One of the darkest days yet, like deep twilight at 1100, and chilly, too. We went to Ash-Shuwaikh and waited around for trucks to escort. When that mission fell through, we went back to Camp Freedom and got electricians to check out the generators at Fintas. We escorted them there and waited from 1230 to 1700. While we were there a truckload of frozen chicken came in, but the freezers aren't running! The Kuwaitis plan to hand it out immediately before it spoils. This was about the most unproductive day yet.
Just south of the co-op at Fintas is a big open area, where the Iraqis dug about the most useless defense position I've seen yet. It's a massive crescent-shaped trench about waist deep, and the sand here is partially cemented so it's not easy digging. Yet the position is too far from the beach to provide cover for the beach, and it faces a street instead of the beach anyway. But the street is 50 meters away and there are trees between the position and the street! I can't figure out what it's supposed to protect or what it's supposed to defend against. Busy work for the troops, maybe. SPC Dale Raby later told me of an even better position he once saw; for sandbags the Iraqis used bags of ammonium nitrate fertilizer! Very considerate of them; a self-destructing fighting position!
Very dark today, but not as dark as yesterday. It was clear along the coast where we worked. Despite the smoke, it was fairly warm. The winds are changeable enough that it is rarely cold even under thick smoke.
First we checked out the food distribution point at Dhaher. Like all sites, it's functioning but short critical items. From the garbage piles, it looks like everyone in Kuwait got frozen chicken yesterday!
We went to the director's house for tea and war stories. He told of one friend who was arrested by the Iraqis. After several days, the family was notified that he would be released. They all turned out to greet him. When he was ten feet from them, the Iraqis killed him. I had heard the same story before, sometimes involving children in their early teens, but never from somebody with such direct knowledge.
He also told of one woman collaborator who sold booze smuggled in from Iraq with the pitch "20 dinars for me and the bottle". His comment: "She's a bitch". For somebody with limited English, he had a surprisingly functional vocabulary of swear words.
Half a mile west of Dhaher is a burning oil well, the closest we can get to one in the open (we pass closer to several on Seventh Ring Road, but never stop). It gives off a steady roar, punctuated by great whooshes and hissing sounds.
In the afternoon we check out the food sites at Hadiya, Riqqa, Sabahiya and Fahaheel. The last evolved into Dodge City, Fort Apache, and the Shootout at the OK Souk. We had accompanied CPT Pressner's team there and were waiting in the parking lot when a burst of automatic weapon fire was shot off. We locked and loaded and sought cover. After a minute or so, I realized that people were not screaming and running for cover, and that whatever it was had not been serious. Later, when visiting the police station, we heard that a guard fired "to calm the crowd". It sure calmed me; a flat EKG is about as calm as you can get!
At the police station we sat around in the troop billet and had yet more tea and an almond sweet that I likened to nut-flavored Spackle. All that tea is hard on the bladder!
This building was a main telephone exchange and was used as an Iraqi communications center. Photos taken March 13, 1991
This is a supermarket where relief supplies were being distributed. Just before I took these pictures there was a burst of weapons fire from the vicinity of the large crowd. We later heard that the Kuwaitis fired "to calm the crowd." Works for me - you can't get much calmer than cardiac arrest.
A nice warm sunny day. I got a lot of personal business done, despite a general lack of work for the team. Last night I got the first package from George French with a copy of the NASA Augustine Report and some other things. I read it in the morning, then after we got back in the afternoon I dictated a taped reply and sent it off (it finally got to them six weeks later, after the rest of the Committee had finished its report). That I could get all this done gives some idea of how little work there was to do today!
About 1000 we left with CPT Pressner's team and some mechanics to Fahaheel, to check out their generator, and hung around until 1230. One funny incident took place while we were there. Salem told some of the locals I had been studying Arabic, so they quizzed me. I felt a bit like a three-year old kid, unsure whether to feel embarrassed or complimented. I wondered whether they were going to ask me to sit up and beg, or roll over.
After this we went to Mishref to call home. I talked to Shawn and Brendan for 10 minutes. Thanks to a ten-minute limit and an organized rotation, the line moved quickly.
In the evening I went up on the water tower to photograph the oil well fires, and counted 91. Then I got in two games of cribbage. Emery Maloney and I skunked Todd Frisque and Todd Inman twice. I got a 12-peg, only the second one I've ever seen in my life (the first was over 10 years ago). We had a huge mail call. I got two cards and a letter.
Trucks of all kinds are highly decorated and personalized in the Middle East. Note the oil smoke in the background, although we're looking east more than 90 degrees away from the oil fields.
Created January 10, 2000; Last Update 14 December 2009
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