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Gulf War Logistics Records Donated to the Sustainment Community

During Operation Desert Storm, Lieutenant General William G. “Gus” Pagonis was known as the “logistics point man” for the U.S. Armed Forces. Not only was he responsible for the logistics plan for Desert Storm, General H. Norman Schwarzkopf, Jr., also put him in charge of executing that plan on the ground. General Pagonis held daily press briefings during operations and kept notes, after-action reviews, and other documents from the Persian Gulf War, creating a large personal archive. During a recognition ceremony held in his honor, Lieutenant General (Ret.) Pagonis donated his archive to the Army Logistics University (ALU) Library at Fort Lee, Virginia, on 17 May 2010. His donation is the first addition to ALU’s new Senior Sustainment Collection.

Persian Gulf War Logistics

Introducing General Pagonis at the ceremony, Major General James E. Chambers, the commanding general of the Army Combined Arms Support Command, cited Pagonis’s most recognized accomplishments. (General Chambers is now the J–4 for the U.S. Central Command.) “As the commanding general of the 22d Support Command [the Army’s theater logistics command], General Pagonis was responsible for the reception and onward movement of troops and equipment and their sustainment in Southwest Asia,” said Chambers. “It was during this assignment that he successfully masterminded the logistics for the Gulf War. His logistics strategy during the war has been widely regarded as one of the greatest achievements of military history.”

Pagonis shared some of his experiences from this timeframe, outlining the adaptability needed in the first 4 months when the few logisticians available took charge of logistics operations. “We had sergeants doing the jobs of captains. It was a tremendous effort,” said Pagonis. He sees Desert Storm as the beginnings of the logistics branch that is today a reality. “It didn’t matter what your branch was; you were a logistician,” said Pagonis. “We tailored on the battlefield to meet the situation, and the logistical corps made all the difference.”

Desert Storm operations were modeled on the return of forces to Germany (Reforger) exercise—troops were flown in, equipment was in place on the ground, and other equipment arrived by ship. The goal was to sustain troops and equipment and move them forward on the battlefield.

In “Observations on Gulf War Logistics,” an article that General Pagonis wrote with Colonel Michael D. Krause in the September–October 1992 issue of Army Logistician, the authors write, “The creation of logistics bases was essential to sustaining the ground campaign. The bases were intended to hold enough fuel, food, water, and ammunition to sustain the XVIII Airborne Corps and VII Corps during their punch into Iraq.” These logistics bases were set ahead of combat arms forces on the battlefield and provided, for the first time, flexible support to modern maneuver operations.

During his ALU visit, General Pagonis noted another logistics success—Operation Desert Farwell. “We always forget Desert Farewell,” said Pagonis. “When the war was over, I was able to send people home, but I stayed. They gave me 6,000 individual ready reserves [IRRs] who never dreamed they’d ever be called up.” Those IRR Soldiers worked to fulfill an agreement made between President George Bush and the King of Saudi Arabia that all equipment would be sent back to the United States after the war. “We were given 2 years,” said Pagonis. “It was done in 8 months. The motto was, ‘As soon as this junk’s out of here you get to go home,’ and that’s all the logisticians needed to hear to make it work.”

Preserving and Sharing Knowledge

During the Persian Gulf War, Pagonis conducted about 2,000 interviews and had every press conference and interview videotaped. He kept video or audio records, photographs, books, magazines, operation orders, after-action reports, maps, monographs, and a plethora of briefing papers and historical documents. The resulting collection is approximately 1,100 linear feet. “These records really weren’t mine,” said General Pagonis during the presentation to ALU. “They were the United States Army’s that I held and collected.”

Pagonis had already received authorization to donate the records to Pennsylvania State University and the Army Military History Institute at Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania. He instead chose ALU, where the records can be put to continued use by the sustainment community. “I’m hoping by being [stored] here where logisticians are going to be coming together, we won’t make the same mistakes over and over,” said Pagonis.

“This is truly an exciting day for our library and for the university, since this is the first collection to be added to our new logistics library,” said Barbara Mroczkowski, the acting president of ALU. “ We thank you [General Pagonis] very much, and know that we will take very good care of the materials that you have entrusted to us, while at the same time making them available to the greater community as a primary source of logistics information on the Army and on the Army’s involvement in the Gulf War.”

“The gift provides an essential resource for sustainment Soldiers, historians, and our researchers that will broaden their understanding of this very pivotal time in our history,” said General Chambers. “They are archive items that were done with great detail from a man with the insight to record what was happening, knowing that someday we would want to recall and learn from those lessons.”

Chambers noted the significance the records will hold for students at ALU. “Force sustainers will have access to important papers that illuminate the logistical push into Kuwait during Operation Desert Shield/ Desert Storm,” said Chambers. “They will be able to see what was tried, what worked, what didn’t work, and then what corrections were made to make them work. These papers have a significant place in our Nation’s history and in our Nation’s military history, and it is a major honor for this library to house them.”

John Shields, reference librarian, formally accepted the Pagonis donation on behalf of the ALU Library, where the collection will be archived and available for official and research purposes. To recognize the donation, a bust of General Pagonis has been commissioned from Virginia State University for display in the library.

Donations of papers and other archival materials from other sustainment leaders are being solicited to add to the collection. Anyone interested in making a donation can contact the Army Combined Arms Support Command historian by email at steve.anders@us.army.mil or by telephone at (804) 734–0082.

—Story by Julianne E. Cochran

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