PERSIAN GULF WAR. Clevelanders felt shock and anger on 2 Aug. 1990, upon hearing news reports that Iraqi armies had invaded Kuwait. The aggression by the large, well-equipped army of Iraq against a small and all but defenseless neighbor enraged many Clevelanders, who saw Iraq as the proverbial bully. Others drew a parallel with the aggressive moves of Nazi Germany in the 1930s; they believed the lessons of history required such aggression not be allowed to stand. Others felt apprehension based on economic and security concerns. Kuwait, and its now potentially threatened neighbor to the south, Saudi Arabia, were not only friends of the West, but major sources in its vital petroleum pipeline.
On 7 Aug. 1990, the U.S. activated Desert Shield, the first phase in its military response to Iraq. Assuming the lead of a multi-nation coalition, the U.S. began sending troops and materiel to the Arabian peninsula to deter the Iraqis from any further moves southward. Eventually, the build-up of U.S. forces numbered nearly a half-million personnel, 800 planes, and 80 ships of war. Approximately 10,000 Ohioans, including 7,000 from some 150 reserve units (11 from Greater Cleveland), were sent to the Gulf. Many schools offered counseling sessions to help children cope with the anxiety which the deployment of family members caused.
For the most part, Desert Shield prompted patriotic outpourings. While many favored working toward a diplomatic solution to the problem, polls showed a strong majority of Clevelanders were prepared to back armed intervention. As diplomatic efforts to end the occupation of Kuwait were successively thwarted by Iraqi intransigence, the U.S. imposed a 15 Jan. 1991 deadline for withdrawal. As that date neared, local pacifists, though clearly a minority, became more vocal. On 15 Jan. nearly 1,000 protestors gathered on Public Square in front of the BP Bldg. Chanting "no blood for oil," many of the protestors lay down in the street, disrupting traffic through the Square for nearly 3 hours. On 16 Jan. 1991, many Clevelanders were watching the early evening news when a transmission from Baghdad showed the night skies over that city illuminated by anti-aircraft tracers. Desert Shield had become Desert Storm.
A PLAIN DEALER survey reported that 81.9% of Ohioans approved of the attack; only 11.8% opposed it. Patriotism surged. All around the city citizens and businesses unfurled American flags, and yellow ribbons appeared everywhere. A restaurant offered free dinners to anyone in military uniform. The Governor's Office set up a task force to find ways of assisting families disrupted by the war. Local television stations doubled their news coverage of Persian Gulf events. Banks offered extended terms to borrowers with family members overseas, and utility companies set up extended payment plans. In schools children collected coins to aid separated families. To prevent the possibility of terrorist retaliatory attacks, security was increased at CLEVELAND-HOPKINS INTL. AIRPORT, as well as at local government facilities and the area's nuclear installations.
Desert Storm itself proved brief and with relatively few casualties. Nonetheless, 19 Ohioans lost their lives in Gulf War-related incidents; two of these casualties were from Greater Cleveland. The Gulf War ended on 27 Feb. 1991. With Kuwait liberated and the surrender of Iraqi troops, coalition forces declared the ceasefire.
James A. Toman