WASHINGTON, December 28, 2012 — Today the country mourns the death of retired four-star Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf, who in 1991 headed the U.S.- led coalition forces during the First Gulf War, driving back Saddam Hussein, who had invaded Kuwait. Schwarzkopf, 78, died yesterday of complications from pneumonia in Tampa, Fla.
Known by some in his command as “Stromin’ Norman” for his fiery temper, he was also affectionately dubbed “The Bear” by his troops. An imposing, no-nonsense commander, Schwarzkopf was known for always being at the head of his troops and taking risks, rather than being a desk general, according to retired Colonel Jack Jacobs on “Morning Joe.” He had been offered a fifth star if he didn’t retire, but like Gen. Colin Powell, he declined the honor and retired.
Once asked how he would like to be remembered in history, Schwarzkopf had said as “a soldier who served his country with honor and loved his troops and his family.”
President Obama released a statement from the White House: “With the passing of General Norman Schwarzkopf, we’ve lost an American original. From his decorated service in Vietnam to the historic liberation of Kuwait and his leadership of United States Central Command, General Schwarzkopf stood tall for the country and Army he loved.
“Our prayers are with the Schwarzkopf family, who tonight can know that his legacy will endure in a nation that is more secure because of his patriotic service.”
Former President George H.W. Bush, under whom Schwarzkopf served, issued this statement from his hospital bed: “Barbara and I mourn the loss of a true American patriot and one of the great military leaders of his generation.
“A distinguished member of that Long Gray Line hailing from West Point, General 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.”
Little known before the First Gulf War, Schwarzkopf became a household name during Desert Storm, winning the war within 100 hours. Many at that time and later on criticized President Bush for not having Schwarzkopf follow Hussein into Iraq and finish the job.
However, as he stated in a 1991 briefing, Schwarzkopf agreed with President Bush’s decision, adding, “If it had been our intention to take Iraq, if it had been our intention to destroy the country, if it had been our intention to overrun the country, we could have done it unopposed for all intents and purposes from this position at that time.”
Schwarzkopf had drawn up the plans for the lightning-fast strike that devastated the Iraqi forces that had moved into Kuwait in 1990. Until the Persian Gulf War, Schwarzkopf, although a highly decorated Vietnam veteran, was unknown to most Americans. That quickly changed as he stepped before television cameras in an attempt to at first intimidate Saddam Hussein to withdraw and then to keep the public abreast of the war.
In his later years, even though recruited to run for president or another political office, Stormin’ Norman, a registered Independent, eschewed politics except for endorsements of both Bushes and Sen. John McCain in their presidential runs. During the second Gulf War, when President George W. Bush directed the invasion of Iraq following 9/11, Schwarzkopf kept a low profile.
However in 2004, he did publicly chastise then Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld as “arrogant and out of touch with the troops on the ground,” saying the Defense Department had rushed into combat in the Iraqi cities, “the toughest kind of fighting” without adequate training and “things have gone awry.”
During the past few years, the retired general, who at one point was successfully treated for prostrate cancer, sat on corporate boards and was involved in several charity activities and boards. He had also served as a military analyst for NBC news during Operation Iraqi Freedom and wrote the best seller “It Doesn’t Take a Hero” in 1992.
He is survived by his wife Brenda and three children.
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