Desert Storm commander Norman Schwarzkopf dies
While many career officers left military service embittered by Vietnam, Schwarzkopf was among those who opted to stay and help rebuild the tattered Army into a potent, modernized all-volunteer force.
After Saddam invaded Kuwait in August 1990, Schwarzkopf played a key diplomatic role by helping persuade Saudi Arabia’s King Fahd to allow U.S. and other foreign troops to deploy on Saudi territory as a staging area for the war to come.
On Jan. 17, 1991, a five-month buildup called Desert Shield became Operation Desert Storm as allied aircraft attacked Iraqi bases and Baghdad government facilities. The six-week aerial campaign climaxed with a massive ground offensive on Feb. 24-28, routing the Iraqis from Kuwait in 100 hours before U.S. officials called a halt.
Schwarzkopf said afterward he agreed with Bush’s decision to stop the war rather than drive to Baghdad to capture Saddam, as his mission had been only to oust the Iraqis from Kuwait.
But in a desert tent meeting with vanquished Iraqi generals, he allowed a key concession on Iraq’s use of helicopters, which later backfired by enabling Saddam to crack down more easily on rebellious Shiites and Kurds.
While he later avoided the public second-guessing by academics and think tank experts over the ambiguous outcome of the first Gulf War and its impact on the second Gulf War, he told The Washington Post in 2003, ‘‘You can’t help but ... with 20/20 hindsight, go back and say, ‘Look, had we done something different, we probably wouldn’t be facing what we are facing today.'’’
After retiring from the Army in 1992, Schwarzkopf wrote a best-selling autobiography, ‘‘It Doesn’t Take A Hero.’’ Of his Gulf War role, he said: ‘‘I like to say I'm not a hero. I was lucky enough to lead a very successful war.’’ He was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II and honored with decorations from France, Britain, Belgium, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Bahrain.
Schwarzkopf was a national spokesman for prostate cancer awareness and for Recovery of the Grizzly Bear, served on the Nature Conservancy board of governors and was active in various charities for chronically ill children.
‘‘I may have made my reputation as a general in the Army and I'm very proud of that,’’ he once told The Associated Press. ‘‘But I've always felt that I was more than one-dimensional. I'd like to think I'm a caring human being. ... It’s nice to feel that you have a purpose.’’
Schwarzkopf and his wife, Brenda, had three children: Cynthia, Jessica and Christian.
Stacy was the AP’s Tampa, Fla., correspondent when he prepared this report on Schwarzkopf’s life; he now reports from the AP bureau in Columbus, Ohio. Associated Press writers Richard Pyle in New York and Jay Lindsay in Boston contributed to this report.