Suggested Resources on Desert Storm from the Archivist

by Mary-Jo Kline

There’s an odd pattern to published works about this conflict, whether you call it Desert Shield/Desert Storm or the First Persian Gulf War. A flurry of books appeared within two years of the end of hostilities—indeed, a couple appeared even before the end of 1991. Since then, scholarly and “general reader” discussion of the war has been spotty. Thus we should be especially grateful to Professor Citino for his analysis here. I think you’ll also want to read his book Blitzkrieg to Desert Storm: The Evolution of Operational Warfare (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2004). Here he analyzes military campaigns from World War II through the second half of the twentieth century at the “operational” level, that of actual campaigns, rather than broad strategy or low-level decisions about the nearest hill or gully.

Here are some of the better books on the events of 1990–1991:

  • Atkinson, Rick. Crusade: The Untold Story of the Persian Gulf War. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1993. By a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist.
  • Friedman, Norman. Desert Victory. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 1991. Published immediately after the war’s end by a well-known military historian.
  • Freedman, Lawrence, and Efraim Karsh. The Gulf Conflict, 1990–1991: Diplomacy and War in the New World Order. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1993. Background of the conflict.
  • Gordon, Michael R., and Bernard E. Trainor. The Generals’ War: The Inside Story of the Conflict in the Gulf. Boston: Little, Brown, 1995. By a journalist and a general. A great book—Professor Citino calls it a “must-read.”
  • Grossman, Mark. Encyclopedia of the Persian Gulf War. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 1995. Helpful reference tool.
  • Head, William, and Earl H. Tilford Jr., eds. The Eagle in the Desert: Looking Back on US Involvement in the Persian Gulf War. Westport, CT: Praeger, 1996.
  • Knights, Michael. Cradle of Conflict: Iraq and the Birth of Modern US Military Power. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 2005. Covering the period 1990–2005, this book traces the evolution of US military and political strategy in the region.
  • Record, Jeffrey. Hollow Victory: A Contrary View of the Gulf War. New York: Brassey’s, 1993.  Just what the title says—feisty and argumentative.
  • Smith, Jean Edward. George Bush’s War. New York: H. Holt, 1992.
  • Woods, Kevin M. The Mother of All Battles: Saddam Hussein’s Strategic Plan for the Persian Gulf War. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2008. Professor Citino recommends this highly: “Unlike virtually every other American writer on the war, Woods’s work is based on the mountain of Iraqi documents captured by US forces during the war. Given the collapse of Saddam and the Baathist regime, this is as complete a portrayal of Iraqi intentions as we are ever likely to have.”

Desert Storm has been described as the first war fought in “real time” and on “prime time.” These books look at various aspects of this phenomenon:

  • Denton, Robert E., Jr., ed. The Media and the Persian Gulf War. Westport, CT: Praeger, 1993. Collection of essays.
  • Mueller, John E. Policy and Opinion in the Gulf War. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994.

On the Internet, these are your best bets for general background:

  • Your students may profit from looking at this source on “Iraq History” from an Arab website.
  • Rick Atkinson, a Washington Post staff member, wrote Crusade: The Untold Story of the Persian Gulf War, and the Post has mounted a great website on the Persian Gulf War with a narrative introduction by Atkinson, an analysis of the war by William Arkin (with rebuttal by Gen. Charles Homer), maps, photos, videos, even the archives of Post coverage of the war for contemporary media reports—great fun, with lots of material for the classroom.
  • There are several Gulf War sites, but HistoryGuy.com offers the best list of links to Internet resources. I don’t always agree with his evaluations, but he’s the only one who’s bothered to do this.
  • The online US Army bibliography on the Persian Gulf War hasn’t been updated since 2000. As there hasn’t been much work published since then, this isn’t as great a fault as it might seem.
  • History.com, the online arm of the History Channel, has a useful page on the Gulf War, with links to supplementary pages on related topics in “More to Explore.”
  • The PBS website for the Frontline series on the Gulf War is far better, though. Be sure to use the links from this page to a fine selection of maps, a BBC radio series, and oral history interviews.
  • The PBS series American Presidents broadcasted a special on George H. W. Bush. I can’t believe our luck here—the whole thing (streamed video and all) is available online. Also take a look at the supplementary items listed in the menu on the left side of this page—“bonus videos” and text “general articles.”

