The Iraqi Invasion of Kuwait:
LTC FRED L. HART JR.
Professor Doug Johnson
The views expressed in this paper are those
of the author and do not necessarily reflect
the views of the Department of Defense or any of its agencies.
This document may not be released for open publication until it has been cleared
by the appropriate military service or government agency.
U.S. Army War College
CARLISLE BARRACKS, PENNSYLVANIA 17013
This personal experience
monograph (PEM) is based on the author's personal experience,
first hand knowledge, and witnessing of the Iraqi invasion of
Kuwait on 2 August 1990. Assigned to Kuwait as an advisor to the
Kuwaiti Land Forces on 1 August 1989, the author was involved in
the events leading up, during, and after the invasion by Iraqi
forces. This PEM provides an historical account of the
experiences and actions taken by the United States Liaison Office
Kuwait (USLOK), which was based out the American Embassy Kuwait.
It also documents our beleaguered status in Kuwait and Baghdad,
Iraq, from August 1990 to 10 December 1990. The photograph of
Iraqi Republican Guard T-72 on the title page was taken from
Chief Dave Forties apartment which was located along Gulf Road in
Kuwait City, Kuwait, note the date on the photograph: Aug 4 1990.
This purpose of this Personal Experience
Monograph (PEM) is to provide an account of events leading up to
the invasion of Kuwait and the subsequent ordeal that eleven
military members and their families endured from 2 August 1990 to
10 December 1990. The account is based on my personal experience,
notes, and diary that I maintained through the crisis. I want to
acknowledge all the members of the United States Liaison Office
Kuwait (USLOK). They displayed the highest degree of courage,
ingenuity, initiative, and dedication to duty. In my opinion
USLOK was a major factor in the ability of U.S. embassies in
Kuwait and Iraq to function smoothly and remain capable of
executing their diplomatic mission throughout the crisis.
I want to recognize Chief Warrant Officer 4 Dave Forties for his skill and courage in operating on the streets, alleyways and back roads of Kuwait and Baghdad searching for foodstocks. Chief Forties more than any other coordinated, procured, and arranged for all the foodstocks that allowed Ambassador Nathaniel Howell and his staff the capability to thwart the Iraqi siege on the embassy compound. He repeated this performance while detained in Baghdad. His cunning, initiative, and ingenuity ensured both embassy compounds had ample foodstocks in order to sustain themselves during the entire crisis.
I would like to thank the members of the Individual Terrorist Awareness Course (INTAC) at Ft. Bragg, NC for their outstanding instruction that contributed significantly to my ability to deal with the hostage situation my family and I found ourselves in.
The USLOK organization received two meritorious unit citations; one Army and one Joint for performance during the invasion and while detained in Kuwait and Iraq. This account will endeavor to tell the USLOK story and shed new insights on the events that occurred in Kuwait and Baghdad.
On 1 August 1989, my family and I arrived in
Kuwait City. It was over 104 degrees outside at 2100hrs. Leaving
the modern air-conditioned international terminal and walking
outside was literally like walking into a blast furnace. I had
arrived to begin serving a two year accompanied tour. My job was
to be an advisor (logistics, maintenance, and training) to the
Kuwait Land Forces and manage foreign military sales (FMS) cases.
I was assigned to a joint organization called United States Liaison Office Kuwait (USLOK) which was based out of the U.S. Embassy in Kuwait City. I worked Sunday through Thursday from an office at the Kuwait Land Forces, Director of Technical Affairs. Technical Affairs was essentially the Supply and Maintenance Directorate for the Kuwait Army. Our joint office at the embassy provided central management for all FMS cases, and International Military Education and Training (IMET). The total organization consisted of approximately 22 personnel, Army, Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, and a few DoD civilians. The Army members made up a technical assistance field team (TAFT), and our Chief of USLOK was an Army O-6.
The entire organization worked for U.S. Central Command (USCENTCOM) based at MacDill AFB, FL. The Chief was part of the embassy Country Team and worked for both CENTCOM and Ambassador Nathaniel Howell. The USLOK office interfaced almost daily with the CENTCOM J4/7 on matters concerning our mission of providing security assistance and FMS management to the Government of Kuwait.
The U.S. Armys security assistance program was focused on logistical support to the Kuwaiti Land Forces through several FMS cases, mainly for support of U.S. purchased equipment. We also worked several active International Military Education Training (IMET) cases. These programs were small in comparison to Saudi Arabia, primarily because Kuwait maintained only three active brigades, a small Air Force, and Navy. The Kuwaitis were comfortable with this small force and felt they had no real cause to have a large or modernized Armed Forces. Many of us had often heard from Kuwaiti Army officers that the ruling family (Sabahs) realized that a small poorly trained and equipped force was less of a threat. Land Force officers also felt that the Air Force got more defense dollars because you cant occupy a palace with a fighter jet. I speculate that there might have been some truth in all this. The Kuwait Army also had a manpower problem and no true Kuwaiti would ever be a NCO or worst yet an enlisted man. Without exception all officers were genuine Kuwaitis and almost all Colonels and above had ties to the royal family or members of prominent families. The Warrant officer and Non Commissioned Officer corps was non-full citizen Kuwaiti's or Bedouins. Enlisted personnel were a mixed bag of Bedouins, and third world nationals. Interesting to note that many in the NCOs and enlisted ranks were also of Iraqi origin and assisted the Iraqi Army as it invaded Kuwait.
Prior to 2 August 1990, Kuwait was an obscure oil rich Gulf-Arab state about the size of New Jersey. They were uncomfortably sandwiched between Iraq and Iran. Prior to the Iraqi invasion, most Americans had only a passing knowledge of Kuwait. Perhaps their only frame of reference was in regards to the reflagging of Kuwaiti Tankers under the US operation called Earnest Will (1987-1988) during the Iran/Iraq War (1980-1988). Once that ended both Kuwait and the U.S. had little interest in binding political relationships with each other. Unfolding events in the former Soviet Union and the former Warsaw pact was overshadowing most events occurring in the region (1989). After all, the Iran/Iraq war had ended and the region was ready for peace.
Our observations in the region indicated in early 1990 that storm clouds were gathering, but most in DoD and State Department had little interest in the ensuing inter-Arab dispute between Kuwait and Iraq. Even the CENTCOM J-2 threat update was focused on Iran as the major regional threat. The embassy was focused on monitoring the Russians in country and the extent of their military programs with Kuwait. There was interest in the internal Kuwaiti problems regarding a popular move to bring back the National Assembly. The Amir had dissolved the assembly a few years earlier when too much dissension was occurring. However, on the surface everything appeared to be peaceful.
