We Were There but We Saw it First on CNN
The warning came over the net; ‘Air Red, Air Red, take cover.’ Just that, in a clam clipped voice and in a calm clipped manner we made our way to the Munro Shelter. As I counted my Troop in, the Air Raid Siren sounded and I admit I felt some excitement, not fear, more of a thrill I was trained for this and I wanted to know how I’d get on. Once all were in I checked the CAM and NAIAD and looked about.
Around 800 metres away the lights of the Dhahran International Hotel were topped by the brighter lights of CNN’s MNT on its roof, Tornado and F15 Aircraft were taking to the air all seemed normal and so it was; the all clear sounded and I told the Troop to leave the Shelter.
Most of us slunk in to the Rest Room to check in owith the news. We had become News Junkies and CNN was the station of choice. Chuck Jago came on screen and we cheered; he was local; on top of that Hotel.
‘The All Clear has sounded here at Dhahran’ he announced ‘and airplanes continue to BOOM! …’ He ducked, his lights fell over and then the entire room shuddered and months of dust flew around accompanied by a colossal bang.
‘GAS! GAS! GAS!’ I bellowed into my respirator, I was amazed that I’d got it on by reflex and pleased that the troop were already into their kit and moving to the shelter save for the Theatre Sister and one of the Tech’s they were stood pointing up at smoke trails like kids looking at fireworks!
‘Mask Up you fools!’ I sounded more like Darth Vader than a troop sergeant.
I resumed my position at the Shelter entrance and looked those smoke trails, they were being carried away on the wind so, if there was a chemical hazard from what I assumed to be a Scud, we were upwind of it and in the clear. The Naiad and CAM agreed; they were dark and silent. The air raid warning sounded again, a little late but it brought someone out of the gloom, it was Herbie;
‘Good Job I was on the bog,’ he said ‘ I shit myself just now, what was that?’
His West Country burr still obvious through his mask.
‘Enemy Aircraft I think, get in the shelter and call the roll would you?’
He did all were present and some getting curious, I was joined at the door by a few. I sent two of them away upwind and told them to do an unmasking drill, the others disappeared back into the shelter. After a few minutes the lads came back unmasked and chatting, I shone my torch into their eyes and got a nice response of the pupils. I unmasked, called ‘Gas Clear’ into the Shelter and we went inside.
‘I think that was an Enemy Aircraft, is everyone okay?’ I asked.
They were, some nervous chatter started up, water was passed around and then we talked over what had happened. It was the first time we’d come under attack and we’d done okay. We waited.
The all clear sounded and we all huddled round the TV for news.
High over Dhahran airbase a Scud Missile had been intercepted by a Patriot anti-aircraft missile, it was a big plus for the manufacturer Raytheon; the Patriot exceeded its design spec. We then did some basic maths.
The Boom was the Patriot going transonic as it launched; the sound wave hit Chuck Jago and his CNN crew at 720 miles per hour, it was beamed up to the CNN satellite and down to us at 186000 miles per second so we saw and heard Chuck and his crew react to the Boom on the TV before the real Sound Wave hit us (800 m further away) at 720 miles per hour.
That was our first contact of the Gulf War, we were there … but, we saw it first on CNN!