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General H. Norman Schwarzkopf, USA

Congressional Gold Medal

There's nothing wrong with being afraid. And true courage is not not being afraid. True courage is being afraid, and going ahead and doing your job anyhow, that's what courage is.

Schwarzkopf’s graduation from West Point on June 5, 1956. He was commissioned a second lieutenant in the United States Army Infantry. (U.S. Military Archives)

From childhood, H. Norman Schwarzkopf dreamed of a military career. His father had gone to West Point and served in World War I. When the United States entered World War II, Schwarzkopf senior returned to active duty and rose to the rank of brigadier general. At war’s end, General Schwarzkopf was stationed in Iran, where he helped organize and train the national police force. Twelve-year-old Norman and the rest of the family joined him there in 1946. For the next few years, young Norman went to school in Iran, Switzerland, Germany and Italy. He became fluent in French and German and went from being an indifferent student to an outstanding one. After returning to the United States, he followed in his father’s footsteps at the United States Military Academy at West Point. Besides his military studies, Norman played on the football team, wrestled, sang and conducted the chapel choir. He graduated from West Point in 1956 with a bachelor’s of science in mechanical engineering and was commissioned second lieutenant.

Defense Secretary Frank C. Carlucci, center, transfers the reins of command of U.S. Central Command from U.S. Marine Corps General George B. Crist, left, to Army General H. Norman Schwarzkopf, November 1, 1988. Schwarzkopf was a Vietnam veteran and one of the architects of the western flanking movement that helped to defeat the Iraqi army during the Gulf War in early 1991. As commander of U.S. Centcom, he led the international coalition assembled by then-President George H. W. Bush that expelled Iraqi troops who had invaded Kuwait in August 1990. (Photo Credit: DOD file photo)
November 1988: Defense Secretary Frank C. Carlucci, center, transfers the reins of command of U.S. Central Command from U.S. Marine Corps General George B. Crist, to Army General H. Norman Schwarzkopf. Schwarzkopf was a Vietnam veteran and one of the architects of the western flanking movement that helped to defeat the Iraqi army during the Gulf War in early 1991. As commander of U.S. Centcom, he led the international coalition assembled by President George H. W. Bush that expelled Iraqi troops who had invaded Kuwait in August 1990.

He received advanced infantry and airborne training at Fort Benning, Georgia, before his first assignment, as executive officer of the 2nd Airborne Battle Group of the 187th Airborne Infantry Regiment at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. Next came stints with the 101st Airborne, and with the 6th Infantry in West Germany. He was aide-de-camp to the Berlin Command in 1960 and 1961, a crucial time in the history of that divided city.

1990-91: General Norman Schwarzkopf talks with General Colin Powell, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, during a press conference regarding the Gulf War.
1991: General H. Norman Schwarzkopf talks with General Colin L. Powell, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Norman Schwarzkopf returned to the United States and earned a master’s degree in mechanical engineering at the University of Southern California. His special field of study was guided missile engineering.

By 1965 he was back at West Point, teaching engineering. More and more of his former classmates were heading to Vietnam as advisors to the South Vietnamese army and, in 1965, Norman Schwarzkopf applied to join them. As task force advisor to a South Vietnamese Airborne Division, Schwarzkopf was promoted from captain to major. When his tour of duty in Vietnam was over, he returned to his teaching post at West Point.

In 1968, Major Schwarzkopf became a lieutenant colonel. In this same year, he married Brenda Holsinger and attended the Command and General Staff College at Leavenworth, Kansas. As U.S. casualties in Vietnam mounted, Colonel Schwarzkopf became convinced it was his duty to apply his training and experience there, where they might save the most lives. In 1969, Colonel Schwarzkopf returned to Vietnam as a battalion commander.

January 27, 1991: U.S. Army General Norman Schwarzkopf points to row of photos of Kuwait's Ahmadi Sea Island Terminal on fire after a U.S. attack on the facility. (AP Photo/Laurent Rebours, File)
January 27, 1991: General Schwarzkopf points to Kuwait’s Ahmadi Sea Island Terminal on fire after a U.S. attack.

