Norman Schwarzkopf

views updated May 21 2018

Norman Schwarzkopf

General Norman Schwarzkopf (born 1934) earned the moniker Stormin' Norman during the Persian Gulf War, when he became famous for planning a strategic military strike that almost immediately crippled Iraqi forces.

"As a commander you have to walk that difficult balance between accomplishing your mission and taking care of the men and women whose lives have been entrusted to you," People magazine quoted General Norman Schwarzkopf as saying. The four-star army general who led allied forces to victory in the Persian Gulf became the first bona fide U.S. military hero since the era of General and President Dwight D. Eisenhower." I don't consider myself dovish and I certainly don't consider myself hawkish," General Schwarzkopf told Eric Schmitt of the New York Times. "Maybe I would describe myself as owlish—that is, wise enough to understand that you want to do everything possible to avoid war then be ferocious enough to do whatever is necessary to get it over with as quickly as possible in victory." At 6'3" and 240 pounds, the general is a grizzly bear of a man with a teddy bear side, a rare blend, as People magazine put it, of "martial mastery and human sensitivity."

Commanded Over 500,000 Troops

As he commanded an allied force of over 500,000 troops in a quick mop-up of Iraqi forces, the commander emerged as a TV-ready hero perfect for the nightly news—a smooth composite of traditional and contemporary concepts of masculinity and leadership. "Norman Schwarzkopf is America's hero," trumpeted 20/20, ABC-TV's news magazine show. Described in appearance as a "fatherly meatpacker" by Newsweek, a "230 pound pussy cat" by one supermarket tabloid, and "Stormin' Norman" by innumerable headline writers, the General seemed to spend most of his time in the aftermath of the Persian Gulf war explaining himself to America. "I've been scared in every war I've ever been in," he told Barbara Walters, who interviewed him on 20/20. "Any man who doesn't cry scares me a little." A second-generation general, he told Insight magazine's Richard Mackenzie that his first priority in the war was protecting the well-being of his troops: "I have loved soldiers since my first platoon, the first I ever commanded."

Although Iraqi resistance crumbled faster than expected, the general did not claim tactical genius in orchestrating the victory. Although he was able to keep the enemy in the dark about allied troop position, he attributed victory largely to the poor quality of Iraqi military leadership, training, and morale. The enemy's forces, he said to Newsweek's Tom Mathers, simply were inadequate. "This was a lousy outfit. Lousy." His famous one-word answer when asked his opinion of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein? "Hah."

After the war ended Schwarzkopf had a more elaborate description. Ticking off Saddam's deficiencies on the fingers of one hand, the general declared the Iraqi commander was "neither a strategist, nor is he schooled in the operational art, nor is he a tactician, nor is he a general, nor is he a soldier." Having run out of fingers, he added sarcastically, "Other than that he is a great military man." Schwarzkopf also blamed Saddam's penchant for shooting his own soldiers. "I gotta tell you," he remarked to Newsweek, "a soldier doesn't fight very hard for a leader who is going to shoot him on a whim."

In the years following the war, other issues arose for Schwarzkoph, namely evasive illnesses suffered by many Persian Gulf War veterans from the U.S. The medical problems suffered by U.S. forces are believed to be caused by biological and chemical weapons. Some officials claim that the disorders could have been caused by a chemical warfare antidote administered to soldiers by the U.S. military without approval. On January 29, 1997, Schwarzkopf told senators he knew nothing of the war's most notorious nerve gas release or that an antidote given to half a million soldiers lacked government approval. Government investigations, including examinations of Schwarzkoph's war log, have not uncovered an answer and medical disorders associated with the Persian Gulf remain a mystery.

Earlier in the war, especially at moments when the United States' victory seemed less than certain, the general displayed the four-star temper he tried to keep under wraps. Reporters who wrote stories he thought were less than favorable suddenly found their access to sources had dried up as fast as rainfall in the desert sand. One reporter who questioned Schwarzkopf's battlefield tactics got his answer fired back in the form of a question; "You ever been in a minefield?" Despite his thin skin for bad press, and little taste for what he saw as an argumentative and ill-informed media disdainful of security issues, he displayed a sure touch when he did see a use for the media. Dramatically dropping to his knees when he arrived to liberate Kuwait and bottling Kuwaiti sand to take home to his family, Schwarzkopf set a new definition of photo opportunity. On network prime-time TV he told Barbara Walters he would not rule out running for President: "Never say never."

Grew up an Army Brat

Born in Trenton, New Jersey, in 1934, the future war hero grew up an army brat, the only son of World War I general Herbert Norman Schwarzkopf (his father decided against passing on the name Herbert). The elder Schwarzkopf was between army stints when his son was born, serving as the founding commander of the New Jersey state police. In this capacity he had tracked down and arrested Bruno Richard Hauptmann, convicted of murder in the celebrated Charles Lindbergh baby kidnapping case, and the notoriety had brought him a weekly spot as narrator of a popular radio program, Gangbusters. One of his son's earliest memories is staying up late to listen to the broadcasts.