Prior to the Gulf War, Kuwaiti Armed Forces were generally equipped and trained by the British. This was due to the long historical ties between Kuwait and the British. By the late eighties, the Kuwaitis had begun a modest program to upgrade their three Land Force brigades. The United States and western European nations had lost out when the Kuwaiti's decided, in early 1988, to buy Russian BMP IIs and Yugoslavian M-84s, (T-72 variant). This was attributed to the inexpensive deals both countries were offering in comparison to buying the more expensive and sophisticated U.S. and Western European armaments. Kuwait also had a tendency to engage several countries for arms deals, their way of spreading the wealth around. Their Army consisted of equipment from the U.S., Great Britain, France, Russia, Yugoslavia, and many others. It was a strategy to maintain friendship ties with many and show no favoritism towards one particular country. The result for their military was an absolute nightmare for interoperability. The Kuwait Government also required that U.S. military personnel wear no uniforms or openly acknowledge their presence, an arrangement that would pay dividends for us during the Iraqi invasion.
In the months proceeding the invasion, USLOK team members began monitoring the situation between Kuwait and Iraq. While working out in the field with the various units and at the Land Forces Headquarters, we began getting indicators as early as March 1990 that the relationship Kuwait shared with its neighbor to the north (Iraq) was taking a turn for the worst. However, in most diplomatic and military circles, it was felt that it was nothing more than bellicose chest pounding and posturing by Saddam Hussein. Many in the diplomatic circles felt the problem would eventually go away by the Kuwaiti's throwing millions of dollars at the disgruntled Iraqi leader, who had bankrupted his country after eight years of war with the Iranians and had nothing to show for it. At our Headquarters, CENTCOM J-2 and J-3 remained focused on Iran, and felt Iraq was too disorganized after the war with Iran to pose any near term threat in the region. Iranian radical fundamentalism and support of terrorism was believed to be far more threatening to the region. The Iran/Iraq war had cost Saddam Hussein dearly and he felt he had done the Gulf oil sheikdoms a favor by fighting the Iranians and stopping the spread radical Shia Islam. In hindsight, its easy to see that the war did nothing to improve Iraqi operational military prowess. His country was broke, his oil production was too low to get the economy back on its feet, and the Iraqi people had suffered tremendously.
In early 1990, the Arab League held a summit in Baghdad and Saddam initiated his political attacks against Kuwait and to a lesser degree on other Gulf nations. Kuwait specifically was accused of waging economic war against Iraq and slant drilling to steal oil from Iraqi fields along the border. When the summit ended most Arab nations felt Kuwait and Iraq would reach some type of monetary settlement. However, the problems continued to fester in the coming months as Iraq stepped up its propaganda war and launched significant personal attacks on the Kuwaitis and the ruling family.
By early June 1990, several senior Kuwaiti officers told us of the outlandish propaganda broadcast from Baghdad. They were extremely concerned and agitated because the language used in the broadcast was Arabic that one only uses when compromise is unattainable and the only recourse is to fight. They openly acknowledged that they were unprepared for any confrontation and the Kuwait government seemed to be unwilling to take any preparatory actions. Many also informed us that the Iraqi Army was conducting an unusually high number of exercises in southern Iraq. In mid-July 1990, the Kuwaiti military went on their first and only alert status, but after one week and evidence of Iraqi troop movements became clearer, the Kuwaiti's quickly called off their haphazard alert for fear of provoking Saddam Hussein. On a regional level President Hosni Mubarak (Egypt) and King Hussein (Jordan) attempted to persuade Iraq to at least meet with the Kuwaitis to discuss their problems. Both heads of state received assurances from Iraq that a peaceful solution could be found. At our embassy, there was interest in monitoring the situation, but with President Mubarak, and King Hussein's assurances most felt the problem would be settled, and Kuwait would reach a monetary settlement with Iraq. The Kuwaitis genuinely felt they had a chance to reach an agreement, but were bound and determine not to give up territory or completely forgive the war debt Saddam owed them. That essentially sealed their fate and made the meeting in Jeddah an Iraqi ploy to demonstrate they had left no stone unturned in trying to settle a dispute in a Arab brotherly fashion. Also, now known, was the fact that the U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, April Glaspie had met with Saddam in mid-July and essentially conveyed to him that the U.S. had no interest in his dispute with Kuwait and no defense treaties. Department of State (DOS) also conveyed this same message just weeks before the invasion in congressional testimony.
Once it was realized that a compromise would not be reached, and the Iraqi leader's demands were unyielding, (this timeframe was the week prior to the invasion), Kuwaiti's began talking of the Iraqi's seizing the contested northern (Rumaylla) oilfields and the two tiny islands (Warba/Bubiyan) near the mouth of the Shatt al Arab, entrance way into the Arabian Gulf. There had been a historical precedent for this during a 1961 Kuwait/Iraq border dispute that was quickly resolved when the British committed a small force to stymie the Iraqi incursion. Now the situation was different, Iraq at last had a sizable force, and Kuwait no longer had any western defense pacts or treaties. In fact, the one defense treaty that Kuwait participated in was the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council). However, the GCC would take virtually no action to dissuade Saddam from his intentions. The purpose of the GCC was to protect one another from precisely happening before their very eyes. The United Arab Emirates acted on their own and requested United States assistances in late July 1990 when Saddam began including the U.A.E. in his threats. Nevertheless, the GCC proved to be virtually paralyzed, unwilling, and unable to deal with Saddam. During the weeks proceeding the invasion, the GCC did not even meet in session. Even the Peninsular Shield force, a GCC reaction force of roughly brigade size, was not utilized or alerted during the entire crisis. The value of the GCC as a defense pact proved to be worthless.
