Everywhere across a wide battlefront, Iraqi soldiers were abandoning their tanks, guns and bunkers and surrendering.
So many were giving up, in fact, that allied soldiers were running short of the plastic flexi-cuffs used to tie POWs' hands, and engineers ran short of explosives because they had blown up so many abandoned Iraqi bunkers.Iraqis surrendering Tuesday held safe-passage leaflets dropped from warplanes, flashed "V" signs with their fingers, smiled and mugged for cameras. More than 18,000 Iraqi prisoners were taken in the first two days of the allied ground offensive, allied commanders said.
Saudi authorities, to whom other allies are sending their prisoners, have made provision for 100,000 POWs - and said they had received a total of 25,000 by Tuesday.
In southern Iraq, the 2nd Brigade of the 82nd Airborne Division alone took thousands of prisoners, and its commander said his unit suffered "not one man scratched" in the process.
"As soon as we got within sight, boom, the white flags went up," said Col. Ron Rokosz, 45, of Chicago. "Their morale is shot. They don't want to fight. . . . You'd come over the ridges, and they'd be coming out of their holes waving a white flag all over the place. It was the most incredible thing I have ever seen," he said.
The flood of POWs threatened to bog down the offensive.
"We could have gone a lot farther except we had so many POWs," Rokosz said. "It actually slowed down the attack.
In the Saudi capital of Riyadh, a U.S. military official conceded Tuesday that the flood of Iraqis surrendering on the battlefield had caused problems for some of the advancing allied units, who found themselves short of transportation to move the prisoners to the rear.
But the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the situation was being resolved and there was no shortage of military police to handle the prisoners in temporary holding areas until they could be moved to the rear.
On the front lines, one group of about 100 prisoners sat silently in the sand, their hands over their heads, waiting to be searched and transported.
Down the road, a line of 42 Iraqi POWS walked in file to the south. They did not even have U.S. guards escorting them as they walked to the rear.