact, there was no way the United States Army was going to let me go get on an airplane and leave theater to do it; and he had a problem. I wasn't coming home. I said, however, you know, in our early thinking and in fact ever since I had been at Fort Bragg, we had trained the 116th on the assumption that I would not be physically present for mobilization. That I would have deployed with the Corps and they would flow to join me. So I said I didn't think that was a problem. I had also asked that my interim replacement, MAJ Bob Honec, who was from the Virginia Army National Guard Data Processing Unit out at Manassas (that shared the Armory with me). I had tried to get him lined up to deploy with the 116th; to be an augmentation to the 116th.
It basically took them two days of screwing around and calling back and forth from Virginia to Mr. Stacy to find out that "yeah, that's what should happen." So then I called them back a couple days later and they said "okay, this is the deal, you activate in place on mobilization day, which is December 6th. You activate in Saudi Arabia, go sew your insignia on your uniforms and you're legal," and the 116th would deploy to join me. And MAJ Honec would accompany them to the mobilization station to see them safely on their way. And then he would get an individual call-up to come over and augment. Sort of a compromise measure.
So, on the morning of December 6th, I walked over to ... they had a little laundry facility that had a Pakistani tailor. So I just walked over and handed him my rank insignia and told him to add them to my uniforms and then went over to Corps Headquarters Company and signed--hand-receipted--for a 9mm pistol until my [M-1911A1] .45-[cal.] arrived with my unit. The 116th then mobilized on its own. My two soldiers, with the assistance of Bob Honec kicking them out, and getting them started in the process. They went--SSG LaDona Kirkland and PFC John Freund--went to our mobilization center at Fort Lee, where our assister from the readiness group, CPT Marshall, knew that they were coming. And he and I had done a lot of coordinating over the preceding two years ... that he knew what was going to be happening. So he picked them up at the gate and hand carried them through deployment, in fact, they probably have the best and smoothest mobilization of any unit in the Reserve Components.
They arrived in Dhahran on the 18th of December--so that's twelve days from mobilization, they were in theater, which we had always figured was about the limit that you could ever push it to legally in pre-war planning. Ten days is the earliest deployment that the peace-time planning system will allow you for and the only reason it took them twelve days instead of seven was that they got held up waiting for a C-141 [Starlifter] to be programmed into landing at the [Langley] Air Force Base to pick up Fort Lee deploying people. And they used that time to drive from Fort Lee to Fort Bragg where I had had a massive local purchase done of photographic film, video--I mean audio--cassette tapes, art supplies, and other things. And they picked all that material up and were able to transport it over to theater in a M-1008 Commercial Utility Cargo Vehicle (a CUCV), which was the unit vehicle.
And so they came over. And, ironically, MAJ Heystek was up on a liaison visit. The first we knew they were there was ... Larry had just gone to bed, I'd gotten him a cot and he was just up for the night. So I got him a cot and he was sleeping. I was just finishing up some work about 11:00 and getting ready to go to bed myself when a runner came in from the ops desk and said "you've got a history unit at ... over at the airfield to be picked up." So I grabbed Larry and ... I woke up Larry and said "come on, drive me over to the airfield." We drove over to the airfield. Got there I guess about 11:30 that night. And here were SSG Kirkland and PFC Freund sitting in the CUCV. And I joked that...I walked up to Freund and said "nice packing job, you guys look like something out of the Beverly Hillbillies." Because they were so loaded with equipment that it was drooping over the sides. And he said "hey, I had packed it well; the Air Force made me unpack it and repack it poorly to get on the airplane." But I mean...so they arrived in on the 18th of December.
And they were the first of what would turn out to be seven reserve component detachments that showed. None of them with prior coordination. Apparently, they were being told by Mr. Stacy as they were deploying, "oh, no problem, Bob Wright will meet you at the airfield and take care of you." Well, I was only responsible for the three of those detachments, which belonged to XVIII Airborne Corps, my own 116th, the 130th and the 317th. Three other detachments went to...were to go to VII Corps and one was to go the to what was the ARCENT Support Command, later the 22d Support Command.
Nobody told me any of those units were coming. Nobody told me that anybody was inbound. I would get phone calls saying they're there. The next one that came in, ironically, was the one for the Support Command, which was the 90th Military History Detachment, and they came in ... boy, I want to say on or about the 24th. Roughly the 24th of ... no, here it is ... exactly. The 24th of December--Christmas Eve. They had arrived. Fortunately I knew where the Support Command was and I had a POC [point of contact] that Larry had given me--a phone number. So I called them and said "hey, they're at the airport; I'll go pick them up and drive them over; be ready to meet them."
I showed up, met the 90th (which is an Army Reserve unit from San Antonio, [Texas]). [I] knew the NCOs; I had worked with them in training ... several training seminars. The commander was relatively new. I walked up to him. First words out of his mouth were "you screw-up! Where's my bed? Where's my stuff? Why did you make me stand here? Why weren't you waiting for me when we landed? Humma, humma, humma." And just started in on that. So I said "hey, I didn't know you were coming; nobody said you were coming, nobody said your flight was inbound, nobody said shit. And, by the way, I don't have anything to do with you; I'm here as a courtesy, but I can turn around and walk away right now and you can find your own God-damned way to where you're going, which is what I had to do." And he sort of got mollified a little bit, and said "oh."
So I started taking him over, and he asked me a few questions about mission and stuff. And I said "well, you know, you're an MP--background--you're probably going to want to focus on the rear battle, rear security aspects. But, you know, basically you're coming into a logistics thing and the guy you need to talk to and coordinate with is MAJ Heystek, because he's your next higher technical channel." And stuff like that. And he kept getting increasingly irritated with me. And I kept wondering "he doesn't know anything about how to do the history mission--who the hell was ever stupid enough to validate him for deployment?" So I got him over to the Air Base--the other end of the Air Base where the Support Command was located--a place they called the Pentagon East. And I threw him to the point of contact, who was in the Public Affairs Office; walked back to my truck; told the two NCOs I felt real sorry for them, because they obviously had the biggest butt-head in the western world as a commander, and that they just needed to keep an eye on things and protect themselves in the clinches. And then I took off.
Other detachments arrived essentially the same way. I'd point out that ... at this point, back in the beginning of December, I went to a shift arrangement. Normally I had worked, oh, about a 16-hour, 14-to-16-hour day. And had deliberately offset shifts. So I went in late, but I stayed late. That way I could be familiar with, and familiar to, both the day and the night shifts' personnel in the Corps headquarters. Beginning in December and lasting until redeployment in April, I worked 72-hours on and eight hours off as my shift.
So the rest of the units tended to arrive during those "eight off" moments. And I got quite a few detachment commanders incredibly pissed off at me when they would call an hour after I had gone to sleep, and a runner would come over and wake me up and say, you know, "it's 3:00 in the morning and you've got some unit over at the Air Base." And I'd say, "well," you know, "tell them to wait and go through the normal procedures. You just tell them that all they need to do is tell the ADAG (airfield departure and arrival control group) that they're going to Dragon City or they're going to VII Corps." Just tell them that, and let the system get them where they need to go. And they all got very indignant at me that I would have the nerve to try to get an hour's sleep every four days instead of waiting on them hand and foot.
So I would say that overall the way the deployment system worked was not optimized. Because it produced instant conflict between myself and the other detachments as they came in. I thought (and to this day think) that by and large they were a whining, sniveling group. They really weren't worth the effort that it took to take care of them. It took at least two or three weeks to get ... to get each one of the detachments up to speed (in the sense of understanding how the real-world Army worked and being able to take care of themselves). They always expected to be waited on hand and foot.
I would also argue that, when you look at ... because one of the first things I had my three detachments do was sit down and interview each other as part of our oral history program. To get their mobilization experiences documented. As you listen to those tapes, all three tapes, I am very clearly the "heavy" in all three of those tapes. And I deliberately did not get involved in the interviewing process there because I did not want ... I wanted these things to come through honest, clear, and as everybody felt at that time. I'm the heavy, which it is very clear I'm the heavy. And for the other two detachment commanders, pooling obviously had not been explained to either one of them. Because they both immediately wanted to match dates of rank with me to see who was in charge. But in fact I wasn't there as a detachment commander, I was there as the Corps Historian.
