Retired Army General H. (Herbert) Norman Schwarzkopf died in Tampa, Florida at the age of 78 yesterday from complications of pneumonia. Stormin′ Norman will be best known as the head of US Central Command, responsible for the Persian Gulf and Middle East, which led the way for Operation Desert Storm. Following the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in the late summer of 1990, Schwarzkopf first orchestrated Operation Desert Shield, flooding Saudi Arabia with troops to prevent Saddam Hussein from pushing further south in the Arabian Peninsula. The West Point graduate then began a build-up of even more troops and support for Desert Storm, which brought victory for the Coalition Forces in booting the Iraqis from Kuwait in what we now call Gulf War I.
Schwarzkopf was an imposing character, much like Gen. Patton of WW2. Known for a quick temper, thus the Stormin′ Norman nickname, he was a true, all-around soldier with a long and memorable career. Born in Trenton, New Jersey, his father had some notoriety as being the lead police investigator in the infamous kidnapping of the baby of Charles Lindbergh. His father then returned to active duty in the Army, becoming a Major General. Norman went on to graduate from ′The Point′ in 1956 and served in a wide variety of billets, including as an adviser to the South Vietnamese. In 1970, Schwarzkopf was wounded while rescuing some of his men from a minefield in Vietnam.
I remember during the build-up period where one news team was given a tour by Schwarzkopf of his bedroom. A shotgun was in one corner, handy in case of a terrorist attack. On his nightstand next to his bed was a copy of ″Achtung – Panzer!″ ( Watch out – Tank!) by the German General Heinz Guderian. The classic book on tank warfare. As an avid wargamer, myself, this won a good deal of respect from me for Schwarzkopf. Tank warfare, as well as the whole ′Combined Arms′ concept, is no easy undertaking. You have to have a well planned attack and all of the pieces have to come together at just the right time in just the right place. Desert Storm was a brilliant example of such a plan.
If there was any flaw, it was that Schwarzkopf was too cautious as a result from his Vietnam experiences. That war hung over the US military like a ghost waiting for a chance to haunt men′s souls. Some critics will say that he gave the Iraqi army too much credit for being a determined opponent. But, by the book, one generally wants to attack a dug-in and prepared enemy with numerical superiority of at 3-to-1 if not 5-to-1. Schwarzkopf had only 75% in terms of raw numbers compared to Iraq, but this made little difference as our training, skill and technology demonstrated to be huge ′force multipliers.′
Like Patton or MacArthur, Schwarzkopf was a bit theatrical. Who can forget those fantastic briefings he gave? I still chuckle at the one where he showed a gun camera video of a lone automobile crossing a bridge in Baghdad right through the cross-hairs of a laser target designator with Stormin′ Norman declaring him to be, ″the luckiest man in Iraq″ just before a bomb took the bridge out! And then there was ′The Mother of All Briefings′ on Day 3 of the Ground War of Desert Storm, where Schwarzkopf detailed the whole game plan from start to finish. Although he said ′the gate is closed′, preventing Iraqis from fleeing Kuwait, politics quickly stepped in and denied him his desired goal of completely annihilating the Republican Guard units. The level of destruction on the ′Highway to Hell′ caused the folks back in Washington to pull the plug and end the war a day too soon.
Still, we as a nation owe a huge debt of gratitude to Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf, who died yesterday at the age of 78. He not only liberated Kuwait from Saddam Hussein and his Iraqi army during Operation Desert Storm, but Stormin′ Norman also freed the US military from the ghosts of Vietnam. As tributes to the man pour in from across the globe, let us bow our heads and offer our own prayers for the man.