When world war broke out again, his father rejoined the Army. The remaining Schwarzkopf household was predominantly female, a fact the future general recalls as bearing no small impact on his developing personality. "I wasn't your normal, tough, macho young boy," he told Insight. "Maybe it was the influence of my mother and my sisters, the fact that I had this responsibility on my shoulders. I can remember being pushed around a lot. I can't really say why. I learned to hate the bully. I learned to hate the playground group that went around pushing other people around. I never ran with that bunch as a young boy." Later on he boarded at the Bordentown Military Institute near his home-town.

After the war ended his father was shipped out to Iran to establish a police force for the Shah, a strong ally. Young Norman went over to join his father in Teheran, and stayed several months before the rest of the family came over. He recalls being impressed by the admiration his father received from his subordinates. He himself admired his father as a war hero, much like General Eisenhower. "My father was a very honorable man," he told Insight. "He epitomized the best [West] Point graduate of his day that's totally committed to a sense of duty, totally committed to a sense of honor, totally dedicated to his country, and a selfless servant."

He did have another role model: Alexander the Great. He told Charlayne Hunter-Gault of public television's MacNeil/Lehrer News Hour, "When I was a young man, everything was shades of black and white, and Alexander the Great was one of my heroes, because he conquered all the known world by the time he was twenty-eight." (His more enduring role models are two later generals, Ulysses S. Grant and Creighton Abrams, the latter his Vietnam commander, "because they didn't worry about who got the credit. They just got the job done.")

Schwarzkopf followed his father on other assignments. The military was helping to rebuild Europe under the Marshall Plan, and the general was shuttled from country to country for the next five years; first Italy, then Germany, then Switzerland. His classmates included Iranians, displaced Jews, Germans, Italians, Yugoslavians, and various other ethnic groups and nationalities. The experience permanently broadened his mind, he recalled years later to Insight. "I came to understand that you judge a person as an individual. I also learned that the American way is great, but it's not the only way. There are a lot of other ways things are done that are just as good, and some of them are better."

Began Military Career

He eventually returned to the United States and entered West Point, as his father had done before him. He graduated 42nd out of 485 in the class of l956. Upon graduation he joined the army as a second lieutenant in the infantry, attending the Infantry Officer Basic course and Airborne School at the Army's Infantry School at Fort Benning, Georgia. In March l957 he was sent to Fort Campbell, Kentucky, where he served as a platoon leader and later as an executive officer in the 2nd Airborne Battle Group, the 187th. That assignment lasted about two years.

In July 1959 Schwarzkopf was sent to Germany for a year to serve as a platoon leader in the 6th Infantry. The following year he was named aide-de-camp to the commanding general of the Berlin Command. In September 1961 he shipped back to Fort Benning to continue advanced infantry officer training, then enrolled at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles and pursued a master's program in guided missile engineering, graduating in June 1964. He returned to West Point and taught in the department of Mechanics for a year.

Then came the Vietnam War. In June 1965 he was sent over with an airborne brigade and served his 300 days' duty in what the army calls an "advisory capacity." He returned to a staff job in Washington, then returned to West Point to resume teaching there. He was back in the classroom as a student the next year, this time at General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. He returned to army headquarters for another staff job supporting efforts in Vietnam, then in December 1969 shipped over there for a second tour of duty as commander of the 1st Battalion, 6th Infantry, 198th Infantry Brigade of the 23rd Infantry Division. During this stint he was awarded two Purple Hearts and three Silver Stars.

Reputation Tarnished by Casualties

His reputation, however, was tarnished by casualties, including eight deaths, that occurred as a result of "friendly fire" from U.S. artillery. The callous way the army handled the incidents gave rise to a public sense that the army had lost control over the situation. Form letters that went out under the name of Lt. Colonel Schwarzkopf implicated him in the debacle. The incidents were recounted in the book Friendly Fire, published in 1976, and fictionalized by Hollywood in a feature film that appeared soon thereafter.

Schwarzkopf returned home from Vietnam livid over the way Washington had handled its part of the entire war effort. The war, he felt, had been lost by the politicians on the battlegrounds of the media. He told Insight's Richard Mackenzie, "The United States military did not lose the war in Vietnam period. In the two years I was in Vietnam I was in many battles. I was never in a defeat—came pretty close a couple of times, but we were never defeated. The outcome of the Vietnam War was a political defeat, but it was not a military defeat."

Back in Washington, the soldier alternated administrative work and advanced military and technical training for several years. In October 1974 the lieutenant colonel was made deputy commander of the 172nd Infantry Brigade in Fort Richardson, Alaska, was appointed a full colonel in 1975, and made commander of the First Brigade, 9th Infantry Division, in Fort Lewis, Washington. He retained that post nearly two years.

