When Iraq invaded Kuwait in the summer of 1990 Canada responded by committing four thousand troops to Operation DESERT SHIELD, the UN-mandated Coalition committed to restoring peace in the Middle East. After the UN-sanctioned embargo against trade with Iraq failed to pressure Saddam Hussein into withdrawing his forces from Kuwait, the UN authorized the use of force. The Canadian Armed Forces were going to war for the first time in forty years.
While the Canadians stationed in Kuwait were mainly responsible for protecting the Coalition warships in the Persian Gulf from the Iraqi Air Force thirty-six Canadians played an active combat role. Between February 24 and 28 the Desert Cat Squadron carried out 56 bombing missions and dropped over fifteen thousand tons of high explosives on the Iraqi army. Low cloud coverage meant that the CF-18 Hornet pilots were often forced to rely on radar to find their targets and never saw the destruction wrought by their missiles. Despite the fact that the CF-18 pilots were often targeted by enemy anti-aircraft artillery and forced to take evasive measures they all managed to escape unscathed and the Canadian Armed Forces did not suffer any casualties during the Gulf War.
After the war the Canadian Armed Forces stayed in the area to support the United Nations’ Iraq-Kuwait peacekeeping mission by monitoring the demilitarized zone between the two countries and clearing land mines. In addition, a Canadian field hospital was set up to treat wounded Coalition and Iraqi soldiers.
To learn more about Operation Desert Shield (and the Canadian version, Operation Friction), please see Veterans Affairs.
Photo (main): Soldiers in the Persian Gulf; Canadian Commodore Ken Summers with folder (Credit: The Canadian Encyclopedia).
Photo (inset): Two Canadian “Desert Cat” CF-18 Hornets in the Persian Gulf, January 1991. Note the smoke from the oil fires on the ground (Credit: Rich Thistle).