the gulf war
homeoral historywar storiesweaponsmapsdiscussion

press coverage

In the inevitable confrontation between the military and the media to control the flow of war news, it was the Pentagon which won in the Gulf War.

Many in the U.S. military had blamed the media for the United States' defeat in the Vietnam War. Resolving never to let it happen again, the U.S. Department of Defense devised by the 1970s a system of prior review and pool coverage. The pool system required that a military escort accompany every reporter in the field.

By the time of the Gulf War, the Pentagon had this pool reporting firmly in place; the press had begun submitting incrementally to Pentagon controls after being excluded altogether from the front lines in the 1983 invasion of Grenada.

Strengthening the Pentagon's ability to set ground rules in the Gulf War were two other factors: the Gulf War's theater of operation was in country generally hostile to the Western press and, the war took place in desert terrain that limited the possibilities for independent maneuver.

Many American reporters protested the Pentagon rules in the Gulf War as an unreasonable infringement on press freedom. Some disguised themselves in G.I. uniforms and hid among troops. Many were arrested. Bob Simon and his CBS-TV crew broke away from the military escorts, leading to their capture by the Iraqis in Kuwait.

The debate has continued as to whether or not the Pentagon's ground rules distorted the reporting in the Gulf War.

see also

suggested readings
  • Arnett, Peter Live From The Battlefield

  • Browne, Malcolm New York Times Magazine, March 3, 1991, "The Military vs. The Press: A Correspondent's Account."

  • DeParle, Jason New York Times, two-part series, May 5, 1991, "Covering the War," and May 6, 1991, "After the War: An Uneasy American Press Corps."

  • Fialka, John Hotel Warriors: Covering the Gulf War, Washington: Woodrow Wilson Center Press, 1992.

  • Gannett Foundation Report, The Media at War: The Press and the Persian Gulf, Freedom Forum, June 1991.

  • MacArthur, John R. Second Front: Censorship and Propaganda in the Gulf War, Hill and Wang, 1992.

  • Moore, Molly A Woman at War: Storming Kuwait with the U.S. Marines, Scribners, 1993.


    home · oral history · war stories · weapons · maps · chronology
    tapes & transcripts 
    FRONTLINE · wgbh · pbs online

    web site copyright 1995-2014 WGBH educational foundation