At 0200 local time on 2 August 1990, Iraqi forces poured across the border into Kuwait and took control of Kuwait City.
The comparatively small military forces of the oil-rich Gulf state were quickly overwhelmed.
The Kuwaiti ruler, Sheik Jaber al-Ahmed al-Sabah, fled into exile in Saudi Arabia.
Saddam Hussein claimed the Iraqi invasion was in support of a planned uprising against the Emir, but murders and abuses of Kuwaitis who resisted the occupation were common.
Several hundred foreign nationals were held as human shields at Iraqi and Kuwaiti factories and military bases, but were released before the allied campaign against Iraq.
The invasion came amid an Iraqi economic crisis stemming from post-war debt.
Saddam Hussein accused Kuwait of keeping oil prices low and pumping more than its quota from the two countries' shared oil field.
Iraq had never accepted its British-drawn borders, which established Kuwait as a separate entity.
And when Kuwait refused to waive Iraq's war debts, Saddam Hussein invaded.
The UN Security Council imposed economic sanctions and passed a series of resolutions condemning Iraq.
An international coalition was formed, hundreds of thousands of troops massed in the region.
The US put together a battle plan, with General Norman Schwarzkopf, commander-in-chief of US Central Command, at the military helm.
In November 1990, with diplomatic attempts to solve the crisis abandoned, the UN set Iraq a deadline for withdrawal from Kuwait and authorised the use of "all necessary means" to force Iraq to comply.