Today in Media History: The Gulf War’s 1991 Operation Desert Storm

January 16, 2015
Category: Uncategorized

On January 16, 1991, the news media reported that Allied forces had launched air strikes against Iraq.

News on the Web was still a few years away, so most people first turned to television for coverage of the Gulf War’s Operation Desert Storm.

CNN’s Bernard Shaw, Peter Arnett and John Holliman described the beginning of Operation Desert Storm from the ninth-floor of a Baghdad hotel.

They broadcast with audio only.

Their reporting and the sounds of anti-aircraft fire reminded some of Edward R. Murrow’s stories during the bombing of WWII London.

(Additional video footage has been posted.)

“U.S. and allied forces took control of the skies over Iraq by hitting Saddam Hussein’s forces with 1,000 air sorties that claimed one U.S. pilot’s life, Defense Secretary Dick Cheney said. Cheney and Gen. Colin L. Powell, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, expressed satisfaction with the initial results of Operation Desert Storm — but both stressed that there could well be other casualties in what is expected to be a protracted campaign to drive Iraq from Kuwait. Powell said the bombing ‘damaged the command and control capability of the Iraqi government,’ as well as airfields, missile installations and other targets.

U.S. and Saudi military officials in Saudi Arabia said ground forces were moving north and had taken up positions closer to the Kuwaiti border. It was not clear whether the movement was in preparation for an offensive.”

Desert Storm
Los Angeles Times, January 17, 1991

“….TV’s coverage of Operation Desert Storm rallied a newsgathering effort whose responsiveness was unknown during Vietnam, the oft-described ‘living room war’ of a quarter-century earlier.

This was a new kind of war coverage that, thanks to satellite technology, delivered images of fighting as it happened.”

New Tools Showed Gulf War on TV”
Associated Press, January 14, 2001

Here is how the BBC described the first day of fighting:

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