We watched knowing that something would happen and hoping Kuwait would pay off Saddam Hussein. A week before the invasion a former Kuwaiti officer and friend who worked at a Kuwaiti bank informed me that the Kuwait government had to put a stop on all overseas electronic fund transfers. The problem was as the crisis unfolded; many Kuwaitis began transferring all their accounts to banks in the U.S. and Great Britain out of fear of an Iraq invasion. In addition, by the last week of July, all international and regional domestic flights were sold out. The panic within the populace had begun, but the government would not acknowledge there was a growing problem. At our last official embassy country team meeting, 29 July 1990, we were all cautioned to stay close to home and insure our Motorola radios were working properly. Our state department diplomats also assured us that they would see to our hasty evacuation well before any hostilities started. Our Chief had suggested that the women and children go on to Saudi Arabia as a precaution, but the Ambassador ruled that out, stating he felt the Kuwaitis would resolve the problem at the Jeddah meeting scheduled for 1 August 1990. Before the meeting adjourned the Ambassador assured everyone that this was typical Arab bluff and talk, he really doubted the Iraqis would invade Kuwait.
CW4 Dave Forties and I managed to conducted one last check of each Kuwaiti brigade the week preceding the invasion and found them in their normal summertime routine (majority of the leadership on summer leave) and little to no activity. In fact, it was difficult to find anyone above the rank of major around. Since the stand down from alert status in mid July all units had authorized personnel to continue with their normal summer leave program.
Now the stage was set. By the last week of July 1990, the Iraqi's had placed their lead Republican Guard division along Kuwait's northern frontier. Forties and I made our last trip to the Land Forces Sixth brigade on 28 July 1990. The brigade officers that were present reported that Iraqi formations were within sight of the border. We were being told that well over 100,000 troops had massed in the southern region of Iraq and were within minutes of the border. Still the Kuwait government was unwilling to request U.S. Assistance and the U.S. had already sent signals in late July 90 that we had no defense agreements with Kuwait.
The bottomline was if Kuwait wanted assistance, they would have to ask for it. CENTCOM did dispatch a courier with satellite Intel photos to provide the Ambassador and the Kuwait government with further proof that the Iraqi forces posed along their border were ready to strike, noting the only missing piece of the puzzle was that Iraqi Artillery had not been brought forward. The Kuwaitis reviewed the data but made no commitment or request for assistance.
Now Kuwait was completely on her own and a meeting was scheduled with the Iraqis in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia on 31 July 1990. The evening of 1 August, we all watched the local English news broadcast which showed the Kuwaiti Crown Prince return from Jeddah with the news that Iraq walked out of the talks when Kuwait was unwilling to meet Saddam Hussein's demands. The Kuwaitis were hopeful that another meeting would be scheduled. The Kuwaiti newspaper delivered to our villa 2 August had this headline: Jeddah Talks end more needed - US concerned but hopeful of efforts to defuse crisis through diplomacy.
We all knew that this was the turning point and short of a miracle the Iraqi hordes would invade, an as a minimum capture the northern oil fields, Warba and Bubiyan island.
By 2300 hours 1 August 1990, the Chief of USLOK Col. John Mooneyham began receiving telephonic reports from U.S. Westinghouse technicians manning a radar observation balloon position just north of Mutla ridge. Their reports were very pointed in that they described the radar paint as a mass armor formation resembling an iron pipe several kilometers long and rolling down hill. They were advised to cut the tether and move out smartly. By 0100, 2 August 1990 the Iraqi formation was rapidly moving south along the Abdaly highway totally unopposed. I went up to the roof of our villa around 0030hrs and could see a few flares on the northern horizon, but heard no distant sounds of artillery. The royal families had received their advance notification and were executing their plans for a hasty departure. The sad note here is the fact that the ruling family and top officials in the ministries never bothered to send out any kind of notification or instructions to the armed forces. To make matters worst, 2 August was on the Islamic equivalent of the New Year and one the hottest days of the year. So most good Kuwaitis that were still around during the sweltering heat of August had no plans of going to work. By 0500hrs, 2 August the Iraqi formation was on the outskirts of Doha and word had spread quickly of the invasion. The Amir and his entourage were well on their way to Saudi Arabia. A few officers from the western brigade, 35th Bde about 10-15 kms from Ali Salem air base managed to get a battalion (+/-) out the gate and headed towards Jahra. From the vicinity of Jahra, Kuwaiti 35th Bde led by Col. Salem Al Srour led his units in a futile delaying action along Jahra road to just outside the gates of the Kuwait Armed Forces Headquarters, some 10 kms. His assembled battalion of old British Chieftain tanks, engaged the Iraqis for several hours until out of ammunition, and almost encircled. The Kuwaiti Air Force did not fare much better, but they did manage to launch A-4 sorties out of Al Jaber Airbase. Once the airfield became untenable, they generated sorties from the roadway near the airbase. They too were eventually overwhelmed by the Iraqi juggernaut and flew to Saudi Arabia.
Much has been said about the performance of the Kuwait military. One thing is certain, the Kuwait government failed to alert the military or take any preparatory actions. The government instead chose to accept the fact that their tiny Armed Forces were no match for the Iraqi Republican Guards. Instead, they believed a diplomatic solution would be found and their friends and allies would come quickly to their aid. They were wrong about the diplomatic solution and unprepared to realize that help would take many months of coalition building and diplomatic wrangling.
By 0500hrs we had all been notified telephonically or awakened by low flying fighter bombers and the distinct sound of artillery fire. At 0515hrs I went outside and immediately recognized the smell of cordite in the air and could hear the sounds of war getting closer. Looking to the southwest from my two-story villa rooftop, I could see Kuwait international airport 5-7kms away under bombardment by Iraqi fighter bombers. Strangely enough, the main highway just to the rear of my quarters appeared normal, complete with Kuwaiti bus service still operating. Now the whole family was up and LTC Tom Funk had telephoned us and confirmed our worst fears, Iraq had invaded. We closed all the curtains and our maid came into our villa. I told my wife and children to remain downstairs close to center of the villa near a interior storage room for safety in the event of shelling, which was growing louder and closer as each hour went by. LTC Funk had informed me that he had been in touch with the embassy and they were instructing all of us to remain put in our quarters and monitor the embassy radio net. I could tell by monitoring my radio that the embassy was in total panic and it was not the place to be. At 0600hrs I called CW4 Dave Forties, to check out his status, he informed me that the lead elements of the Republican Guard invasion force were already streaming down the Gulf road highway in direct view from his quarters along Gulf road. CW4 Forties also told me his neighbors (foreigners) had remarked to him they were really impressed how quickly the Kuwaitis had mobilized, so he had to convince them that the forces they were seeing were not Kuwaiti, but Iraqis. They quickly gathered their belongings and took off for the border to Saudi.
