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The Gulf War begins

Soldiers keep watch in Ted Zuber’s 1991 painting, “Long Day at Doha.”
The Persian Gulf War began on Jan. 16-17, 1991, when a coalition of 35 countries under the United Nations came together to push Iraq out of Kuwait.

Iraq invaded on Aug. 2, 1990, claiming Kuwaiti oil rigs were tapping into Iraqi oil fields and that Kuwait was really a part of Iraq.

Canadian warships were dispatched within weeks. The Canadian commander, Captain Duncan (Dusty) Miller, became co-ordinator of multinational naval combat logistics.

United Nations warnings escalated until January, when Iraq ignored an ultimatum to withdraw, and the UN Security Council authorized coalition countries to liberate Kuwait.

More than 4,000 Canadian Armed Forces members served on HMC ships Terra Nova, Athabaskan and Protecteur, and in 1991 and ’92, with Huron and Restigouche; on U.S. hospital ships and with 1 Canadian Field Hospital in the Saudi Arabian desert; at Canadian headquarters in Bahrain; and in communications, logistical and security support roles.

The Canadian Air Task Group set up headquarters in Doha, Qatar, flying combat air patrols to protect allied naval forces, and readying for combat.

In October, 416 “Lynx” and 439 “Tiger” CF-18 Hornet Squadrons, known as the Desert Cats, were deployed, commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Don Matthews. They flew combat air patrols, switching to sweep-and-escort missions in January when the air war began, and for the first time since the Korean War, Canadian pilots engaged in air-to-surface attacks.

The ground war began on Feb. 24. In the next five days, CF-18 pilots, supporting the allied ground campaign, carried out 56 bombing missions.

The war ended on Feb. 28, 1991. No Canadian Armed Forces members died during the war, the first in which Canadian women filled combat roles.

After the war, Canadian personnel provided mine and bomb disposal, airlift support and humanitarian aid, and participated in the UN Iraq-Kuwait Observer Mission from May 1991 to August 2001.


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