Retired Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf, the no-nonsense commander of U.S.-led coalition forces in the first Persian Gulf War, died Thursday at his home in Tampa, Florida, a senior defense official told NBC News. “Stormin’ Norman” was 78.
Schwarzkopf, a decorated Vietnam War vet, was famed for leading the forces that ejected Saddam Hussein’s forces from Kuwait after they invaded the neighboring country in 1990. During “Desert Storm” he gave almost-daily TV briefings and his desert camouflage and gruff charm–like a general from Central Casting–made him a star.
In his 1992 autobiography, “It Doesn’t Take a Hero,” Schwarzkopf said he used those briefings to communicate to the enemy. “With those cameras grinding away, I knew I wasn’t talking just to friendly audiences, but that Saddam and his bully boys were watching me on CNN in their headquarters,” he wrote.
The decision to go to war to oust Saddam was the defining moment of the presidency of George H.W. Bush. In a statement from Houston, where he is being treated at Methodist Hospital, Bush called Schwarzkopf “one of the great military leaders of his generation.”
“More than that, he was a good and decent man,” Bush said.
Colin Powell, who was Schwarzkopf’s boss as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during Desert Storm, remembered Schwarzkopf Friday as “a great patriot and a great soldier.”
“He was a good friend of mine, a close buddy,” Powell said in a statement.. ” I will miss him.”
Schwarzkopf lived in retirement in Tampa, Fla., where he was based for many years on the way to leading U.S. Central Command, and was a visible spokesman for campaigns to promote awareness of prostate cancer, with which he was diagnosed in 1993. He is survived by his wife, Brenda, and their three adult children.
Former Joint Chiefs Chairman Colin Powell has issued a statement on the death of General Schwarzkopf. Powell was his boss during the first Gulf War:
With the passing of General H. Norman Schwarzkopf, America lost a great patriot and a great soldier. Norm served his country with courage and distinction for over 35 years. The highlight of his career was the 1991 Persian Gulf War, Operation Desert Storm. “Stormin’ Norman” led the coalition forces to victory, ejecting the Iraqi Army from Kuwait and restoring the rightful government. His leadership not only inspired his troops, but also inspired the nation. He was a good friend of mine, a close buddy. I will miss him. My wife Alma joins me in extending our deepest condolences to his wife Brenda and to her family.
President George H.W. Bush issued a statement as well:
“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. More than that, he was a good and decent man – and a dear friend. Barbara and I send our condolences to his wife Brenda and his wonderful family.”
And Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said Schwarzkopf’s “35 years of service in uniform left an indelible imprint on the United States military and on the country…His bravery during two tours in Vietnam earned him three silver stars…General Schwarzkopf’s skilled leader [in Desert Storm] liberated the Kuwaiti people and produced a decisive victory for the allied coalition. In the aftermath of that war, General Schwarzkopf was justly recognized as a brilliant strategist and inspiring leader.”