Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf, American Military Legend, Dies at 78

Retired Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf, pictured above with George H.W. Bush, died on Thursday in Tampa, according to the AP. Schwarzkopf is one of the major American military figures of the 20th century, having led the U.S. in Desert Storm after widely being recognized as a heroic figure during the war in Vietnam. This passage, summarized from his biography on Wikipedia, describes an incredibly harrowing experience that earned him a Silver Star.

He had received word that men under his command had encountered a minefield on the notorious Batangan Peninsula, he rushed to the scene in his helicopter, as was his custom while a battalion commander, in order to make his helicopter available. He found several soldiers still trapped in the minefield. Schwarzkopf urged them to retrace their steps slowly. Still, one man tripped a mine and was severely wounded but remained conscious. As the wounded man flailed in agony, the soldiers around him feared that he would set off another mine. Schwarzkopf, also wounded by the explosion, crawled across the minefield to the wounded man and held him down (using a "pinning" technique from his wrestling days at West Point) so another could splint his shattered leg. One soldier stepped away to break a branch from a nearby tree to make the splint. In doing so, he too hit a mine, which killed him and the two men closest to him, and blew an arm and a leg off Schwarzkopf's artillery liaison officer. Eventually, Schwarzkopf led his surviving men to safety, by ordering the division engineers to mark the locations of the mines with shaving cream.

He earned three Silver Stars in Vietnam to go along with a Purple Heart, a Bronze Star and three Distinguished Service Medals. As a general, he directed Operation Desert Storm, which is generally considered a success, though the AP summed up Schwarzkopf's role in the aftermath well.

While he later avoided the public second-guessing by academics and think tank experts over the ambiguous outcome of Gulf War I and its impact on Gulf War II, he told the Washington Post in 2003, "You can't help but... with 20/20 hindsight, go back and say, ‘Look, had we done something different, we probably wouldn't be facing what we are facing today.'"

After his retirement, Schwarzkopf campaigned for George W. Bush in 2000 and 2004, but was not a vocal cheerleader in the run-up to the Iraq war.

"What is postwar Iraq going to look like, with the Kurds and the Sunnis and the Shiites? That's a huge question, to my mind. It really should be part of the overall campaign plan," he said.

Schwarzkopf, who stayed rather anonymous after his retirement with the exception of being an outspoken proponent in the early '90s of men getting tested for prostate cancer, was survived by his wife Brenda and three children.

[via AP/Washington Post, image via AP]