And in this sense, we got badly served, particularly by MAJ Heystek down at ARCENT. Any orders that were generated for the movement of units from CONUS to the theater simply said "assigned to ARCENT." It was ARCENT's responsibility to cut orders then attaching them down to (assigning, attaching or placing them under OPCON [operational control] down to the gaining major subordinate commands. MAJ Heystek, when he inquired about this ... because what we thought was that once they were correctly slotted into the TPFD, that would drive all the paperwork. Well, it got the units where they belonged, but it didn't create any paper trail. So we pointed this out to MAJ Heystek--and we first discovered it in the case of the 44th MHD. He went through a big fight to get his own orders for his own unit. We then said to him "Larry, there are seven other units coming into country, and you've got to do the same thing for them." And he said "no, the orders people told me no, they weren't going to do it, so you guys can't have any." So, to this day, there are seven MHDs who basically will be cheated out of any battle honors for the deployment because MAJ Heystek never thought that it was worth his time and effort to treat the Reserve Components' people the same way he treated himself. He took care of himself and said screw you to the rest of us.
Well, not having orders then left me in a position where I couldn't wave a piece of paper under the other two majors' noses and say "look, see what it says--you work for the Corps Historian." Because they kept saying, regardless of what they might have been verbally told by Mr. Stacy before they left, they both took the option of ... they both stated that nobody told them that. They weren't going to listen to another (subordinate) major. So I had no piece of paper to beat them up with, and then I had COL Akers making it very evidently clear that the first time I walked in and said I've got a problem with these majors all three units would be thrown out of the theater. So I was placed between a rock and a hard point. But all I can do is just suck it up, suffer from stress syndrome, and basically try to compensate for the weakness of the others by tripling my own work load.
In retrospect, if I had it to do over again, I would have asked for one MHD (my own). I could have done a better job covering XVIII Airborne Corps without the other two detachments. They caused more trouble than I ever got back from them, and the history program ever got back from them.
MR. EVERETT: Just to clarify for a minute. Prior to the activation of the 116th, you were over in Saudi Arabia as a ... ?
DR. WRIGHT: DA [Department of the Army] civilian.
MR. EVERETT: Although you were issued a uniform?
DR. WRIGHT: I was issued uniforms just like any other DA civilian. We wore ... we wore uniforms, but without ...
MR. EVERETT: Tags said DA Civilian?
DR. WRIGHT: Well, actually, no. There were a couple of guys that had the little blue triangle-type [insignia] that said DA Civilian. I was damned if I was going to wear one of those. I just had ... I had my name, but I had nothing. I had ... the US Army tapes were in my pocket along with my rank insignia, because that was the way I had deployed to Panama. I had deployed to Panama ... I said ... they said "go put on your uniform and get on the airplane; orders will catch up." And as it turned out, legally I was in Panama, I think four or five days before I had military status.
MR. EVERETT: Do you want a break, or do you want to continue this this afternoon?
DR. WRIGHT: Yeah.
MR. EVERETT: Okay.
DR. WRIGHT: That will take us up to the planning for the defensive battle.
MR. EVERETT: Okay. End of session one.
MR. EVERETT: Okay, begin session two.
Correction off of Side One, [Tape One]. Dr. Wright served as an RTO in Helmstedt and in Berlin with the Berlin Brigade.
Okay, we'll pick up with our discussion for the planning .. planning of the historical coverage.
DR. WRIGHT: As the DESERT SHIELD plan was unfolding, the XVIII Airborne Corps concept of operations involved forward screening by the 101st Airborne Division and the 3d Armored Cavalry Regiment [ACR]. Out between them and the border--the Kuwait border--were the Pan-Arab forces from the Northern--[correction]--from the Eastern Province Area Command (EPAC) that had a sort of loosely-defined divisional organization. The idea was [that] they would make the initial contact. They would then fall back and try and split off to the sides. The 101st and the 3d ACR would engage the first echelon Iraqi forces; attrit them. And give ground, inflicting damage on the second echelon, second operational echelon. The would give ground for about 100 kilometers and then the Iraqis would run into our main line of resistance which would be furnished by the 24th Infantry Division. The 101st and 3d ACR would pass off and reconstitute. And then the 24th would fight the Main Battle Area; would grind the Iraqis to a halt; attrit their second operational echelon. And then we would counterattack with the 1st Cavalry Division and a reconstituted 101st and 3d ACR. And do the exploitation and pursuit.
Given that scenario and given the presence of three MHDs (reinforced by a couple of additional bodies), my concept was to fight ... to provide historical coverage by sector. I would put one team in the Covering Force Area to deal with that part of the battle. I would put one team with the Main Battle Area, and one team with the counterattack force (which also would include the 82d Airborne Division--which had basically a rear area security mission and constituted really the Corps' mobile reserve, in the sense that you could put them on trucks a la the Battle of the Bulge, not drop them by air). And if I would array my forces that way, then I ... and put the most experienced team (namely myself and my 116th) with the Covering Force Area, then I could do battle hand-off, and always ensure, then, that when it shifted to the Main Battle Area I would stay with the battle rather than with the force. And when we counterattacked, I would stay with the counterattack rather than ... .
So I had ... I built my premise on that three teams--with some kind of a centralized element at the Corps Main Command Post. And there was a bit of a fight with the Corps staff to keep a presence in the Main Command Post as opposed to the Rear Command Post. And basically I'd aligned the ... I would try to utilize personality and geography to do it. The 317th MHD came from Atlanta under MAJ Bill Thomas; 24th Infantry Division came from Fort Stewart, Georgia. Therefore, best to put Georgia with Georgia. Similarly, MAJ Dennis Levin's 130th came out of Raleigh, North Carolina; and at least the 82d was from North Carolina. Therefore I would put him with that force. So that's the way we initially configured in the planning.
And that's the way I briefed them as they arrived. The 317th arrived on December 26th; the 130th on December 27th. And I began trying to get them trained that way. I put each detachment in contact with the respective division's liaison officer [LNO]. Got them to in-brief. Explained everything. And then got them (working through the LNOs) out to start visiting the divisions, to start trying to build the knowledge of who's who and to get expected by the division when they would show up. Had a lot of problems doing this because the majors of the other detachments weren't really into following instructions or taking orders. They each had their own thoughts and their own agendas they wanted to pursue.
I think, in retrospect, we should have expected that. I ... it's my understanding that similar independent thought existed over in VII Corps. And it's because, probably, in the RC especially, to successfully survive as an MHD commander you have to be a maverick. You have to work alone. Nobody ever helps you; nobody ever gives you any support. I mean, that's just the reality. That's the only kind of personality that can survive. So we may well have set ourselves up for the problems that we actually encountered in this operation by the way that the system (peacetime) is configured.
In any event, as VII Corps starts closing in and building up their combat power, the President has given a deadline of January 15th for the Iraqis to get out of Kuwait. And tension level is fairly high at the Corps Headquarters as we start counting down to the 15th, which we started calling K-Day (for Get-Out-Of-Kuwait Day). And I was running into problems in that despite the way things had worked in the original deployment, now all of a sudden I wasn't getting in on the planning meetings that were developing the offensive plan. And I kept arguing with the folks that I really needed to get in and be read in on that stuff so that I could start developing the historical coverage plan. But in the interim I would work with the defensive scheme plan to at least start getting the 130th and 317th out into the field to do their training.
And that I would take the 116th out. Not necessarily to the 101st, but ... . For a while we suspected that we might be getting the 1st (United Kingdom) Armoured Division into our corps. So I set up arrangements and went out and did some joint training with the "Desert Rats" of the 7th Armoured Brigade--specifically the 1st Battalion of the Staffordshire Regiment (one of their mechanized infantry battalions). To start trying to build some familiarization that way.
Also started trying to do some coordination to try and build uniformity of coverage. That had been one of the problems that we had identified from Vietnam: the fact that no two divisions are really comparable when you start looking at the records because no two MHDs did things the same way. So you don't have a common data base you can compare. So LTC Charlie Cureton (United States Marine Corps Reserve), who was one of the Marine Corps officers that was dispatched over to provide their historical coverage--an old friend of mine from when he was in graduate school and the Marine who had always worked with the Army MHD training programs as their observer--when he arrived in theater, he came down. He sat down with me and we spent a couple hours trying to talk about how philosophically they were going to attempt to cover ... who was going to do what.
We tried to make contact with the Air Force historians and ... . Navy historians were not an issue for us because the Navy ships were all off at sea and we didn't care about them. They really weren't involved [in what we were doing]. But tried to get ahold of the Air Force guys and ran into a dead end. We could not get any connectivity with our Air Force counterparts. But Charlie and I felt that probably we would do a reasonably comparable job, just the Marines would do it in less detail because they committed less resource. They committed (initially) three officers to cover a two-division (plus) Marine element--MARCENT element.
