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Moments after Desert Storm began, bomber pilot Pete Hunt was in the air over the Persian Gulf. Hunt saw it all, and this is his electrifying account. Tested to the max, flying all night, every night for weeks on end, Hunt executed dozens of missions—from carpet bombing to dropping deadly five-hundred-pound ...
Moments after Desert Storm began, bomber pilot Pete Hunt was in the air over the Persian Gulf. Hunt saw it all, and this is his electrifying account. Tested to the max, flying all night, every night for weeks on end, Hunt executed dozens of missions—from carpet bombing to dropping deadly five-hundred-pound cluster bombs with pinpoint precision; from supporting Marines on the ground to bombing fleeing Iraqis along the blood-soaked “highway of death.”
His A-6 jet was a wide-open target for the blazing antiaircraft fire streaking up to destroy it. Escaping this deadly blizzard of fire made setting the A-6 back down on a little deck in a big ocean seem almost easy. But Hunt, like the rest of his squadron, the VA-145 Swordsmen—honored as the premier Attack Squadron in the United States Navy for 1991—was just doing his job: keeping America free.
From the Paperback edition.
The Persian Gulf, 0150 Hours, 17 January 1991
The ready room went stone silent as the ship's MC public address system became audible, and Captain Ernest E. Christensen Jr., the commanding officer of USS Ranger, began to speak:
In August last year Iraq invaded and dismantled a country, Kuwait. That country has virtually ceased to exist. Iraq's armed forces occupy Kuwait--approximately 530,000 men in 41 divisions. They man the KTO. In October, the United Nations resolved that if Iraq did not withdraw from Kuwait by 15 January force would be authorized. The time for Iraq to withdraw has passed. United Nations coalition forces are now authorized to use force. On 16 January the National Command Authority declared DEFCON Two.
A few minutes ago I was informed by our operational commander, Rear Admiral Zlatoper, that the president has ordered the U.S. Central Command to engage Iraq in hostilities.
Few Americans are as privileged to stand up and be counted. . . . We have been given the honor of representing our country in combat. We are here in this moment in history. We volunteered for this duty. We are trained for this day. We are ready for this day.
Ranger will launch . . . Air Wing Two will strike . . . targets within Iraq this morning. We shall make our presence felt. This ship . . . this air wing . . . these staffs . . . will make in history a measurable difference on this day, and on the days to follow.
The wing will fly tonight and tomorrow and in the days that follow. . . .
From those of us who cannot go . . . we wish you good luck. For those of us who steam, fuel, feed, arm, and launch the aircraft on this ship . . . we are greatly counted upon, for what we do here in the near future will guarantee what this nation does in the far future.
To the air wing . . . Godspeed, good hunting . . . keep your powder dry and your knots up. For the rest of us . . . let's go get 'em!1
The aviator-filled room projected an aura of unease at the solemn tone and content of Captain Christensen's speech. This was definitely not the routine rendition of the ship's progress through cruise that the flight crews were used to digesting. The Attack Squadron 155 (call sign "Jakals") commanding officer continued with his strike briefing to the packed ready room, standing room only as those not actually involved in the strike filled in the back to listen to the plan. Sixty minutes had passed since we had first sat down, and the Jakal CO was reaching the end point of his brief.
"Last words, let's make sure that our flight suits are sanitized." He tore the Velcro-backed name tag with "CO" written on it off of his flight suit, the last step in ensuring a minimum of information to any potential Iraqi captors. The sound of tearing Velcro reverberated throughout the ready room.
1. Thanks to Ranger's 1991 cruisebook for jogging my memory of the exact wording of the speech Captain Christensen gave to the ship on 17 January.
The brief had been quick and concise--virtually everyone flying the mission had been intimately involved in the planning and had flown the practice strike three days earlier. The briefing was more of a final review and update for any latechanging information. The individual mission components of bombers, fighters, radar jammers, high-speed antiradiation missile (HARM) shooters, and tankers broke off into separate groups to discuss their plans in greater detail. The room emptied until only the six Intruder bomber crews...