Useful Notes: The Gulf War

"We have just started a war, it isn't a one day affair. It is not going to be over before the next commercial break."
Colin Powell, then serving as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

Note: This article is about the 1990-1991 war in the Persian Gulf and Kuwait, also known as Operation Desert Storm. If you are looking for what some refer to as "Gulf War II", then please see The War on Terror. In fact, that is the third Gulf War and this is the second: The Iran–Iraq War of the 1980s was originally called the Persian Gulf War because of its impact on shipping.

The Gulf War lasted from August 1990 to March 1991.

Abridged, Saddam Hussein launched an invasion of Kuwait to acquire control of its oil and was ejected by a United Nations coalition led by the United States.

A fuller history can be found in History Of The Cold War, as it was the final "Cold War" conflict.

Appears in the following works:


  • In 1990s media, it was very common to establish a character's military credentials with a mention that they had fought in the Gulf War, replacing the purpose which The Vietnam War served in 1980s media.

Comic Books

  • Cherry (of all characters) in "Sgt. Cherry and her Squealing Commandos" in Cherry Comics. (And, yes, it was a satire.)
  • The Punisher has recently had the Gulf War retconned into his past, replacing his longstanding status as a Vietnam Vet. The logic given by the writer is that if he was a Vietnam Vet he would be approaching his seventies, while he wanted to portray Frank as a man in his early forties.


  • In Independence Day, it is mentioned that the relatively-youthful President Thomas Whitmore served as a fighter pilot during the Gulf War. It comes in handy.
  • Three Kings takes place in the closing days of the war, in which four American soldiers attempt to steal some gold from the Iraqis after finding a treasure map hidden on one of the surrendering Iraqi soldiers.
  • The Big Lebowski takes place during the Gulf War. The Dude says "this aggression will not stand, man," echoing George HW Bush's televised speech, while Saddam Hussein (played by Jerry Haleva, who repeatedly portrayed Hussein in movies) appears in The Dude's infamous dream sequence.
  • The remake of The Manchurian Candidate changes the Korean War backstory to Gulf War.
  • Drillbit Taylor the title character was a soldier who served in the gulf war but didn't see any real combat, and AWOL from the army.


  • Anthony Swofford's memoir, Jarhead.
  • Joel Turnipseed's memoir, Baghdad Express
  • Only You Can Save Mankind is set during the Gulf War and makes comments about the similarities between video games and the news coverage of that war.
  • The First of God by Frederick Forsyth is before and during the war.
  • The Man from Barbarossa is set just before the war starts, and the bad guys plan use it to frame their enemies for nuking people, before setting up a coup in Russia and starting a global war.

Live-Action TV

  • JAG: Several references to the conflict are made throughout the series. In the fourth season episode "Mr. Rabb Goes to Washington", rumors are spread on a cable news network (ZNN) that Sarin nerve gas was used by U.S. Marnes during the invasion of Kuwait in 1991.
  • Gunnery Sergeant Leroy Jethro Gibbs from NCIS served as a Marine in Desert Storm and was severely injured, spending nineteen days in a coma. The murder of his wife and daughter while he was in Kuwait did not help things.
  • Dennis from Just Shoot Me! often claimed to have driven a tank during the war.
  • Robert McAllister in Brothers and Sisters is a Gulf War veteran, injured in that conflict. He won a medal that he doesn't feel he fully deserved- he froze in combat.
  • Drop the Dead Donkey referred to the exploits of the Globelink News team during the war; including Damien dunking cormorants in oil in order to provide visuals for a story on the ecological impact of the war.
  • Glee's Finn was told by his mother that his dad died while fighting in the Gulf War. Except he didn't. He was dishonorably discharged and died of an overdose while back in America.
  • Major John D. MacGillis from Major Dad writes a letter to George H.W. Bush asking to fight in Kuwait.
  • House of Saddam, chronicling Saddam Hussein's reign, features the Gulf War, although it mostly shows the aftermath.
  • In the 1997 pilot of Stargate SG-1, Samantha Carter is introduced with a mention that she "logged over one hundred hours in enemy airspace during the Gulf War".

Professional Wrestling

Video Games

  • The Battlefield 1942 mod Desert Combat.
  • One of the final chapters of Eternal Darkness is set in the immediate aftermath of the Gulf War. Given an earlier chapter's setting, the game seems to like less depicted conflicts...
    Wherever disaster and death lurk, there is likely to be an Ancient just beyond our senses, waiting. They prey on our misfortune and exploit it for their own twisted ends. When hundreds of oil fields are set ablaze on the heels of war, the Ancient's grip tightens, knowing that lives will be forfeit and resources squandered. Yet there are those who make a difference. People like Michael Edwards - a Canadian industrial firefighter hired to put an end to the insanity at the end of the war. Unfortunately for him, the insanity was just beginning...
  • Popular Electronic Arts helicopter game Desert Strike.
  • SETA Corporation's Shoot 'em Up/Fighter Sim A.S.P. Air Strike Patrol (AKA Desert Fighter), despite the deliberate use of fake names. Among other things. Notably averts the Follow the Leader trend mentioned below; part of the game's main mechanics involve managing public opinion while not wasting supplies (fuel/aircraft/ammo) and quickly destroying enemy targets as much as possible. This is harder than it sounds.
  • Tons and tons and tons of period arcade action games that all had "War Is Glorious" as a unifying theme because the relative lack of casualties and the media's portrayal of Desert Storm as a total Curb-Stomp Battle made it acceptable again to believe that war was cool. Primary offenders include Total Carnage, MERCS, Desert Assault, and many more.
  • Liquid Snake of Metal Gear Solid is said to have fought in the war, being captured near the end and freed years later. He and the protagonist Solid Snake later discuss the war, with Liquid revealing that the "Gulf War syndrome" experienced by veterans of the conflict was the result of the same sort of gene therapy experiments that lead to this game's Genome Army; the "official" story of it being caused by exposure to depleted uranium in tank armor was a cover-up in this game's universe.

Real Life

  • Supposedly, PTSD caused from his time in Iraq, combined with a nasty divorce when he came home, is what caused the DC Beltway Sniper, John Allen Muhammad, to go on his killing spree. His stated intent was to round up orphans and train them into a militia and overthrow the government.
  • Similarly, Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh was a Gulf War vet and credited it with his Start of Darkness.

Alternative Title(s):

Gulf War