While the name might seem rather unexciting (marking the UTM coordinates where the engagement took place), the Battle of 73 Easting represents one of the last great tank battles of our time. It was part of the major ground assault in February 1991 by the US lead Coalition, that did in just 100 hours deal a major blow to the invading Iraqi forces, and drove them out of Kuwait.
While the US forces prepared the ground in a constant 5 week aerial and naval bombardment, a lot of the Iraqi units remained in-tact. The bulk of the invasion force consisted of older Type 69, T-55 T-62 and T-72 tanks supported by BMP-1 fighting vehicles. Facing them was the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment, consisting of M1A1 Abrams main battle tanks supported by M3 Bardley fighting vehicles, attack helicopters and self-propelled artillery batteries.
The ground assault started on the 24th of February, but in the first couple of days they only met scattered resistance that would be overcome with ease. Things would heat up in the afternoon of the 26th only, when they would meet the main defense lines of the Iraqi forces, trying to protect their main supply route. During the day Eagle (E), Iron (I), Killer (K) and Ghost (G) companies – each consisting of 9 M1A1 Abrams tanks, 12 Bardleys and 120 infantry – progressed separately, cleaning their own zones.
They mostly encountered smaller groups of 15-30 tanks with support vehicles, who they could often surprise due to the desert weather conditions. These have been dealt with swiftly… A great example is E-companies encounter around 4PM, when they managed to destroyed 28 Iraqi tanks, 16 APC-s and 30 trucks in just under 23 minutes without any losses.
By 5PM G-company (the regiments north-most unit) gained an important position at a ridge overlooking a wadi (valley / dry river bed), but quickly found itself being in the focus point of the battle, as it was engaged by two enemy divisions, and by the retreating Iraqi forces who were also moving in this direction. They had to stand their ground against wave after wave of T-55 and T-72 tanks pushing into the wadi. The attack was relentless and it was reported that Iraqi soldiers pressed on with the attack even after climbing out of their burning vehicles.
To help stop the constant counter-attacks, G-company’s fire support team called in 720 artillery strikes (both regular howitzer shells and MLRS rocket strikes) during the 6 hours the battle lasted, while using their own mortars as well non-stop. Still, by 9PM they were completely out of TOW missiles and dangerously short of 25mm and 120mm ammunition. Relief by the H-company was a welcome sight, even if by than G-company destroyed at least two companies of Iraqi armor. In return they only lost a single M3 Bradley.
Overall the much better trained and better equipped US / Coalition forces completely overwhelmed the invaders, and while only suffering minor losses, they caused over 2000 casualties, while destroying 160 tanks and about 300 other armored vehicles in a very short period of time. The remaining Iraqi forces were out of Kuwait within the next two days, ending the First Gulf War.
Battle of Prokhorovka – Clash of 800 tanks