Americana: H. Norman Schwarzkopf – “Stormin’ Norman”

Academy of AchievementThe troops called him Stormin’ Norman, but never in earshot of commanding officers, the name given him for his reputed temper; however, the troops had called him that for different reasons. General (4-star) Norman Schwarzkopf was called such a nickname because of his attitude about winning in combat and wars. The general was also called The Bear by some, based on his stature. I always will remember him as the smiling general who gave all for his troops and expected nothing less than what he would do. He did not appear to appreciate his troops – he did. He was one of those heroes who lived its life, but did not put himself above his troops. Let’s face it, even to a non-commissioned officer such as myself, sometimes the presence of a general could make one nervous, especially one with four stars on each shoulder.

General Schwarzkopf’s warm personality soon put a troop at ease. If he was nicknamed a Bear, he certainly was a congenial bear, if you put a beard and red suit wearing a red cap, you would instantly see what Santa Claus should look like.

I only saw General Schwarzkopf in brief moments, most of what I knew of him was what had been passed down through command channel or had seen on CNN broadcasts relayed into Saudi Arabia during Operation Desert Shield, the prelude to the war against Saddam and his henchmen [Operation Desert Storm]who had unjustly invaded the small Arabic nation of Kuwait and after the 100-hour war, Operation Desert Calm/Desert Farewell. Those broadcasts and communication between the commander-in-chief and the general staff of General Powell and Schwarzkopf were made possible by our brigade of over 2,000 troops – the 11th Signal Brigade, of which I served at the brigade headquarters.

File photo of retired U.S. Army General H. Norman Schwarzkopf Jr, listening to questions at a news conference introducing the expansion of the Starbright Foundation's web site at the Skirball Cultural Center in Los AngelesIt was great sadness to hear that General Schwarzkopf passed away on December 27th, 2012 in Tampa, Florida at age 78 due to complications from pneumonia. He was a hallmark in his community, not for being a famous general, but for his donation of personal times for a variety of charitable organizations and local community functions. He was a board member for Remington Arms Company and an honorary board member of the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation of which he had sponsored. In May of 2008, he was inducted into the New Jersey Hall of Fame.

My brief glimpses of this dynamic general were only possible when I had to fill in as the 11th Signal Brigade (Thunderbirds or Desert Thunderbirds) commander’s driver when general staff meetings and televised briefings were held in Riyadh.

Desert RatUnofficially we called ourselves the Desert Rats, [coined from WW2] training in Fort Huachuca, Arizona. It was one of the two units I was assigned to, the 1st/4th Cavalry, Fort Riley, Kansas, that had trained to operate in desert environments; the Cav training at Fort Irwin in the California desert and Utah training missions. I was almost assigned to Fort Irwin in an infantry OPFOR unit, but to my disappointment was reassigned to a leg unit at Fort Ord, California after returning from an overseas assignment in South Korea with the 17th Mechanized Infantry.

I would like to add to this and commend my former commander of the 1st/4th US Cavalry [Quarterhorse] who restructured the cavalry in equipment and tactical strategies to meet the modern requirements of a highly mobile and hit fast force. His name: Colonel Leroy Goff, another commander who cared greatly for his troops and who made it a habit to brief his NCOs before he briefed his officers because he felt and knew that they were the backbone of the Army the work-a-bees. He retired from the US Army as a Major General. During the Gulf War, Col Goff commanded an armor unit, part of the 3rd Armor Division, that spearheaded into Iraq after the retreating forces of Saddam Hussein under General Schwarzkopf’s command.

 Stormin Norman

General Schwarzkopf ensured that troops were outfitted with desert camouflage uniforms and designed the desert boots we wore. Our unit had received the desert BDUs before deploying to Saudi Arabia where American troops staged before the attack against Saddam’s forces. Problem was the boots ordered by the US Army had not made it before we left, so we wore our standard black combat boot – extremely hot and uncomfortable. We finally received our desert boots sometime after arrival at our designated area of operations. Since we were a support unit, priority went to the front-line units, which is quite understandable. We certainly appreciated the efforts of General Schwarzkopf and command for the receiving those boots. It is the small things in life that seem to be more appreciated during such times.

