One month after the allied troops had reclaimed Kuwait, PEOPLE associate editor Maria Wilhelm and photographer Jim Lukoski were in southern Iraq reporting on military medics. With their rental car running on fumes, they pulled into Checkpoint Charlie, near the refugee center of Safwan, just hours after an Iraqi soldier—and his jeep—had surrendered there. Upon hearing that Wilhelm and Lukoski worked for PEOPLE, the GIs assembled there ran to get their copies of recent issues sent from the U.S. Then they took turns siphoning gas from the abandoned jeep into the rental car. “They were so excited,” recalls Wilhelm, who spent three months working in the gulf. “PEOPLE was a link with home.”
For those at home, we like to think PEOPLE provided a vital link with our troops every week. This special issue honors the many heroes of Desert Storm, such as Pvt. Frank Bradish, who, though wounded in a tank battle, rescued crewmates while under heavy fire (P.26). We also salute those who vigilantly kindled the home fires, including Emma Stephens-Bell, who saw four sons off to war; sadly, only three came back (P.103). “It would be hard to find anybody who wasn’t emotionally touched by the war,” says Carol Wallace, who edited the issue. “Those are the stories we looked for.”
To get such stories, Wallace and Bonnie Johnson, the issue’s associate editor, enlisted dozens of PEOPLE correspondents, including L.A.-based Lorenzo Benet, who joined Wilhelm in the gulf, and Washington-based Linda Kramer, who got Brenda Schwarzkopf to reminisce about her marriage to the general (P.6). From New York City, photo editor Holly Holden dispatched photographers worldwide; art director Millie Pitzer, associate Phil Simone and assistant Tom Allison gave the issue its visual identity, while head reporter Jane Sugden and her team unearthed facts and figures about the war.
PEOPLE’S tireless troops dug up stories of every stripe, from the saga of Air Force 1st Lt. Robert Sweet, a POW for 20 days (P.94), to improbable romances that blossomed in the sand (P.98). Johnson was most struck by the bravery of the allied soldiers: “No matter how you feel politically, you have to be impressed by how proudly and ably these men and women did what was asked of them.”
The gunfire has stopped, but the echoes of Desert Storm will long be heard. “War is the most dramatic of all human stories,” says managing editor Landon Y. Jones. “We hope this special issue brings it—like the soldiers—home.”