General Norman Schwarzkopf Dies At Age 78

The Associated Press reports that retired General H. Norman Schwarzkopf, the man who commanded the U.S.-led international coalition which drove Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait in 1991, has died. An anonymous official released the information to the AP in Tampa, Florida.

The General served his last assignment in Florida as commander-in-chief of the U.S. Central Command, which is responsible for U.S. military and security concerns in nearly 20 countries. In this post, which he took in 1988, he commanded Operation Desert Storm with a 30-country coalition. The forces drove Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait and back into Iraq.

Schwarzkopf, whose nickname was “Stormin’ Norman” due to his notorious temper, was reportedly not the short-tempered commander the media made him out to be. According to friends and family he preferred to be called “the Bear” – a name given to him by his troops – and was friendly, talkative and sometimes downright jovial. He hated the “Stormin’ Norman” appellation.

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As a young man, Schwarzkopf accompanied his father to Iran, where the elder man trained the country’s national police force and served as an adviser to Shah Reza Pahlavi. Norman attended schools in Europe, then went to West Point from which he graduated in 1956. He volunteered for the war in Vietnam and served two tours: as an adviser to South Vietnamese paratroopers and as a battalion commander. He earned three Silver Stars for valor, a Bronze Star, a Purple Heart and three Distinguished Service Medals.

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The General opted to stay in the Army after the Vietnam war ended, helping to build it into the modern all-volunteer force that we have today. After Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1990, Schwarzkopf helped to persuade the Saudi King Fahd to allow coalition forces to deploy from Saudi territory. Once the Iraqis were driven out of Kuwait, Schwarzkopf agreed with then-President Bush not to chase Saddam back to Baghdad. While he avoided later second-guessing, he did concede in a 2003 interview that, with, hindsight, he might have done something different.

Schwarzkopf retired from the Army in 1992 and wrote a best-selling autobiography, “It Doesn’t Take A Hero.” He was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II and honored by France, Britain, Belguim, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Qatar and Baharain.

After his retirement he became a spokesman for Grizzly Bear Recovery, serving on the board of governors of the Nature Conservancy. He was also active in various children’s charities and was a spokesman for prostate cancer awareness.

In one of his last interviews, Schwarzkopf spoke of his legacy:

“I may have made my reputation as a general in the Army and I’m very proud of that. But I’ve always felt that I was more than one-dimensional. I’d like to think I’m a caring human being. … It’s nice to feel that you have a purpose.”

Schwarzkopf is survived by his wife Brenda, children Cynthia, Jessica and Christian and their families.