We also considered loading up the families and making a dash for the border. However, after checking with LTC Funk and monitoring COL Mooneyham's request to the embassy for us to convoy out, we learned that the Ambassador had denied his request. Since all the military and their families held diplomatic passports, the Ambassador informed COL Mooneyham that we had to follow his orders. This became an area of contention throughout the crisis. We went ahead and made plans and began pre packing necessities and foodstuffs, just in case the order was reversed and we were allowed to leave. In hindsight, we all know now that the border along Kuwait/Saudi remained porous until 11 August and we probably could have made it out. On the morning of 12 August, the Iraqis sealed the border. They also shot and kill a British citizen attempting to cross that day. The embassy's decision was final and we followed the Ambassadors orders.
Apparently, when the Iraqi armor/mechanized forces made it to Kuwait City, they decided to push their tanks and tracked vehicles through the city, only to become bogged down and often lost. This operational error of not bypassing Kuwait city permitted the bulk of the Kuwaiti 15th Bde, located south of the city near the Al Ahmadi oil fields to escape to Saudi Arabia. It also bought time for the southern air base Ahmed al Jaber to partially mobilize and actually launch sorties throughout the day. By nightfall, all organized Kuwaiti military resistance had come almost to a stand still.
Throughout the first day of the invasion, we stayed in telephonic contact with each other. CW4 Dave Forties and I spoke with disillusioned, confused and frustrated Kuwaiti officers who were calling our homes and requesting help, advice and assistance. There wasn't much we could tell them, other than destroy what they could, and get the hell out there. Even the remnants of the Kuwait government contacted the US Embassy in the early hours of the invasion and finally requested U.S. help; by then it was far too late.
There was no doubt the pre dawn invasion of 2 August 1990 had been calculated and coordinated well in advance. Nevertheless, by no means was it a precision operation as suggested by some analyst, Iraqi forces did have the advantage of surprise, only because the Kuwait Government chose to ignore all the indicators. From our perspective, it appeared as though they took the high-speed avenue of approach, namely the Abdaly highway and rapidly advanced south, completely bypassing and cutting off the northern Kuwait 6th Brigade. Meeting only light resistance from the few sparse elements of the Kuwait 35th Brigade and the Commando unit located near Doha, they pressed the attack into Kuwait City only to become bogged down. We figured they were in downtown Kuwait City at approximately 0600hrs. They quickly became entangled for several hours, before pushing south and consolidating their hold on Kuwait. This gave the Kuwait airbases time to launch aircraft and the southern 15th Brigade time to head for the Saudi border. It is our belief that the perceived threat to Saudi Arabia was largely due to Iraqi forces pursuing fleeing Kuwait army elements into the neutral zone. We are lucky that Saddam Hussein and his generals never realized the fact that the Saudi western province was virtually defenseless. It would have been easy for him to press the attack right into Dhahran since the Saudi Army only lightly defended the area. Although he had probably reached his culminating point at the Kuwait/Saudi border, several other facts became apparent that indicated the lack of coordination required to conduct an operation on this scale. First, radio and television remained operational until late evening 2 August. Telephone communications, to include international calling also remained operational and was never totally brought under Iraqi control until late August. I placed several phone calls home on 2 August and received several international calls. Operationally, attacks on the Amir's Bayan palace, Kuwaiti airfields, and other key installations appeared to be uncoordinated and haphazard. We were to find out later while detained in Baghdad that the operation to seize the Amir of Kuwait had failed because Iraqi planners failed to coordinate the one hour time difference between Kuwait City and Baghdad, resulting in an uncoordinated attack by Iraqi Special Forces units and Republican Guard ground forces.
LTC Funk, Chief Forties, and I collectively had enough military experience to make some observations of the vaunted Republican Guard during the first week of the invasion. They by no means reflected the discipline of a well-trained combat hardened army; in fact during the first week they reflected the characteristics of a motley force without orders and a total lack of basic tactical tenants and discipline. For the most part Iraqi soldiers milled around, scavenged for food and water, and seemed to be generally at a loss for what to do next, often looting and stealing bedding items for their hastily constructed fighting position, complete with beach umbrellas for overhead protection from the searing summer sun. Without a doubt, Saddam forces had reached their logistics culminating point and his units would have to live off the land. Fuel was not a problem, but food and water would be scavenged from the locals. Within days of the invasion, Iraqi forces occupied all the major supermarkets in order to procure foodstocks. Kuwaitis where permitted entry, but for males this could mean being taken into custody. This was often true for westerners.
The first day of the invasion 2 August, our neighborhood remained quiet until around 1300hrs when the Iraqis launched their final assault on the Bayan palace just a few kilometers from our quarters. Their artillery was positioned along Gulf road and was now firing directly over our neighborhood. The Amiri Guards at the Bayan palace put up a fight all morning. Their return fire often landed in and around our neighborhood resulting in many of our Kuwaiti neighbors fleeing the area. By 1400hrs, Bayan Palace was captured, and I could see from my rooftop that Iraqi armored forces had occupied the palace grounds. I spoke by phone to COL Mooneyham several times while the assault on the Palace was taking place. He had moved his family to the nearby Japanese embassy to ensure their safehaven since his neighborhood was being overrun with Iraqi forces. He was also instructed to go to the Japanese embassy, but chose to remain in his quarters to continue assisting other U.S. citizens via the telephone.
The day now seemed to creep by and we stayed glued to the radio trying to listen to BBC and VOA. Both were broadcasting all the Iraqi propaganda about turning Kuwait into a mass graveyard if anyone intervened.
Meanwhile things at the embassy seemed to settle down a little, but still an eerie tension was felt over the airwaves when communicating or listening to the embassy. Everyone on the outside began telephone networking with other Americans, trying to calm fears, pass along factual information and compile listings of Americans who were present in Kuwait.
By the end of the day things began to quiet down, but from my rooftop I could observe that many of the Kuwaiti governmental buildings were burning or smoldering. The highway (Fahaheel expressway) was littered with wrecked or shot up cars. Occasional gunfire could be heard and Iraqi mounted patrols were now enforcing dusk to dawn curfew that had been broadcast both on radio and television. The first TV broadcast the Iraqis began to run was that the invasion was the result of a Kuwaiti coup that had overthrown the ruling family for being corrupt and the new government had requested the assistance of the Iraqi government. Needless to say, the story did not wash.
