Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf
Gen. Schwarzkopf acknowledges applause as he receives a hero's welcome in
Congress on May 8, 1991. (Reuters)
In 1956, this general's son embarked on the career that would earn him four-star rank and high distinction
For H. Norman Schwarzkopf, West Point took phrases learnt at the knee of his father, an Army general, and turned them into principles. "When I began as a plebe, 'Duty, Honor, Country' was just a motto I'd heard from Pop," the two-tour Vietnam vet and Desert Storm commander later wrote. "By the time I left, those values had become my fixed stars."
Born in Trenton, N.J. on Aug. 22, 1934, Schwarzkopf spent much of his high school years following his father's career around the world. After graduating from West Point in 1956, he embarked on the career that would earn him four-star rank and high distinction, including three Silver Stars, three Bronze Stars, two Purple hearts, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. He moved up from platoon leader to corps commander, maintaining the common-sense attitude that earned his troop's plaudits as a "muddy-boots soldier."
Vietnam forged his philosophy of war. In-country from 1965 to 1966 and again from 1969 to 1970, he was angered by the lack of support at home and "distressed by the war's toll on morale and morality," one journalist wrote. "Schwarzkopf felt shame when, under protest, he tallied 'body counts' he knew to be inflated."
But the experience reinforced his determination to stay with the Army. Schwarzkopf wrote, "There were some times [in Vietnam] when I would think to myself. . . "how did I get involved in this?. . .And I came to understand that that's the thing I've been trained for all my life. And if I didn't do it, who was going to do it?"
By 1988, he was a four-star general, appointed commander-in-chief of the U.S. Central Command responsible for military operations in the Middle East. When Iraq occupied the neighboring state of Kuwait in August 1990, Schwarzkopf directed a troop buildup of 700,000 U.S., European, and Arab troops. On Jan. 16, 1991, allied forces began a six-week air bombardment of Iraq, followed by a 100-hour ground campaign that retook Kuwait with low allied casualties.
By war's end, the familiar 6'3" bearlike figure in desert fatigues had become a national hero. But a second, very real victory was at home. Of the Washington victory parade, Schwarzkopf wrote, "I couldn't help but think to myself this is the right way to come home to your country. . .the country was paying us this wonderful tribute... and it tended to exorcise a lot of ghosts and a lot of wounds that all of us who were in Vietnam carried with us."
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