As one of the greatest American military leaders of the 20th century, “Stormin” Norman Schwarzkopf who passed away on December 27, 2010 leaves a tremendous legacy related to his outstanding military career and his pivotal role in Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm in 1991. As J. Ackerman observes, Schwarzkopf’s dedication and unswerving loyalty to the United States of America is “surpassed by few and admired by many” (2010), especially those who served alongside him on the battlefield and whose courage was lifted by Schwarzkopf’s down-to-earth personality and his ability to bring a feeling of great camaraderie to his troops. In addition, Schwarzkopf also served “his fellow man through charity (which) shows that Schwarzkopf possessed true compassion for people and the wellness of America” (Ackerman, 2010).
Schwarzkopf’s military legacy seems to have begun in 1988 when he was commissioned as a general in the United States Army and then appointed as the Commander-in-Chief of the United States Army Central Command, located at the MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida. As noted in a web-based biography by the Academy of Achievement in Washington, D.C., it was “Stormin” Norman Schwarzkopf who in his role as Commander “prepared a detailed plan for the defense of the oil fields of the Persian Gulf against a hypothetical invasion by Iraq” (Norman Schwarzkopf Biography, 2012) which ironically turned out to be dead accurate, for within several months, Hussein’s Iraq did indeed invade the sovereign nation of Kuwait, thus making Schwarzkopf’s “hypothetical invasion” plan a valuable asset to the U.S. Army related to its heavy involvement in the Persian Gulf region.
In August of 1990 during the first Bush Administration, Schwarzkopf’s main military goal in Desert Shield was to prevent Hussein’s Iraq from invading Saudi Arabia which holds some of the world’s richest and most expansive oil fields. The Iraqi army was at this time already installed in Kuwait and Schwarzkopf, due to his military training and insight as a leader, put together an immense coalition composed of “765,000 troops from 28 countries” with some 541,000 Americans, “hundreds of ships, and thousands of planes and tanks.” Certainly, Schwarzkopf instinctively knew that negotiations with Iraq to leave Kuwait would fail, and when these negotiations did result in failure, Schwarzkopf became the main organizer from what came to be known as Operation Desert Storm (Norman Schwarzkopf Biography, 2012).
Schwarzkopf’s talent for organization and foresight as a military leader and commander paid off handsomely, for at the conclusion of the Desert Storm and with American and coalition troops only 150 miles from the city of Baghdad, “the Iraqis began to surrender in massive numbers” and after Iraq accepted to a cease-fire “after only 100 hours of fighting,” military action on the ground came to an end. Allied forces experienced 115 casualties and less than 350 wounded in action (Norman Schwarzkopf Biography, 2012).
Thus, for his involvement in Desert Shield/Desert Storm, Schwarzkopf became one of America’s most decorated war heroes of the 20th century, receiving “five Distinguished Service Medals, three Silver Stars, the Bronze Star, the Purple Heart, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the National Order of the Legion of Honor” and other decorations from coalition member nations France, Belgium, the United Kingdom, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait (Norman Schwarzkopf Biography, 2012).
C. Todd Lopez, an Army News Service writer for the prestigious U.S. Army authorized Gold Standard, provides some poignant observations on the legacy of “Stormin” Norman Schwarzkopf. Upon Schwarzkopf’s untimely death in 2010, Secretary of the Army John McHugh and General Raymond Odierno declared that “Our nation has lost a soldier and statesman” and that it would be more than appropriate to “honor the memory of a man dedicated to family, his country and the many soldiers he led in war and peace” (2010). Therefore, a good portion of Schwarzkopf’s legacy is related to the troops that were under his command.
McHugh and Odierno support this via observing that Schwarzkopf’s legacy is best illustrated by the soldiers that he inspired, both on the battlefield and in peacetimes. Also, Schwarzkopf’s life and career as a military man “touches on much of the fabric of our nation’s story, ensuring his memory will remain with us for generations. Our nation owes a great debt of gratitude to General Schwarzkopf” as one of America’s premier military and civilian leaders (Lopez, 2010). McHugh and Odierno also note that Schwarzkopf’s “most lasting and important legacy” is related to the all of the troops that he trained and led into battle over the course of some thirty-five years, dating back to 1965 during the Vietnam War (Lopez, 2010).
Although Schwarzkopf is best remembered as a brilliant military leader and strategist, he did occasionally dabble in American politics, one example being his on-going feud of sorts with President George Bush over whether it was possible to invade Iraq and crush the Iraqi Army with absolute guaranteed success and with a minimal loss of troops and materials. However, Schwarzkopf was not a politician, but he was undoubtedly a “superb soldier who inspired the troops and kept confidence in the war effort back home” (Schwarzkopf’s Legacy, 2012) via his frequent briefings on what was transpiring on the battlefield and in his mind concerning Desert Storm and Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait. Schwarzkopf also realized that President Bush’s narrow views on military affairs in Iraq and Kuwait made it that more difficult to “translate tactical success into lasting strategic success” (Schwarzkopf’s Legacy, 2012).
But in the end, Schwarzkopf’s perseverance paid off when Iraq retreated from Kuwait, thus bringing an end to Desert Storm. Interestingly, if Schwarzkopf had been allowed to invade Iraq in the early 1990’s, it may have made President George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq after the World Trade Center attacks unnecessary, thus saving thousands of lives and billions in military dollars. In addition, “Stormin” Norman Schwarzkopf was what one might call a true American hero, for during the Vietnam War, circa 1966, Schwarzkopf’s heroism was tested when “as a battalion commander, he ventured into a minefield to pull some of his soldiers to safety.” Also, Schwarzkopf demonstrated his talents for military strategy by “implementing (if not designing) the famous “left hook” which routed Saddam Hussein’s army” from Kuwait.
In essence, “Stormin” Norman Schwarzkopf was one of the last of his breed of military leaders who truly knew the horrors of war and how best to bring them to a quick and militarily successful conclusion. Also, Schwarzkopf could be compared to some of the best military leaders from America’s past, such as Eisenhower and MacArthur. But perhaps the most important aspect of Schwarzkopf’s legacy is that wars must be fought and won in the shortest period of time possible, thus bringing great esteem and recognition to those responsible for the victory while also creating pride in the common man and woman back home with sons and daughters risking their very lives on the front lines of the battlefield.
Ackerman, J. 2010. General Norman Schwarzkopf Dead: “Stormin” Norman was a True American Hero. Retrieved June 28, 2013, from http://www.policymic.com/articles/21562/general-norman-schwarzkopf-dead-stormin-norman-was-a-true-american-hero
Lopez, C. Todd. 2010. General Schwarzkopf Leaves Legacy. Retrieved June 28, 2013, from http://www.fkgoldstandard.com/content/gen-schwarzkopf-leaves-legacy
Norman Schwarzkopf Biography. 2012. Retrieved June 28, 2013, from http://www.achievement.org/autodoc/page/sch0bio-1
Schwarzkopf’s Legacy. 2012. Retrieved June 28, 2013, from http://www. commentarymagazine.com/2012/12/27/schwarzkopfs-legacy