Retired Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf Jr., commander of coalition forces in the Persian Gulf War of 1990-91, died Thursday at age 78 in Tampa, Fla. The cause of his death has not been announced.
Former President George H.W. Bush, who was commander-in-chief during the war and is hospitalized in Houston, told CNN that Schwarzkopf was a "true American patriot and one of the great military leaders of his generation."
Schwarzkopf was born in Trenton, N.J., into a military family. His father, Herbert Norman Schwarzkopf Sr., attained the rank of major general in the U.S. Army.
For a time, his father left the Army and served as superindendent of the New Jersey State Police. Schwarzkopf Sr. was the lead investigator on the 1932 Lindbergh baby kidnapping, one of the most notorious crimes of the 20th century.
When Schwarzkopf was 12, he joined his father in Tehran, Iran, establishing a connection to the Persian Gulf that would last throughout his life.
Continue Reading Below
While in Tehran, Schwarzkopf’s father was assigned by the CIA to participate in the 1953 coup that reinstalled Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi to power. Schwarzkopf helped organize the Shah’s security forces, which would later become the dreaded Savak secret police.
After attending Valley Forge Military Academy and West Point, Schwarzkopf Jr. joined the Army as a second lieutenant. In the mid-1960s, he took time off to attend the University of Southern California to earn a master of science degree in mechanical engineering. Specifically, Schwarzkopf studied guided missile engineering.
Following his master’s degree, Schwarzkopf returned to military service and was sent as a military adviser to the South Vietnamese Army. In the Vietnam War, he rose to captain and then major.
After Vietnam, Schwarzkopf's rise continued through the army ranks until he became a general and commander of the U.S. Central Command, based in Tampa, in 1988. As a part of his preparedness plans during his time at Centcom, Schwarzkopf created an in-depth defense plan in the event of an Iraqi invasion of the oil fields in the Persian Gulf.
In August 1990, Iraq suddenly overran Kuwait, and as a result of Schwarzkopf’s preparations, the United States had an immediate practical response to the situation. The United States launched Operation Desert Shield as a defense of Saudi Arabia, and Bush assembled a coalition of 30 nations with U.N. backing.
With the launch of a bombing campaign, the operation was renamed Desert Storm. Within four days of the ground assault launched on Feb. 24, 1991, the Iraqi Army had completely retreated and Bush declared a cease-fire.
While commanding the U.S. and coalition forces during the Gulf War, Schwarzkopf famously earned the nicknames “Stormin’ Norman” and “The Bear.”
After his victory, Schwarzkopf retired in the summer of 1991. Shortly after his retirement, the general wrote an autobiography under the title “It Doesn’t Take A Hero.” Schwarzkopf also became a military analyst for NBC and a popular lecturer during his military retirement.