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'Stormin' Norman' Schwarzkopf: The TV figure

U.S. Army Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf is shown

U.S. Army Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf is shown with his tank troops during Operation Desert Storm in Saudi Arabia. (Jan. 12, 1991) (Credit: AP)

Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf died today at age 78,  and as anyone around a TV set during the (first) Gulf War well knows,  Schwarzkopf was by far the  most visible figure on television over a three-month period during 1990-91.

He came to personify the war, and galvanized (for want of a better word) viewers and reporters with his highly detailed accounts and his famous "Hail Mary" comment during this briefing (below).

He jousted with said reporters, and they with him. But -- just to remind those of you not around or old enough to remember -- this kind of detailed battlefield analysis (and many more to follow) by the commanding general of the Allied forces had not been seen on live television ever before. Schwarzkopf became not only the American face of the war, but in a very real sense represented a reversal of an anti-media policy that had stood in place since the Vietnam War.  

So: Whether you supported the war or did not, it's important to remember that charismatic and highly intelligent people (he was obviously both) can affect public opinion profoundly. Stormin' Norman --  who understood television and its power to change minds -- did so completely. For that reason was an important figure in the history of TV news.

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