Became General

In July 1978 he was sent to Hawaii to serve two years at the Pacific Command post at Camp H. M. Smith; when he returned to Washington he was made a general. In August 1980 he shipped out to Europe for two years, as assistant division commander of the 8th Infantry Division. Back in Washington he handled administrative work for a year, then was assigned to Fort Stewart, Georgia, as deputy commanding general of the 24th Infantry Division. From this post he served as deputy commander of the U.S. invasion of Grenada.

Schwarzkopf's high-visibility performance in Grenada did not escape attention from the Pentagon. After another year of staff work he was assigned to I Corps at Fort Lewis, as commanding general. Then, in August 1987, he returned to the capitol as senior army member of the Military Staff Committee of the United Nations. In November 1988 he was appointed full general and moved to the top of the U.S. Central Command. In this capacity he began planning U.S. military strategies in the event of a Persian Gulf showdown.

Much of the general's popularity rests on his family-man image. The general is married to the former Brenda Holsinger, whom he met at a West Point football game in 1967, when she was a 26-year-old TWA flight attendant. The couple married in 1968; they have three children plus a sizable household menagerie: a black Labrador retriever, a cat, a gerbil, and two parakeets. According to an account in People, the General's hobbies include hunting and fishing; dining on a thick cut of steak, rare, followed by Breyer's mint-chocolate chip ice cream. He likes to watch TV, tuning in Jeopardy! and Cheers as well as Clint Eastwood westerns and Charles Bronson flicks. To this list, he says, you can add opera. (During his senior year at West Point he conducted the academy choir.) The difference between conducting music and troops, he quipped to a People reporter, is that in war "the orchestra starts playing, and some son of a bitch climbs out of the orchestra pit with a bayonet and starts chasing you around the stage."

Further Reading

Insight, March 18, 1991.

New York Times, January 28, 1991.

People, March 11, 1991.

USA Today, January 30, 1997. □

Schwarzkopf, H. Norman

views updated May 18 2018

Schwarzkopf, H. Norman

Excerpt from a press briefing in which he explained coalition military strategy

Held in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on February 27, 1991

U.S. Army General H. Norman Schwarzkopf was the commander of the coalition military forces from more than thirty-five countries during the 1991 Persian Gulf War. He was primarily responsible for directing the coalition's successful attack strategy, which received the code name Operation Desert Storm. This military operation achieved its objective, forcing Iraqi troops to withdraw from neighboring Kuwait, after only six weeks of fighting. The coalition forces suffered remarkably light casualties, with around one thousand soldiers killed or wounded. Some historians have called Operation Desert Storm the most successful military operation in history.

On February 27, 1991, Schwarzkopf gave a briefing (a type of speech intended to update or inform) in the ballroom of the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. His one-hour speech was attended by two hundred journalists and military officials, and it was broadcast live on television in the United States and thirty other countries around the world. During his speech, which is excerpted here, Schwarzkopf described the coalition's military strategy in great detail. He explained exactly how the forces under his command managed to defeat the Iraqi army.

Often referring to charts, the general showed reporters how the Iraqi defenses had been positioned in Kuwait. He told them how coalition planes and missiles had hit the enemy with nearly constant bombing attacks over a period of nearly six weeks. One goal of this air war was to destroy the Iraqi army's ability to see where coalition troops were positioned. Once this goal was accomplished, Schwarzkopf explained, it allowed a large coalition attack force called VII Corps to secretly circle around behind the Iraqis and attack them from the rear. The coalition strategy completely fooled the Iraqi army, which expected the attack to come from the front. Thousands of Iraqi soldiers surrendered shortly after the ground war began, while thousands of others retreated to Iraq. Coalition forces succeeded in liberating, or freeing, kuwait after just four days of ground combat.

Things to remember while reading the excerpt from General Schwarzkopf's press briefing:

  • On February 22 U.S. President George H. W. Bush gave Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein until noon the following day to begin withdrawing his troops from Kuwait. Since there was an eight-hour time difference between Washington, D.C., and Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, the deadline was 8:00 PM on February 23 according to Saudi time. Saddam failed to withdraw by this deadline, so at 4:00 AM Saudi time on February 24, Schwarzkopf launched the coalition ground attack. He says in his speech that he pushed the launch of the ground attack forward because of forecasts of approaching bad weather, reports of Iraqi mistreatment of Kuwaiti citizens, and widespread burning of Kuwaiti oil wells by Iraqi soldiers.
  • Although some fighting was still going on when Schwarzkopf gave his briefing, it was clear that the coalition was on the verge of winning the war.

