The Army division that burst through the Iraqi front line used tanks and earthmovers to bury thousands of Iraqi soldiers in their trenches, some of them alive and firing their weapons, a newspaper reported Thursday.

"I know burying people like that sounds pretty nasty," Col. Lon Maggart, who led the 1st Brigade in the assault during the first two days of ground fighting, told New York Newsday. "But it would be even nastier if we had to put our troops in the trenches and clean them out with bayonets."Three brigades of the 1st Mechanized Infantry Division were involved in the move to destroy trenches and bunkers being defended by more than 8,000 Iraqi soldiers, said Newsday, citing division estimates.

No American was killed in the operation. The Iraqi body count was estimated in the thousands.

Earthmovers and plows mounted on tanks were used to bury Iraqi dead and wounded as well as well as soldiers still firing their weapons, Army officials told Newsday. They were buried under tons of sand in 70 miles of trenches.

The tactic has not previously been reported. Reporters were banned from witnessing much of the action in the Persian Gulf war.

The attack goes against Army doctrine that calls for troops to leave their armored vehicles to clean out trenches or to bypass and isolate fortified positions, said Col. Anthony Moreno, commander of the 2nd Brigade, which was also involved in the operation.

The prime objective of the burial tactic was to destroy Iraqi defenders, Newsday said. But it also was designed in part to terrorize the Iraqis into surrendering, said Lt. Col. Stephen Hawkins, the 1st Division engineer. "It caused an instant hands-up in many places," Hawkins said.