I bolted up from a deep sleep to the sound of my phone ringing in my hotel room in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia.
I looked at my clock it was 4am. I fumbled for the phone in the dark knocking it to the floor. After at least three more rings I finally got my hand on the receiver and answered. The calm voice at the other end was Photo Editor Herman Beals on our Washington, DC Picture Desk. “How ya doin?” he asked “I have been trying to get through to you for an hour”. I have no recollection of what my rebuttal was. “Andy, they are bombing Baghdad”, “Uhhh??” was my only answer. Crap!!, I had just slept through the first two hours of the Gulf War.
As I found out later I had not only slept through the uncountable number of fighter jets taking off nearby, that would literally vibrate my room but the loud wail of air raid sirens all around the hotel combined with the apparent pounding on my door of hotel staff. It was expected that once the bombing had commenced in Iraq there was high expectation Iraq would answer with a large Scud attack thus sending everybody to the air raid shelters minus yours truly Rip Van Winkle.
I had been in Dhahran a little over two weeks having arrived several days after Christmas 1990. The Dhahran International Hotel was right beside a major coalition airbase in the small city about an hours drive south of the Kuwait border on the shores of the Persian Gulf. The hotel was the headquarters of the U.S. military’s Joint Information Bureau (JIB) and also had been taken over top to bottom by every major news and television organization in the world. Reuters had six rooms in a row in one of the wings. Four were used as living quarters while the last two adjoining had been converted into a small newsroom, darkroom and picture desk.
This was the first time the U.S. military had instituted their embed program. Unlike the ones of today everything was pool. All agencies, newspapers or magazines that were part of the embed program had to pool their images through a central editing point in Dhahran headed up by Reuters and the Associated Press along with the three major U.S. magazines, Newsweek, Time and US News and World Report.