His full name was Herbert Norman Schwarzkopf and was born in Trenton, New Jersey, August 22nd, 1934 during the Great Depression. His paternal grandparents were German immigrants, and his father served in the US Army as a Colonel in World War I before assignment to Iran in which Norman Jr. accompanied his father. There he went to school and later in Geneva, Switzerland, and then attended the Valley Forge Military Academy. His father became the Superintendent of the New Jersey State Police, after returning from overseas, where he worked as the lead investigator on the 1932 Lindbergh baby kidnapping case before returning to an Army career and achieving the rank of Major General.

 Cadet Schwarzkopf

Norman went to the military academy at West Point where he played on the football and wrestling team. He was also a member of the chapel choir, and after graduating in 1956 with a degree in engineering, later earning a master’s degree in engineering from the University of Southern California.

In 1966, Schwarzkopf volunteered for the Vietnam War and during that time earned three Silver Stars, a Bronze Star, and a Purple Heart. He served as a battalion commander during the war in which time he was wounded in March of 1970 during a rescue of his men from a minefield in the Batangan Peninsula. [More details HERE] Throughout his career, he earned a chest full of medals.

He became nationally and internationally known for operations in the Horn of Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia. During that period Iraq invaded Kuwait and Operation Desert Shield was put into action.


A few months later, General Schwarzkopf’s offensive operational plan, Operation Desert Storm, co-authored by Lt Gen Cal Waller and other staff members, retook Kuwait and chased the Iraqi forces back to Baghdad. It was the press that made his nickname nationally famous. Not for his purported temper, but his left hook, hard charging tactics against Iraqi forces and hard drive to prevent Saddam’s Republican Guard from getting to Baghdad.

After the war, Schwarzkopf was offered a position as Chief of Staff of the US Army, but he declined. He retired from military service in August 1991. He was never what troops called a political general. However, he did support George W. Bush in his successful re-election in 2004 against Senator Kerry who Schwarzkopf knew had a record of weakness (military and political) that gave no confidence of him winning the War against Terrorism. By the time December came in 2004, Schwarzkopf began to be critical of the Iraq War, especially how Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was organizing it. In the 2008 presidential election, Schwarzkopf supported John McCain. Beyond that, Schwarzkopf was more interested in community affairs and charitable organizations than politics. It was because he was a man of action.

Norman Schwarzkopf is survived by his wife, Brenda and three children: Cynthia, Jessica, and Christian Schwarzkopf.

In an official statement released from the White House, President Obama stated:

With the passing of General Norman Schwarzkopf, we’ve lost an American original. From his decorated service in Vietnam to the historic liberation of Kuwait and his leadership of United States Central Command, General Schwarzkopf stood tall for the country and Army he loved. …

Former President George H.W. Bush, hospitalized in Houston, Texas, released this statement from his hospital bed:

Barbara and I mourn the loss of a true American patriot and one of the great military leaders of his generation. A distinguished member of that ‘Long Gray Line’ hailing from West Point, General Norm Schwarzkopf [President Bush and close friends called the general “Norm”] 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. Barbara and I send our condolences to his wife, Brenda, and his wonderful family.

Former US Secretary of State and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the Gulf War, General Colin Powell, stated:

With the passing of General H. Norman Schwarzkopf, America lost a great patriot and a great soldier. Norm served his country with courage and distinction for over 35 years. The highlight of his career was the 1991 Persian Gulf War, Operation Desert Storm. ‘Stormin’ Norman’ led the coalition forces to victory, ejecting the Iraqi Army from Kuwait and restoring the rightful government. His leadership not only inspired his troops, but also inspired the nation. He was a good friend of mine, a close buddy. I will miss him. My wife, Alma, joins me in extending our deepest condolences to his wife, Brenda, and to her family.

Ditto on that, General Powell. I still have my “Schwarzkopf boots” and memories of what he accomplished.

True courage is being afraid, and going ahead and doing your job.

Norm - 1934-2012


One comment on “Americana: H. Norman Schwarzkopf – “Stormin’ Norman”

  1. […] to Iran where warplanes had already been spirited away when realizing that US was resolved to free Kuwait. Of course, no one is admitting that those chemical weaponry recently used in Syria were most […]

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