Norman Schwarzkopf, the U.S. general who commanded the international coalition that expelled Iraqi forces from Kuwait in 1991, has died.
“Stormin’ Norman,” as he was popularly known in the United States, was 78.
Schwarzkopf died on December 27 in Tampa, Florida, where he had served his last military assignment as head of the U.S. Central Command.
Schwarzkopf’s sister said he died of complications from pneumonia.
In a statement, former President George H.W. Bush -- who fell ill this week
-- said he and wife Barbara mourn the loss of Schwarzkopf, whom Bush called "a true American patriot and one of the great military leaders of his generation."
In 1991, during Bush's presidency, Schwarzkopf became famous for leading Operation Desert Storm, which liberated Kuwait from Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein’s forces.
In that conflict, Schwarzkopf commanded more than 540,000 U.S. troops and 200,000 allied forces from around 30 countries.
A six-week air campaign against Iraqi troops led to a massive ground offensive at the end of February 1991.
The "flanking," or sweeping movement by U.S. armor around Iraqi forces, routed the invaders of Kuwait in 100 hours, sending them fleeing back to Iraq.
Bush’s statement said Schwarzkopf "epitomized the 'duty, service, country' creed that has defended our freedom and seen this great nation through our most trying international crises."
It added: "More than that, he was a good and decent man -- and a dear friend."
In a statement released by the White House, President Barack Obama called Schwarzkopf "an American original" who had made the United States “more secure because of his patriotic service."
Former Secretary of State Colin Powell, who was chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during Operation Desert Storm, described Schwarzkopf as "a great patriot and a great soldier" who served the United States “with courage and distinction for over 35 years.”
Current Defense Secretary Leon Panetta hailed Schwarzkopf as a "brilliant strategist and inspiring leader.” The statement noted Schwarzkopf's service in three U.S. conflicts: the Vietnam War, Grenada, and the first Gulf War.
Schwarzkopf was born in 1934 in Trenton, New Jersey. His father was a senior police official and U.S. general who, for a time, was posted in Iran to work with Iranian forces under Shah Reza Pahlavi.
As a young man, Schwarzkopf graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, and later studied guided-missile engineering at the University of Southern California.
In the Vietnam conflict, Schwarzkopf served two tours -- first as an adviser to a South Vietnamese airborne division in 1965, then as a battalion commander in his second tour in 1969-70.
He was wounded twice and won three Silver Stars for bravery. He is credited with rescuing men from his battalion who were trapped in a minefield in the Batangan Peninsula.
In 1988, he rose to become head of the U.S. Central Command, with responsibility for U.S. military operations and concerns around the Middle East and South Asia.
After the Gulf War, Schwarzkopf was successfully treated for prostate cancer in 1993.
He publicly supported George W. Bush in the 2000 and 2004 U.S. elections.
But he was ambivalent about Bush’s 2003 invasion of Iraq.
After initially supporting the invasion, he later raised questions about the lack of a plan for the future of Iraq's Sunni, Shi'ite, and Kurdish communities after Saddam's regime was toppled. He also cited concerns about the failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
Based on reporting by AP, Reuters, dpa, and AFP