By late afternoon, many Kuwait officers whom I had worked with were still calling and asking for help. They were desperate and at the national level, no command and control structure existed any longer. Their hope was for members of USLOK to arrange for U.S. military support. The Kuwait Land Force were by now gone or nonfunctional as a coherent organization. If any resistance was to be forthcoming, it was going to depend solely on individual actions and initiatives.
The Iraqis slowly tighten their grip and continued the propaganda campaign. As stated earlier, Chief Forties and LTC Funk lived along Gulf road just south of the embassy and were able to monitor the flow of troops and equipment as they headed out of Kuwait City. On the third day of the invasion, Chief Forties ventured out to the local Sultan center (a large western style supermarket) which had been taken over by Iraqi soldiers. He had heard from neighbors that the Iraqis were still allowing controlled civilian access. The shoppers were in pandemonium and staples were going fast. Chief returned to his quarters without incident but saw that the Iraqis were establishing check points at all major road junctions. By this time the Kuwaitis and westerners were all in a state of shock after seeing the country fall so quickly and the international community at a stand off with Saddam Hussein.
The embassy finally started responding to our radio calls. We initiated procedures for daily call in checks and monitoring windows. Through our monitoring of the embassy net we learned that the Iraqi's had started systemic round up of westerners from the major hotels and complexes that housed westerners. We also learned that our British military counterparts had been rounded up, specifically the ones that lived on a compound south of the city near Fahaheel along the coast. Their senior officers immediately went into hiding with Kuwaitis and managed to stay hidden for four months. Two British Officers were seized by Iraqi Secret Police; both were severely beaten, tortured, and interned for several months. With this news, our situation, also being military, became even more complicated. We all took measures to hide our identities by destroying our identification cards, military clothing, papers, or anything else that may link us to the U.S. military. We felt we could rely on our diplomatic passports and status to preclude us from arrest. This worked initially because of several measures implemented for all military personnel being assigned to high threat areas. We wore civilian clothes on a daily basis, relaxed grooming standards and we all lived scattered throughout Kuwait City (not lumped together on a compound), and we were all assigned with diplomatic passports and status. We also had a back-up means of communications (portable radios) with the embassy. All this contributed to our safety and the Iraqis inability to locate and apprehended us.
My contact with a former Kuwaiti officer was a great help in determining what was going on in and around the city. He would come by our quarter's everyday bringing milk and diapers for our children. Then he would tell me of the efforts underway within Kuwaiti resistance. They had already begun to organize resistance groups within neighborhoods. By 4 August, the Resistance had started taking down street signs and house numbers to further confuse the Iraqi special units that were canvassing neighborhoods for westerners, high-ranking Kuwaiti officials, and military officers. The Kuwaiti resistance groups were first organized by groups of Shiite Kuwaitis. Since these Shiites already had a somewhat underground bond and the Iraqis had inadvertently freed the leading Shiite radicals from Kuwaiti prison, they naturally banded together and immediately began resisting the Iraqi invaders. The movement quickly caught on and by mid-August, the Kuwaiti resistance was doing daily damage to the Iraqi war machine. An interesting side note to this was the fact that when the Iraqis deployed around the city, they were in a perimeter facing outward toward the sea as if to thwart an amphibious attack. However, after the resistance began their drive by shooting and fire bombing campaign on the positions facing outward, the Iraqis quickly reversed all the position so that they now were facing inward towards the city with their backs to the sea for self-protection.
By 5 August, we all realized we were stuck and no political solution was going to change the current situation anytime soon. Saddam Hussein was employing all the classic bluffs we have become all too familiar with, and the world community was taken in by the Iraqi smoke screen.
Telephone lines were either out or being monitored by the Iraqis, so communications were becoming much more difficult and risky. The U.S. embassy established a radio net by providing the other embassies around town with spare radios it had on hand. These established a somewhat secure means to exchange information on the situation around town and maintain contact with us.
The flow of refugees and westerners to Saudi Arabia, either through the border crossing or across the desert had all but ceased by 11 August. The Iraqis began sealing the border, trapping those who had not taken advantage of the early confusion following the invasion. All embassies, Voice of America and BBC radio broadcast were now advising all western nationals to stay put in their homes. We all knew now that we were in for the long haul. Being part of a military organization gave us the edge in dealing with this situation; even our family members seemed better prepared to deal the uncertainty and fear. They had now experienced the horrors of war first hand, and had their baptism of fire. I guess we all knew from tours in places like Germany and Korea that war was a distinct possibility and you always had that hidden thought process on what to do if the proverbial balloon went up. Our challenge now was to help calm the fears of the many American civilians we were now communicating with.
The USLOK organization kept a tight telephone network going during that first week, but our contacts with each other dwindled when the embassy staff ordered several of our members into the Japanese embassy for safehaven. Our Chief of USLOK was ordered there also but refused to go, opting to send his family, while he remained home to continue the network with the trapped U.S. citizens. Most of the embassy staff lived in close proximity to the embassy and therefore the majority of the staff and their families had relocated into the embassy compound for safehaven by 3 August. In addition, on 3 August we monitored via VOA radio broadcast that Saddam Hussein had declared he would make the Arabian Gulf "a graveyard for all those who think of committing aggression, starting with these cowardly American navies." The broadcast also applauded the "glorious national uprising in Kuwait." I also noted in my diary a broadcast from 5 August "Provisional Government of Kuwait warns outside countries to remember that they have interest and nationals in Kuwait and if they resort to punitive measures their nationals would suffer gravely." This type of radio broadcast became particularly troublesome for all the foreign nationals trapped in Kuwait. LTC Tom Funk and I would spend many hours conversing with American citizens on the phone trying to calm their fears and reassure them that the U.S. would eventually come to our aid.
As word continued to spread of Iraqi soldiers looting and rounding up westerners, we continued our escape planning and actions should Iraqi officials show up at our door. A real morale booster occurred when we heard on the short wave radio that the Saudis had asked for U.S. help and an USAF Fighter Squadron and the 82nd Airborne were now on the way.
Meanwhile we heard on Iraqi radio that Saddam had told the U.S.Charge' in Baghdad that the occupation of Kuwait is irreversible. Then we hear of UN Security Council Resolution 661 imposing mandatory economic sanctions against Iraq. This becomes the "tic for tat" diplomacy that evolves in the upcoming months. Usually good news followed by more bad news.
