In 1783, the towns of Campbellton and Cross Creek merged to become Fayetteville. This new town was in the perfect location for merchants in Wilmington to ship their goods via the Cape Fear River. Fayetteville began to flourish economically due to this trade. But with the creation of Camp Bragg in 1918, the economic dependence of the Fayetteville area slowly began to shift towards the military.

In 1783, the towns of Campbellton and Cross Creek merged to become Fayetteville. This new town was in the perfect location for merchants in Wilmington to ship their goods via the Cape Fear River. Fayetteville began to flourish economically due to this trade. But with the creation of Camp Bragg in 1918, the economic dependence of the Fayetteville area slowly began to shift towards the military.

Fayetteville saw a 43 percent population increase in the 1960s. The population continued to steadily increase in the decades after as Fort Bragg’s population also continued to grow. The city began to develop with new suburban areas, shops and restaurants.

By the 1990s, Fayetteville was largely economically successful as a city because of Fort Bragg. The economic dependence on Soldiers and their Families wasn’t truly apparent to everyone until the early 1990s, when the Gulf War kicked off in the Middle East.

The Gulf War

The Gulf War can be broken up into two phases: Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm. Desert Shield was the first iteration, beginning in August of 1990. Desert Shield consisted of building up troops and defending Saudi Arabia. Desert Storm, the second phase, is considered to be the combat stage of the Gulf War.

The lead-up to the Gulf War began with the Iran-Iraq conflict in the early 1980s. Iraq invaded Iran, and while the U.S. at first stayed neutral, a deal to remove Iraq from the list of State Sponsors of Terrorism helped Iraq to triumph. It was during this time that arms sales in Iraq reached a peak, partially resulting in Iraq becoming heavily in debt.

They owed money largely to Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.

Iraq also viewed Kuwait as Iraqi territory. The Iraqis argued that traditionally, Kuwait had been part of the Ottoman Empire’s province of Basra that had belonged to them. When the United Kingdom divided up the Middle East in the 1920s, they divided Iraq and Kuwait, making two separate nations.

Kuwait was also accused of producing more oil than had been agreed upon, changing oil prices in the process. Furthermore, the Kuwaitis were drilling in an oil field that didn’t fully belong to them, making money that Iraq believed was rightfully theirs.

In 1989, a pact of non aggression had been signed between Iraq and Saudi Arabia, but relations with other Middle Eastern countries, notably Egypt, began to dissolve rapidly as Iraq escalated violence. Iraqi President Saddam Hussein declared that Iraq had chemical weapons at their disposal, and would not hesitate to use them, specifically against Israel should they decide to use military force against Iraq.

In July of 1990, the Central Intelligence Agency learned that Iraq had transported 30,000 troops to the Iraq-Kuwait border. Discussions were held in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, to help end the escalation. Iraq came to the table asking for $10 billion from Kuwait to rebuild their country. Kuwait offered $9 billion. Iraq bombed Kuwait City on Aug. 2, 1990 in response.

U.S. involvement in the conflict was initially fueled by the fear that Iraq would conquer both Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, giving Hussein control of most of the world’s oil stores. Operation Desert Shield was a response to that fear, and troops were sent to Saudi Arabia on Aug. 7, 1990.

A coalition of forces from the U.S., the United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia and Egypt among others began to attack the Iraqi military on Jan. 17, 1991. Desert Storm lasted until Feb. 28. and concluded with a liberated Kuwait. It was the first war to have news crews broadcasting from the battlefield around the clock.

Impact on Fort Bragg, Fayetteville

The conflict in the Persian Gulf resulted in the largest deployment of Soldiers since World War II. The 82nd Airborne Division had a battalion-sized element in Saudi Arabia within days of escalation. Other units within the XVIII Airborne Corps began to deploy shortly after. The 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne) also deployed to the Middle East during Desert Shield and Desert Storm. In short, Fort Bragg was quickly emptied of Soldiers in a matter of months.

The XVIII Abn. Corps led the ground attack with 82nd Abn. Div. Soldiers having the distinction of being the first wave into Iraq during Desert Storm.

According to a New York Times article from 1991, 60 percent of the Soldiers who deployed were married. A lot of these spouses were not finding support during the conflict and ended up moving back home to be with their Families. Housing on the post was old and falling apart. Little had been done to improve housing and barracks conditions on the installation since the Vietnam War, and without their Soldiers being in town, spouses and Families readily moved home, creating an economic vacuum in the surrounding communities.

Fayetteville became a ghost town. Shops closed and were boarded up. Restaurants closed. For months, Fayetteville’s economy tanked, sending city leaders into a tail spin.

In a rush to diversify the Fayetteville economy, companies were invited into the area to build distribution centers and warehouses, creating an industrial complex on Tom Starling Road, which is still largely used today.

Picerne Military Housing (now Corvias Military Living) took over housing on Fort Bragg in the early 2000s, revitalizing the housing complexes and creating Family-friendly neighborhoods. These newer houses, along with more programs and support from Army Community Service helped build a stronger support structure for spouses and Families, especially during deployments.

The Gulf War was seen as a success internationally and within the military, but in Fayetteville, it came close to creating an economic disaster.