General H. Norman Schwarzkopf, Jr. was born in Trenton, New Jersey on August 22 in the year 1934. He was named after his father, who was a West Point graduate and a decorated veteran of the Armed Forces, much like the younger Schwarzkopf has now become. General Schwarzkopf himself graduated from West Point in 1956 and has become one of our generation's most brilliant military leaders. He retired in the fall of 1991, shortly after successfully leading the Allied Troops into the Persian Gulf War earlier that year.
Growing up as the youngest of three children, Schwarzkopf was taught from an early age that women were to be protected, that men were to protect them and that "Duty, Honor Country" would become the creed of his life. When his father was called overseas during the onset of World War II in August of 1942, he became the head of the family in his father's absence - at the young age of seven. Despite his young age, he tried to grasp the immense responsibilities that had been placed upon him. "My mother I thought I could handle. It was my sisters I was more worried about, since I had no control over anything my sisters did." (Schwarzkopf, 2)
Because of the difficult financial strain that his father's absence caused, Schwarzkopf began to look for ways to earn his own money. He took on a paper route, but quickly learned that he was not very good at it - he lasted only about three weeks. He then decided to sell seed packets to his neighbors, but failed quite miserably as well. The family had to make sacrifices, including moving out of their large house into a smaller rented one, and having to deal with the rations of gasoline during the war. Regardless of his entrepreneurial mishaps, Schwarzkopf learned a strong work ethic from both of his parents - his mother was a registered nurse and his father, aside from his military career, was the head of the New Jersey State Police for fifteen years. Schwarzkopf first recalls his dad's career as a police officer in reference to the Linden berg kidnapping that was so public at that time.
From the time he was twelve until his retirement at fifty-seven, Schwarzkopf's way of life was militarily based. The family was sent overseas to Tehran in 1953, where Schwarzkopf spent a year soaking up the atmosphere in the Middle East. A year later, he was sent off to school in Europe, where he learned to speak French and German. All the while, he aspired to follow in his father's footsteps at West Point, then the Army, where he knew he would one day become General.
After his West Point graduation in 1956, he was assigned to various tasks within the Army. He later served two tours during the Vietnam War. His first was as a paratrooper responsible for aiding Vietnamese airborne troops; the second was with him as the commander of an infantry battalion. He was awarded the Silver Star three times, and was wounded in battle twice. His older sister Sally made the comment that during Vietnam he "lost his youth." (Birnbaum, 28) After his time in the Vietnam War, Schwarzkopf was convinced that the U.S. should not involve itself in such a poorly supported (politically and publicly) war.
In 1983, it is said that the General contemplated Middle East relations and the very real possibility of a "gulf war" of sorts coming to pass. He feared that a hostile nation might try to takeover a neighbor, which is exactly what happened when Saddam Hussein led Iraq in the invasion of Kuwait in 1990. Schwarzkopf already had his plan in mind, and all that remained was for him to customize the plan specifically for the nations involved. His prophetic planning became the blueprint for Operation Desert Shield.
Operation Desert Shield was quickly upgraded to Operation Desert Storm. General Schwarzkopf was responsible for heading up the "biggest buildup of U.S. forces since Vietnam." (Birnbaum, 28) Schwarzkopf became the Commander in Chief of the Allied Forces, which totaled about 650,000 soldiers from 28 allied nations. Not to mention the ships, airplanes, and tanks that were used in the war. Then Defense Secretary Dick Cheney explained the plan in simple terms. It "is basically Norm's plan. It's fundamentally Norm's to execute." (Birnbaum, 28) The General described his mission in the Gulf War rather bluntly, "If Saddam were to attack, I would want to suck him into the desert as far as I could. Then I'd pound the living hell out of him. Finally, I'd engulf him and police him up. It's that simple." (Fischer, 52)
Despite the claim of victory after the short-lived Gulf War, much controversy came to light over the next few years regarding just how successful the U.S. was in destroying Saddam Hussein's hold on the Middle East. Former President Bush's political objective was to destroy the seven Republican Guard divisions in the Kuwait Theater of Operations. Unfortunately, this objective was never a stated one, and was never included in the operations plans for Desert Storm. Severe miscommunication between the White House and Schwarzkopf led to cease fire that left four of the seven Republican Guard divisions intact. By halting Desert Storm when they did, George Bush Sr., Dick Cheney, General Schwarzkopf and the U.S. Troops preserved Hussein's power base. In spite of the lingering doubts that followed the end of the war, the U.S. declared a victory over Hussein, and General Schwarzkopf became a military legend.
Life has been much different for Schwarzkopf after his retirement. He remains busy - he is the father of three and married to wife, Brenda. General Schwarzkopf devotes most of his time now to public speaking, and he is always in high demand. One of his most notable causes is an organization that he co-chairs with Steven Spielberg called "Starbright."
The Starbright Foundation is a foundation that is "dedicated to the creation of projects that empower seriously ill children and teens to address the challenges that accompany prolonged illness - and give them back their childhoods."(starbright.org) General Schwarzkopf serves as the Capital Campaign Chairman for the foundation, and has a sincere desire to not only help ease the pain of the ill children, but also to reach out to their families. The foundation has teamed up with Ronald McDonald House ® to provide children and teens with educational software to teach them in plain terms about their disease and what their bodies are going through. Other projects of the foundation include providing Barney interactive toys for pre-school age children going through chemotherapy treatments at no charge to the patients or the hospitals.
General Schwarzkopf has spent much of his retirement still involved in politics and the media in one way or another. On May 8, 2000, he received the Harry S. Truman Good Neighbor Award. Because so much of his acclaim is due to his role in the Gulf War, there is usually some sort of protestors at his speaking engagements, and this was no exception. Five protestors shouted (briefly before being removed from the luncheon) about whether the General considers the children of Iraq "neighbors" or not. The protestors were referring to the massive numbers of children who the U.N. claims are dead because of U.S. imposed sanctions. The count was at 500,000 in August of 1999 - with about 5,000 more added monthly. As with any war, the career of General Schwarzkopf may forever be tainted with Hussein's unfortunate legacy that doesn't seem to want to go away.
As the tragedy of last year's terrorist attacks on September 11 began to sink in, General Schwarzkopf became a frequent guest correspondent for such shows as The Today Show and NBC Nightly News.…