Now the U.S. and British embassies were reporting over the radio net that westerners were being rounded up and transported to Baghdad, Iraq. Ambassador Howell made the decision for all of us to prepare to relocate into the U.S. embassy compound for diplomatic safehaven. On the evening of 6 August, LTC Funk telephoned about how to handle breaking off the telephone network with the U.S. citizens who have come to depend on us for information and guidance. One US citizen whom I had been working with decided to come to my villa, obtain one of the spare Motorola radios I had so he could monitor the embassy, and keep his American network informed. Once he arrives the next morning 7 August, I told him how to use the radio and briefed him on some possible escape routes. LTC Funk also coordinates for another citizen to send an itemized list of Americans over to me since the family and I will be heading into the embassy ahead of him. I had received a radio transmission the evening of 6 August and was told to prepare to relocate into the embassy, and to bring all the foodstuffs we could get into the car. My family and I prepared for the potentially hazardous trip into the embassy, which was some 12 kms from our quarters, right through downtown Kuwait. We all knew there would be Iraqi roadblocks to traverse and the embassy was encircled by Iraqi troops. We had also monitored over the radio several other families drive into the embassy and so far, they had all made it without incident. When early morning 7 August came we received no instructions to leave, so we continued our routine of inventorying our property. We would only be allowed two pieces of luggage, so we had to decide what we could carry out and what had to be left behind. This was a difficult task and still impacts our lives today. We also heard from VOA that Saddam vows to "pluck out the eyes" of anyone who attacks Iraq, he went on to argue that the invasion was designed to correct the flawed borders drawn by imperialist powers.
At approximately 1130hrs a civilian man, westerner in appearance showed up at our villa gate, announced he is from the U.S. Embassy, and had come to escort us in. I had been assigned at the embassy for a year and I knew all the personnel assigned to the post, and I did not recognize this individual. I immediately radioed the embassy and they verified his identity. I then recognized the foreign national driver who was with him, so once we got that straighten out I called CW3 Gene Lord, a close neighbor to coordinate a link-up with him and his family so that we all could convoy in together. The USLOK administrative NCO, who was a neighbor of ours, also joined in the trek into the embassy. We began our journey into the embassy with great trepidation of what was waiting for us. Our plan was to use the foodstuffs, cigarettes, and alcohol as bribes to get through the roadblock. I had also taken the precaution to hide the American citizen listing that had been brought to me. The list contained over 500 names and addresses of U.S. citizens living and working in Kuwait. As we pulled out of the Salwa neighborhood, my wife and children were shocked at the destruction that was so close to our house, now they could understand all the shelling, booming and rattling of windows for two days and most importantly why they had to remain away from windows. As we rode in, almost every official Kuwait government building along the route had been shelled, torched, or destroyed. Wrecked and smoldering vehicles littered the highway some with the charred remains present. The once well manicured and green medians were now brown, dried up and trashed. As we came to First ring road Iraqi soldiers and tracked vehicles formed a checkpoint but our lead vehicle, with the Palestinian foreign national who worked for the embassy, spoke with what appeared to be an Iraqi officer. After the brief stop and exchange, the Iraqi road guards waved us through. We turned off First ring just short of the Kuwait International hotel and down a back street to the embassy's rear entrance. Iraqi soldiers and combat vehicles had the entire compound surrounded. Strangely, the Iraqis were now manning the guard post the Kuwaiti National Guard troops had previously occupied. Our embassy foreign nationals told me that the Kuwaiti guards literally stripped off their uniforms and fled when they spotted the Iraqis on the morning of 2 August. We were allowed to proceed and the anxiety did not subside until we crossed over the steel barrier gate and into the enclosed parking lot. The embassy security officer informed us that we would be billeted in the Marine house. This was the small complex used as the living compound for the five Marine guards stationed at the embassy. They were now living and working full-time in the Chancellery building, since some twenty families now occupied their quarters. After unloading the car, we carried our bags to an athletic storage room we had been assigned. I then proceeded to the Chancellery building, specifically, the USLOK administrative offices. The place was in a shambles, in the Chief's office an U.S. CENTCOM messenger was asleep on the couch and the USLOK administrative NCO was sitting behind the Chiefs desk eating a MRE. I asked SFC Vellekoop who was in charge, and what was the current situation. He started to answer, when a Navy LT.CDR Schwarz, who was a TDY officer, came in and stated he was in charge. Since he was not an actual member of USLOK, I challenged his authority. He promptly went to the Deputy Charge of Mission (DCM), second in charge after the ambassador. She immediately summoned me to her office where she proceeded to tell me that the military chain of command was no longer valid and I now worked for the State Department and the USLOK organization was defunct.
I returned to the USLOK office where the CENTCOM courier and the USN TDY officer informed me that the communications link with CENTCOM was compartmentalized classification and no one from USLOK would be permitted access. I have since learned from books by Gen. Schwarzkopf's, "It Doesn't Take A Hero" and US News and World Report, "Triumph Without Victory" that Maj. John Feeley (CENTCOM courier) had used the communication link as a means to report information in the context of first hand knowledge. They were using the communications link to CENTCOM to send intelligence reports that were collected by the USLOK team and others. Interestingly enough, Maj. Feeley had never left the embassy Chancellery building once he ran across the street from the Kuwait International hotel in the early morning hours of 2 August 90. Nevertheless, he is quoted in the two referenced books as being the sole source from inside Kuwait and was recognized by Gen. Schwarzkopf as a hero and received an Army Legion of Merit for his actions. This was unsettling to the members of USLOK who knew that Maj. Feeley's actions were highly questionable and based almost solely on the actions, information and risk taken by the USLOK members and other embassy staff. We all recognize the fact that Maj. Feeley did the right thing by contacting U.S. CENTCOM, but what we object to, is he alone took credit or was given credit for all intelligence gathering, when in fact he took little to no risks and never ventured outside the compound during our beleaguered status in Kuwaiti. The two referenced books give a false picture of how the actual collecting of HUMINT was taking place and leads the reader to believe that Feeley alone was the sole source for vital intelligence.
Since we never saw the reports that Feeley and Schwarz sent, there seems to be some question as to just what they reported and who they attributed the collected information. Since we had become disgusted with the actions of Feeley, we used an alternative source to pass HUMINT, the embassy chief of station (COS), who was much more receptive and knowledgeable of the real situation. His office had begun continuous operations just prior to the invasion and maintained this until ordered to leave the embassy on 23 August. Moreover, we felt he would ensure vital information was accurate and reached the appropriate intelligence levels.
