Rutgers Oral History Archives

Tan "Joe" Nguyen, U.S. Marine Corps, Persian Gulf War

-On being a part of Operation Desert Sabre, when United Nations-coalition forces liberated Kuwait from Iraqi occupation:
… We pressed on, and here it is; all of sudden, we're pushing through, and the vehicle commander tells us, "Enemy contact front, enemy contact front," he's yelling loud to us, and the back of the vehicle, the whole door drops, and of course, I was in the first fire team, so they sent us out to go and actually engage. So, here's the enemy in plain view. Keep in mind, you're in the desert, so you can see kind of farther away. It wasn't like a triple canopy jungle or a wooded area, like a covered concealment; this is just an open plain field, but here it is; my first engagement with an enemy. Someone is trying to kill me.

We got out there, weapons pointed down range, we did our maneuvering, and sure enough, I see movement; I see Iraqis coming towards us, but there's rules of engagement. Of course, I see a lot of white flags too. They're holding white flags, ribbons, even sticks with toilet paper streamers as a form of white flag, which means that they're surrendering. So, if they're doing that obviously rules of engagement doesn't allow you to engage, and they were giving up.

We took precaution and searched them, took their weapons away and corralled them etc., and then, behind us there's trucks back there that would take the POWs [prisoners of war] that were giving up, and that process went on just about all day, the first day of the war.

Again, here we're trained to fight this fierce enemy, Iraqi Republican Guard, which is their elite force, and they were the aggressors. They drove out the Kuwaitis, so we're expecting opposition, and it wasn't so. They were just coming to us hands up, and they were just surrendering by the thousands. I can't remember how many prisoners I processed that day, but again, with every group of prisoners that come up there, you've got to be careful.