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Road to SafwanRoad to Safwan

The 1st Squadron, 4th Cavalry in the 1991 Persian Gulf War

Stephen A. Bourque and John Burdan III

Narrated by Gregg A. Rizzo

Available from Audible

Book published by University of North Texas Press

The Road to Safwan is a complete history of the 1st Infantry Divisions cavalry unit fighting in Operation Desert Storm. Stephen A. Bourque and John W. Burdan III served in the 1st Infantry Bourque in Division Headquarters, Burdan as the Operations Officer of the 1st Squadron, 4th Cavalry. Based on extensive interviews and primary sources, Bourque and Burdan provide the most in-depth coverage to date of a battalion-level unit in the 1991 war, showing how the unit deployed, went into combat, and adapted to changing circumstances.

The authors describe how the officers and men moved from the routine of cold war training to leading the Big Red One in battle through the Iraqi defenses and against the Iraqi Republican Guard. The 1st Squadron, 4th Cavalry participated in the 1st Brigade attack on G-Day, the large tank battle for Objective Norfolk, the cutting of Basra Road, and the capture of Safwan Airfield, the site where General H. Norman Schwartzkopf conducted cease-fire negotiations with the Iraqis. The squadrons activities are placed squarely within the context of both division and corps activities, which illustrates the fog of war, the chain of command, and the uncertainty of information affecting command decisions.

The Road to Safwan challenges the myth that technology won the 1991 Persian Gulf War. Contrary to popular view, it was a soldier's war not much different from previous conflicts in its general nature. What was different was the quality and intensity of the unit's training, which resulted, repeatedly, in successful engagements and objectives secured. It is the story of the people, not the machines, which ultimately led this squadron to the small town of Safwan.

Stephen A. Bourque served with the Big Red One and earned a Bronze Star during Operation Desert Storm. Following his retirement from the army after twenty years enlisted and commissioned service, he obtained his doctorate from Georgia State University, taught at California State University, Northridge, and wrote Jayhawk!: The VII Corps in the Persian Gulf War. Currently he is associate professor of history at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College.

John Burdan III is a retired Army Officer living with his wife Bridget in Colorado Springs, Colorado. A West Point graduate, Burdan was commissioned as an armor officer in 1977. He served with the 1st Infantry Division in the Gulf from May 1989 to June 1992, receiving the Bronze Star and Bronze Star with V device for his service during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm.


The Road to Safwan is a magnificent story about one of the oldest and most decorated Cavalry Squadrons in the US Army. It is a most accurate description of the American soldier during the Desert Storm Operation of 1991. This work is about leadership and human emotions. One can feel the responsibility and pride of the leaders and their soldiers as the author walks you through their deployment and hard-fought battles in Iraq and Kuwait. The men of the 1st Squadron, 4th Cavalry were asked to accomplish a lot; they never disappointed their superiors or themselves. This group of professional soldiers lived their motto Prepared and Loyal every day. This work is a must read for both military professionals and land warfare historians.”

—LTG (ret) Thomas G. Rhame, Commanding General, 1st Infantry Division 1989-1991

The Road to Safwan illustrates problems that assailed every unit deployed in Desert Storm. It is a storehouse of lessons learned.”

—Gen. Donn A. Starry

“To my knowledge, this is the first scholarly book focused upon the all-important battalion and squadron level. The documentation is superb.”

—Brig. Gen. John S. Brown

“Bourque and Burdan provide a classic, gripping, small-unit history, but it is more than that. They tell the story of how enlightened leaders overcame fatally flawed official organization and doctrine to forge a superb combat unit that spearheaded the drive of our country's premier fighting division during Operation Desert Storm. The Road to Safwan is a timely work in this era of Army transformation.”

—Peter Kindsvatter, VII Corps Historian during Operation Desert Storm and author of American Soldiers

The Road to Safwan puts a human face to the arrows on the map of the 1991 Gulf War. Bourque and Burdan show the reader the strengths and weaknesses of the superb U.S. Army created in the 1980s and tested in 1991 and 2003. This is more than a tactical study for professional soldiers; it is also a fascinating story that will absorb the general reader. ”

—Jonathan M. House, Professor of Military History, U.S. Army Command & General Staff College

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University Press Audiobooks