Norman Schwarzkopf, US commander in Gulf War, dies at 78

Norman Schwarzkopf

Norman Schwarzkopf Jr, the hard-charging US Army general whose forces smashed the Iraqi army in the 1991 Gulf War, has died at the age of 78, a US official said on Thursday.

The highly decorated four-star general died at 2.22 pm EST (1922 GMT) at his home in Tampa, Florida, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. The cause of death was not immediately known.

Schwarzkopf, a burly Vietnam War veteran known as Stormin' Norman, commanded more than 540,000 US troops and 200,000 allied forces in a six-week war that routed Hussein's army from Kuwait in 1991, capping his 34-year military career.

Some experts hailed Schwarzkopf's plan to trick and outflank Hussein's forces with a sweeping armored movement as one of the great accomplishments in military history. The maneuver ended the ground war in only 100 hours.

Former US President George H.W. Bush, who built the international coalition against Iraq, said he and his wife "mourn the loss of a true American patriot and one of the great military leaders of his generation," according to a statement released by Bush's spokesman.

Bush has been hospitalized in Houston since late November. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta praised Schwarzkopf as "one of the great military giants of the 20th century." General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said he "embodied the warrior spirit," and called the victory over Hussein's forces the hallmark of his career.

PHYSICAL PRESENCE

Schwarzkopf was a familiar sight on international television during the war, clad in camouflage fatigues and a cap. He conducted fast-paced briefings and toured the lines with a purposeful stride and a physical presence of the sort that clears barrooms.

Little known before Iraqi forces invaded neighboring Kuwait, Schwarzkopf made a splash with quotable comments. At one briefing he addressed Saddam's military reputation. "As far as Saddam Hussein being a great military strategist," he said, "he is neither a strategist, nor is he schooled in the operational arts, nor is he a tactician, nor is he a general, nor is he a soldier. Other than that, he's a great military man, I want you to know that."

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