US army general Schwarzkopf dies at 78

Friday 28 December 2012 19.21
Norman Schwarzkopf was known popularly as Stormin' Norman
Norman Schwarzkopf was known popularly as Stormin' Norman

Retired army general H Norman Schwarzkopf, who commanded the US-led international coalition that drove Saddam Hussein's forces out of Kuwait in 1991 has died aged 78. 

A sister of Mr Schwarzkopf, Ruth Barenbaum of Middlebury, Vermont, said that he died in Tampa, Florida, from complications from pneumonia.

He and his wife, Brenda, had three children, Cynthia, Jessica and Christian.

A much-decorated combat soldier in Vietnam, Mr 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 US Central Command, the headquarters responsible for American military and security concerns in nearly 20 countries from the eastern Mediterranean and Africa to Pakistan.

Mr 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 organised by US President George HW Bush that succeeded in driving the Iraqis out.

"General Norm Schwarzkopf, to me, epitomised the 'duty, service, country' creed that has defended our freedom and seen this great nation through our most trying international crises," Mr Bush said in a statement on Thursday.

"More than that, he was a good and decent man - and a dear friend."

At the peak of his post-war national celebrity, Mr 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 US network NBC.

Ambivalent about 2003 invasion of Iraq

While focused primarily in his later years on charitable enterprises, he campaigned for US 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.

Initially Mr 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 UN weapons inspectors found.

He seldom spoke up during the conflict, but in late 2004, he sharply criticised then-Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and the Pentagon for mistakes that included inadequate training for Army reservists sent to Iraq and for erroneous judgments about Iraq.