Iraq became an official combatant in the Third World War at 0145 hours Arabia Standard Time when the first Iraqi munitions were fired in anger against targets in Kuwait. After nearly two weeks of speculation, and preparing, the wait was over.
Republican Guard troops seized Kuwaiti outposts along the border, and established lanes through the fortifications and minefields in preparation for the movement of heavy forces into Kuwait. As this was going on, the Iraqi Air Force made its initial strikes against Kuwaiti targets. The first airstrikes hit Kuwaiti airbases, and HAWK sites. Subsequent missions were launched against communications nodes, and radio, and television transmission towers. The damaged caused to the airbases was not heavy enough to put them out of commission. Consequently, the Kuwaiti Air Force was able to launch attacks on advancing columns of Iraqi armor through the first part of the morning.
Once the border was secure and Kuwaiti forces stationed there neutralized, columns from the Hammurabi and Medina Republican Guard armored divisions pushed swiftly into northern Kuwait, moving for their initial objectives. The Al Faw Republican Guard motor rifle division crossed the eastern border, moving in the direction of Kuwait City. The Kuwaiti defensive plan had anticipated the main attack would materialize in the north. As a result, the bulk of its small army was deployed to meet an attack from this direction. The 6th Mechanized Brigade and a portion of the 35th Armored Brigade were dug in on Mutla Ridge, a natural defensive barrier northwest of Kuwait City. The Kuwaitis intended to defend Mutla with the 6th and part of the 35th. The remainder of the 35th Armored would cover Ali Al Salem Airbase and the Atraf road junction.
As dawn approached, the fighting in Kuwait intensified. The armored brigade from the Hammurabi Division reached Mutla ridge and immediately engaged a battalion of Kuwait’s 6th Mechanized Brigade. The Iraqi commander used the speed and superior firepower of his force well. His lead battalion and artillery kept the Kuwaitis pinned down while the rest of the brigade maneuvered around and behind the Kuwaitis. Another Kuwaiti force, this one from the 35th Armored Brigade was then encountered, and engaged. By 0630 the entire Iraqi armored brigade was involved in the battle on Mutla Ridge as follow on battalions of the Hammurabi Division’s 8th and 14th Mechanized Brigades passed through the Mutla Pass and headed for the Kuwait capital.
As these actions were taking place, a large heliborne force of Iraqi commandos from the 16th Republican Guard Special Forces Brigade descended upon their targets: the royal palace, and other government buildings in downtown Kuwait City. The force had suffered heavy casualties in men, and helicopters even before reaching the city. Twenty-six helicopters were lost, at least half to Kuwaiti HAWK batteries that survived the initial attempts to suppress them, and the rest crashed into power lines or in some cases each other while evading the HAWK missiles. The surviving helicopters landed and the commandos fanned out. At the royal palace stiff resistance by Kuwait National Guard forces and palace guards kept the Iraqis from seizing the palace until noon. When they finally did, instead of finding the Emir of Kuwait Sheikh Jaber al-Ahmad al-Sabah and other senior members of the royal family and Kuwaiti government, they found nothing. Unbeknownst to the Iraqis, the Emir, and senior government ministers had left Kuwait in the later hours of D+11 at the urging of the United States and Saudis, and were now safe in Riyadh.
Saudi Arabia was also set to be the rally point for the Kuwaiti military. By mid-morning, the Hammurabi Division was inside Kuwait City. The Medina Division had encountered unexpectedly heavy resistance from the 35th Armored Brigade and was hung up outside of Ali Al Salem Airbase. The brigade’s commander informed his superiors that he was running low on ammunition and fuel. His brigade would be unable to hold for much longer. The situation on the ground and in the air was growing dubious. Iraqi tanks and commandos were inside of Kuwait City and two more divisions would arrive there by early evening. After reviewing the situation, and with the recommendation of his military commanders, the Emir gave the order for all surviving Kuwaiti forces to disengage and make for Saudi Arabia.
Fighting would continue sporadically throughout the rest of the day but for all intent and purposes the battle for Kuwait was over by 1200 hours.