Retired Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf, known as “Stormin’ Norman” by his aides and subordinates but as “The Bear” by his troops, died Thursday in Tampa, Fla., at age 78 from complications from pneumonia.
Known for his role as the commander of Operation Desert Storm, Gen. Schwarzkopf lived out a quiet retirement in Tampa supporting various national causes and children’s charities while refusing efforts to draft him into politics. An elementary school in Tampa bears his name, a testament to his standing in the community.
Schwarzkopf capped an illustrious military career by commanding the U.S.-led international coalition that drove Saddam Hussein’s forces out of Kuwait in 1991.
Schwarzkopf was born Aug. 24, 1934, in Trenton, N.J., where his father, Col. H. Norman Schwarzkopf Jr., founder and commander of the New Jersey State Police. As a teenager he 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, and then followed in his father’s footsteps to West Point, graduating in 1956 with an engineering degree. After stints in the United States 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.
After Vietnam, Schwarzkopf opted to stay in the military and help rebuild the Army into a 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 President George H.W. 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 2003 he told The Washington Post, “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 role in Desert Storm, 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.