And then I got visited by the three detachment commanders from VII Corps before their Corps Historian reported on board. And we tried to brainstorm how they might develop their planning. That was never ... the stuff, the recommendations I made never were implemented because their historian, when he arrived on board, decided to try a different technique. But we had done the best we thought we could at doing coordination.
ARCENT ... the Theater Historian (COL Rick Swain) had not yet arrived, so MAJ Heystek came up as soon as we had all seven of the Reserve Component detachments closed into country and we had a meeting of all eight of the MHDs. Locked up together in a collective environment for about an hour or so, for what turned out to be a pep talk by Larry. Coupled with a distribution of xeroxed extracts on how to do interviewing from the CSI [Combat Studies Institute] monograph ... the TRADOC [US Army Training and Doctrine Command] monograph on S. L. A. Marshal, which, I guess, was fine. And then we took a group picture. And that ... that constituted the sum total of the coordination efforts.
MR. EVERETT: Used the TRADOC monograph rather than the training materials that we sent them?
DR. WRIGHT: Correct.
We also started discussing a few logistics issues. My concern was for adequate photographic film and audio cassette tapes. I had brought over from Fort Bragg more than an adequate stock of batteries for my people, and then was able actually to support some of the other folks in theater. We always scrambled for film throughout the thing. We could have done more if we had had more film. I had adequate audio cassette tapes, as it turned out, for what we needed because I had brought over several hundred with the ... having placed the order back at Fort Bragg on the assumption that I would support a three-detachment force. But I know it was more of an issue with VII Corps.
The other detachments arrived expecting MAJ Heystek to issue them computer equipment; expecting him to issue them tape recording equipment. And I was rather appalled to hear a number of the detachment commanders complain that all they had were reel-to-reel recorders. And in fact some of them had attempted to deploy reel-to-reel recorders. And that had been deleted from the TOE [Table of Organization and Equipment 20-017H] years ago. But apparently ... and the detachments (I know) had been told at least since the 1985 training seminar [at Carlisle Barracks] that they were no longer authorized. And they were told over and over again how to turn them in. And I was just shocked to find that virtually none of the Reserve Component detachments had ever paid any attention to any of the guidance that they had been given on equipment issues, on procedural issues. The training they had undergone had gone in one ear and out the other.
CMH did one thing that I thought really worked to save the history program's bacon in covering the Support Command. MAJ (frocked LTC) Manning--Wes Manning--of the 90th MHD apparently ran straight in to [then]-MG [Gus] Pagonis and announced that he was really on the lieutenant colonel [promotion] list, so Pagonis frocked him (a procedure that I'm still not certain how it was done legally). And then he basically abandoned his detachment to be a staff officer--personal staff officer--for MG Pagonis. And a pair of majors that rotated over from CMH--Glenn Hawkins and Bill Epley--turned out to be the de facto 90th MHD commanders in the operation. And Glenn, in particular, was the one ... it was right on the eve of the war ... sent his ... brought the two enlisted men over from the 90th to get some last-minute training. And we reviewed topics that I thought they had learned at Fort Hood in 1988 and in Carlisle Barracks in 1985. But we did a little train-up thing with them and really furnished them with some stuff: some formats (computerized formats) for recording some stuff; on how to log photographs in and how to caption photographs. Things like that. And I think if those two majors hadn't shown up, there would be nothing documented for the 22d Support Command.
LTC Manning's interest ... . Later on, on the eve of the ground war, before G-Day--a few days before G-Day--he showed up in Rafha (which was only about 500 miles from where he was supposed to be). Very indignant that my people wouldn't take him out across the border so he could have his photograph taken in Iraq before the war started; so he could be sure to document that he had been in Iraq in case they needed medals ... documentation for medals, the issuing of medals and stuff like that. Fortunately for him, I wasn't physically in the TOC the day he arrived to do that, because I'd have ... literally would have shot him on the spot. I'd have pulled my weapon out and shot him for being an asshole.
But that's the nature of the way this operation went down in terms of the history coverage. As I reviewed my diary in preparation for doing this interview, I was struck by the sheer number of days I talked about suicide in my diary. Because I was so depressed at the total lack of professionalism that was being displayed and the amount of criticism we would come under in the future for what a poor job we did when, for the first time in American history, we had actually had military history elements in place before the shooting started. It should have given us a tremendous leg up and in point of fact we, I'm afraid, pissed away most of that advantage.
I was finally read in on the offensive plan by being invited to attend the division commanders' brief-backs to the corps commander. And that took place on the 15th of January. At that point I realized where we were going--the end run that GEN [H. Norman] Schwarzkopf miscalls the "Hail Mary" play. And the displacement operation. In that, we would go from an array in depth to a linear array of the Corps. And at that point I had to completely recast the concept of how I would cover. I had by this point regrouped the assets into four teams. And what I decided to do was just, for matters of convenience and personality, keep the teams covering the same folks that they had originally covered. So I left MAJ Levin's team with the 82d; MAJ Thomas' team with the 24th; and my team with the 101st.
And then I said "okay, MAJ Thomas, because the 24th is on the right flank of the Corps, you'll also pick up coverage responsibility for the 3d Armored Cavalry which is on the right flank." And MAJ Levin, because he was on the left flank along with the 6th (French) Light Armored Division, he drew responsibility to provide coverage to the 6th French as well.
I then took my extra people, which at this point constituted two female NCOs that we could not really ... or at least at that time we did not think that we could take forward into the battalion or company echelons of the front by statute or regulation or whatever. And I put them (SSG Kirkland from the 116th and SGT Dorothy McNeil from the 130th) with MAJ Bob Honec, who by this point had finally arrived as an individual filler into theater and been assigned to me. That gave us, then, a Team BRAVO which was a de facto fourth MHD. And I gave him the responsibility of operating out of the Corps Main CP and providing coverage to the corps troops. With emphasis on medical activities, because he's a Medical Service Corps officer, and on the [1st] Support Command in general.
I then also gained operatonal control by this point of thirteen individuals from the Joint Combat Camera Team. And they were configured also in four teams. So I just attached one combat camera team to each one of the MHDs. A system that was a great success in three out of the four cases. In the fourth case with MAJ Thomas, he and the CPD NCO (with that team) had a great deal of difficulty in communicating. MAJ Thomas did not want to use them the way that they were told that they had to be employed, so the net result was that they got very, very little coverage in on the 24th. But for the other three teams, that notion of pairing up worked beautifully.
So it gave us ... MAJ Levin had five men in his team; I had seven in mine; and MAJ Thomas had six in his. Now, MAJ Levin and I both kept our teams intact. MAJ Honec had six people in his team ... seven people in his team. And he kept them moving. He task organized them for any individual mission. Sometimes he'd go out with only two people, if that's all it took to do that kind of coverage, and let the CPD guys go in another direction. Sometimes he'd take everybody together. I mean, he did a lot more of tailoring to the mission. MAJ Thomas left one (his female NCO, SGT Robbye Thomas) back at the division Main [CP]; put the Combat Pictorial Detachment guys sort of in an isolated holding area. Then he split himself up. He went with one maneuver element and he put his NCO, SSG Causey (Warren Causey) with another maneuver element.
The upshot was that for G-Day, for the initial offensive, we had a military history element with each of the lead maneuver brigades. Since combat in AirLand Battle [doctrine] takes place at the brigade level, we actually had our people where they needed to be. We didn't have enough teams to provide full coverage to every maneuver brigade, and we eventually ran into trouble. Because we couldn't ... although we had planned to do it, the tempo of the battle was such that it became physically impossible for us to switch off from one brigade to another as the brigades leap-frogged through each other. They went at too high a speed for us to be able to actually do the switch-off like we had assumed we would be capable of doing. But at least we got out and covered, in a very defined way, what went on. And we put our people out where they were not only coming back in after the fact collecting documents, but they were actually on the ground at the time participating. So therefore they had a greater sense of how to deal with things, and how to interpret, and where to go specifically to get the documentation.
Like I said, we developed this plan; basically briefed it; carried it out. I got everybody away and out, attached to their units before we displaced from the east. MAJ Levin went out and actually flew north with the 82d by C-130 [Hercules] taking ... and he had the only HMMWV2 (High Mobility Multi-Wheeled Vehicle, M-998 series). The only one that had that particular vehicle which had the (literally) go-anywhere mobility. The CUCVs that the rest of us had turned out to be go-anywhere up north, but were not go anywhere down south. They are nowhere near as mobile. So we anticipated some problems in that, but fortunately because we displaced that did not turn out to be a problem. MAJ Thomas made his ground movement with the 24th Infantry Division's Main CP and had no problem with that. I sent Team BRAVO out by aircraft with the--C-130 aircraft--with the Corps Main CP. And then ... at that point I had picked up an extra vehicle. Right as we displaced, Protocol kind of shut down operations and they had a rental sedan, a Toyota. So that became Team BRAVO's tactical vehicle. We got the keys to it and took it north with us, complete with anti-fratricide markings and everything else. So MAJ Honec and one of the photographers drove that in the Corps convoy.