Excerpt from General Schwarzkopf's press briefing

I promised some of you a few days ago that as soon as the opportunity presented itself, I would give you a complete rundown on what we were doing, and more important, why we were doing it—the strategy behind what we were doing. I've been asked bySecretary Cheney to do that this evening, so ... we're going to go through a complete briefing of [Operation Desert Storm]....

[Schwarzkopf explains that coalition ground forces initially lined up along the Saudi border facing north into Kuwait, directly across from Iraqi defensive positions.] Basically, the problem we faced was this: When you looked at the troop numbers, they really outnumbered us about three-to-two, and when you consider the number of combat service support people we have—that'slogisticians and that sort of thing in our armed forces—we were really outnumbered two-to-one. In addition to that, they had 4,700 tanks versus our 3,500 when the buildup was complete, and they had a great deal more artillery than we do.

I think any student of military strategy would tell you that in order to attack a position you should have a ratio of approximately three-to-one in favor of the attacker. In order to attack a position that is heavily dug in andbarricaded such as the one we had here, you should have a ratio of five-to-one. So you can see basically what our problem was at that time. We were outnumbered, and ... we had to come up with some way to make the difference....

Secretary Cheney

Secretary Cheney: U.S. Secretary of Defense Richard Cheney.


Logisticians: Soldiers who collect and transport supplies for the military.


Barricaded: Hidden behind barriers.

Theater of operations

Theater of operations: An area where military combat takes place.

What we did, of course, was start an extensive air campaign. One of its purposes, I told you at the time, was to isolate the Kuwaititheater of operations by taking out all the bridges and supply lines that ran between [Baghdad to] the north and the [Iraqi troops in the] southern part of Iraq and Kuwait. We also conducted a veryheavy bombing campaign, and many people questioned why. The reason is that it was necessary to reduce these forces down to strength that made them weaker, particularly along the front-line barrier that we had to go through.


Amphibious: Combining land and sea operations.

We continued our heavy operations out in the sea because we wanted the Iraqis to continue to believe that we were going to conduct a massiveamphibious operation in this area....

As you know, very early on we took out the Iraqi air force. We knew that he [the enemy] had very, very limitedreconnaissance means. And therefore we took out his air force, for all intents and purposes we took out his ability to see what we were doing down here in Saudi Arabia. Once we had taken out his eyes, we did what could best be described as a "Hail Mary" play in football. I think you recall when the quarterback is desperate for a touchdown at the very end [of a game] what he does is, he steps up behind the center and all of a sudden every single one of his receivers goes way out to one flank, and they all run down the field as fast as they possibly can and into the end-zone, and he lobs the ball. In essence, that's what we did.

When we knew that he couldn't see us anymore, we did a massive movement of troops all the way out to the extreme west, because at that time we knew that he was stillfixed in this area [Kuwait] with the vast majority of his forces, and once the air campaign started he would be incapable of moving out tocounter this move, even if he knew we made it. There were some additions to Iraqi troops out in this [northern] area. But they did not have the capability nor the time to put in the barrier that had been described by Saddam Hussein as an absolutelyimpenetrable tank barrier that no one would ever get through, I believe those were his words.

So this was an extraordinary move. I must tell you, I can't recall any time in theannals of military history when this number of forces have moved over this distance to put themselves in a position to be able to attack. But what's more important, not only did we move troops out there, but we literally moved thousands and thousands of tons of fuel, of ammunition, of spare parts, of water, and of food out here into this area, because we wanted to have enough supplies on hand so that if we launched this and got into a slugfest battle, which we very easily could have gotten into, we'd have enough supplies to last for 60 days. It was a gigantic accomplishment....

By February 23, the [Iraqi] front lines had beenattritted down to a point where all of these [Iraqi] units were at 50 percent [strength] or below. Thesecond level —and these were really tough fighters that we were worried about—were attritted to someplace between 50 and 75 percent, although we still had theRepublican Guard, and parts of the Republican Guard were very strong. We continued tohit the bridges all across this area, to make absolutely sure that no morereinforcements came into battle....


Reconnaissance: The act of gathering information to use in military operations.


Fixed: Dug into defensive positions.


Counter: Defend against or block.


Impenetrable: Impossible to break through.


Annals: Historical records.


Attritted: Reduced in numbers or weakened.

Second level

Second level: The next layer of Iraqi defenses behind the front lines.

Republican Guard

Republican Guard: An elite, one hundred thousand-man force that was the best-trained and best-equipped part of Iraq's army.


Hit: Bomb or destroy.


Reinforcements: Additional troops and supplies.

This then was the morning of February 24. Our plan initially had been to do exactly what the Iraqis thought we were going todo, and that's take them on head-on into their most heavily defended area. Also, at the same time, we launched amphibiousfeints and naval gunfire, so that they continued to think that we were going to be attacking along the coast, and therefore fixed their forces in this position. They wouldn't know what was going on. I believe we succeeded in that very well.

