On January 17th, 1991, Operation Desert Storm, the combat phase of the Gulf War, began. A new video shared by Historica Canada takes the viewer into Canada’s contribution to the Gulf War and the legacies of this conflict through the experiences of 4 veterans.
Canada’s contributions to the Gulf War have largely been overlooked by their fellow Canadians. Returning veterans faced the perception that they hadn’t participated in a “real war” because no Canadian soldiers were killed overseas.
In October 1990, Canadian personnel began deploying. CF-18 fighter jets were stationed at so-called ‘Canada Dry’ bases in Qatar. This was the first time naval and air units directly supported each other in a war zone since 1968, when the Canadian Force became unified.
Looming among the dangers for the Coalition in the Gulf was the threat of nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons. “Each person had their own equipment. We had our own gear, our gas masks and everything that comes with it to be ready.”
Operation Friction (Date: August 1990 – February 1991) was a Canadian military operation that saw the contribution of 4,500 Canadian Forces personnel to the 1991 Gulf War. Canada suffered no casualties during the conflict but since its end, many veterans have complained of suffering from Gulf War syndrome.
The larger US components were Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm.
Operation Friction initially saw Canadian Forces Maritime Command order the destroyers HMCS Terra Nova and HMCS Athabaskan to assist with enforcing the United Nations trade blockade against Iraq.
The supply ship HMCS Protecteur was deployed with the destroyers to provide underway replenishment as well as command/control and at-sea medical services to the small task force which operated in the Persian Gulf, Straits of Hormuz and Gulf of Oman.
Following UN authorization of military force to remove Iraq from occupied territory in Kuwait, AIRCOM deployed two CF-18 Hornet (24 aircraft) squadrons with support personnel from CFB Baden-Soellingen in Germany to a temporary base in Qatar. Force Mobile Command also sent a large field hospital to Qatar to deal with casualties from the expected ground war.
During the Gulf War, Canada’s CF-18 squadrons were integrated with Coalition air resources and provided combat air patrols as well as being involved in attacks of ground and water targets. This was the first time since the Korean War that the Canadian military had participated in offensive combat operations.
As the conflict progressed, the Canadian Air Task Group took on other combat roles, such as sweep and escort for coalition bombing missions and later, air-to-ground bombing missions. Canadian pilots were credited with partially destroying an Iraqi patrol boat in the Persian Gulf, and Canadian CF-18 jets carried out 56 bombing sorties against Iraqi forces.
Canadian Forces in the Gulf were supported by Air Command’s Transport Group, providing personnel and cargo transport using a fleet of 27 CC-130 Hercules and five CC-137 Boeing 707, one of which was used in the Gulf as an air-to-air refueler for Coalition air forces. The Transport Group also provided a CC-144 Challenger in a command-and-liaison role for the deployed Commander of the Canadian Forces.
A comprehensive overview of Canada’s role in the Gulf War can be found here