General Norman Schwarzkopf, who led U.S. forces to victory in the 1991 Persian Gulf war, died Thursday. He was 78.
Schwarzkopf, who retired shortly after the first Gulf war, died in Tampa, Florida from complications from pneumonia, the Associated Press reported, citing his sister, Ruth Barenbaum.
Schwarzkopf was a “brilliant strategist and inspiring leader,” U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said Thursday. He earned the sobriquet “Stormin’ Norman” for marshaling 700,000 coalition troops that liberated Kuwait from Iraqi occupation in a ground war lasting just 100 hours.
“With the passing of General Norman Schwarzkopf, we’ve lost an American original,” President Barack Obama said in a statement. “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.”
Born in 1934, Schwarzkopf was raised in Lawrenceville, New Jersey where his father was a state police superintendent, according to The Post, a military newspaper.
He graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1956, earned three Silver Stars for valor during two tours in Vietnam and led the U.S. invasion of Grenada in 1983. In 1988, Schwarzkopf was promoted to general, and appointed Commander in Chief of the U.S. Central Command.
Schwarzkopf became a household name when he was tasked with preparing a response to Iraq’s 1990 invasion of Kuwait and a plan to protect Saudi Arabia from attack. The United Nations- authorized operations became known as Desert Shield and Desert Storm.
Iraqi President Saddam Hussein ignored a deadline to pull out from Kuwait, triggering a six-week-long aerial bombardment of Iraqi positions by coalition forces. Schwarzkopf then commenced a ground campaign aimed at trapping and eliminating Iraq’s Republican Guard, a strategy dubbed the “left hook” because of the resemblance to a boxer’s roundhouse punch.
“We need to destroy --- not attack, not damage, not surround -- I want you to destroy the Republican Guard,” Schwarzkopf told commanders, according to his autobiography, “It Doesn’t Take a Hero,” published in 1992. The strategy was credited for the rapid routing of Iraqi forces with minimal coalition casualties.
Schwarzkopf retired in 1991 and served on corporate boards and promoted cancer awareness.
His 35 years of service in uniform “left an indelible imprint on the United States military and on the country,” Panetta said. He said Schwarzkopf will be remembered “as one of the great military giants of the 20th century.”