One of the most remarkable incidents in a distinguished career happened on this tour. When Colonel Schwarzkopf received word that men under his command had encountered a minefield, he rushed to the scene in his helicopter. 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 injured but remained conscious. As the wounded man flailed in agony, the soldiers around him feared that he would set off another mine. Schwarzkopf, also injured by the explosion, crawled across the minefield to the wounded man and held him down 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, killing himself and the two men closest to him, and blowing the leg off of Schwarzkopf’s liaison officer. Eventually, Colonel Schwarzkopf led his surviving men to safety. He was awarded the Silver Star for his bravery but, more importantly to Norman Schwarzkopf, he cemented his reputation as an officer who would risk anything for the soldiers under his command.

General Norman Schwarzkopf (left) looks on as President George Bush speaks to reporters in 1991, at the White House. Bush praised him for leading a "fantastic" effort to fulfill U.S. obligations in the gulf. (Associated Press)
General Norman Schwarzkopf (left) looks on as President George Bush speaks to reporters in 1991, at the White House. Bush praised him for leading a “fantastic” effort to fulfill U.S. obligations in the gulf. (Associated Press)

Before the tour was up, Colonel Schwarzkopf would earn three Silver Stars and be wounded again. In 1971, he returned to the United States in a hip-to-shoulder body cast. The Army sent the young colonel to speak to civilian groups about the war, and Schwarzkopf was shocked at the depth of public hostility to the war and, increasingly, to the military. He came to believe that the government had embarked on a military venture with unclear objectives, no support from the public and a confused strategy that made victory impossible. For a time, he considered leaving the service, but determined that he would stay, and that any war fought under his command would be conducted very differently.

For the next 20 years, Schwarzkopf worked his way up the ladder, alternating between administrative positions in Washington and command assignments with infantry divisions throughout the U.S. and in Germany. In 1978 he attained the rank of brigadier general. Schwarzkopf’s star continued to rise. He was promoted to major general, and given command of the 24th Mechanized Infantry Division, at Fort Stewart, Georgia.

General H. Norman Schwarzkopf
General H. Norman Schwarzkopf planned and led Operation Desert Storm, a successful 100-hour ground offensive of more than 750,000 troops — which defeated the Iraqi Army and liberated Kuwait in 1991. A hard-driving military commander with a strong temper, Schwarzkopf was considered an exceptional leader and a military diplomat.

Within a year of receiving his second star, General Schwarzkopf found himself leading troops into battle. A coup had taken place on the tiny Caribbean island of Grenada. With Cuban assistance, the Grenadian revolutionaries were building an airfield which U.S. intelligence suspected would be used to supply insurgents in Central America. It was also feared that Americans studying on the island might be taken hostage. Since an amphibious landing was called for, the entire operation was placed under the command of an admiral, but General Schwarzkopf was placed in command of U.S. ground forces. He quickly won the confidence of his superior, and was named Deputy Commander of the Joint Task Force. While the Grenada operation proved more difficult than its planners had anticipated, the coup was quickly thwarted. Order was restored, elections scheduled, and the American students returned home unharmed.

U.S. Army General H. Norman Schwarzkopf, commander of U.S. Central Command, talks with U.S. Army Major General Barry McCaffrey, commanding general, 24th Infantry Division (Mechanized), while at the tent city of the 18th Airborne Corps, January 1, 1992. Schwarzkopf is visiting Allied units that took part in Operation Desert Storm. (Photo Credit: Staff Sgt. Dean W. Wagner )
U.S. Army General H. Norman Schwarzkopf, commander of U.S. Central Command, talks with U.S. Army Major General Barry McCaffrey, commanding general, 24th Infantry Division (Mechanized), while at the tent city of the 18th Airborne Corps, January 1, 1992. Schwarzkopf is visiting Allied units that took part in Operation Desert Storm.

In 1988, he received his fourth star and became a full general. He was appointed Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. Army Central Command. The Central Command, based at MacDill Air Force Base, near Tampa, Florida, is responsible for operations in the Horn of Africa, the Middle East and South Asia. In his capacity as commander, Schwarzkopf prepared a detailed plan for the defense of the oil fields of the Persian Gulf against a hypothetical invasion by Iraq. Within months, Iraq invaded Kuwait, and Schwarzkopf’s plan had an immediate practical application.

