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Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf: Remembering a distinctive military career
"Stormin' Norman" rose to national prominence when he commanded Operation Desert Storm in 1991
 
Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf criticizes Iraqi military leadership during a press briefing in Riyadh on February 28, 1991.
Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf criticizes Iraqi military leadership during a press briefing in Riyadh on February 28, 1991. AP Photo/Greg Gibson

General "Stormin' Norman" Schwarzkopf, who rose to national prominence when he commanded Operation Desert Storm in 1991, died on Thursday, at age 78, due to complications from pneumonia.

While Schwarzkopf is best known for commanding the operation in the Persian Gulf, his early military career dates back much further: In 1966, he volunteered for the Vietnam War, serving two tours and earning three Silver Stars, a Bronze Star, a Purple Heart, and three Distinguished Service medals.

Schwarzkopf rose quickly through the military ranks in the 1970s and 1980s, but became nationally known when he led the plan that would come to be called Operation Desert Storm, which was designed to drive Iraqi forces out of Kuwait. As the face of that war, Schwarzkopf appeared on television almost daily, addressing reporters with his distinctive and colorful speaking style. He described one of the war's key maneuvers as a "left hook," and attacked a critical report as "bovine scatology." General Schwarzkopf's plan for Operation Desert Storm consisted of weeks of air attacks by U.S. bombers and missiles, followed by a ground war that lasted only 100 hours, limiting American casualties to 146 dead and 467 wounded. The operation was widely regarded as a success, and Schwarzkopf earned numerous honors in both the United States and abroad, where Queen Elizabeth II made him an honorary knight.

Following Desert Storm, Schwarzkopf, a self-described independent, downplayed expectations that he might seek political office. He briefly served as a military commentator for NBC, but otherwise largely shied away from the public eye. He supported George W. Bush during his two successful presidential campaigns and backed John McCain during his unsuccessful 2008 bid, but his most widely-reported comments were his criticism of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's handling of the war in Iraq. Schwarzkopf spent the rest of his life in Tampa, Fla., near an elementary school that had been named in his honor.

Sources: The Associated Press (2), The Los Angeles Times (2), The New York Times (2), NBC News

 

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