Retired Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf dies at 78

WASHINGTON (AP) — Retired Gen. 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 but kept a low public profile in controversies

over the second Gulf War against Iraq, died Thursday. He was 78.

Schwarzkopf died in Tampa, Fla., 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 some 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 national

celebrity, Schwarzkopf — a self-proclaimed political independent —

rejected suggestions

that he run for office, and remained far more private than other

generals, although he did serve briefly as a military commentator

for NBC.

While focused primarily in his later years on charitable enterprises, 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. In early 2003 he told the Washington Post the outcome was an unknown:

"What is postwar Iraq going to look like, with the Kurds and the Sunnis and the Shiites? That's a huge question, to my mind.

It really should be part of the overall campaign plan," he said.

Initially Schwarzkopf had endorsed the

invasion, saying he was convinced that former 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.

He seldom spoke up during the conflict, but

in late 2004, he sharply criticized then-Defense Secretary Donald

Rumsfeld and

the Pentagon for mistakes that included inadequate training for

Army reservists sent to Iraq and for erroneous judgments about

Iraq.

"In the final analysis I think we are behind schedule. ... I don't think we counted on it turning into jihad (holy war),"

he said in an NBC interview.

Schwarzkopf was born Aug. 24, 1934, in

Trenton, N.J., where his father, Col. H. Norman Schwarzkopf Jr., founder

and commander

of the New Jersey State Police, was then leading the investigation

of the Lindbergh kidnap case, which ended with the arrest

and 1936 execution of German-born carpenter Richard Hauptmann for

stealing and murdering the famed aviator's infant son.

The elder Schwarzkopf was named Herbert, but

when the son was asked what his "H'' stood for, he would reply, "H."

Although

reputed to be short-tempered with aides and subordinates, he was a

friendly, talkative and even jovial figure who didn't like

"Stormin' Norman" and preferred to be known as "the Bear," a

sobriquet given him by troops.

He also was outspoken at times, including when he described Gen. William Westmoreland, the U.S. commander in Vietnam, as "a

horse's ass" in an Associated Press interview.

As a teenager Norman accompanied his father to Iran, where the elder Schwarzkopf trained the country's national police force

and was an adviser to Reza Pahlavi, the young Shah of Iran.

Young Norman studied there and in

Switzerland, Germany and Italy, then followed in his father's footsteps

to West Point, graduating

in 1956 with an engineering degree. After stints in the U.S. and

abroad, he earned a master's degree in engineering at the

University of Southern California and later taught missile

engineering at West Point.

In 1966 he volunteered for Vietnam and served two tours, first as a U.S. adviser to South Vietnamese paratroops and later

as a battalion commander in the U.S. Army's Americal Division. He earned three Silver Stars for valor — including one for

saving troops from a minefield — plus a Bronze Star, a Purple Heart and three Distinguished Service Medals.

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 to 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 Gulf War

I and its impact on Gulf War II, 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, 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 AP. "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.