I briefed LTC Funk when he arrived on what was going on with the situation in the USLOK office and with the DCM. He ran into the same story that I did in his meeting with the DCM and Maj. Feeley.
We still had half of our USLOK member's safehavened at the Japanese embassy, to include our USLOK Chief. LTC Funk decided to organize the group that was present. Using the offices not occupied by Feeley, we began to assess the situation. The first thing we noticed was that the USLOK Assistance Administrative NCO had failed to destroy and shred all the USLOK classified files. It was disturbing to find that all the personnel files complete with strip maps to our quarters were still intact. If the embassy had been taken, the Iraqis would have had a wealth of information on our organization and the location of all USLOK personnel. We immediately shredded all classified files contained in four filing cabinets.
The evening of 8 August we got an ugly reminder that the Iraqis had the compound surrounded. At 2045hrs automatic weapons fire began arching over the embassy compound. The Marine guards immediately alerted everyone to head for the Chancellery vault. Apparently, the embassy was being caught in a crossfire between Iraqis and Kuwaiti resistance fighters. However now the feeling was the Iraqis were attempting to take the compound. Once in the vault Chief Forties and I realized that there were no embassy or USLOK personnel at the Marine house in which most of the women and children were being housed. We asked the Ambassador for permission to leave the vault and go to the Marine House. He approved and we headed out of the Chancellery building. The weapons firing had slacken but tracers were still criss-crossing over the compound. We raced across the compound, once inside the Marine house we noticed the wives had followed the instruction we had given to them, turn off all lights and assemble everyone in the game room for safety. Most had settled down; but several Filipino maids were in a state of hysteria and it took several minutes to calm them down, their fear was particularly unsettling for the children.
Immediately following this event, the Ambassador ordered the Marine Guards out of uniform and instructed the embassy security officer Chip Bender to destroy all weapons and the USLOK secure communications. The COS refused to destroy his secure communications links, as was his right to do so, since secure communications remain under the agency and not DOS. We were never given a reason for this action, but speculated that the Ambassador did not want to give the Iraqis any reason to take the compound. As for the USLOK communications equipment, we suspected the Ambassador was not pleased with information being sent out of the embassy without his approval. It was also believed that if the Iraqis were to enter the compound by force the Ambassador was going to surrender, instead of making a futile attempt to defend the embassy.
By 13 August the remainder of the USLOK team had made it to the compound. We thought finally, COL Mooneyham would square away Feeley and Schwarz and then get things in order again. I never knew the whole story, but for some reason after COL Mooneyham arrived the Ambassador would not permit him to do anything. So, we continued at the task at hand to at least organize things around the compound and continue our efforts to find and collect food. USLOK followed the old military standards of continuously improving on your defensive posture.
Since we were now faced a potential food crisis within the compound, we took it upon ourselves (USLOK) to get things organized, since guidance was not forthcoming. This was not an easy task since most of the DOS staff and family members had no training or background experiences for dealing with crisis situations, most of the male DOS staff did not even have prior military experiences. This also carried over to the spouses; many DOS spouse felt the military spouse would know what to do and how to handle the situation. The embassy Security officer Chip Binder was the most organized and experience DOS staff member but even he was having a difficult time dealing with the Ambassadors immediate staff. Binder had done an exemplary job at controlling the Marine guards and organizing the Chancellery for the worst case scenario. However, outside the Chancellery the compound had turned into a lose organization with no structure or plan for surviving a potential assault or siege.
The initial compound occupants (2-7 August) had all but exhausted what food was available from the embassy snack bar and Marine MREs. LTC Funk, Chief Forties, and I met to discuss the situation within the embassy compound on 8 August. LTC Funk, Chief, and I first determined that we needed a structured organization. LTC Funk would man the USLOK office and coordinate actions with the embassy staff, Chief who had the most experience in Kuwait and over three years knowledge of the city and country would handle class I (food) supplies, I would assist Dave and do operations and plans. We had three priorities right off:
First was to get the food stocks built. We were down to virtually nothing and personnel were continuing to come into the embassy grounds.
Second the buildings housing the families and children needed to be fortified.
Third, we had to develop contingency plans for possible rescue operations, evacuation, or exfiltration.
We all set out to accomplish various tasks in a coordinated manner. The military personnel kept each other informed on the projects we were working on a day to day basis. Chief Forties was the only military besides LTC Funk who attended the Ambassadors country meetings. These meetings did not offer much in the way of guidance, information, or comfort to community at large, but primarily served as a means to let the Ambassador know that something was being done for everyone. In fact, we all had to demand that the Ambassador or his DCM tell us as a group what was going on. On one occasion, the Ambassador told us that we knew as much as he did because we were still able to watch CNN off the satellite dish in the embassy compound.
As we began to organize things, the wives (majority military spouses) took on the task of preparing meals and running the living quarters. Two principle buildings were used to house all the people present in the compound, but we literally had people sleeping everywhere from offices, meeting rooms, and storage rooms. Some 175 people with children and pets were occupying a compound designed to only to quarter the Ambassador and a 6 man Marine detachment. The COS wife ran the kitchen and meals for the residence and personnel working 24-hour shifts in the Chancellery and several military wives ran the operation in the Marine house. Chief Forties and I would survey the two kitchens and the stocks in the snack bar and make a list of what foodstocks we needed to obtain when we went out on a foraging around the city for food supplies. Chief knew his way around and I would ride shotgun for him.
