Gen. 'Stormin Norman' Schwarzkopf Dies At 78
RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:
This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.
DAVID GREENE, HOST:
And I'm David Greene.
Retired General Norman Schwarzkopf died yesterday at the age of 78. He is best known for leading the international coalition that pushed Saddam Hussein's army out of Kuwait during Operation Desert Storm in 1991. It was an important moment for former President, George H. W. Bush.
The former president remains hospitalized in Texas but released a statement last night calling Schwarzkopf one of the great military leaders of his generation. One person who knew Schwarzkopf well is Robert Scales, a retired U.S. Army Major General and author of the book, "Certain Victory."
General Scales, welcome.
RETIRED MAJOR GENERAL ROBERT SCALES: Good morning.
GREENE: You were actually a neighbor of Norman Schwarzkopf. Tell me about him, the man you knew.
SCALES: Yes. I was a newly assigned captain to the Pentagon, and he was also assigned there. And we lived across the street from each other. So in knew him when he was a major. A wonderful man, big, gregarious, tough talking, but at the same time an officer with a very kind heart, deeply attached to his wife Brenda. They were, I guess in a way, an army power couple even before he had any military power.
GREENE: I remember his briefings during the war in '91. And he was known at the time as "Stormin' Norman." He was known for having a temper. I mean, was that an accurate picture?
SCALES: Oh, yes. He was called "The Bear" at one time and later "Stormin' Norman." He had a volatile temper. An interesting man. Occasionally, when he met up with a staff officer or a briefer or even a peer who didn't quite meet his intellectual standards, he quite often spoke quite loudly and quite bluntly to those who worked for him.
GREENE: He had already had a really impressive military career. I mean, a highly decorated career officer, two battlefield tours in Vietnam, then he's put in charge of activities in the Middle East and Persian Gulf. What, in your mind, made him well-suited for that job?
SCALES: I think it was a streak of independence. The additional plan that was put together in Washington for the liberation of Kuwait was clearly not up to snuff in terms of numbers and the maneuver. And he was quite vociferous, with both President Bush and Colin Powell and others who were his bosses in Washington, that he wanted to do this operation his way.
GREENE: It sounds very impressive. He did face some criticism, people saying that it wasn't necessarily this strategy that won the war but that Iraq was just, you know, a very ill-prepared opponent. Is some of that criticism fair?
SCALES: Some of it's fair. I mean, there was a huge army, but the core of the army, which was about three, three and a half, divisions was extremely well prepared and waiting for us to come in a certain direction. What Schwarzkopf did with his plan was - as great plans go - came at him in a different direction, a direction they didn't expect. And of course, that's what broke the back of the Republican Guard.
GREENE: You've written about the military. You were a colleague of his, also a neighbor. Capture his legacy for me, if you can, in a few words.
SCALES: He was the man, almost embodied in him, that removed the scar of the Vietnam generation. Remember, he was Class of 1956, so he had about 10 to 12 years of service by the time, as a major, he marched off to war in Vietnam. And he never forgot the scar that losing in Vietnam left. And he spent those 20 years after Vietnam working to rebuild the Army.
And so in many ways, the Hundred Hour War was a vindication. Not only a vindication for Schwarzkopf, but a vindication for all of us who had stayed and worked very hard to rebuild the military. So Desert Storm was, in many ways, a coming home for those of us who'd fought in Vietnam.
GREENE: General Scales, thanks so much for talking to us.
SCALES: Thank you, David.
GREENE: Retired Major General Robert Scales helping us remember General Norman Schwarzkopf who died yesterday in Tampa. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.