And PFC Freund and I took the CUCV (the 116th CUCV3) up, towing MAJ Levin's trailer. He had a 3/4-ton trailer and we towed that up behind our truck. And that aspect of the pooling had been something that we had developed at the National Training Center. And it works. It worked quite well. We took it up and secured it for him at the new Corps Command Post in Rafha. And it was available for him to get and pick up whenever he needed it, whereas he wasn't tied down with it for the tactical mobility of the ground move when they crossed the Line of Departure. And that really did work out quite well.
We took off ... PFC Freund and I left out of ... left out of ...
[END OF SIDE ONE, TAPE TWO]
DR. WRIGHT: ... out of the Corps Main at Dragon City on the 29th of January. And we drove by way of a really bizarre route. But, I mean, there were only two roads and this was the one we had to take to free up the more direct route for combat forces and stuff. We went from Dhahran down to Riyadh, then we turned north and went past KK ... King Khalid Military City (known as KKMC) to Hafar al Batin, where we picked up the Trans-Arabian Pipeline Road (or Tapline Road, which was Main Supply Route DODGE--MSR DODGE). And we took that, then [INTERRUPTION] ... that was the extreme western end, out in Rafha, of the allied force.
Now we had survived, early on, the start of the air campaign. We made the movement out to the west, which at the time everybody considered very, very risky. We couldn't understand how anybody could ever possibly miss doing that. And we thought we would be ambushed en route by special operations-type forces, of which we knew the Iraqi army supposedly had a lot. But we ... we never got messed with. We maintained armed perimeter guard and every time we stopped it was herring-bone formation and all this other stuff. Everything very tactical.
The one bizarre moment came as we passed a convoy of either Kuwaiti or Syrian Soviet-manufactured or Soviet-style tanks on tank transporters; a serial of them moving north from KKMC to Hafar al Batin. We passed them, and some of our younger soldiers got quite excited at the sight of what they perceived as Iraqi tanks. And some of the adult leadership had to calm them down a little bit. We kept pointing out, well, the fact that they were moving north was probably a good hint that they weren't Iraqi.
We made it through the [SS-1C] SCUD phase of the air campaign fairly well. We got ... our attention was picked up in January. We'd gone through a couple of SCUD alerts really before the other MHD people--the MHDs--had arrived. Where they had done test launches in Iraq and we had reacted to them. But until the Patriots started firing we really assumed that they were going to come in, that they were targeted against us, and that they had chemical warheads. We took all that stuff kind of ... kind of seriously.
Let's see. We ... uh ... on the 14th of January at 1200 hours (local), the Corps moved to wartime footing, which meant that we broke up all our training things. We went to full wartime manning of the TOC, and stuff like that. So I really started getting perked up then, and our people started focusing in then. In anticipation of the Corps displacing, we started taking all the records generated to date by the Corps Headquarters. They were all passed through us for inventorying. We developed inventory sheets and then sealed the boxes and we put the boxes in an ... a trailer that was left at Dragon City (where the Corps maintained a rear cell) under military police guard, so that we didn't have to drag a lot of paperwork up with us.
On the ... uh ... let's see, I'm trying to think here ... on the 16th of January we went out and got our war stockage of cigarettes and things like that in anticipation of the PXs closing, and knowing that where we were moving to there were not going to be any PX facilities. Especially bothersome to me because I heard cigarettes were going for $40-$50 a carton out there, and I kind of can't live without my cigarettes, so I didn't want to have to spend a lot of that stuff.
About 2200 hours on the 16th we went to Mission-Oriented Protective Posture Level One (or MOPP-1), which involved donning our chemical protective suits, and we stayed in those for several days. And that ... that was real. In the peacetime Army you were threatened constantly with an Article 154 if you break the seal on the bag of the MOPP suits. And when we called everybody in, I had to ... I told everybody to come in and be back at the office at 2200 hours. And everybody kind of wondered what was going on, and assumed something was happening. When they all got into the office and I told them to break the seals on their MOPP suit bags and go ahead and put the MOPP suits on, I think that's when it really became real to them. We also had undergone some biological warfare inoculations on the 11th, and that ... they were shook up by that, but they weren't really positive.
On the 16th, like I said, we went into the MOPP level one and started taking our nerve agent pretreatment pills, and that scared the living hell out of the kids. They really, at that point, they felt that something serious was going to happen. We sat around until about 11:30 that night and then finally said "look, go on home; get some sleep, but sleep in your MOPP suits with your [M-17-series protective] masks right by your sides." So I think my driver, PFC Freund, and I probably were the last two to go to sleep that night and we both got to--fell--asleep about 0130 on the 17th. And the war started at 0152.
MR. EVERETT: How did you learn about the start of the war? Of the air war.
DR. WRIGHT: I heard the ... I heard the air strike take off from the airfield. And I remember I woke up, heard what it was, went "oh, that's just them taking off; if they're taking off, we got in the first punch, we don't have to worry." And I just went back to sleep. Then came in the next morning at breakfast and started working on it.
But at that point we had at the Corps Headquarters a TV set set up out in the courtyard out in front of the mess hall that was getting the CNN [Cable News Network] feed via AFN [Armed Forces Network] Europe. And anybody who was off duty was watching CNN. In fact, throughout the whole time we were down in Dhahran CNN was the primary source of information for Corps Headquarters--the people in Corps Headquarters, not the Corps itself, but the people. And the ... and we would watch that fairly regularly. And then the initial reporting that came over about the air strikes and whatnot--the success of the air strikes--it became very clear to us that the Air Force had done a good job of bouncing them unprepared. We had gotten the first licks in and we were going to be able to do it without having to fight. We were going to be able to do our move without having to be under air attack and stuff like that. And morale started picking up, then, with succeeding days as we started seeing the video tapes of smart bombs blowing up the buildings and things like that, morale started picking up.
The SCUDs that were inbound were kind of scary the first couple that came in, and then thereafter it got ... it got pretty dull and boring. We took our first SCUD on the 18th at about 4:35 in the morning. And it got nailed, you know, successfully intercepted by a Patriot. I slept through that SCUD. I mean, you know, I woke up at the sound of the intercept and just rolled over and went back to sleep again because the chemical alarm didn't go off. We had more SCUDs the night of the 18th/19th, but they weren't shot at us, they were shot at Israel, so the Corps--the Corps staff--didn't overreact. They didn't get anybody all hot and excited. And then on the morning of the 19th, because there had been no chemicals in those early rounds, we were allowed to kind of take the MOPP suits off and go back to MOPP level 0.
Then, let's see, on the 20th of January when MAJ Honec arrived, about 2150 hours we got the report there were three SCUDs inbound, so ... and that came right as the phone was ringing from the front gate (the MP at the front gate) that there was a MAJ Honec inbound. And I had just told PFC Freund to go outside and police him up and escort him into the building. Poor Honec was in a parade formation when one of the SCUDs got intercepted directly overhead. So by the time (several hours later) when we were able to actually get the all-clear and bring him in, he was running on adrenaline so bad he wouldn't go to sleep that night. He kept me up all night because he was so hyper[active] from having seen it.
Anyway, the SCUD issue became kind of a dead issue towards the end, because we got ... we got pretty blase about it. And in point ... the first few, when we got the word of a SCUD launch, the problem in the Corps TOC was keeping people out so that we wouldn't interfere with business, because everybody wanted to hear what was happening. And by the end the thing was try to keep somebody manning the radios, because everybody else went stampeding out to the smoke break area outside the building to try to watch the intercepts. Because it was a great firework show.
We also did things like watched ... I remember very distinctly we had an inbound SCUD during the National Football League's National Conference championship game between the New York Giants (that I rooted for) and I believe it was the San Francisco 49ers or the Chicago Bears (I can't remember which). We watched that game in MOPP suits because there was an inbound SCUD. And all we did was just put our masks on. We figured there was no place to go. If it hit, it was going to hit. We might as well watch the football game.
MR. EVERETT: Okay. We're running a little short of time, so I want to jump ahead to the start of the ground assault. Your attachment to the 101st Airborne Division: how you found yourself on that morning, what equipment you were carrying for oral histories. And so forth.
