““Soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines of the United States Central Command, this morning at 0300, we launched Operation DESERT STORM, an offensive campaign that will enforce the United Nation’s resolutions that Iraq must cease its rape and pillage of its weaker neighbor and withdraw its forces from Kuwait. My confidence in you is total. Our cause is just! Now you must be the thunder and lightning of Desert Storm. May God be with you, your loved ones at home, and our Country.””
– General H. Norman Schwarzkopf, USA Commander-in-Chief U.S. Central Command, Jan. 16, 1991, prior to the start of the Battle of Ad-Dawrah.
This blog post was written by USS Nicholas (FFG 47) Commanding Officer Cmdr. Stephen Fuller who shares his thoughts about the Battle of Ad-Dawrah and his ship’s involvement. Nicholas, an Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigate, was a vital naval element during the battle. As Nicholas prepares to participate in the large-scale Navy/Marine Corps Expeditionary exercise Bold Alligator 2012, Fuller gives his perspective on the role Nicholas played during Desert Storm, and the value of frigates since they were introduced into naval service more than 235 years ago.
Twenty-one years have passed since the Battle of Ad-Dawrah, when Nicholas served as part of General Schwarzkopf’s “Thunder and Lightning.” In 1991, Nicholas, with embarked helo and a sister Kuwaiti ship, led the fight against Iraqi soldiers who had taken over nine of 11 oil platforms off the coast of Dorrah, Kuwait.
Knowing they were facing an enemy armed with Exocet missiles that had damaged Nicholas’ sister ship USS Stark (FFG 31) ( just a few years earlier, the ship’s captain had to use the element of surprise to close within one mile. He directed the organic SH-60 helicopter along with Army helicopters armed with air-to-surface missiles to attack. The joint, sea-based team quickly defeated the enemy positions at two of the platforms.
Seeing Iraqi soldiers fleeing to armed small crafts, the Nicholas-led team had an Arabic-speaking crew member offered the overwhelmed Iraqis a chance to surrender. Without any counter fire, Nicholas and her Blue-Green team of air and sea assets won an early, lightning fast battle to set the tone of the war-at-sea in Desert Storm – an engagement that was informed by the swashbuckling daring and ingenious planning done by captains of the original frigates in the Revolution and War of 1812.
As we reflect on the Battle of Ad-Dawrah, we must remember the vital role that frigates have played in the United States Navy since her birth in 1775. A frigate Sailor had to do “more with less” since the very first Naval engagements in the Revolution; a frigate Sailor embodied the “Tin-Can Navy” before there was a “Tin Can” to sail in. And today, a frigate Sailor is bonded to his and her shipmates through lessons learned from Stark and USS Thach (FFG 43) and a continued demand signal for diverse crews capable of doing any mission in any waters.
The frigate offers a capability to operate in challenging near-shore waters as demonstrated in the Battle of Ad-Dawrah and modern battles against drug-runners of the Caribbean and Pirates off the coast of Africa. It can also ensure the blue water Maritime Security for underway replenishment groups and merchant convoys. They engage in multinational joint exercises throughout the world, training other navies in everything from search and rescue to boarding procedures.
According to the Chief of Naval Operations, these near-shore and theater security cooperation missions will continue to grow over the next 10 to 15 years, as the “Navy continues protecting the interconnected systems of trade, information, and security that underpin American prosperity.” The Oliver Hazard Perry class frigate will lead these missions with her nearly 30 years of experience, her helicopter capabilities, overall flexibility, and bold crews until the last one passes On-Scene Commander duties to the Littoral Combat Ship.
For as long as there is a frigate Sailor there will be thunder and lightning in these hulls!