At four in the morning, the Marines ... launched attacks through the barrier system.... At the same time, two Saudi task forces also launched apenetrator through the barrier. But while they were doing that, [a French armored division] launched an overland attack to their objective—Salman airfield [in southwestern Iraq]. We were held up a little bit by the weather, but by eight in the morning, the 101st Airborne launched an air assault deep in the enemy territory to establish a forward operating base.... What we found was as soon as webreached these obstacles and started bringing pressure, we started getting a large number of surrenders.


Feints: Mock attacks designed to distract the enemy's attention away from the true area of attack.


Penetrator: A military operation intended to break through a barrier.


Breached: Broke through.

We were worried about the weather. The weather, it turned out, was going to get pretty bad the next day and we were worriedabout launching this air assault, and we also started to have a huge number ofatrocities —of really the most unspeakable types—committed in downtown Kuwait City, to include reports that thedesalination plant had been destroyed. And when we heard that, we were quite concerned about what might be going on. Based upon that, and the situation as it was developing, we made the decision that, rather than wait until the following morning to launch the remainder of those forces, we would go ahead and launch those forces [VII Corps] that afternoon.

This was the situation you saw the afternoon of the 24th. The Marines continued to make great progress going through the breach in this area—and we were moving rapidly north. The task force on the east coast was also moving rapidly to the north and making very, very good progress. We launched another Egyptian-Arab force, and another Saudi force, again to make the enemy continue to think that we were doing exactly what he wanted us to do, and that was to make a headlong assault into a very, very tough barrier system. At the same time, we continued to attack with the French. We also launched an attack on the part of the entire VII Corps....

At the same time—and because of our deception plan and the way it worked, we didn't even have to worry about a barrier—the 3rd Armored Division just went right around the enemy and were behind him in no time at all. And the 1st Armored Cavalry. The 24th Mechanized Division also launched out in the far west. Once the 101st had their forward operating base established there, they went ahead and launched into theTigris andEuphrates valleys.


Atrocities: Extremely cruel or brutal acts.

Desalination plant

Desalination plant: A facility that converts salty seawater into drinking water.


Tigris: A major river that runs through Iraq, just east of Baghdad.


Euphrates: A major river that runs through Iraq, just west of Baghdad.


Unopposed: Without meeting any enemy resistance.


Eject: Remove by force.

There are a lot of people who are still saying that the object of the U.S. was to capture Iraq and cause the downfall of the entire country of Iraq. Ladies and gentlemen, we were 150 miles away from Baghdad and there was nobody between us and Baghdad. If it had been our intention to take Iraq, if it had been our intention to destroy the country, if it had been our intention to overrun the country, we could have done itunopposed, for all intents and purposes. But that was not our intention. Our intention was purely toeject the Iraqis out of Kuwait and destroy the military power that had come in.

What happened next...

The U.S.-led coalition declared a cease-fire a few hours after Schwarzkopf gave his briefing. Although this meant that coalition forces would stop offensive military action, the cease-fire would not be official until Iraq agreed to its terms. On March 3 General Schwarzkopf and a number of other coalition military leaders (including Major General Jabir al-Sabah, commander of the Kuwaiti forces; Lieutenant General Khalid bin-Sultan, commander of the Saudi forces; Lieutenant General Michel Rocquejeoffre, commander of the French forces; and Lieutenant General Sir Peter de la Billiere, commander of the British forces) met with eight Iraqi military officers in Safwan, Iraq. The Iraqi representatives agreed to all coalition terms for a permanent cease-fire, effectively ending the Persian Gulf War.

Did you know...

  • During a question-and-answer period following his briefing, General Schwarzkopf made it clear that he did not hold a high opinion of Saddam Hussein as a military leader. "As far as Saddam Hussein being a great military strategist, he is neither a strategist, nor is he schooled in the operational arts, nor is he a tactician, nor is he a general, nor is he a soldier," he stated. "Other than that, he's a great military man."
  • Another reporter asked Schwarzkopf to analyze the performance of Iraq's troops. "A great deal of the capability of an army is its dedication to its cause and its will to fight. You can have the best equipment in the world, the largest numbers in the world, but if you're not dedicated to your cause, then you're not going to have a very good army," he replied. "So I attribute a great deal of the failure of the Iraqi army to their own leadership. They committed [their troops] to a cause they did not believe in. [Captured Iraqi soldiers] are all saying they didn't want to be there, they didn't want to fight their fellow Arabs, they were lied to when they went into Kuwait. And then after they got there, they had a leadership that was so uncaring that they didn't properly feed them, didn't properly give them water, and in the end, kept them there only at the point of a gun."

For More Information

Pyle, Richard. Schwarzkopf in His Own Words: The Man, the Mission, the Triumph. New York: New American Library, 1991.

