The Battle of Norfolk was a tank battle fought on February 27, 1991, during the Persian Gulf War, between armored forces of the United States Army and those of the Ba'athist Iraqi Republican Guard. It was the final battle of the war before the unilateral ceasefire took effect.
The battle took place about 60 miles (97 km) east of and 18 hours after the Battle of Al Busayyah, and several kilometers east of the Battle of 73 Easting, which had ended just two hours earlier. The Battle of Norfolk is named for Objective Norfolk, an area that encompassed the intersection of the IPSA Pipeline Road and several desert trails and a large Iraqi supply depot defended by Iraqi armor. Objective Norfolk was located 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 forces involved in the battle were the American 1st Infantry Division, the 3rd Brigade of the 2nd Armored Division (Hell on Wheels) and the Iraqi 18th Mechanized and 9th Armored Brigades of the Tawakalna Mechanized Infantry Division.
On the night of 23/24 February 1991, in accordance with General Norman Schwarzkopf's plan for the ground assault called Operation Desert Sabre, VII Corps raced east from Saudi Arabia into Iraq in a maneuver later nicknamed the "Hail Mary." The Corps had two goals: to cut off Iraqi retreat from Kuwait, and to destroy five Republican Guard divisions near the Iraq-Kuwait border that might attack the Arab and U.S. Marine Corps units moving into Kuwait to the south.
The breach was preceded by a heavy artillery barrage, led by 4/3 FA Battalion, to soften up Iraqi defenses. Around 300 guns from multiple nations participated in the impressive artillery display. Iraq lost close to 90 artillery pieces during this barrage. Led by Major General Thomas Rhame, the U.S. 1st Infantry Division pushed through the Iraqi defenses. The U.S. 1st Infantry Division opened fire on the Iraqi defenses with tank fire and destroyed four tanks with TOW missiles. In the end, the division succeeded in decimating the Iraqi 26th Infantry Division, and taking over 500 prisoners. The U.S. 1st Infantry Division also suffered a casualty, with one soldier being killed by an Iraqi land mine.
The Battle of Norfolk, in a sense a continuation of the fighting that began with the Battle of 73 Easting the day before, began at 12:30 am on 27 February. The two attacking brigades of the U.S. 1st Infantry Division, including the 3rd Brigade of the 2nd Armored Division, were positioned along the 75 Easting, 2,000 meters east of 73 Easting. The Brigades clashed with the Iraqi Tawakalna Division of the Republican Guard, including the 37th Brigade of the 12th Iraqi Tank Division.
With air support from the 1/1 Attack Helicopter Battalion and fire support from 4/3 FA Battalion preventing Iraqi artillery from interfering, the U.S. 1st Infantry Division conducted a passage of the 2nd ACR's lines. In the following three hours the U.S. 1st Infantry Division methodically crossed the 6.2 miles (10.0 km) of Objective Norfolk, destroying Iraqi tanks, trucks, and infantry through thick fog. The 3rd Brigade of the 2nd Armored Division destroyed 60 Iraqi tanks and 35 AFV along the IPSA pipeline. In the thick of the fog of war, U.S. units became mixed with Iraqi units dispersed throughout the desert. This confusion led to the largest number of friendly fire incidents throughout the war. During the battle, a Challenger 1 commanded by the commander of the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards, then Lt. Col. John Sharples, scored the longest tank-to-tank kill at a distance of around 3 miles. Another Challenger 1, commanded by then-Captain Tim Purbrick of the Queen's Royal Irish Hussars battlegroup, scored the second longest tank-to-tank kill at 4,700m.
By dawn, the U.S. 1st Infantry Division controlled Objective Norfolk and the Tawakalna Mechanized Infantry Division had ceased to exist as a fighting force. American casualties were six soldiers killed (all but one by friendly fire) and 30 wounded.
- "National Army Museum Middle East: Gulf War". National Army Museum. 24 January 2021. https://www.nam.ac.uk/explore/gulf-war. "One tank, from the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards, had the distinction of the longest range tank-to-tank kill in military history, destroying an Iraqi tank at a range of around 5km (3 miles)."
- "Desert Storm Part 22: Charge of the Heavy Brigade". British Army. 28 February 2016. https://britisharmy.wordpress.com/2016/02/28/desert-storm-part-22-charge-of-the-heavy-brigade/. "I looked at the CRRO, 4,700m. A slice over four times our battle range and a shade under three miles away."
- "What It Was Like To Be A Tank Troop Leader In The First Gulf War". Forces News. 19 January 2021. https://www.forces.net/news/what-it-was-be-tank-troop-leader-first-gulf-war.
- TAB H -- Friendly-fire Incidents
- Zaloga, Steven J. (2009). M1 Abrams vs T-72 Ural:Operation Desert Storm 1991. Osprey. ISBN 9781846034077. OCLC 277201894.
- Bourque, Stephen A. (2001). Jayhawk! The 7th Corps in the Persian Gulf War. Center of Military History, United States Army. LCCN 2001028533. OCLC 51313637.
- Crusade: The Untold Story of the Persian Gulf War, by Rick Atkinson, Houghton Mifflin, 1993. ISBN 0395710839 OCLC 28378277
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