General Schwarzkopf was Commander-in-Chief of U.S. Forces in Operation Desert Shield, undertaken to prevent Iraq from moving against Saudi Arabia. Between August and January, he assembled 765,000 troops from 28 countries (541,000 were American), hundreds of ships, thousands of planes and tanks. When prolonged negotiations failed to dislodge Iraqi forces from Kuwait, Desert Shield became Desert Storm.

Army General Colin Powell, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, left, Army General H. Norman Schwarzkopf, commander of U.S. Central Command, and his wife, Brenda, ride in the welcome home parade, June 10, 1991, to honor the men and women who served in Desert Storm. (Photo Credit: Master Sgt. Wetterman)
June 10, 1991: General Colin Powell,  General H. Norman Schwarzkopf and his wife, Brenda, ride in the welcome home parade, to honor the men and women who served in Desert Storm. (Photo Credit: Master Sgt. Wetterman)

Allied forces carried out a six-week aerial bombardm ent of Iraq, to disrupt or destroy enemy communications, supply lines and infrastructure. Schwarzkopf feigned an amphibious landing on Kuwait, drawing the bulk of Iraqi forces and exposing their west flank to the Allied advance. Allied troops advanced quickly through Kuwait and into Iraq. With their communications destroyed, their supply lines cut and the Allies within 150 miles of Baghdad, the Iraqis began to surrender in massive numbers. Iraq accepted a cease-fire and, after only 100 hours, the ground fighting was over. Total casualties of the Allied forces were 115 killed in action, 330 wounded in action.

June 1991: General Colin L. Powell, USA and General H. Norman Schwarzkopf, USA at the Banquet of the Golden Plate ceremonies, which concluded the American Academy of Achievement’s 1991 “Salute to Excellence” program.
June 1991: General Colin L. Powell, USA and General H. Norman Schwarzkopf, USA at the Banquet of the Golden Plate ceremonies, which concluded the American Academy of Achievement’s 1991 “Salute to Excellence” program.

The General returned home to jubilant public celebrations and victory parades in New York, Tampa, and Washington, and addressed a joint session of Congress. General Schwarzkopf retired from the Army in 1992 and wrote his autobiography, It Doesn’t Take a Hero, in collaboration with Peter Petre. The General’s decorations include five Distinguished Service Medals, three Silver Stars, the Bronze Star, the Purple Heart, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the National Order of the Legion of Honor, and decorations from France, Belgium, the United Kingdom, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.

1992: It Doesn't Take a Hero: The Autobiography of General H. Norman Schwarzkopf Book by Norman Schwarzkopf Jr. and Peter Petre
1992: It Doesn’t Take a Hero: The Autobiography of General H. Norman Schwarzkopf by Norman Schwarzkopf Jr.

For many years after his retirement from the military, General Schwarzkopf maintained an active schedule of speaking engagements. In later years, he used his fame to raise public awareness of prostate cancer. In retirement, he enjoyed hunting, fishing and skeet shooting. He was a serious music lover whose tastes ran from grand opera to country and western. Norman and Brenda Schwarzkopf had three children: Cynthia, Jessica and Christian. General Schwarzkopf died of complications of pneumonia in Tampa, Florida at the age of 78.

Inducted Badge
Inducted in 1991

Not since Dwight Eisenhower in World War II had a military man won the affection of the American public to the degree that General H. Norman Schwarzkopf did. As commander of Operation Desert Storm, he gave the American people the satisfaction of seeing their armed forces triumph in a decisive confrontation with a hated enemy. After the frustration and heartbreak of the Vietnam war, this victory helped many Americans regain an almost-forgotten pride in their men and women in uniform. Credit for this went in large part to General Schwarzkopf, a visionary commander who won and kept the undying loyalty of his troops.

General Schwarzkopf was a second-generation West Point graduate. His father was also called General H. Norman Schwarzkopf. (The “H” stood for Herbert, a name Schwarzkopf senior hated so much he only gave his son the initial.) From West Point, the younger Norman Schwarzkopf served his country in Europe and all over the United States. He spent two separate tours of duty in Vietnam, where he was wounded twice and repeatedly decorated for bravery.

He saw action again as commander of U.S. ground forces in Grenada, and capped his career with the triumphant expulsion of the Iraqi army from Kuwait. He returned home to the hero’s welcome he and so many other Vietnam veterans had missed after their first experience of war. Although he retired from the army shortly after this triumph, General Schwarzkopf remains, for many Americans, the ideal of the American fighting man.

