February the 28th 2021 marks the 30 year anniversary of the end of the Gulf War, the 6 month long international conflict that claimed almost 500,000 lives.
The Iraqi president, Saddam Hussein announced the invasion of Kuwait in August of 1990, under the impression that Kuwait was stealing Iraqi petroleum and the belief system that Kuwait was an artificial state carved out of the Iraqi coast by Western colonialists. Hussein had also insisted that Kuwait and Saudi Arabia cancel out $30 billion of the Iraqi foreign debt. Within 12 hours of the invasion, having completely overpowered any resistance, Iraq had gained control of Kuwait.

US Marines roll into Kuwait International Airport in light armoured vehicles after the retreat of Iraqi forces during Operation Desert Storm. Feb. 27 1991 / Everett Collection

George W. Bush swiftly condemned the invasion and in response prepared American troops to become part of an international coalition in the war against Iraq. On the 8th of August 1990, the first U.S. Air Force fighter planes began arriving in Saudi Arabia as part of a military buildup dubbed Operation Desert Shield.

Abrams tanks of the 1st Armored Division 7th Corps move across the desert in northern Kuwait during Operation Desert Storm. Feb. 28 1991 / Everett Collection

Later that year the UN Security council issued a warning; if Iraqi troops and their allies did not withdraw from Kuwait by January the 15th, the use of force of ‘all necessary means’ against Iraq had been authorised. The warning was ignored, and with Kuwait still under Iraqi control on January the 16th 1991 Bush permitted the realisation of Operation Desert Storm.

F-14 fighter in flight over burning Kuwaiti oil wells set on fire by retreating Iraqi forces during Operation Desert Storm. Mar. 1 1991 / Everett Collection

At around 2am on the morning of January 17, 1991, a massive U.S.-led air offensive hit Iraq’s air defences, moving swiftly on to its communications networks, weapons plants, oil refineries and more.

Kuwaiti oil wells were set on fire by retreating Iraqi forces during Operation Desert Storm. Mar. 2 1991 / Everett Collection

A month on and the coalition forces began to focus on a massive allied ground offensive, named Operation Desert Sabre, which officially launched on the 24th of February. In a matter of days coalition forces encircled and defeated Iraqi troops, meaning the long awaited liberation of Kuwait. The retreating Iraqi troops set fire to Kuwait’s highly valuable oil wells. Coalition forces then advanced into Iraq itself, significantly debilitating Iraqi forces.

Aerial view of destroyed Iraqi vehicles beside the Highway 80 west of Kuwait City. The ‘Highway of Death ‘ was bombed by coalition forces on February 27-28 1991 in the last days of Operation Desert Storm / Everett Collection

Following the complete collapse of Iraqi resistance George Bush called for a ceasefire on the 28th of February marking the end of the Persian Gulf War. Saddam Hussein subsequently accepted the peace terms that enforced Iraq’s recognition of Kuwait’s sovereignty.

Despite the decisive victory for the coalition it is impossible to ignore the colossal loss of life that the Gulf War resulted in, both civilian and combatant.

The Gulf War – Photographs, Weaponry and Clothing