DR. WRIGHT: Okay, we had ... like I said, we had moved up to Rafha and got everybody positioned out with their units, living with their units. Obviously, it was very difficult for me to go live with the 101st because I still had Corps-level responsibilities that I had to execute with the Corps Main staff. To include having to go down ... spend several days back in Bahrain doing interviews with the helicopters and crews from the 4th Squadron of the 17th Cavalry that were flying off the Navy frigates; that had been involved in the take-down of the oil platforms and the actual liberation of the first pieces of terrain.
So I had coordinated with 1LT Lippard (Cliff Lippard, who by this point had replaced CPT McGrath as the Division Historian) so that MG Peay understood [that] we would be coming down. We had done a couple of IPRs [in-progress reviews] for MG Peay and for the chief of staff (division chief of staff) and whatnot. And I had Lippard on the ground with the division, watching the division in the pre-G-Day activity. So I knew I physically didn't have to be right there.
The day before the ground offensive, which would have been Saturday the 23d of February, was the day we'd agreed upon that I would link physically down there. So I loaded out my people in the CUCV. I took seven of us: myself; PFC Freund from the 116th; SGT Yackiel and SPC Anderson from Fort Bragg; and then three members of the Combat Pictorial Detachment (SPC Bob Elliot, SPC Bennie Hayden, and SGT Bryan Cumper). And we put the seven of us in the truck with a GP small tent, camouflage netting, all the camera equipment we had. One tape recorder because that's all I could spare, because we're so short on equipment that was all I had to go with. But we had a video camera with us (actually two video cameras with us), so that I figured that we had some backup. As it turns out, that was inadequate. But some backup. And then the usual survival gear of ammunition, water, all that other stuff.
We drove down. Linked up with the assaulting brigade (which was the 1st Brigade) of the 101st in their pick-up zone [PZ]. They had displaced out to right off the border and prepositioned there; basically a reinforced brigade: four battalions of infantry, an artillery (105mm artillery) battalion, a 155mm artillery battery, air defense battery, engineer company, the brigade slice of support troops. And they were going in by air assault to about 120 miles into Iraq to a place called ... we called Forward Operating Base COBRA.
And the idea there was [that] that was about half way to the Euphrates Valley. It was right about at the line of where there was one hard-surface lateral road (east-west road). And we'd go up, get there, and from there the 101st could make a second hop that would reach up to the Euphrates. And this was right at the extent of helicopter range where they could make a round trip. So we would go up there, secure this very extensive (we're talking an area of maybe ten kilometers by thirty kilometers) as a forward base, and then they'd fly all their aviation assets into there.
And then hop out from there initially up to the Euphrates and then also then could hop east towards Basrah and be in on the final killing of the Republican Guard [Forces Command], which was ... the Corps' mission was to get in from the back and our definition of victory that was assigned to us by GEN Schwarzkopf (the theater commander in chief) was that destruction of the Republican Guards. Not capturing territory; it was destruction of the enemy's offensive capability, which was housed exclusively in the Republican Guard.
I had originally briefed and been promised that I would have seven seats in that air assault; that I could put all of my people up. We would have the cameramen going in. I would drop some of them off in FOB COBRA and recover the others back to the pick-up zone. And as they loaded up the second lift, we would dismount, pick up our vehicle, and then move up with the ground convoy to ensure that we had ground transportation once we got up there. And then we would move as other brigades leap-frogged through COBRA. We would switch brigades and go with them.
When I got out there on the afternoon of the 23d, got to the pick-up zone, I learned then that the original agreement had been violated, that the division public affairs officer had come down and insisted that the media pool of civilian reporters needed to take priority over the Army's own internal documentary folks. So I lost six of my seven seats to the DoD [Department of Defense] media pool, which destroyed the morale of my soldiers considerably. And it was only by virtue of the fact that I had been in Vietnam and had just happened to be wearing a uniform that showed a Vietnam patch on the right shoulder that the brigade commander [COL Thomas Hill] agreed to make room for me in his command and control helicopter. So, at least, even though I couldn't take any pictures, at least I could go up and be a witness to the operation.
So I went up and rode in that helicopter. We took off a little after 7:00 that morning. Had been supposed to take off at 4 A.M., but there was ground--severe ground--fog over the objective, so we were held. Took off a little bit after 7:00. Crossed the border I guess about 7:15 or 7:20--between 7:15 and 7:20--and then I stayed on that helicopter until about 1:00 in the afternoon. When we formed up ... by that point we were already running 24-hours ahead of schedule, so our ground convoy got moved way up.
We got off the helicopter. I walked over, linked with my cameramen ... who had filmed the lift-off and then raced the video tape of that back to Rafha so that it could be placed on a C-12 [Army twin-engine fixed-wing airplane] and ... which was sitting on the runway with the engines running, waiting for it so they could haul it back to Riyadh so it could get uplinked by satellite to get back to the Pentagon on that day. And we would have beaten the civilian news media with that footage by 24 hours. Unfortunately, something happened to that film when it got to Riyadh and got into the Joint Combat Camera Team's hands--the field grade officer hands down there. And, to this day (and this is December)--to this day it has never reappeared. So I risked some soldiers' lives getting some footage that was lost due to personal foul-play by some very selfish individuals who were more concerned with their own careers than accomplishing the mission.
We got up on the convoy. The ground convoy didn't actually get into FOB COBRA until the 25th. When we got in there I reported to the brigade TOC; talked to COL Hill, the brigade commander. Said "hey, we're on the ground; what do we do next?" He said "go talk to MG Peay." So I went over ... and he walked me over to the front door of the tent that was his TOC ; pointed at another tent a little ways away and said that's the division TOC.
So I went over to the other tent. Reported in to MG Peay. He and I sat down for just about 45 minutes and talked about (again, not for record--just as background) what had happened to date, how he felt, how ... . Material that would help me later on develop my interview questions for him. And get a sense of what was going on. I got his guidance on what he wanted in the way of coverage, which was [to] stay loose, stay reactive. We've got no way of figuring out what's happening now. Just ... he felt great that he hadn't lost a soldier up until that point. And really ... only ... basically didn't loose anybody in the operation. And that it was his sense that things were going to be wrapped up very, very quickly. Because at that point we had collapsed resistance. On the evening of the 24th, for all practical purposes, the 101st had won the war, because they had their lead task elements with TOW antitank missile launchers mounted on HMMWVs astride Highway 8 and had at that point cut the Iraqi supply lines into the Kuwait Theater of Operations.
So we planned, and we tried from the 25th ... the night of the 25th we laid our plans for how we were going to move. Which was, at that point, we were going to leap-frog the 1st Brigade up with the 3d Brigade into a place called Objective TIM, which was really the Jalibah and Tallil Air Base complex up in the Euphrates Valley. And then establish FOB VIPER up there, and use that for the final push into Basrah. So we prepared for that on the night of the 25th. Went to bed. I slept in the truck and the guys set up the tent.
I woke up to thumping on the door during the night. And it was the guys complaining that the wind had knocked the tent down. I told them to ... in a probably very poor demonstration of leadership, told them to shut up, stop snivelling, put the tent back up, and not to wake me up over nonsense like that again. Woke up the next morning to 35 mile-per-hour sustained winds' sandstorm (gusting to about 70). Couldn't find the tent anyplace until I looked down at the ground and saw it weighted down with rucksacks and stuff. It was collapsed. And the guys huddling in some foxholes. And they stayed in there.
And we lost the whole day of the 26th to the sandstorm. It was just physically impossible for us (or for anybody else) to do anything. I think armored vehicles were able to move; the aircraft weren't. So we waited until the storm broke about 1600. And then started preparing to displace. We ran around, fueled our vehicle. Came back in. Reloaded everything. And then moved in the dark ... moved in the dark to an assembly ... a tactical assembly area. Which caused us some problems because ... we're talking billiard table flat. There was no reference points. Compass readings didn't do any good. I mean, I kept getting told "go 300 meters north-northwest" or azimuth 180 or whatever it was. We kept criss-crossing across the desert floor and missing the convoy assembly area. And my driver was getting progressively frustrated with the fact that nobody in the 101st (in his opinion) knew how to give directions.
Eventually we found it. And we sat waiting for the ... formed up, waiting to go. Spent until the 28th basically in a 'circled wagons' formation waiting for the word to displace on up to VIPER. Each morning I would get a readout from the Headquarters Company: "Are we ready to go?" "No, we're on a four-hour hold" or whatever. So I would use that time to chase around. And through that we went out and filmed the processing of the EPWs [enemy prisoners of war], the folks that we captured. And we went out, talked to--did preliminary interviewing--with the rifle elements that were involved in the capturing of FOB COBRA and the capturing of this battalion. Interrogated the Iraqi battalion commander and also got a helicopter from a friend of mine who was the commander of one of the battalions (the [UH-60] Blackhawk battalions) to get us up in the air and move us around.
