Retired United States Army Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf died at age 78 on Thursday, December 27. The decorated general is most notably known for commanding the U.S.-led international coalition that drove Saddam Hussein’s forces out of Kuwait in 1991. He passed away in Tampa, Florida, where he lived in retirement. The cause of death was not immediately available. Here’s what you need to know about the general and his illustrious career.
1. Schwarzkopf Graduated 43rd in His Class at the United States Military Academy
Norman Schwarzkopf had a very impressive educational background, starting at the Valley Forge Military Academy. He then attended the United States Military Academy where he graduated 43rd in his class with a Bachelor of Science degree. He received his Master of Science degree for mechanical engineering at the University of Southern California where he specialized in guided missile engineering. He later attended the U.S. Army War College.
2. As a Lieutenant Colonel, He Rescued Men of His Battalion from a Minefield
In 1965, Schwarzkopf returned to the United States Military Academy at West Point to teach engineering. As his former classmates began relocating to Vietnam as advisers to the South Vietnamese army, Schwarzkopf himself applied to join them in the same year where he was promoted from Captain to Major of a South Vietnamese Airborne Division. He later returned to West Point to complete his teaching and became Major Lieutenant Colonel in 1968, but in 1969 returned to Vietnam where he was convinced it was his duty to apply his training there when U.S. casualties in Vietnam skyrocketed.
While serving his duty in Vietnam, he received word that his men encountered a minefield. He rushed to the scene in a helicopter and found several of his soldiers still trapped in the field where he urged them to slowly retrace their steps. When one soldier tripped a mine, Schwarzkopf crawled across the minefield to the wounded man to rescue him. Another soldier tripped off another mine, killing himself and two others closest to him and blowing the leg off Schwarzkopf’s liaison officer. The Lieutenant Colonel eventually led his surviving men to safety and was awarded a Silver Star for his bravery.
3. He was Popularly Known as “Stormin’ Norman”
Schwarzkopf became popularly known as “Stormin’ Norman” for his explosive temper with aides and subordinates, though he didn’t like the nickname. He was actually a very friendly and talkative person who preferred to be known as “the Bear.”
He would often tell his men that though they might not like his strict rules, they would be for their own good:
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.
4. He Commanded Operation Desert Storm
During the 1991 Persian Gulf War, codenamed Operation Desert Storm, he was the public face of the coalition forces that ousted Saddam Hussein’s forces from Kuwait. He co-authored the official strategy of the defense of Saudi Arabia as well as the combat operations in Kuwait and Iraq. After the war, his popularity exploded. He received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President George H.W. Bush and was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II.
5. He Served His Last Military Assignment in Tampa, Fla.
Schwarzkopf served his last military assignment in Tampa, Florida, the U.S. military and security headquarters, as commander-in-chief of U.S. Central Command.
6. He Retired from the Army in 1991
Norman Schwarzkopf retired from the army in 1991, after which he focused his later years on charitable enterprises and campaigning for former President George W. Bush.
7. He Rejected Suggestions that He Run for Office
Rumors spread that Schwarzkopf would run for office, but he rejected the idea and remained more private than other generals.
8. He Wrote the Bestselling Autobiography It Doesn’t Take A Hero
Shortly after the former general retired, he wrote a bestselling autobiography titled It Doesn’t Take A Hero. Here’s an excerpt:
I like to say I’m not a hero. I was lucky enough to lead a very successful war.
9. Former President George H.W. Bush was the First to Issue a Statement Mourning his Death
George H.W. Bush issued a statement regarding the loss of Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf from the Methodist Hospital in Houston where he is currently being treated for bronchitis:
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. More than that, he was a good and decent man — and a dear friend.
10. He was Born in Trenton, New Jersey
Norman Schwazkopf was born August 22, 1934, in Trenton, New Jersey, the son of Ruth Alice and Herbert Norman Schwarzkopf.