Retired General H. Norman Schwarzkopf died Thursday at the age of 78. He will be forever known as a great leader, patriotic American, cancer survivor, and veteran of wars in Vietnam and Iraq.
Popularly known as “Stormin’ Norman,” Schwarzkopf served his last military assignment as head of U.S. Central Command, where he led coalition forces to successfully expel Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi Army from Kuwait during Operation Desert Storm in 1991.
Under Commander-in-Chief President George H. W. Bush, and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Colin Powell, Schwarzkopf was credited in securing key Middle Eastern military support for a six-week aerial campaign in January 1991, which climaxed with a swift and massive ground offensive.
"Gen. Norm Schwarzkopf, to me, epitomized the 'duty, service, country' creed that has defended our freedom and seen this great nation through our most trying international crises," said the elder Bush, who is currently hospitalized in intensive care. "More than that, he was a good and decent man — and a dear friend."
Former Secretary of State Powell, a fellow Vietnam Veteran, also recalled Schwarzkopf as "a great patriot and a great soldier," who "served his country with courage and distinction for over 35 years."
"His leadership not only inspired his troops, but also inspired the nation. He was a good friend of mine, a close buddy. I will miss him," Powell added.
After retiring from the Army in 1992, Schwarzkopf wrote a best-selling autobiography, "It Doesn't Take A Hero." Of his Gulf war role, he said, "I like to say I'm not a hero. I was lucky enough to lead a very successful war."
Nonetheless, the public celebrated his swift victory and limited casualties to U.S. and coalition forces. He and his troops were welcomed home with a ticker tape parade on Broadway, President Bush awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and Queen Elizabeth II made him an honorary knight.
The son of a West Point Graduate and Veteran of World War I and II, Schwarzkopf also graduated from West Point and went on to serve two tours in Vietnam. He earned three Silver Stars for valor — including one for saving troops from a minefield — plus a Bronze Star, a Purple Heart and three Distinguished Service Medals.
Reflecting on his Iraq success, Schwarzkopf credits his experience in Vietnam:
“Many of the decisions that I made in Desert Storm and Desert Shield, many of the decisions that were made by subordinates, were a direct result of things that we had learned from our Vietnam experience,” he told C-SPAN in a 1992 interview. “Maybe not things that had gone well -- you know, you learn just as much by seeing things done wrong and sometimes more. You say, "I'll never do it that way," and then you do it differently. But it had an unbelievable impact. I came back from Vietnam the second time and agonized over whether to stay in the military or not, and the only way I came to an answer to myself was, yes, I will stay but only under these circumstances and doing it this way.”
A survivor of prostate cancer, for which he was successfully treated, Schwarzkopf and his wife, Brenda, had three children: Cynthia, Jessica and Christian.
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