MR. EVERETT: When you talked to these people, these were not recorded interviews? These were notes?
DR. WRIGHT: Strictly notes, because the shamal (the sandstorm on the 26th) wiped out two-thirds of our camera equipment and the only tape recorder we had. Your talking about fine-grain sand; this is not sand, but fine ... talcum powder-fine pumice that just shredded all the electronic equipment. The only stuff that we had that could keep functioning was the ... we had one sealed video camera (underwater photography video camera) that we could keep running and our antique mechanical Canon 35mm cameras. Because we could disassemble those and blow the dust out.
MR. EVERETT: Okay. Continuing again. Could you talk a little bit about the interviews that you conducted with the French units that were there? How you arranged the liaison between the units, and so forth?
DR. WRIGHT: Okay. Primarily, what we had concentrated on early on (before G-Day) was doing some deployment-type interviews, working about ... worrying about deployment issues and DESERT SHIELD-type issues. And making contacts. During the ground offensive (the 100-hour War), we really did not concentrate much on--the three forward-deployed teams--did not concentrate much on interviewing at all. It ... that was more a question of 'move with--see--observe--understand' and make contacts for follow-on interviews. And then we did (other than Team BRAVO), we really worked on our interviewing once the cease-fire took place.
So at that point we came back in out of the field. For Team 116, we came in out of the field the evening of March 4th. Came back to Rafha. The 130th joined us there about two days later. The 317th stayed with the 24th Division Main [CP]; they just fell back to the Main. And everybody pretty much went into their comprehensive interview mode (or what was supposed to have been their comprehensive interview mode). MAJ Honec, working with Team BRAVO, maintained a pretty consistent run throughout the whole operation (before, during and after the ground offensive). Because he was working those kinds of issues that worked that way.
And then we started just trying to do a system check. We knew we could not interview as comprehensively as I had laid out the program for JUST CAUSE--the different nature of the beast. We just tried to ensure that we had a representative set of interviews that would answer every element of the community['s questions]. So we'd sit there and look. "Okay, we don't have really any MP interviews; okay, we've got to get some MP interviews." And we maintained a status board of pending jobs or potential jobs ... ideas up on the board for both photography and interviewing.
And then working with the 6th French, then, was MAJ Levin's job once he recovered back to Rafha. Then [he] would go out and spend maybe two days or three days with the French; come back in, go back out. And worked that way. And it was left pretty much to him. And what he started trying to do was work top-down; to get the senior officers and try to get down through the regimental commander level. And then he worked his way through that list as far as he could.
And then other interviewing was done after we recovered back to the States.
MR. EVERETT: So, you had picked up another recorder by this time?
DR. WRIGHT: Um ... when we got back to Rafha, we got into a ... we had a little bit of an argument about the 116th's equipment as to who would get theirs. MAJ Honec and I had a little difference of opinion about who would carry ... . In other words, he had been using two 116th recorders, I had been using my personal recorder. When my recorder crashed, I had to go to a ... I had to go on a 'right now' mission and we got into a fight over who was signed for the recorders. And eventually, then, I was able to get mine ... limited, limped ... repairable, so that I got it limping along briefly.
MR. EVERETT: You conducted all your interviews using standard ... ?
DR. WRIGHT: Yeah. We had ... we had, because of archival quality, been rather adamant about standard cassette stuff. MAJ Thomas had brought a micro cassette recorder of his own; MAJ Levin had a personal micro cassette recorder. I would not allow them to conduct interviewing using that equipment. And I think they also had ... in each case they also had some standard cassette recorders. So we just restricted them to using that. And then they would use for their own field notes the micro cassette recorders.
I, personally, feel that we should have both kinds of equipment. And I know that I'm a voice crying in the wilderness but ... . Micro cassette recorders are much, much smaller. They are ideal for taking field notes and for taking captioning notes, photographic captioning notes. When you're doing things like we did, where there were missions where our photographers shot fifteen or twenty rolls of film in one day, trying to maintain any kind of captioning data is virtually impossible without a tape recorder. It needs to be a small one. It also gives you the ... it's usable, particularly if you're flying in a helicopter: open-door, seats-out. You're hanging over the edge, and you're trying to manipulate two cameras and a tape recorder at the same time. You've got to have something like that.
It also gives you a back-up. If I had had both types of recorders, I could have saved my good recorder so it would not have gone down on me. Or, if it had gone down on me, I could have used the micros with the immediate transfer as soon as we got back to a sterile area where we could have done it. That sort of thing.
MR. EVERETT: Did anyone have dubbing cables?
DR. WRIGHT: No. We did not have dubbing cables. We did not have high-speed dubbing equipment. And, quite frankly, I'm glad we didn't. There was no need for that stuff at that time. Now, once we got back to Fort Bragg--the three months we were at Fort Bragg--I wish to hell we had had it. We had horrible problems. The only two options we had were: go over to the language lab and use the high-speed dubbing equipment over there (which ate a whole day for one of my soldiers), a very cumbersome process; or, I took them home with me on the weekends (like I had done with the Panama tapes) and dubbed them on one of my sons' boom boxes. So I wish we had (organic in an MHD) that ability to dub. I don't think it's ... I don't think it is very necessary at the time, and I don't think it's a critical thing when you're forward, out there. It'd be nice to have--I can think of occasions when I'd have liked to have had it. But you really need it when you get back and you're trying to ensure the immediate dissemination of that material so that it's useable by the folks that get stuck with doing the immediacy ... the immediate-type reports.
MR. EVERETT: Any other equipment and operational recommendations for MHD detachments--MHDs?
DR. WRIGHT: I ... I think two recorders for a three-man detachment is crazy. I think you need three recorders. Everybody needs his own because every detachment that we had wound up at least at some point in the game being split in more than one location. And like I said we had one very severe argument over control of a tape recorder. That would have been a moot point if we had had one per [member].
I think we gained a great deal of success in the 317th and Team BRAVO in the utilization of enlisted personnel to do interviews at the same time officers were doing interviews. Because of that Vietnam lesson in flexibility; that there were interviews conducted that literally would never have taken place had it been an officer interviewing an enlisted man. That's not a new lesson, that's just the umpteenth reiteration of an old lesson.
I am appalled at the selfishness of those folks that are involved in the oral history business out in the field. Everybody ... nobody wanted to cooperate, nobody wanted to share. The 130th and ... the 130th integrated into the collection and program effort with no problem, but the 317th (for reasons I'm still not real clear on) came under a great deal of pressure from the 24th ID not only not to share their interviews with Corps, but in fact when they deployed from the Corps Main down to division, took interviews that MAJ Heystek and I ... my copies of the interviews MAJ Heystek and I had done back in October and stole those out of the Corps office and took them down and gave them to division so that Corps history office doesn't have any copies. It's December. When I left Corps Headquarters (I transferred to come up here in November) we still had not received one iota of anything out of the 24th. Which is not surprising--the didn't operate with the Corps in any area.
MR. EVERETT: Just a matter of comment. Dr. [Richard] Hunt [Chief, Oral History Activity] located the 317th interviews. They're currently in the custody of MAJ Thomas, either at his home or his armory, I'm not sure which. He's going to duplicate copies and send to us. But, you say, now it's December and ....
DR. WRIGHT: It's way too late.
MR. EVERETT: I'm sorry, go ahead.
DR. WRIGHT: The other reaction was ... obviously, oral history is primarily accomplished after the fact. It's not ... it's desirous to keep it as close to the event as possible. But reality is that you're going to get it done later, by and large. And that means units that were together in a particular place and time go back to their home stations and get scattered across the United States or across the globe. It happened in JUST CAUSE and it happened again with DESERT STORM.
Other assets that were not deployed into the theater get involved in the oral history collection [from] units, whether they be conducted by the TRADOC school system to develop materials for their use, or by post museums/ historians because they were post units. I mean, there are a variety of different reasons why stuff is done in different places. We thought, based on the lesson learned from Panama where people had not shared, that we had the system ... or at least I deployed to the theater with the belief that we had fixed the system and that utilization of CMH as the central clearing house, with the central numbering system and everything else, would solve that.