Schwarzkopf, General H. Norman. It Doesn't Take a Hero. New York: Bantam, 1992.

Schwarzkopf, H. Norman

views updated May 14 2018

H. Norman Schwarzkopf

Born August 22, 1934

Trenton, New Jersey

American General who commanded victorious Allied forces in the Persian Gulf War

"Any soldier worth his salt should be antiwar. And still there are things worth fighting for."

H. Norman Schwarzkopf in U.S. News and World Report.

General H. Norman Schwarzkopf led U.S. military forces through the Persian Gulf War. Iraq's swift and decisive defeat at the hands of the U.S.-led Allied forces, combined with Schwarzkopf's charismatic personality and fierce loyalty to his troops, made him an American military hero.

Son of a famous military father

Norman Schwarzkopf was born in Trenton, New Jersey, on August 22, 1934. His parents were Ruth (Bowman) Schwarzkopf and Herbert Norman Schwarzkopf, a World War I general who went on to become the founding commander of the New Jersey State Police. Schwarzkopf was his parents' only son, but they also had two daughters.

Throughout his childhood, Schwarzkopf idolized his father. "My father was a very honorable man," he told Insight on the News. "He epitomized [represented] the best West Point graduate of his day that's totally committed to a sense of duty, totally committed to a sense of honor, totally dedicated to his country, and a selfless servant."

Schwarzkopf's father returned to active duty in the U.S. Army in 1942, when the United States entered World War II (1939–45). His absence left young Schwarzkopf the only male in a house full of females. Looking back, he believes that this period of his life as he recalled in Insight on the News:

I wasn't your normal, tough, macho young boy. Maybe it was the influence of my mother and my sisters, the fact that I had this responsibility on my shoulders. I can remember being pushed around a lot. I can't really say why. I learned to hate the bully. I learned to hate the playground group that went around pushing other people around. I never ran with that bunch as a young boy.

After World War II ended in 1945, Schwarzkopf's father remained in the military. He served at a variety of posts all across the Middle East and Europe, including Iran, Italy, Germany, and Switzerland, before returning to the United States in 1951. His son accompanied him on many of these assignments. This exposure to different cultures taught Schwarzkopf "that you judge a person as an individual," he told Insight on the News. "I also learned that the American way is great, but it's not the only way. There are a lot of other ways things are done that are just as good, and some of them are better."

Following in his father's footsteps

Schwarzkopf earned his high school diploma at Trenton's Bordentown Military Institute in 1952. He then entered the U.S. Army's West Point Military Academy, from which he graduated in 1956. After leaving West Point, he joined the army as a second lieutenant in the infantry. He spent the next nine years serving the country in positions all around the United States and Germany. He also continued his education, graduating from a master's program in guided missile engineering in June 1964.

Served in Vietnam

In June 1965 Schwarzkopf entered the Vietnam War (1954–75), a bloody conflict that pitted North Vietnam against troops from South Vietnam and the United States. During this first tour of duty, he served as an advisor to a South Vietnamese Airborne brigade. "When they slept on the ground, I slept on the ground; what they ate, I ate. It was truly serving a cause I believed in," he recalled in U.S. News and World Report. When Schwarzkopf completed his tour in 1966 he returned to the United States and spent the next three years working in Washington, D.C. From there he returned to West Point, where he worked as an instructor.

In December 1969 Schwarzkopf shipped over to Vietnam for a second tour of duty as a battalion commander. When he arrived, he was stunned by the battalion's poor morale and leadership. "When I took over the battalion it was totally unprepared for battle yet it had been in battle; all they were doing was taking casualties, [not] inflicting them," he told U.S. News and World Report. "It was a nightmare."

Schwarzkopf labored mightily to improve the battalion's performance, and he repeatedly showed his bravery in combat. He earned three Silver Stars for Heroism and two Purple Heart medals for wounds suffered in battle during this tour. But most of his memories from this period of his life are of dying soldiers and ineffective military strategies. When he returned home in late 1970, he was angry and frustrated about the war. "We all carry scars from Vietnam, and those scars will never go away," he wrote in his autobiography It Doesn't Take a Hero.

After returning to the United States, Schwarzkopf worked in Washington, D.C., until October 1974, when he was made deputy commander of the 172nd infantry brigade in Fort Richardson, Alaska. This proved to be one of his favorite assignments, as he was able to spend much of his time outdoors with his troops. In addition, the wilds of Alaska gave him many opportunities to pursue his love for hunting and fishing. In 1975 he was promoted to full colonel and reassigned to Fort Lewis, Washington, where he stayed for about two years before taking a post in Hawaii. His family accompanied him on each of these new postings, and Schwarzkopf later estimated that his military career required at least sixteen different relocations for his wife and children.

