Return to story

A leader, fallen

January 2, 2013 12:10 am

IN 1991, America was still nursing wounds from Vietnam and wondering if its days of military preeminence were fading. Then a despot named Saddam Hussein invaded his neighbor, the tiny kingdom of Kuwait, an ally of the United States, and America buckled up and went to war.

Saddam's unprovoked attack on the oil-rich nation prompted President George H.W. Bush to gather a coalition of 60 nations to expel the aggressor. His choice to lead Operation Desert Storm was Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf.

Mr. Schwarzkopf died the other day of complications of pneumonia at the age of 78. Some people seemed made for their times. So it was with the man who became known as "Stormin' Norman." Using a "left-hook" battle plan, he repelled the Iraqi invaders in just six weeks, chasing them back to Baghdad, ending the fight only when Mr. Bush called off the hounds. The entire ground war lasted just 100 hours. In that short a time, Kuwait was returned to its rightful government and Iraq's infrastructure was virtually destroyed in one of the most lopsided victories in the history of modern warfare.

Gen. Schwarzkopf returned to the United States a hero, honored with parades, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, standing ovations from Congress, and an honorary knighthood from Queen Elizabeth II. Soon after, he retired, spending his post-military years on charitable causes. He was honored, once again, by having an elementary school named for him.

The son of a general, Mr. Schwarzkopf was a West Point graduate with two tours in Vietnam, during which he earned two Silver Stars, a Bronze Star, a Purple Heart, and three Distinguished Service medals. In Vietnam, he showed extreme bravery and a willingness to sacrifice his own life for his men when saving his troops from a minefield. Equipped with Mensa-level intelligence, courage, the best military training, and, most of all, strong character, Mr. Schwarzkopf was a leader troops could respect, "a Patton with a conscience," as one commentator said. And in one six-week period, Mr. Schwarzkopf reminded Americans of what they could accomplish when the cause was just.

Copyright 2014 The Free Lance-Star Publishing Company.