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Your career is terribly demanding: time away from family, not to mention putting your life, and many other lives, in danger. What turns you on about this life, General?

Norman Schwarzkopf: The troops. The people you lead. The duty that you’re performing. Believe me, nobody stays in the military to get rich. Nobody stays in the military and makes a success of it, I think, unless they are really called to do so.

Keys to success — Passion

Someone once said, you can divide man’s work into a calling, like a priest; a profession, like a doctor; a career, where you go from step, to step, to step, moving up a ladder of progression; or just a job, where you walk in every day and sort of punch a ticket. I find, the military is someplace between the calling and the profession. It’s something you’re identified with, you have a title, like a doctor has a title, and everybody calls you that. And yet, you also have to have this inner drive of service. West Point gave us a creed to live by: “Duty, Honor, Country.” And not everybody who graduates from West Point, of course, lives by that creed for their entire life, but I have. I mean, it just became a way of life for me.

While serving as Commander-in-Chief of the United States Central Command, General H. Norman Schwarzkopf, led all coalition forces in the Gulf War. General Schwarzkopf was the recipient of the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and the Congressional Gold Medal.

How do you define heroism?

Keys to success — Integrity

You know, heroism is in the eye of the beholders, it’s like beauty. Nobody says on the battlefield, “Well, I think I will now be a hero, and go do a heroic act.” You don’t do that. It’s people doing their job. That’s what they’re doing, they’re doing their job. And somebody else sees him and says, “Wow, boy, look at that, isn’t that heroic?” But, the people who are doing it don’t think at the time that they’re being heroes. They don’t think after the fact they’re being heroes. They just say, “I’m doing my job.”

Army General H. Norman Schwarzkopf, center, salutes as he arrives in front of the reviewing stand at the head of the National Victory Celebration parade. The day-long celebration, June 8, 1991, was being held in honor of the coalition forces that liberated Kuwait during Operation Desert Storm. (Photo Credit: DOD file photo )
General H. Norman Schwarzkopf, center, salutes as he arrives in front of the reviewing stand at the head of the National Victory Celebration parade. The celebration, June 8, 1991, was being held in honor of the coalition forces.

Is a general allowed to feel fear?

Norman Schwarzkopf: Sure, I hope so.

Keys to success — Courage

Anybody who says they’re not afraid of war is either a liar, or they’re crazy. And there’s nothing wrong with fear. I mean, fear is good. Fear will keep you alive in a war. Fear will keep you alive in business. Nothing wrong with being afraid at all, and everybody should understand that. And fear tends to cause you to focus, it tends to cause your adrenaline to run, it tends to cause you to do things, perhaps to see things in much, much sharper perspective at that instant. What is bad is when you allow that fear to turn into panic, and you allow that fear to petrify you to the point that you cannot perform whatever duty you have to do. That’s the thing that’s wrong with fear. But there’s nothing wrong with being afraid. And true courage is not not being afraid. True courage is being afraid, and going ahead and doing your job anyhow, that’s what courage is.

I’ve heard you speak very movingly about what makes a great leader. You talked about Rule 13. Can you explain that?

Norman Schwarzkopf: People need to understand what leadership is all about. Leadership is not managing an organization. Organizations are made up of people. Leadership is motivating people. Leadership is about people. So, yes. You’ve got to be competent. There’s no question about the fact that you have to have competence to be a leader, but you also have to have character. Good leaders are men of competence and character. Many times character is more important than the competence side of the house. So I tell people that the secret to modern leadership is two rules. Rule 13: When placed in command, take charge. The leader is the person who is willing to take the responsibility. There are a lot of other people out there who are willing to do the job, but they don’t want to get hung with the loss when it happens. As a leader, you have to be willing to take the responsibility. You have to be willing to take charge. So, Rule 13 says, “When placed in command, take charge.”

U.S. Army General Norman H. Schwarzkopf, commander of U.S. Central Command, speaks to U.S. soldiers inside a hangar while visiting a base camp during Operation Desert Shield, April 1, 1992. (Photo Credit: DOD file photo)
U.S. Army General Norman H. Schwarzkopf, commander of U.S. Central Command, speaks to U.S. soldiers inside a hangar while visiting a base camp during Operation Desert Shield, April 1, 1992. (Photo Credit: DOD file photo)

Which rule system is this?