We had over 175 people to feed daily. Each morning Chief Forties and I would set out in his Chevy Blazer to canvas Kuwait City for foodstocks. Chief had several Kuwaiti contacts that helped arrange a clandestine meeting with the Kuwaiti who owned the largest supermarket chain in Kuwait, know as the Sultan Center. The Kuwaiti owner had gone underground and was attempting to get his assets out of Kuwait before the Iraqis could find them. After several days, we finally managed to link up with him at a discrete location. We then followed him to an underground warehouse in the vicinity of the Kuwait International Airport. Chief Forties struck a deal with him for credit payment via the State Department, but we had to act quickly since it was only a matter of a few days or a week at best before the Iraqis would discover the warehouse. That evening, the Ambassador agreed to Chief's plan and payment was arranged. We returned the next day and surveyed the warehouse; the primary foodstocks consisted of canned tuna and frozen turkeys. We also took everything he had in the way of medical supplies, paper products, canned drinks, and cereals. Most of the products where near the limit of there shelf life or had recently expired dates. We spent several days hauling the food stocks to the Embassy. During one of our last visits an Iraqi patrol showed up at the underground entranceway, the Kuwaitis quickly moved us to a back storage area, bribed the patrol with Pepsi cola, and canned tuna. Shortly after our last trip to the warehouse, the owner decided to abandon it and make his way out of Kuwait. We had one day left to get all we could from the warehouse. Chief Forties briefed the Ambassador on the situation and we got the approval to make one last run using the embassy's stake bed truck, which could haul three times the amount of the Blazer. We rounded up tarps to cover the cargo and made three trips. During our last trip back we were stopped at an Iraqi checkpoint, we managed to convince the guards that this was a relief mission to the Philippine Embassy, and handed them some cigarettes, they agreed to let us pass. We did in fact make one additional run for the Philippine embassy, since they had literally several thousand Philippine nationals camped outside their embassy compound. By the time of our departure for Baghdad on 23 August we had sufficiently stocked the embassy with several months worth of tuna and frozen turkeys. Chief had also managed to acquire a dozen or so 50 lbs. bags of rice and some beef from his contacts at various hotels. The wives prepared three meals a day, light breakfast of cereals, and fruit juices, tuna salad for lunch, and boiled turkey for evening meal. Children were fed first and then adults, no food was thrown out. Adults ate all the children's leftovers or it was used for the next meal. Fresh vegetables and fruit were the hardest to find and usually only in small quantities. We managed with what we had and many lost weight due to the unbalanced meals and stress. I myself had lost over 10 lbs. since 2 August.
With the approaching Iraqi deadline of 23 August to close all foreign embassies in Kuwait, Chief Forties and I made our last logistics run on 22 August. During that trip, we noticed the Iraqis were in the process of withdrawing the Republican Guards and replacing them with reserve units from Iraq. This swap out occurred over a three-day period and we observed convoys headed back to Iraq with the spoils of war. We saw hundreds of cars from Kuwaiti car dealerships being transported on Iraqi HETs, T-72s towing boats from the Kuwaiti yacht basin, and military trucks loaded down with booty. In less than two weeks the Republican Guards had collected their war booty and were now headed home with the spoils of the crushing defeat of the Kuwaitis.
We made one last inventory of foodstocks and briefed the DCM on where and how food was cached on the compound. We felt the stay behinds; some 20-30 people would have enough food for at least six months, not much variety, but at least subsistence. Since we knew that on 23 August the Iraqis would cut off water and power, the wives pre-cooked as many turkeys as time would permit. The compound had a generator with a 500-gal tank and we managed to scrounge a few 55-gal drums of diesel for extra fuel.
Just prior to our departure on 23 August, we also filled every empty container with water. When the Iraqis eventually cut the power and water lines, they missed an old water line so the embassy was able to retain one small line of fresh water that they could use for drinking. Pool water and stored water would later be used for cooking, bathing and operating the toilets.
LTC Rhoi Maney and Chief Durmon anticipated the need for additional refrigeration and went out to various USLOK quarters and removed freezers and refrigerators, along with whatever food was left in the homes. Chief Lord and MSGT Allen began working on fortifying the buildings the families were all housed in. They covered over windows, placed barricading materials near potential entry ways, organized and designated an area were families could move to in the event of shelling or gun fire into the compound. They also began conducting motor stables on all vehicles in the compound and cross leveling of tires, batteries, tools, and other vehicle items in the event, we had to make a hasty escape overland by automobile.
By now, all of the embassy staff and USLOK personnel had made it to the embassy for safehaven. The compound had grown to some 175 personnel. Small quantities of American citizens were allowed into the compound, primarily those with skills the embassy thought were needed to sustain embassy operations. The largest group permitted in was a number of Americans who had been stranded at the Kuwait International Airport. All other Americans who had been living and working in Kuwait were told to stay home and stay tuned to their radios for information from Voice of America and BBC broadcast. This was much the same story at the other western embassy that had large populations living and working in Kuwait.
On the political and diplomatic side, 8 August turned out to be a watershed day; President Bush announced that "a line has been drawn in the sand, Iraq now has over 200,000 troops in Kuwait and declares Kuwait is the 19th Providence eternal merger will be the pride of the Arabs." The UN also passes Resolution 662 null and voiding the Iraqi claim on Kuwait. Iraq also sends notification to all embassies in Kuwait that the borders are sealed and all diplomatic missions must close by 24 August 1990. We now begin to realize that we are all truly beleaguered, so we shifted our focus to sustaining the compound and protecting ourselves from possible Iraqi seizure of the compound.
During all our foraging we would return each day and debrief the embassy COS and provided CENTCOM with reports on what we had seen and located. We also linked into the Kuwaiti underground via our contacts with several Kuwaiti nationals. One in particular, named Adel Safar, was brought into the embassy for debriefs. Through Adel we also shared information and provided him with techniques for sabotaging Iraqi equipment and positions. Kuwaiti Resistance grew stronger everyday and by September, they were well-organized and inflicting daily damage to the Iraqi war machine. They also were key players in hiding and aiding many of the trapped foreign nationals. I personally knew several British Officers who were hidden by Kuwaiti Resistance for four months and then secretly turned over when all trapped foreign nationals were allowed to depart Kuwait and Iraq in mid December 1990.
On the lighter side, Chief Forties had been asked by the DCM to go to her quarters just outside the compound and obtain some additional clothing for her. While in her quarters he could see were Iraqi soldiers had entered and attempted to make a meal in the kitchen. A frying pan was on the stove and next to it was an empty box of Gaines Burger dog patties. Apparently the Iraqis had mistaken the Gaines burgers for hamburger patties and fried them in the skillet for a quick meal.
Ambassador Howell notes in The Iraqi Invasion of Kuwait: American Reflections, "that the Kuwait embassy out lasted the longest embassy siege on record "55 Days at Peking". I would like to think that the food collection efforts of Dave Forties and myself was the major contributing factor to sustaining the Embassy during the Iraqi siege. No small task, after almost three weeks of foraging, scrounging and arranging food pick-ups, we acquired hundreds of cases of tuna, rice, canned goods, and medical supplies. Done at daily risk of avoiding Iraqi checkpoints, roadblocks and roaming bands of Iraqi soldiers and repeated the same feat while detained in Baghdad, Iraq.
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