Retired general H. Norman Schwarzkopf, who topped an illustrious military career by commanding the U.S.-led international coalition that drove Saddam Hussein's forces out of Kuwait in 1991, died Thursday. He was 78.
Schwarzkopf died in Tampa, where he had lived in retirement, according to a U.S. official, who was not authorized to release the information publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.
A much-decorated combat soldier in Vietnam, Schwarzkopf was known popularly as "Stormin' Norman" for a notoriously explosive temper.
He served in his last military assignment in Tampa as commander in chief of U.S. Central Command, the headquarters responsible for U.S. military and security concerns in nearly 20 countries from the eastern Mediterranean and Africa to Pakistan.
Schwarzkopf became "CINC-Centcom" in 1988 and when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait three years later to punish it for allegedly stealing Iraqi oil reserves, he commanded Operation Desert Storm, the coalition of about 30 countries organized by President George H.W. Bush that succeeded in driving the Iraqis out.
"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," Bush said in a statement. "More than that, he was a good and decent man -- and a dear friend."
At the peak of his postwar celebrity, Schwarzkopf -- a self-proclaimed political independent -- rejected suggestions that he run for office.
He campaigned for President George W. Bush in 2000 but was ambivalent about the 2003 invasion of Iraq, saying he doubted victory would be as easy as the White House and Pentagon predicted. He kept a low profile in controversies surrounding that conflict.
Initially, Schwarzkopf had endorsed the invasion, saying he was convinced that then-secretary of State Colin Powell had given the United Nations powerful evidence of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. After that proved false, he said decisions to go to war should depend on what U.N. weapons inspectors found.
Schwarzkopf was born Aug. 24, 1934, in Trenton, N.J. His father, Col. H. Norman Schwarzkopf Jr., founder and commander of the New Jersey State Police, led the investigation of the Charles Lindbergh baby kidnapping case in 1932.
Schwarzkopf volunteered for Vietnam in 1966. He earned three Silver Stars for valor plus a Bronze Star, a Purple Heart and three Distinguished Service Medals.
He was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II and honored by France, Britain, Belgium, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Bahrain.
Schwarzkopf and his wife, Brenda, had three children: Cynthia, Jessica and Christian.
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