December 28, 2012

Acclaimed Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf dies at 78

Schwarzkopf topped off an illustrious military career by leading the coalition that drove Saddam Hussein's forces out of Kuwait in 1991.

The Associated Press

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In this July 4, 1991, photo, President George Bush congratulates Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf after presenting him the medal of freedom at the White House in Washington. Schwarzkopf died Thursday in Tampa, Fla. He was 78.

1991 file photo/The Associated Press

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In this Jan. 13, 1991, file photo, Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf gazes from the window of his small jet on his way out to visit U.S. troops in the desert in Saudi Arabia.

1991 file photo/The Associated Press

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The elder Schwarzkopf was named Herbert, but when the son was asked what his "H'' stood for, he would reply, "H."

As a teenager Norman accompanied his father to Iran, where the elder Schwarzkopf trained the Iran's national police force and was an adviser to Reza Pahlavi, the young Shah of Iran.

Young Norman studied there and in Switzerland, Germany and Italy, then followed in his father's footsteps to West Point, graduating in 1956 with an engineering degree. After stints in the U.S. and abroad, he earned a master's degree in engineering at the University of Southern California and later taught missile engineering at West Point.

In 1966 he volunteered for Vietnam and served two tours, first as a U.S. adviser to South Vietnamese paratroops and later as a battalion commander in the U.S. Army's Americal Division. 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.

While many career officers left military service embittered by Vietnam, Schwarzkopf was among those who opted to stay and help rebuild the tattered Army into a potent, modernized all-volunteer force.

After Saddam invaded Kuwait in August 1990, Schwarzkopf played a key diplomatic role by helping persuade Saudi Arabia's King Fahd to allow U.S. 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 U.S. officials called a halt.

Schwarzkopf said afterward he agreed with Bush's decision to stop the war rather than drive to Baghdad to capture Saddam, as his mission had been only to oust the Iraqis from Kuwait.

But in a desert tent meeting with vanquished Iraqi generals, he allowed a key concession on Iraq's use of helicopters, which later backfired by enabling Saddam to crack down more easily on rebellious Shiites and Kurds.

While he later avoided the public second-guessing by academics and think tank experts over the ambiguous outcome of the first Gulf War and its impact on the second Gulf War, he told The Washington Post in 2003, "You can't help but ... with 20/20 hindsight, go back and say, 'Look, had we done something different, we probably wouldn't be facing what we are facing today.'"

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." He was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II and honored with decorations from France, Britain, Belgium, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Bahrain.

Schwarzkopf was a national spokesman for prostate cancer awareness and for Recovery of the Grizzly Bear, served on the Nature Conservancy board of governors and was active in various charities for chronically ill children.

"I may have made my reputation as a general in the Army and I'm very proud of that," he once told The Associated Press. "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 and his wife, Brenda, had three children: Cynthia, Jessica and Christian.

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Additional Photos

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Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf, then commander of U.S. forces in the Gulf, left, confers with Saudi Arabian Lt. Gen. Khalid Bin Sultan, commander of multinational forces in the area, in Riyadh in 1990.

1990 file photo/The Associated Press

  


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