WASHINGTON — Truth is, retired Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf didn’t care much for his popular “Stormin’ Norman” nickname.
The seemingly no-nonsense Desert Storm commander’s reputed temper with aides and subordinates supposedly earned him that rough-and-ready moniker. But others around the general, who died Thursday in Tampa, Fla., at age 78 from complications from pneumonia, knew him as a friendly, talkative and even jovial figure who preferred the somewhat milder sobriquet given by his troops: “The Bear.”
That one perhaps suited him better later in his life, when he supported various national causes and children’s charities while eschewing the spotlight and resisting efforts to draft him to run for political office.
He lived out a quiet retirement in Tampa, where he’d served his last military assignment and where an elementary school bearing his name is testament to his standing in the community.
Schwarzkopf capped an illustrious military career by commanding the U.S.-led international coalition that drove Saddam Hussein’s forces out of Kuwait in 1991 — but he’d managed to keep a low profile in the public debate over the second Gulf War against Iraq, saying at one point that he doubted victory would be as easy as the White House and the Pentagon predicted.
Schwarzkopf was named commander in chief of U.S. Central Command at Tampa’s MacDill Air Force Base in 1988, overseeing the headquarters for U.S. military and security concerns in nearly two dozen countries stretching across the Middle East to Afghanistan and the rest of central Asia, plus Pakistan.
When Saddam invaded Kuwait two years later to punish it for allegedly stealing Iraqi oil reserves, Schwarzkopf commanded Operation Desert Storm, the coalition of some 30 countries organized by President George H.W. Bush that succeeded in driving the Iraqis out.
At the peak of his postwar national celebrity, Schwarzkopf — a self-proclaimed political independent — rejected suggestions that he run for office, and remained far more private than other generals, although he did serve briefly as a military commentator for NBC.
While focused primarily on charitable enterprises in his later years, he campaigned for President George W. Bush in 2000, but was ambivalent about the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
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