(WASHINGTON) — H. Norman Schwarzkopf, the general credited with leading U.S.-allied forces to a victory in the first Gulf War, has died in Tampa, Florida at age 78, a U.S. official has confirmed to ABC News.
Schwarzkopf, known by the nickname “Stormin’ Norman” partly for his volcanic temper, led American forces to two military victories: a small one in Grenada under President Ronald Reagan and a big one as de facto commander of allied forces in the Gulf War.
Schwarzkopf’s success driving Iraqi forces out of Kuwait in 1991 during what was known as Operation Desert Storm came under President George H.W. Bush. Though President Bush has been hospitalized in intensive care with a stubborn fever in a Texas hospital, he released a statement through his office on Schwarzkopf’s death.
“Barbara and I mourn the loss of a true American patriot and one of the great military leaders of his generation,” the statement read. “A distinguished member of that Long Gray Line hailing from West Point, Gen. 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.”
Former Secretary of State Colin Powell, who was chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during Desert Storm, recalled Schwarzkopf as “a great patriot and a great soldier.”
“Norm served his country with courage and distinction for over 35 years,” Powell said in a prepared statement. “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,” Powell added. “I will miss him.”
Schwarzkopf, the future four-star general, was raised as an Army brat in Iran, Switzerland, Germany and Italy, following in his father’s footsteps to West Point and being commissioned as a second lieutenant in 1956.
Schwarzkopf’s father, who shared his name, directed the investigation of the Lindbergh baby kidnapping as head of the New Jersey State Police, later becoming a brigadier general in the U.S. Army.
The younger Schwarzkopf earned three Silver Stars for bravery during two tours in Vietnam, gaining a reputation as an opinionated, plain-spoken commander with a sharp temper who would risk his own life for his soldiers.
In 1983, as a newly-minted general, Schwarzkopf once again led troops into battle in President Reagan’s invasion of Grenada, a tiny Caribbean island where the White House saw American influence threatened by a Cuban-backed coup.
But he gained most of his fame in Iraq, where he used his 6-foot-3, 240-pound frame and fearsome temper to drive his troops to victory. Gruff and direct, his goal was to win the war as quickly as possible and with a focused objective: getting Iraq out of Kuwait.
He spoke French and German to coalition partners, showed awareness of Arab sensitivities and served as Gen. Colin Powell’s operative man on the ground.
Schwarzkopf retired from the Army after Desert Storm in 1991, writing an autobiography, becoming an advocate for prostate cancer awareness, serving on the boards of various charities and lecturing. He and his wife, Brenda, had three children.
Schwarzkopf spent his retirement in Tampa, home base for his last military assignment as commander-in-chief of U.S. Central Command.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Eric Bradner, Dana Bash and MJ Lee, CNN
Nate Sunderland, EastIdahoNews.com