In 1980 Schwarzkopf was made a general. He spent most of the next decade in various posts in Europe and the United States, including a two-year stint (1985–87) as commanding general of the Fort Lewis army base in Georgia. In 1987 he returned to Washington, D.C., and a year later he was appointed a full general and given the reins of the U.S. Central Command. Thirty-one years after first joining the U.S. military, Schwarzkopf had become the leader of the entire U.S. Army.

Preparing for a Persian Gulf showdown

As commander of U.S. Central Command, Schwarzkopf paid special attention to the Middle East, an unstable region of the world that simmered with the potential for violence. In fact, he began planning a variety of U.S. military strategies just in case American forces were ordered into the region.

Schwarzkopf received a chance to use some of his plans when Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein (see entry) had ordered his military forces to invade the neighboring country of Kuwait on August 2, 2001. Hussein argued that Iraq had a historical claim to Kuwait's territory. He also wanted to control Kuwait's oil reserves and to gain access to Kuwait's port on the Persian Gulf. Countries around the world criticized the invasion and demanded that Hussein withdraw his troops from Kuwait. When he refused, many of these countries sent military forces to the Persian Gulf region to join a U.S.-led coalition against Iraq. Schwarzkopf supervised this military buildup, which eventually grew to include more than four hundred thousand U.S. troops and thousands of soldiers from other nations. During this period, he gained an international reputation for blunt talk (he once described Hussein and his generals as nothing more than "a bunch of thugs") and fierce devotion to the men and women under his command. Indeed, Schwarzkopf's obvious concern for his soldiers and his warm personality made him enormously popular with the troops. "He's a legend over here," one air force sergeant told People magazine. "All the guys in the field love him."

Meanwhile, men and women who had worked with Schwarzkopf over the years assured the American people that he was a great choice to lead the coalition forces. For example, one former West Point classmate noted in U.S. News and World Report that he had a son in the military who could be ordered any day to go to the Persian Gulf. "I feel really good that if he goes, Schwarzkopf is running things," the father said. "They'll fight like hell, but lives aren't going to be wasted. I just know that, as a father."

For his part, Schwarzkopf told U.S News and World Report that he hated war, but knew that it was sometimes necessary.

A professional soldier understands that war means killing people, war means maiming people, war means families left without fathers and mothers.... All you have to do is hold your first soldier who is dying in your arms, and have that terribly futile feeling that I can't do anything about it; that the life is literally flowing out of this young man and I can't do anything about it. Then you understand the horror of war. Any soldier worth his salt should be antiwar. And still there are things worth fighting for.

Operation Desert Storm

In November 1990, the United Nations (UN) Security Council established a deadline of January 15, 1991, for Iraq to withdraw from Kuwait or face attack by the U.S.-led forces. When Iraq failed to withdraw its troops from Kuwait by the UN deadline, the coalition forces launched a campaign of air strikes against Iraqi troops and military positions, including some in the capital city of Baghdad. These air strikes, known as Operation Desert Storm, blasted Iraqi military targets for thirty-eight days, leaving Iraqi forces stunned and battered. Schwarzkopf then ordered a massive ground offensive against Iraqi positions in Kuwait and southern Iraq on February 24, 1991.

As U.S. and coalition military forces poured into Kuwait and southern Iraq, many Iraqi military units surrendered or fled. Other Iraqi troops resisted, but they were quickly crushed. In the space of only one hundred hours, Schwarzkopf's forces freed Kuwait and chased the tattered remains of Hussein's army nearly to Iraq's capital city of Baghdad. At that point, President George H. W. Bush (see entry) called off the attack.

The triumph of coalition forces in the 1991 Persian Gulf War has been described by some military historians as one of the most brilliant and decisive in history. Schwarzkopf was delighted by the success of the mission, and he took particular pride in the fact that U.S. and allied forces suffered only light casualties in the war. He also heaped scorn on Hussein, who had led his country into the disastrous confrontation. In one news conference, cited in Richard Pyle's book Schwarzkopf: In His Own Words, the general declared that Hussein was "neither a strategist, nor is he schooled in the operational art, nor is he a tactician, nor is he a general , nor is he a soldier." He then paused and added sarcastically, "Other than that he is a great military man." But Schwarzkopf had little time to bask in the glow of victory, for the next several weeks required him to oversee countless postwar issues, from securing the release of prisoners of war (POWs) to helping Kuwait return to a more normal existence.

In March 1991 U.S. forces began to return home. Schwarzkopf personally addressed many of these troops before their departure to express his appreciation for their performance. As recalled in Schwarzkopf: In His Own Words, on March 8, 1991, he told departing troops:

It's a great day to be a soldier! Big Red One, First Team, Old Ironsides, Spear Head, Hell on Wheels platoon, Jay Hawk patrol, today you're going home. You're going home to Fort Riley, Kansas, you're going home to Fort Hood, Texas, you're going home to locations all over Germany. Your country, your countrymen, your wives, your children, and your loved ones are all there waiting for you.... It's hard for me to put into words how proud I am of you. How proud I have been to be the commander of this war. I'm proud of you, your countries are proud of you, and the world's proud of you. God bless you, God's speed for your trip home, and God bless America.

