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
 United States Iraq
Commanders and leaders
United States Ron Griffith
United States Montgomery Meigs
United States Edward Dyer
Units involved
1st Armored Division[1]
3rd Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division[2]
2nd Brigade of Medina Luminous Division[3]
Casualties and losses
2 killed, 30 wounded
4 tanks destroyed
2 IFVs
1 ambulance
1 HEMTT fueler
2 Apache helicopters
4 humvees[4]
1 A-10 aircraft[5]
Heavy manpower losses
839 soldiers captured
186 tanks destroyed
127 IFVs destroyed
38 artillery pieces destroyed
118 trucks destroyed
5 air defense systems destroyed[6]

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.[7] 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.


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.[8]

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 (aka reverse slope) position was intended to give the Iraqis protection from the powerful long-range direct fire of the M1 Abrams tanks and the M2 Bradley infantry fighting vehicles.

During the battle the American forces destroyed 186 Iraqi tanks (mostly export model T-72Ms, Asad Babils and obsolete Type 69s) and 127 armored vehicles.[9] Only four Abrams tanks were hit by direct fire. All four were lost.[10] Thirty-eight of the Iraqi tanks were destroyed by U.S. Army AH-64 Apaches and U.S. Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt IIs. The 75th Field Artillery Brigade and Battery B, 25th Field Artillery, the division's target acquisition battery, conducted counterartillery fire missions and destroyed two Medina Field Artillery battalions in the process.[11] The 2nd Battalion, 1st Field Artillery Regiment also eventually participated in these counterbattery missions.[12]

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.[13] 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.[14]

Nevertheless, the Iraqis had fought hard, shooting down an A-10 Thunderbolt II,[15]and two AH-64 Apache helicopters 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."[16] 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."[17]

Task Force 1-37[edit]

In a short six-month period during 1990 and 1991, the 1st Battalion, 37th Armor, was alerted for deployment to Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm, deployed all of its personnel and equipment over 3,000 miles (4,800 km) from an already forward deployed location, fought a major battle against a well equipped enemy over terrain they had never trained on and then redeployed the unit to its home station.

The 1st Battalion 37th Armor (1st Armored Division) from Rose Barracks, Vilseck, Germany, commanded by LTC Edward L. Dyer, was alerted for deployment to the Persian Gulf on 8 November 1990. 1–37 Armor was the first brigade unit from Vilseck to deploy. 1–37 Armor was attached to the 3rd "Bulldog" Brigade from Warner Barracks in Bamberg, Germany, under their former commander, Colonel Daniel Zannini. A small advance party deployed on 14 December and the main body began departing on 26 December. By 30 December, the battalion had arrived in Saudi Arabia. Vehicles and equipment which had been shipped from ports in Europe began to arrive on 4 January and by 12 January all the equipment had arrived. When hostilities commenced on 15 January 1991, the battalion was in the process of closing the last elements into TAA Thompson. The next month was spent task organizing, training, rehearsing, and preparing for the ground war.

On 24 February, Task Force 1–37 crossed the line of departure as part of VII Corps' attack against Iraqi forces. On 25 February, the battalion attacked and seized the division headquarters of the Iraqi 26th Infantry Division destroying four armored vehicles, eight air defense weapons and captured over forty Enemy Prisoners of War (EPW). After attacking all day on 26 February, TF 1–37, part of 3rd Brigade, 1st Armored Division, made contact with a brigade of the Tawakalna Armored Division of the Republican Guard Forces Command (RGFC) which had established a defensive position to protect the flank of the RGFC and facilitate their escape from Kuwait. After a thirty-minute fire fight, TF 1–37 was ordered to assault the enemy position. The assault, conducted at night, in driving rain, resulted in the destruction of twenty-six T-72 tanks, 47 armored personnel carriers (mostly BMP's) and a handful of other vehicles, as well as the capture of over one hundred EPWs. TF 1–37 suffered the loss of four M1A1 tanks destroyed and six personnel wounded in action. After consolidation and reorganization, the task force continued the attack throughout the night of 26–27 February, reestablishing contact with the RGFC at approximately 0530, 27 February. The task force continued to attack, fighting numerous engagements with elements of multiple Iraqi divisions throughout the 27th and into the morning of the 28 February. At 0800 local time, 28 February, the task force established a hasty defensive position astride the Iraq-Kuwait border. During the last 28 hours of the attack, TF 1–37 destroyed an additional thirty-one tanks, thirty-one BMPs, numerous other APCs, air defense weapons and trucks, and captured over 200 EPWs.

Four days after the cease fire, TF 1–37 moved nine miles (14 km) further into Kuwait. Two missions were conducted to destroy additional enemy weapons, ammunition and equipment, bury enemy remains, and to recover the four M1A1's which had been destroyed on 26 February.

On 24 March, TF 1–37 moved back into Iraq and established a defensive position in the vicinity of the Rumayilah oil fields. For the next three weeks, task force missions centered on refugee assistance and security operations. On 10 April, TF 1–37 began movement to the Rear Assembly Area (RAA) in the vicinity of King Khalid Military City (KKMC), Saudi Arabia. By 13 April, the task force had closed into the RAA and preparations began for the redeployment of the unit to Germany.

On 16 August 1991 the 1st Brigade, 1st Armored Division was redesignated as the 3d Brigade, 3d Infantry Division.


  1. ^ Bourque, p.355
  2. ^ Bourque, p.27
  3. ^ Bourque, p.355
  4. ^ Carhart, Tom (1994). Iron Soldiers: How America's 1st Armored Division Crushed Iraq's Elite Republican Guard. New York: Random House. p.323 ISBN 0671791656
  5. ^ The U.S. Army in the Gulf War, Robert H. Scales, p. 298, Potomac Books, Inc, 1998
  6. ^ Carhart, Tom (1994). Iron Soldiers: How America's 1st Armored Division Crushed Iraq's Elite Republican Guard. New York: Random House. pp.119–204 ISBN 0671791656
  7. ^ Bourque, p.355
  8. ^ Bourque, p.27
  9. ^ Carhart, Tom (1994). Iron Soldiers: How America's 1st Armored Division Crushed Iraq's Elite Republican Guard. New York: Random House. pp. 119–204. ISBN 0671791656
  10. ^ Carhart, Tom (1994). Iron Soldiers: How America's 1st Armored Division Crushed Iraq's Elite Republican Guard. New York: Random House. p.323 ISBN 0671791656
  11. ^ Bourque, p.352
  12. ^ Bourque, p.356
  13. ^ Bourque, p.355
  14. ^ Bourque, p.355
  15. ^ "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
  16. ^ US troops remember Medina Ridge
  17. ^ 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. 
  • Carhart, Tom (1994). Iron Soldiers: How America's 1st Armored Division Crushed Iraq's Elite Republican Guard. New York: Random House.ISBN 0671791656.

External links[edit]