And I've been appalled that I have been unable to get one inch of tape out of anybody. I've been unable to get a transcript out of anybody. Other than what I have furnished on up to CMH ... being able to get the support on that material, on my own material. I will tell you that the next time I deploy (if I were ever to deploy again) the rest of the Army [can] go to hell, I'm not going to share with anyone. I just ... I've been burned too many times. And either the system is made to understand that they all better share; that this isn't their personal property, this is the property of the United States Government. If the rules are such that you don't have to adhere to that, then fine, I'm not going to adhere to it. And I don't care if it's the Chief of Staff of the Army--he can be told "got to hell" too.
I mean, it's an appalling amateur night at the zoo by the Army history community. To the point where I got so disgusted with what happened on this deployment, since returning I've resigned my commission, left my job at XVIII Airborne Corps, and was talked out of it at the last second from resigning from civilian status as a government employee. Simply because I'm fed up after twenty-three years of breaking my neck ... to look around at "It's Bozo the Clown Time." Just ... it's no longer possible for me to (in my own mind) be associated with the amateurish behavior.
MR. EVERETT: What type of contact did you have with representatives from the Center for Army Lessons Learned (CALL)?
DR. WRIGHT: Uh ... very good. I know that a lot of people will find this hard to believe, but very good relationships with CALL. Not because of institutional reasons, but because of personal reasons. During JUST CAUSE I had been assigned to work with a very large CALL team (eight-man CALL team and one historian). And we had worked together. For DESERT SHIELD/DESERT STORM I've been given to understand that GEN Schwarzkopf didn't want anybody from CALL setting foot in his theater, and was eventually pressured by the Chief of Staff to accept a token presence. So what we got was a token presence: one officer was allowed to be sent in to cover XVIII Airborne Corps. That ... fortunately for the harmony of effort, that officer was MAJ Dave Buckley, who I had worked with in Panama and in the follow-on material for Panama as we had, over the ...
[END OF SIDE TWO, TAPE TWO]
DR. WRIGHT: ... because of Dave's personal relationship with me, we established a very clear working relationship to the point that he was put on distribution for copies of all our slides and most of our tapes. At the same time I duplicated them and sent them to CMH I sent a duplicate copy of the tape to CALL.
MR. EVERETT: I suppose you know ... did MAJ Buckley conduct any interviews?
DR. WRIGHT: Ah, no. Poor Dave did not get a chance to do anything for CALL. He arrived ... understanding that COL Akers had been the chief of the CALL team that had covered JUST CAUSE, Dave arrived and reported in to COL Akers and was assigned to be an action officer in G-3 Plans and wasn't allowed to do any collecting for CALL at all.
MR. EVERETT: Continuing on. [LAUGHTER] Uh, based on your experience during DESERT STORM and JUST CAUSE, and so forth, do you recommend any changes to the procedures guide? Basically, are these procedures valid? Or we just didn't get a chance to practice them the way ... ?
DR. WRIGHT: I think, by and large, that the change is not in what the guide calls for, the change has to come more in the ... ensuring that people are trained to that standard, and then ensuring compliance. And I think there is a rather total break-down in the chain of accountability to ensure that people did things. And, you know, if I come through pretty hard on my subordinate detachments being "mutinous dogs," understand that from ARCENT's point of view probably the same thing could be said about me. I blew them off as consistently as I humanly could because they were irrelevant to what I was doing. I'm sure the detachments in their way felt that I was irrelevant to what they were doing.
I just think that we need to do a much better job of seeing that there are certain things that are tactical in nature from the military history standpoint, i.e., don't tell me who I'm supposed to cover in doing my oral history work, that's my professional judgment. You can make recommendations, you can say that in circumstances there are certain people (the S-3 usually) ... generically, the S-3 is always important, whereas the S-1 might not be, but you've got to leave me some tactical flexibility of how I orchestrate my stuff. But I have to do it within set parameters of standards.
And then I think there ought to be a reporting channel so that information can get passed. I don't know if anybody else did what I tried to do, which is pass periodic status reports of how many interviews I had done and with whom. I think it would be kind of nice if we all did that. It would avoid some of the problems that took place with, say for example, interviews in the medical arena where folks didn't know that other people were working. And sometimes wound up appearing foolish by having two different groups interview the same individual. And that happened, I think, with Panama interviews where interviewing was done and then other people came by later totally unaware of the fact that one interview had been done, you know, the first interview had been done.
And that ... that destroys credibility. I mean, the number of times I had somebody say "well, why can't you historians get your act together? We already gave that interview." I mean, you're talking, by and large, about people, if the interview's of value it's because the person knows something or did something significant, and therefore their time is pretty valuable to them. They don't like to repeat the same thing over and over again. We don't have much in the way of collection asset. Wouldn't it have been smarter to ensure that everybody could have gotten something that didn't duplicate? I mean ... .
So I'd like to see more of a centralized CMH-driven clearing house on that. It's just real hard. Every time you scream "thou shalt" you can get into a situation wherein theater historian or corps historian doesn't know field operations, as was the case with VII Corps and ARCENT in this last deployment. The individuals who wound up in those slots were qualified 5Xs5 and were bona fide historians; just neither one of them had ever even seen a field historian at work. And therefore came out with absolutely bizarre guidance at times that ... you know. So if you had a you-must-do, a strictly defined stovepipe, you could get into problems that the person next layer up on the chain could be directing you to do something that was counter to what should be done. So you've got to leave some room for maneuver.
But I think at the very least you have to find some better way of accounting. Especially since, with computers and a data base at this end, and with the availability of fax technology or even message traffic technology, you sure as hell could send the information so that there could be coordination. And we could flag over laugh [sic] and stuff like that.
I also think it would be really nice if, despite all the years of trying, we could actually get everybody to use the correct format, to use the correct marking system, the correct numbering system. I mean, so all that stuff ... it's not that it has to be invented, it's not that the people need to be told [about] it. Somewhere along the line somebody's got to be crucified for blowing off doing that stuff. And that, to my way of thinking, is the biggest problem, and I do not have a solution to it because I don't think anybody's got any balls.
MR. EVERETT: I think I've covered most of the things that I wanted to cover. Is there anything that I haven't touched on or any other points that you want to make?
DR. WRIGHT: I think overall there's a tone to this interview that probably fifty years from now is going to sound kind of bitter and whiny. And I would argue that it's bitter and whiny because I'm pretty bitter about the whole experience. But, within that context, I think there was an awful lot of very positive work that was done, particularly in the oral history field. I think we accomplished a lot. The bitterness on my part and the whinyness is probably driven by a sense of frustration. I knew how much more we could have done if we had been reasonably (not even properly, just reasonably) resourced and supported, and if everybody involved had concentrated on doing business.
I think, within that context though, what we got, I think was some really good stuff that I think would be tremendously helpful. I would like to have seen, early on, CMH taking an aggressive role in coordinating what needed to be ... a plan of attack. It was really hard for a company commander (which is what a detachment is sort of like) to develop his OPLAN [operations plan] for the seizing of an objective when there's no campaign plan. So you don't know what you're trying to do. I mean, yeah, I can take Hill 209, but do I take it from the east or the west? I need to know what the campaign plan is to know how to fit that together.
I think, as relates to the oral history activity, I think one of the particularly valuable things there is for the oral history coordination element here to be in contact with the TRADOC schools, the various MACOM [major command] historians, the various Center historians, to ask for issues to be identified. Left to their own devices, would you rely on an MHD commander's sense of judgement? But, you know, you can use your time a lot more effectively if you have a list of stuff. I would also think that perhaps detachment commanders out there on their own receiving a list of 45 subjects to cover with interviewing might be motivated to do a little less screwing off and a little more work. If they thought somewhere along the line a letter would be sent to their peacetime commander saying "how come, you know, the umpety-umpth only did X of the 25 tasks that they were assigned and what's your plan for how you're going to--you know, Adjutant General or ARCOM [Army Reserve Command] Commander--what's your plan for full-time funding to have those people complete their missions?"
There's no accountability whatsoever. And in mobilizing there's never going to be any accountability of an MHD by his wartime chain of command, because he knows your OER [officer efficiency report] that you do on him doesn't mean a bloody thing to his peacetime chain of command, and won't affect his career one iota. You know, court martialling a guy or shooting him will, but short of that, you know, technical performance of duties--you can't do that. So I think we need to think through some way to start applying some better standards on that.
