Operation DESERT SHIELD was the US - Allied mobilization of air, ground and sea forces into Saudi Arabia and the nearby Persian Gulf on 7 August 1990 to counter Iraq's invasion of neighboring Kuwait and its further threat to seize nearby Saudi oil fields.
The resulting five-month buildup of weaponry and personnel was the largest American deployment since Vietnam totaling 543,999 troops (twice the number used to invade Iraq in 2003) and became the staging ground for Operation Desert Storm - also commonly labeled "The Gulf War".
Within the first five days, a contingent of AWACS, five fighter squadrons and the Army's 82nd Airborne Division were on the ground in the Middle East and ready to do business.
Tensions between Iraq and Kuwait rose in the late-80's when Iraq's war-weakened economy left it unable to repay Kuwait the $40 billion which it had borrowed to finance its eight-year conflict with Iran. Several attempts by Iraq to negotiate, either a pardon of the debt or lesser payment, resulted in a deadlock in discussions between the two countries.
Soon after, Iraqi president Saddam Hussein announced a plan to raise the price of oil and cut its production. When neighboring Arab states refused to endorse this proposal, he reacted by sending seven Iraqi Army divisions into neighboring Kuwait on August 2, 1990 and further threatened the Saudi Arabia's southern oil fields. The invasion force of 120.000 troops and 2,000 tanks quickly overwhelmed the Iraq's neighbor to the south, allowing Hussein to declare, in less than a week, that Kuwait was his nation's nineteenth province.
Regarding Iraq's actions as a threat to a vital interest of the United States - namely the oil production capability of the Persian Gulf, President George H.W. Bush, officially launched Operation Desert Shield by ordering warplanes and ground forces to Suadi Arabia after obtaining Saudi leader King Fahd's approval.
Four weeks after the operation's launch, the Air Force and other services deployed a fighter and attach force of 700 aircraft - equaling Iraq's fighter capability in numbers.
Overall, the strategic airlift to the Persian Gulf was the largest since World War II. By the cease-fire, Air Force airlifters had moved 482,000 passengers and 513,000 tons of cargo. Viewed in ton miles, the airlift of Operation Desert Shield/Storm was equivalent to repeating the Berlin Airlift, a 56-week operation, every six weeks.
It further involved a military coalition of 30 nations with an additional 18 countries supplying humanitarian and economic assistance.
By January 15, 1991, Iraq refused to honor the U.N.'s mandate to withdraw its forces. This prompted the launch of a U.S.-Allied offensive codenamed: Operation Desert Storm - also known as "The Gulf War".
On January 15, 1991, Ramstein AB's aeromedical staging facility activated a 150-bed hospital and blood transshipment center in Hangar 1. That same day, the hospital began providing triage to its first patients from the Persian Gulf.
RAF Lakenheath, UK - Before the coalition launched the air war, the 48th Tactical Fighter Wing supplied 66 F-111F's and 1,500 personnel who were in place by December 1990.
RAF Alconbury, UK - Some of the first aircraft to be sent to the Persian Gulf were three TR-1A's from Alconbury, deploying to Taif Air Base in Saudi Arabia.
RAF Bentwaters, UK - Twenty-three A-10A Warthogs of the 511th Tactical Fighter Squadron deployed to Damman/King Fahd International Airport, Saudi Arabia, as part of the 354th Tactical Fighter Wing, Myrtle Beach Air Force Base, South Carolina.