Battle of 73 Easting - World at War
Battle of 73 EastingBy Andrew 'IronX' Glenn
Most challenging to play: USA [Allied] against Iraq [Japanese]. Conditions: Normal. Size: Medium-Large.
Background: February 26, 1991. Iraq.
The Battle of 73 Easting was a decisive tank battle fought between British-American armoured forces and those of the Iraqi Republican Guard. The main U.S. unit in the battle was the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment (2nd ACR), mainly a reconnaissance element of VII Corps.
G-Troop, 2nd ACR, had assumed a fixed position on a ridge overlooking a wadi at and parallel to the 73 Easting phase line, securing the left flank of VII Corps. During the fight, the Republican Guards' Tawakalna Division's 18th Brigade was tangled up with their own 12th Armored Division, and both enemy units were trying to retreat through the same narrow piece of terrain, a shallow valley between two ridgelines, leading straight into G-Troop. At 18:30, the first of several waves of Iraqi T-72 and T-55 tanks advanced into the wadi in a bid to escape, directly into G-Troop. The fighting was fierce, as wave after wave of tanks and infantry charged G-Troop. The other troops and tank companies were fighting largely against dug-in soldiers and stationary tanks, not the armored charges faced by G-Troop that night. The fighting was so intense that, more than once, only the calling in of artillery and helicopter gunships saved G-Troop. At one point one Military Intelligence (MI) Platoon from the 2nd ACR's Command and Control Squadron was forced to stop its intelligence support of the battle and return fire on Iraqi soldiers that had exited a burning BMP and charged the MI platoon's position while their uniforms were on fire. This indicated the determination of units of the Republican Guard. During the six-hour battle, the G-Troop fire support team called in 720 howitzer and MLRS rounds. By 21:00, G-Troop was desperately short on ammunition and a tank company, “Hawk,” was sent in to relieve them. G-Troop lost one M3 Bradley to Iraqi IFV fire and one soldier, Sergeant Nels A. Moller, the gunner of the Bradley, was killed. The Bradley's TOW launcher was inoperative, and the crew was forced to engage the enemy with only the 25mm Bushmaster Cannon. At some point, the vehicle became exposed to the enemy (AKA "skylined") and the cannon jammed. While the crew was working on the guns in an attempt to re-engage the enemy, it was hit by 73 mm cannon fire from an Iraqi BMP-1. Moller was killed instantly and the remainder of the crew evacuated the damaged vehicle.
The 2nd ACR, which advanced between the Iraqi 12th Armored Division and the Tawakalna Division, was the only American ground unit to find itself decisively outnumbered and out-gunned. Nonetheless, the 2nd ACR's three squadrons, along with the 1st Infantry Division's two leading brigades, destroyed two Iraqi brigades (18th Mechanized Brigade and 37th Armored Brigade) of the Tawakalna Division. The 2nd ACR alone destroyed about 85 tanks, 40 personnel carriers and more than 30 wheeled vehicles, along with several anti-aircraft artillery systems during the battle. The equivalent of an Iraqi brigade was destroyed at 73 Easting; it was the first ground defeat of the Republican Guard. Within 24 hours, most of the other Iraqi brigades were gone. Though a decisive tactical victory for American arms, the Battle of 73 Easting did not secure victory.