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We Started A War One Night Part 2: Back Then…The Unofficial History Of NJ 101.5

One night in January, 1991, America and its allies went to war against Iraq and Saddam Hussein in what has become popularly known as the “First Persian Gulf War.”

Back Then 1991
A stations celebration from 1991, the nature of which now escapes me. Anyway, there were balloons & beer. From left to right, Bill Metzger, John McCullough, Dan Shaw, Willie Twyman, Ken Wright, Brooke Daniels and yours truly. Up front, beer bottle in hand, Nancy Levine. (Joe Cutter, Townsquare Media NJ)

New Jersey 101.5, our talk hosts and most especially our news department, strove to keep all of the Garden State up to speed on the latest developments from, ‘the front.’

I remember back then, that a common theme that ran through many of the shows and your calls was that the troops engaged in Operation Desert Storm would not be disrespected and looked down upon the way returning vets were in the 70’s when they came back from Vietnam.

During that time, I received a tip from someone with relatives in Israel who said everyone over there was sealing up their homes and preparing for Saddam Hussein’s scud missiles, fearing gas attacks. The U.S. deployed Patriot anti-missile missiles designed to shoot down Scuds in the air before they hit. But a lot of them got through back then, and even though Hussein did not pack them with chemicals, he did kill a lot of Israelis, and some allied troops too. And at least the threat of poison gas was a major source of terror.

I remember doing a long distance telephone interview halfway around the world back then, with this Israeli family, about how they were bracing for the worst. A 13-year-old girl in the family spoke the best english, so she did most of the talking, telling me about how her family, like many others in Israel, had designated a “safe” room in their home, with windows and doors sealed with duct tape to keep out gas.

The drill called for the family to retreat into that room with their gas masks in the event of a Scud attack using poison gas. I remember the grave fear in this child’s voice, and her uncertainty about the future.

And there was one story about one of Hussein’s Scuds striking a barracks filled with U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia. A lot of our troops were killed and wounded in that attack.

I remember back then, during our massive air boming of Iraq, a young Navy Lieutenant named Jeffrey Zahn, from Cherry Hill, became the first U.S. pilot shot down over Iraq and captured when he ejected from his Navy fighter/bomber. Zahn quickly became part of Hussein’s propaganda machine, as he was paraded on Baghdad TV like a war trophy.

Fortunately, Zahn survived the experience and was later released by Hussein when that short war ended. I covered his Cherry Hill homecoming at Cherry Hill High West after he was released. It was springtime, 1991. The war had ended. The sun was shining and all of Cherry Hill turned out to welcome home the local boy.

It was a great day back then….

Read part one of Joe’s story here

You can read the entire collection of “Back Then…” stories anytime online.


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