Battle of Medina Ridge

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Battle of Medina Ridge
Part of the Persian Gulf War
Abrams in formation.jpg
M1 Abrams tanks moving in formation during the Persian Gulf War.
Date February 27, 1991
Location Southwest of Basra, Iraq
30°10′27″N 46°56′6″E / 30.17417°N 46.93500°E / 30.17417; 46.93500Coordinates: 30°10′27″N 46°56′6″E / 30.17417°N 46.93500°E / 30.17417; 46.93500
Result Decisive American victory
Belligerents
 United States Iraq
Commanders and leaders
United States Montgomery Meigs
Units involved
2nd brigade of the 1st Armored Division 2nd Brigade of Medina Luminous Division
Casualties and losses
1 killed, 30 wounded
4 tanks damaged, 1 A-10 Warthog shot down (pilot killed)[1]
Heavy manpower losses
839 soldiers captured
61–186[citation needed] tanks destroyed
127 AFVs destroyed
38 artillery pieces destroyed
118 trucks destroyed
5 air defense systems destroyed

The Battle of Medina Ridge was a decisive tank battle fought on February 27, 1991, during the Gulf War, between the U.S. 1st Armored Division and the 2nd Brigade of the Iraqi Republican Guard Medina Luminous Division outside Basra, Iraq. Medina Ridge is the name American troops gave to a low rise, approximately seven miles (11 km) long.

The battle, which was waged over approximately two hours, was the largest tank battle of the war and the largest tank battle in American history. It took place west of Phase Line Kiwi, east of Phase Line Smash, and north of Phase Line Grape. Phase lines are map references occurring every few kilometers used to measure progress of an offensive operation.

History[edit]

The 1st Armored Division, commanded by Major General Ron Griffith, consisted of some 3,000 vehicles including 348 M1A1 Abrams tanks. The 1st Armored Division's Cavalry Squadron—1-1 Cavalry—made contact with the Medina Division and informed the Division Commander of the location of the enemy forces. 1st Armored Division's 2nd Brigade (Comprising three battalions TF 4-70th Armour, TF 2-70th Armour and TF 1-35th Armour) saw major action in this battle and was commanded by Colonel Montgomery Meigs (a descendant of General Montgomery C. Meigs of Civil War fame). 3rd Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division, commanded by Colonel James Riley replaced 1st Armored Division's 1st Brigade for the duration of the war and was also heavily involved in the battle.

Medina Ridge was one of the few battles during Desert Storm in which American forces encountered significant Iraqi resistance and found it extremely difficult to advance. The Iraqi forces were well-deployed such that they could not be seen by American forces advancing until after they had cleared the top of the ridgeline. This defilade position gave the Iraqis protection from the powerful long-range direct fire of the M1 Abrams tanks and the M2 Bradley infantry fighting vehicles. The American units found it necessary to engage an entrenched enemy at close range, which resulted in higher damage to the American armored units.

During the battle, the American forces suffered only one fatality (due to friendly fire), while destroying 61–186[citation needed]Iraqi tanks (mostly inferior quality[citation needed]export model T-72Ms, Asad Babils and obsolete Type 69s) and 127 armored vehicles. Only four Abrams tanks were hit by direct fire and disabled; none were destroyed. Thirty-eight of the Iraqi tanks were eliminated by U.S. Army AH-64 Apaches and U.S. Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt IIs. 2nd Battalion, 41st Field Artillery conducted counterartillery fire missions and destroyed the Medina Field Artillery batteries in the process.

Although the Iraqis used a correct defensive tactic by deploying their armor behind the ridge, this was not properly repeated through the rest of the war. In one incident, an Iraqi commander attempted to repeat what had been done at Medina but mistakenly deployed his armor too far from the ridgeline.[citation needed] This gave the American units the upper hand, as the Abrams tanks specialize in long-distance kills; their Chobham armor is extremely resistant to long-range fire. The American height advantage also reduced the effective range of the Iraqi tanks and presented the Iraqi gunners with a targeting situation for which they were under-trained.[citation needed]

Nevertheless, the Iraqis had fought hard, shooting down an A-10 Thunderbolt II,[2] and causing much confusion among the attackers that forced the US commander to order all his armored battalions to withdraw to a safe distance towards the end of the fighting.

In early April 1991, Colonel Montgomery Meigs, the commander of the 2nd Brigade of the 1st Armoured Division, paid his respects to his former enemy's Medina Division reporting that, "These guys stayed and fought."[3] The same newspaper articles notes that, "The Americans had more than 100 battle tanks on hand, about the same as the total number of tanks in the Iraqi force. But the Americans had some noteworthy advantages over the Iraqis like attack helicopters and A-10 anti-tanks planes. The Iraqis had no support aircraft."[4]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "The Iraqis had skillfully dug in and camouflaged their firing line and placed a formidable protective ring of antiaircraft guns around it. One ZSU-23-4 managed to shoot down an American A-10 aircraft." Certain Victory: The U.S. Army in the Gulf War, Robert H. Scales, p. 298, Potomac Books, Inc, 1998
  2. ^ "The Iraqis had skillfully dug in and camouflaged their firing line and placed a formidable protective ring of antiaircraft guns around it. One ZSU-23-4 managed to shoot down an American A-10 aircraft." Certain Victory: The U.S. Army in the Gulf War, Robert H. Scales, p. 298, Potomac Books, Inc, 1998
  3. ^ US troops remember Medina Ridge
  4. ^ US troops remember Medina Ridge

Further reading[edit]

  • A Global Chronology of Conflict: From the Ancient World to the Modern Middle East 2. p. 2609. 
  • Bourque, Stephen A. (2001). JAYHAWK!: The VII Corps in the Persian Gulf War. Center of Military History, United States Army. LCCN 2001028533. OCLC 51313637. 
  • Donnelly, Thomas (1996). Clash of chariots: the great tank battles. Berkley. ISBN 042515307X. OCLC 34515692. 

External links[edit]