Highway 80 was used by Iraqi troops to invade Kuwait. It became known as the “Highway of Death” when Iraqi troops later used it to retreat.
A six-lane highway linking Basra to Kuwait City, Highway 80 proved to be extremely useful to invading Iraqi forces in early August 1990. In a short time, approximately 300,000 Iraqi troops poured into Kuwait, mostly using this roadway. On August 8, 1990, Iraq officially annexed Kuwait, and on the same day, the first United States Air Force planes began to amass in Saudi Arabia, while NATO and other Arab countries joined military efforts to contain the conflict.
On January 17, 1991, a U.S.-led coalition started hitting strategic Iraqi targets. It wasn’t until February 24 that coalition ground forces were deployed, and three days later, Iraqi troops started retreating from Kuwait.
It was over these few days that coalition forces bombed the head and tail of the military convoy, trapping the Iraqi troops on Highway 80. For 10 hours, one airstrike followed another, destroying hundreds of vehicles. The death toll on Highway 80 is a matter of contention, from an unlikely low estimate of 200 casualties to a more credible estimate of 500 or 600 casualties.
Highway 80 was repaired soon after the invasion was over. And, in a strange twist of fate, the road was used by U.S. and British forces in the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
Pictures of hundreds of torched vehicles along a strip of asphalt in the desert became iconic images of the Persian Gulf War. As a result of this, Highway 80 has appeared in poems, movies, and video games. These days, it’s a busy road cutting through desert and farming land. The only reminders of what happened on this road are a handful of road signs thanking U.S. troops.