Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein had launched an invasion of Kuwait on Aug. 2, 1990, and refused to submit to international outcries and economic sanctions. Iraqi armor and mechanized infantry units troops had moved across the Kuwait border, occupying strategic posts throughout the country. They quickly overwhelmed the Kuwaiti army, but the Kuwaiti air force managed to flee to Saudi Arabia. News reports told of atrocities against Kuwaiti citizens during the Iraqi occupation.
The offensive began with 38 days of continuous air attacks. Coalition warplanes began flying more than 1,000 sorties a day, according to historical documents. Top priority in the air war went to destroying Iraq's air force, anti-aircraft and command and communication capabilities, as well as other military targets in Iraq and Kuwait.
Despite attacks that continued around the clock, Saddam continued to reject Bush's ultimatum to begin removing forces from Kuwait by Feb. 23. On "G-Day," at 4 a.m. on Feb. 24 (8 p.m. EST on Feb. 23), U.S. and coalition forces began moving into Iraq and Kuwait for the ground assault phase of the operation.
The ground offensive advanced quickly, with coalition troops making steady progress against Iraqi troops, many of them deserters waving white flags.
By the third day of the offensive, allied troops had liberated Kuwait City. Bush declared a cessation of hostilities at 8:01 a.m. Feb. 28, just four days after the ground war began. On March 3, Iraqi leaders formally accepted the cease-fire terms, and the first U.S. combat forces returned home five days later.
Source: U.S. Department of Defense, 15 Years After Desert Storm, U.S. Commitment to Region Continues, 2006