Retired Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf, who topped an illustrious military career by commanding the US-led international coalition that drove Saddam Hussein's
forces out of Kuwait
in 1991 but kept a low public profile in controversies over the second Gulf War against Iraq,
died Thursday. He was 78.
A sister of Schwarzkopf, Ruth Barenbaum of Middlebury, Vermont, said that he died in Tampa, Florida, from complications from pneumonia. "We're still in a state of shock," she said by phone. "This was a surprise to us all."
A much-decorated combat soldier in Vietnam, Schwarzkopf was known popularly as "Stormin' Norman" for a notoriously explosive temper.
He served in his last military assignment in Tampa as commander-in-chief of US Central Command, the headquarters responsible for US military and security concerns in nearly 20 countries from the eastern Mediterranean and Africa to Pakistan.
Schwarzkopf. 'Epitomized duty, service, country creed' (Photo: MCT)
Schwarzkopf became "CINC-Centcom" in 1988 and when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait three years later to punish it for allegedly stealing Iraqi oil reserves, he commanded Operation Desert Storm, the coalition of some 30 countries organized by President George H.W. Bush that succeeded in driving the Iraqis out.
"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," Bush said in a statement. "More than that, he was a good and decent man - and a dear friend."
At the peak of his postwar national celebrity, Schwarzkopf - a self-proclaimed political independent - rejected suggestions that he run for office, and remained far more private than other generals, although he did serve briefly as a military commentator for NBC.
Schwarzkopf with George W. Bush (Photo: AFP)
With Bush Sr. (Photo: EPA)
Schwarzkopf was born Aug. 24, 1934, in Trenton, New Jersey, where his father, Col. H. Norman Schwarzkopf Jr., founder and commander of the New Jersey State Police, was then leading the investigation of the Lindbergh kidnap case, which ended with the arrest and 1936 execution of German-born carpenter Richard Hauptmann for stealing and murdering the famed aviator's infant son.
After Saddam invaded Kuwait in August 1990, Schwarzkopf played a key diplomatic role by helping to persuade Saudi Arabia's King Fahd to allow US and other foreign troops to deploy on Saudi territory as a staging area for the war to come.
On Jan. 17, 1991, a five-month buildup called Desert Shield became Operation Desert Storm as allied aircraft attacked Iraqi bases and Baghdad government facilities. The six-week aerial campaign climaxed with a massive ground offensive on Feb. 24-28, routing the Iraqis from Kuwait in 100 hours before US officials called a halt.
Schwarzkopf and his wife, Brenda, had three children: Cynthia, Jessica and Christian.