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We Started A War One Night – Gunfire Over Baghdad…Back Then…The Unofficial History Of NJ 101.5

Let’s go way back again today. As you know, in August of 1990, Saddam Hussein invaded his neighbor Kuwait, and set in motion a massive military buildup in the Middle East by the U.S. and its allies known as, “Desert Shield.”

Young Joe Cutter
Young Joe Cutter (Townsquar Media NJ)

Then a waiting game ensued. As the military added more and more men and equipment to the buildup, (mostly in Saudi Arabia), we were all running a guessing game in the New Jersey 101.5 newsroom back then as to when this would all go ‘hot.’

Now it is January 1991, January 17th, 1991. I am working in the newsroom with my colleague, Bob Dowd, that January 17th evening, as we labored to wrap up the day’s news activity. Suddenly, Bob takes a phone call,(back then, we did not have a TV in the newsroom). Bob speaks briefly to the caller and rings off. He looks at me and says, “someone just told me that Wolf Blitzer of CNN is reporting anti-aircraft fire over Baghdad.”

Then, of course, it was almost instantaneous…a flood a newswire bulletins and phone calls. “Operation Desert Shield” had turned into, “Operation Desert Storm” , as coalition forces began bombing The Capitol of Iraq and other key military installations.

Back then, Mary Walters was doing her evening show. We broke in with a bulletin about what was happening. And that was quickly followed by live report upon live report. President Bush, (the first President Bush), spoke live on New Jersey 101.5 and across the country at 9pm to announce that, “the liberation of Kuwait has begun.”

I remember Bob Dowd and I felt like many Americans. This was the first really serious military conflict for America since Viet Nam ended in the mid-70’s. Much had been reported about Hussein’s vaunted Republican Guard and about his poison gas and chemical weapons, which he had previously used against Iran and on his own people.

Our troops were wearing gas masks and anti-chemical gear in the heat of the desert back then. And what about those, “Scud missiles”?, Hussein had lots of those.

We spent a lot of time at New Jersey 101.5 worrying and praying for our men and women in the desert, especially the many from New Jersey. We also spoke to a lot of their families, both in the newsroom and with our talk shows. Jim Gearhart and John and Ken in the afternoon, dropped a little of their wisecracking good humor as everyone focused on seeing this war through.

This was as serious as it gets.

I had two small daughters back then. I remember that I worked 19 days straight days after Desert Storm began. The girls did not see much of daddy.

In the meantime, check out past editions of “Back Then…” anytime online.

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