WASHINGTON — A U.S. official says retired Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf, who commanded the U.S.-led international coalition that drove Saddam Hussein’s forces out of Kuwait in 1991, has died. He was 78.
The official tells The Associated Press that Schwarzkopf died Thursday in Tampa, Fla. The official wasn’t 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.
[I]n Vietnam in March 1970, Schwarzkopf was involved in rescuing men of his battalion from a minefield. He had received word that men under his command had encountered a minefield on the notorious Batangan Peninsula, he rushed to the scene in his helicopter, as was his custom while a battalion commander, in order to make his helicopter available. He found several soldiers still trapped in the minefield. Schwarzkopf urged them to retrace their steps slowly. Still, one man tripped a mine and was severely wounded but remained conscious. As the wounded man flailed in agony, the soldiers around him feared that he would set off another mine. Schwarzkopf, also wounded by the explosion, crawled across the minefield to the wounded man and held him down (using a “pinning” technique from his wrestling days at West Point) so another could splint his shattered leg. One soldier stepped away to break a branch from a nearby tree to make the splint. In doing so, he too hit a mine, which killed him and the two men closest to him, and blew an arm and a leg off Schwarzkopf’s artillery liaison officer. Eventually, Schwarzkopf led his surviving men to safety, by ordering the division engineers to mark the locations of the mines with shaving cream. (Some of the mines were of French manufacture and dated back to the Indochina conflict of the 1950s; others were brought by Japanese forces in World War II). Schwarzkopf says in his autobiograpy It Doesn’t Take a Hero that this incident firmly cemented his reputation as an officer who would risk his life for the soldiers under his command.
Schwarzkopf told his men that they might not like some of his strict rules, but it was for their own good. He told them “When you get on that plane to go home, if the last thing you think about me is ‘I hate that son of a bitch’, then that is fine because you’re going home alive.” Lt. General Hal Moore later wrote that it was during his time in Vietnam that Schwarzkopf acquired what later became his infamous temper, while arguing via radio for passing American Hueys to land and pick up his wounded men.