I also think that a lot of smoke was blown at a lot of people during training sessions about "yeah, we know how to do that; yeah, we know how to do that; yeah, we know how to do that." When in point of fact there are a hell of a lot of detachments out there that didn't have the foggiest notion of what they were doing. So I think, perhaps, while I wouldn't say certification or validation, I would say that perhaps the oral history activity needs to work much, much closer with Field and International and FORSCOM on setting a standard for the MHDs to prove that they can meet, rather than simply announcing a check-off. We need to come up with some test that would be factored into an ARTEP [Army Training and Evaluation Program] and would be factored into major training events such as [to] deploy MHDs to the National Training Center, require them by tasking them from the Center to do interviews on subject X, and then to furnish the interview tapes up through a simulated wartime trace to the Center where the Center will review them (and I wouldn't say transcribe them, because that's expensive, but at the very least review them), and then send a critique back saying "hey, X, Y, Z."
But my ... my experience in two and a half years and two deployments down at XVIII Airborne Corps was history and history detachments are no different than any other part of the Army. Fight as you train, train as you fight, is equally valid. If we don't make our training more realistic and more combat-oriented, then they're not going to do it. You've got to condition the response in peacetime that you want to see in wartime.
MR. EVERETT: Under the category of better late than never, I don't think we discussed the impact of the arrival of COL Swain, the Corps Historian ...
DR. WRIGHT: ... Theater Historian.
MR. EVERETT: ... Theater Historian. Right.
DR. WRIGHT: Yeah. COL Swain started off with a tremendous handicap that I don't think anybody appreciated at the time, which was he arrived (it's my memory) somewhere around about the 14th and 15th of January. I mean, he was ... he had virtually no time on the ground to get to know anything. He did not have any background on field history as opposed to schoolhouse history. And he arrived really wet behind the ears. Walked in and basically inherited whatever MAJ Heystek had worked out for the 44th.
Uh ... I got, for example, a message shortly after we had moved up to Rafha from COL Swain informing me that BG [Hal] Nelson, the Chief of Military History, had invoked the Command Report and that COL Swain expected by the 28th of February to have the XVIII Airborne Corps Command Report for Operation DESERT SHIELD on his desk. A) I just boxed the records up and stored them and had moved 500 miles; B) I thought writing a deployment report instead of preparing for the combat probably wasn't a good idea and might in fact wind up getting soldiers killed. And then I also thought that it betrayed an incredible ignorance on his part of what's involved in writing one of those things, and just exactly how many people we had. Later ... so ... about the first three times I got that message I just kept throwing it away and wouldn't even answer it. I later, finally, got wound down enough to respond that I didn't think this was going to work. I knew it wasn't do-able. And why didn't we not necessarily put out a new message, but just sort of ignore it and let it go away and we would react as best we could. And he said fine.
He then, during the ground war, sent me a series of messages telling me to call him. Well, obviously I was hundreds of miles away out with the troops and wasn't there to return his messages. He then sent a "personal for" message to COL Akers saying "tell Doctor (now bearing in mind that I was a major in the United States Army at that point), tell Doctor Wright to come in out of the field and answer his phone." Fortunately for me, COL Akers never saw that message. A friend of mine who was one of the desk officers (day CHOPS) in G-3 saw the message when it came in and pulled it out of the message file and set it aside and gave it to me when I came back in out of the field. [He] said he didn't think I needed that, and he didn't think COL Akers needed to see that. That, you know, we were engaged in ground combat and it was pretty bizarre that somebody would be harassing a corps G-3 for something like that.
In his defense, COL Swain turned out to be a great guy and a great learner. And by the time we had redeployed and conducted our "hot wash" down in Atlanta in July, he had learned a tremendous amount and said, you know, geez, he wished he could go back--there were a whole lot of things he would do differently. I think in that sense the system has benefitted a great deal, because I think we have now arrived at a situation where we understand who is to deploy out, when. And we will not be stuck in a situation of having inexperienced people. That we now know we have to have a bona fide, qualified, experienced theater historian ready to go. Also think that we've done a lot of learning on that, so I feel good ... I just think it's important right now that we codify that stuff in an FM, in an AR, before those of us who were there and who went through the learning curve are all gone.
MR. EVERETT: Should the selection of the theater historian remain with the Chief of Military History?
DR. WRIGHT: I think so. I think that needs to be done. I think we shouldn't waste time diddling with the issue that clouded it early on, which is he's not the CinC's historian. He's the Army component commander's historian. Something we did, and handled very easily in JUST CAUSE, because the CinC wasn't a player. GEN Thurman in JUST CAUSE said "that ain't my job, that's not what I'm doing; I've got a war fighter to fight the war [and] Joint Task Force SOUTH commander, you're it." And because the Joint Task Force commander was the Army component commander, was the ... then the Army component furnished 90% of the manpower, that problem with me falling in and being the joint historian there.
I think in a large operation like DESERT STORM we got so concerned about who was going to be the joint historian (was it going to be back at McDill [Air Force Base], was it going to be forward in theater, humma-humma-humma) that we blew a lot of time getting an Army component committed. Because basically that's all we needed. We do the Army component history; the Navy does the Navy component history; the Marine Corps does the Marine component history; the Air Force does the Air Force component history; and then all those component histories are then turned over to JCS and let JCS do their history. But ... you know, the important thing is to get somebody on the ground as early as possible to document. And we didn't do that, we were horrid on that. We wasted a lot of time. So I would like to think that that's one of the things we've learned. Focus on getting the Army guy in place and let across the river [the Pentagon] worry about across the river, about the jointness.
MR. EVERETT: Any other closing remarks?
DR. WRIGHT: Uh ... I think there's some very, very good people. And just for the record, just to make sure everybody understands, of the 25 folks that wound up working for XVIII Airborne Corps History Office, if you discount the 13 from the Combat Pictorial Detachment, that left twelve. Of those twelve that were the historians and photographers and photojournalists and executive administrative assistants, from the program within XVIII Airborne Corps, three of those individuals received Bronze Star Medals: SSG [Warren G.] Causey, SGT Yackiel and PFC Freund. And one received an Army Commendation Medal, and that was SGT McNeil. And I think that--if you understand the award rates that were authorized for XVIII Airborne Corps--that was a very, very significant recognition by the Corps Commander of the performance by the historians. And I take a great deal of pride in that, that he saw fit to approve those awards.
I also think that we got a fair amount of documentation back. I think the Army does not understand that the history business starts when the war ends, and we lost our people before we could ... I mean, we were able to keep them on duty 90 days after the deployment, but it should have been 180 days, because we couldn't get the work done in time.
We ... basically when I lost the people, for all practical purposes the oral history program was suspended because I got beat up to turn in documents. Documents don't go away. If I had the documents delivered to my office, I could keep them indefinitely and they wouldn't be lost. But because I was told I had to prioritize document collection over oral history because of mistaken guidance coming out of DA (and I'm not talking about the Center here, I'm talking about out of DA) we, for all practical purposes, lost the perishable oral history material.
So I think perhaps oral history needs to be placed in a much higher priority mode. If for no other reason than the Army's changed since Vietnam. Or at least as far as the units in XVIII Airborne Corps were concerned, they do a much better job of keeping paper than they did in Vietnam. You don't have to waste as much time doing that.
I think one of the lessons that we learned about drawing the distinction between a history office and a history detachment is an absolute positive. I ... I got kind of schizophrenic trying to do both. They're competing things. All the time I spent being a history office "managing" a program was time I lost as a MHD commander out there preserving information. I think we've learned that one. Now if we can benefit from it, it means we will not only mobilize MHDs in the future, but we will pull people (active duty or reserve component individuals) to plug in to beef up the offices. I think that's a plus.
I think what we got was only a sampling, I think is by and large quality stuff. And I think that pertains not just to what the Corps History Office-116th-130th got, but also to the stuff that Bill Thomas got with the 24th. From people that have seen it, I have confidence that the quality on that stuff is pretty high. I know, even though I've never seen any of it first-hand, from talking to folks, the stuff that the 101st assiduously collected on their division is good stuff.
Like I said, you know, its a mixed bag, and for me it was personally incredibly frustrating, so maybe I come across in this tape more negative than say other people would have.
MR. EVERETT: Do you have any access restrictions?
DR. WRIGHT: No. Since I won't give access restrictions, I figure I have no right to demand them.
MR. EVERETT: Okay. Thank you very much. This concludes the interview.
DR. WRIGHT: Airborne! Hoo-ah!
[END OF INTERVIEW]
1. Commander, 116th Military History Detachment 23 March 1982 to 1 November 1991.
2. The "Desert Jackal."
3. The "Desert Dragon," bumper number HQ-6.
4. Non-judicial punishment under Article 15 of the Uniformed Code of Military Justice.
5. Additional Skill Indicator (ASI) 5X signifies a historian and usually means that the individual possesses at least a master's degree in history or a related field.