After the war

Schwarzkopf retired from active military service in July 1991, five months after the greatest triumph of his long and distinguished career. In honor of his role in the Persian Gulf War, he received numerous prestigious awards in the months and years following his retirement, including the Congressional Gold Medal of Honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and the Order of Kuwait with Sash of Most Excellent Order. In 1992 he joined with writer Peter Petre to publish his autobiography, It Doesn't Take a Hero. The book covered his entire life, from childhood through the Vietnam War to the Persian Gulf War. It was widely praised by reviewers as a candid and fascinating account of the life of America's newest military hero.

Since that time, Schwarzkopf has remained interested in military issues. For example, he has followed research into "Gulf War Syndrome," a term used to describe a variety of mysterious illnesses suffered by many U.S. Gulf War veterans, with great interest. But he has spent most of his retirement with his family, wife Brenda (Holsinger) Schwarzkopf, whom he married in 1968, and their three children, Jessica, Christian, and Cynthia, and pursuing his love for outdoor activities such as fishing and hunting.

Where to Learn More

Eisenhower, John. "It Doesn't Take a Hero." New York Times Book Review, October 18, 1992.

Galloway, Joseph L. "The Bear: General H. Norman Schwarzkopf Knows Soldiers and Loves Them, Knows War and Hates It." U.S. News and World Report, February 11, 1991.

Mackenzie, Richard. "Fierce Loyalty and Affection for His Troops." Insight on the News, March 18, 1991.

Pyle, Richard. Schwarzkopf: In His Own Words. New York: Penguin Books, 1991.

Schwarzkopf, H. Norman, with Peter Petre. It Doesn't Take a Hero. New York: Bantam, 1992.

"Stormin' Norman: Born to Win." People, March 11, 1991.

Schwarzkopf, H. Norman

views updated May 11 2018

Schwarzkopf, H. Norman (1934–). U.S. Army general.Born in Trenton, New Jersey, the son of a professional army officer, Schwarzkopf graduated from West Point in 1956. After serving with an airborne unit, he returned to the academy as an instructor. But he interrupted that assignment to serve during the Vietnam War as an adviser (1965–66) to a South Vietnamese Airborne brigade, winning two Silver Stars and a Purple Heart. After completing his faculty assignment and a year at the Army Command and General Staff College, he returned to Vietnam in 1969, soon taking command of the First Battalion, Sixth Infantry Regiment in the American Division along the northern coast near Chu Lai. In 1970, he earned another Silver Star and Purple Heart.

Back in the United States, Schwarzkopf graduated from the Army War College, then commanded an infantry brigade. As a brigadier general in 1978, he served as an assistant division commander in Germany, later as director of military personnel management at the Pentagon, and in 1983–85 as commander of the 24th Infantry Division (Mechanized). In October 1983, he became deputy commander of the U.S. intervention in Grenada, but was highly critical of the operation's shortcomings.

Between 1985 and 1988, Schwarzkopf served two tours in the Pentagon in operations and plans and also commanded a corps for a year. In 1988, as a full general, he took charge of the U.S. Central Command, with responsibility for possible deployment to the Middle East from its headquarters in Tampa, Florida.

In August 1990, after Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait, Schwarzkopf was given overall command of all U.S. and non‐Arab Coalition forces, responsible for the massive mobilization and deployment to the Persian Gulf, and for the planning and execution of the containment and then defeat of the Iraqi forces in Kuwait. The burly general hailed by the press as “Stormin' Norman” developed the so‐called fast envelopment—the flanking ground offensive that led to the liberation of Kuwait in February 1991. Subsequently, he retired and wrote his memoirs, explaining his strategy and defending the controversial decision to halt at the Iraqi border.
[See also Persian Gulf War.]


Roger Cohen and and Claudio Gatti , In the Eye of the Storm: The Life of General H. Norman Schwarzkopf, 1991.
Bob Woodward , The Commanders, 1991.
H. Norman Schwarzkopf , It Doesn't Take a Hero, 1992.

John Whiteclay Chambers II

Schwarzkopf, H. Norman

views updated Jun 08 2018

Schwarzkopf, H. Norman (1934– ) US general. A Vietnam veteran, Schwarzkopf was deputy commander of the US forces that invaded Grenada in 1983. As supreme commander of Allied forces in the Gulf War (1991), he liberated Kuwait from Iraqi occupation. After retiring from the army, he published his memoirs, It Doesn't Take a Hero (1992).