Most of the lesson plans online discuss the Persian Gulf War in relation to other US wars:

These authors take a closer look at the role of military technology in the war:

  • Hallion, Richard. Storm over Iraq: Air Power and the Gulf War. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1992. After surveying the history of air power in World War II and Vietnam, the author looks closely at developments in aircraft and air power strategy in the decade before the Gulf War, where this was the decisive factor.
  • Macgregor, Douglas. Warrior’s Rage: The Great Tank Battle of 73 Easting. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2009. By a retired US Army colonel who was in the thick of the heaviest fighting of the war, the massive clash of armor at the map coordinate known as “73 Easting.” Professor Citino warns: “Macgregor shows that no war is limited if you happen to be in the middle of it. He too is a feisty guy, and some of the judgments he makes in this book (on policymakers and fellow officers alike) will make the reader wince.”
  • Neufeld, Jacob, George M. Watson Jr., and David Chenoweth, et al. Technology and the Air Force: A Retrospective Assessment. Washington, DC: Air Force History and Museums Program, US Air Force, 1997. Don’t be put off by the fact that this is a volume of papers presented at a 1995 symposium that discussed relevant technological histories ranging from the turbojet revolution of the 1930s to the stealth revolution of the 1990s. It’s far more readable than you might expect and a very valuable source.
  • Olsen, John Andreas. Strategic Air Power in Desert Storm. New York: Routledge, 2003. More recent study.
  • Wright, Patrick. Tank: The Progress of a Monstrous War Machine. New York: Viking, 2002. Very readable history of tank warfare through the end of the twentieth century by a British author.
  • On the Internet, the PBS Frontline site on the war offers a useful a section on weapons. The descriptions are brief, but the pictures and background information on the Abrams tank, Patriot, Stealth, JSTARA, and GPSD systems: Tomahawk missile, Stealth bomber, etc., are invaluable.

This memoir will interest your students:

Schwarzkopf, H. Norman. It Doesn’t Take A Hero: General H. Norman Schwarzkopf, The Autobiography. New York: Bantam Books, 1992.

This author provides a good introduction to the factors in the military buildup under Reagan:

Powaski, Ronald E. Return to Armageddon: The United States and the Nuclear Arms Race, 1981–1999. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2000. The opening chapters deal with the Reagan administration.

Here are two interesting websites to supplement print materials in this area:

The University of Virginia’s Miller Center’s Reagan website includes a brief summary of the military buildup in an essay on foreign policy.

The US Army that fought the First Gulf War was deliberately redesigned and reshaped after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The lessons of the Gulf War, in turn, triggered a new spate of such planning and re-planning. The authors of these two books are both military historians who worked for the US Army’s Center of Military History:

  • Donnelly, William M. Transforming an Army at War: Designing the Modular Force, 1991–2005. Washington, DC: Center of Military History, US Army, 2007.
  • Sherry, Mark D. The Army Command Post and Defense Reshaping, 1987–1997. Washington, DC: Center of Military History, US Army, 2008.

Finally, a book with a special recommendation from Professor Citino: “One of the few books that actually describes what it was like to fight in this war. It was over so quickly that there simply aren’t many memoirs of this sort”:

Bourque, Steven A., and John W. Burdan III. The Road to Safwan: The 1st Squadron, 4th Cavalry in the 1991 Persian Gulf War. Denton, TX: UNT Press, 2007.

Make Gilder Lehrman your Home for History


Already have an account?

Please click here to login and access this page.

How to subscribe

Click here to get a free subscription if you are a K-12 educator or student, and here for more information on the Affiliate School Program, which provides even more benefits.

Otherwise, click here for information on a paid subscription for those who are not K-12 educators or students.

Make Gilder Lehrman your Home for History


Become an Affiliate School to have free access to the Gilder Lehrman site and all its features.

Click here to start your Affiliate School application today! You will have free access while your application is being processed.

Individual K-12 educators and students can also get a free subscription to the site by making a site account with a school-affiliated email address. Click here to do so now!

Make Gilder Lehrman your Home for History


Why Gilder Lehrman?

Your subscription grants you access to archives of rare historical documents, lectures by top historians, and a wealth of original historical material, while also helping to support history education in schools nationwide. Click here to see the kinds of historical resources to which you'll have access and here to read more about the Institute's educational programs.

Individual subscription: $25

Click here to sign up for an individual subscription to the Gilder Lehrman site.

Make Gilder Lehrman your Home for History


Upgrade your Account

We're sorry, but it looks as though you do not have access to the full Gilder Lehrman site.

All K-12 educators receive free subscriptions to the Gilder Lehrman site, and our Affiliate School members gain even more benefits!

How to Subscribe

K-12 educator or student? Click here to edit your profile and indicate this, giving you free access, and here for more information on the Affiliate School Program.

Not a educator or student? Click here for more information on purchasing a subscription to the Gilder Lehrman site.

Add comment

Login or register to post comments