Battle for Jalibah Airfield

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The Battle for Jalibah Airfield took place when the U.S. 2nd Brigade, 24th Infantry Division successfully attacked and captured the heavily defended Jalibah Southeast Air Base military airfield in Iraq, located 80 miles west of Basra, on February 27, 1991 during the Gulf War.


A destroyed Iraqi Su-25 aircraft at Jalibah on 3 March 1991

Satellite and aircraft reconnaissance indicated the presence of many dug-in Iraqi soldiers, anti-aircraft guns, and tanks[1] prior to the attack on the airfield. At 6 a.m. the morning of 27 February, following an intensive artillery barrage, about 200 vehicles of the 2nd Brigade, under the command of Colonel Paul J. Kern, charged into the airfield and secured it after four hours of fighting.

"Two thousand enemy soldiers, 80 anti-aircraft guns, and a tank battalion were knocked out of action in this brilliantly executed attack. The airfield fuel supplies and ammunition were blown up in a thunderous roar that could be heard for 30 kilometers (19 miles). 20 enemy aircraft were destroyed. Colonel Paul Kern and his Brigade had become the 'aces' of the campaign. Maior General McCaffrey flew into the captured Jalibah airstrip to congratulate Colonel Kern on 2nd Brigado's superb victory."[1]

According to 2nd Lieutenant Neal Creighton, Iraqi soldiers "tried to hide in shallow bunkers and some tried to surrender. Most that moved were quickly cut down under a swath of machine gun fire. The burning helicopters, jets and dead soldiers seemed almost unreal. ... My soldiers were alive. It was the happiest moment of my life." Major David S. Pierson, who served as a task-force intelligence captain in the 2nd Brigade, said he eventually felt "guilty that we had slaughtered them so; guilty that we had performed so well and they so poorly; guilty that we were running up the score. ... They were like children fleeing before us, unorganized, scared, wishing it all would end. We continued to pour it on."[2]

Only one U.S. soldier was wounded by enemy fire during the battle. In the confusion, however, three U.S. M2 Bradley infantry fighting vehicles of C Company, 3rd Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment were accidentally hit with 5 depleted uranium rounds fired by the tanks of C Company, 3rd Battalion, 69th Armor Regiment. They fired between 15 and 25 rounds at what they identified as T-72 Iraqi tanks. This friendly fire incident resulted in the 10 additional American casualties: two deaths and eight injuries.[3]


Coordinates: 30°32′49″N 46°36′8″E / 30.54694°N 46.60222°E / 30.54694; 46.60222


  1. ^ Strength of a Soviet tank battalion in the late 1980s