Norman Schwarzkopf: It’s Norman Schwarzkopf’s rule system, okay? That’s what it says. But then Rule 14 comes into play, and this is very important.

Keys to success — Integrity

Rule 13 says, okay, I’ve got it. When placed in command, I take charge. But what do I do? The answer is Rule 14: Do what’s right. Because we all know, all of us know, basically, when placed in those circumstances, what the moral, what the ethical, what the correct thing to do is. We all know it. So, the true modern leader of today is the one that’s, number one, willing to take charge, and willing to do what’s right. That’s the secret of leadership.

Army General H. Norman Schwarzkopf, U.S. Central Command commander, left, greets U.S. Air Force personnel assigned to the 23rd Communications Squadron during Operation Desert Shield, January 23, 1991. (Photo Credit: Tech. Sgt. H.H. Deffner )
Army General H. Norman Schwarzkopf, U.S. Central Command commander, left, greets U.S. Air Force personnel assigned to the 23rd Communications Squadron during Operation Desert Shield, January 23, 1991. (H.H. Deffner)

It sounds like you have to rely on your instinct. Nobody tells you what’s right.

Norman Schwarzkopf: Sure. Did you ever try to make a speech about a subject you didn’t believe in? It’s a lousy speech. I can’t make a good speech about something I don’t believe in. I’ve tried, and it’s wooden, it’s not me.

Keys to success — Passion

You’ve got to believe in what you’re doing. If you don’t believe in what you’re doing, you’re not going to do it well. You truly have to believe in it. You have to believe that you’re doing what’s right. And I don’t think I could go to war — I mean I don’t think ultimately I could serve my country — if I thought we were doing something wrong. I think I would get out, I would leave. You don’t have to stay, you have an alternative. It’s not like the German generals who tried to justify what they did at the Nuremberg trials by saying, “I was only doing my duty.” That’s not right, because you have higher duties. You have a duty to your moral code, whatever it might be. You’ve got to do what’s right.

During a ceremony at defense forces headquarters, Major General Shaikh Khalifa Bin Ahmed Al-Khalifa, Minister of Defense, presents General Norman Schwarzkopf, commander of U.S. Central Command, with a sword in recognition of his role in the Allied success during Operation Desert Storm, March 26, 1991. (Photo Credit: Staff Sgt. Dean W. Wagner)
During a ceremony at defense forces headquarters, Major General Shaikh Khalifa Bin Ahmed Al-Khalifa, Minister of Defense, presents General H. Norman Schwarzkopf, commander of U.S. Central Command, with a sword in recognition of his role in the Allied success during Operation Desert Storm, March 26, 1991. (Sgt. Dean W. Wagner)

Did that gut feeling of what’s right ever take you in a kind of surprising direction? Did it cause you to change direction? Do you sometimes choose that gut instinct over what might be rational, or intellectually right?

Norman Schwarzkopf: There’s a lot of gut instinct that comes into everything you do as a leader. Leadership is an art, not a science. It cannot be reduced down to a piece of paper and a bunch of very simple mechanical equations that you apply to it, and out the end drops the answer, and you just go out and do that. That’s not what it’s about. So much of it is gut feeling. Some of it is risk-taking. You don’t take risks with your troops’ lives, though. You’ve got to have your priorities established. You’ve got to know what you believe in. You have to be well trained. You have to have confidence in yourself, you have to have confidence in your training. You get nothing for nothing. It’s hard work. You’ve got to work hard so that when that time comes, when you’ve got to make the tough decision, you’re able to make the decision. Nothing is more debilitating to an organization than a leader who won’t make a decision. The whole organization just stops and waits and nothing happens because a leader won’t make a decision. That can paralyze an organization. So you see Rule 13, again. When placed in command, you must take charge. You’ve got to make a decision.

President George H.W. Bush, left, and Army General H. Norman Schwarzkopf, commander of U.S. Central Command, walk to the reviewing stand at the beginning of the National Victory Celebration Parade, June 8, 1991. The day-long celebration was being held in honor of the coalition forces that liberated Kuwait during Operation Desert Storm. (Photo Credit: DOD file photo)
President George H.W. Bush and General H. Norman Schwarzkopf, commander of U.S. Central Command, walk to the reviewing stand at the beginning of the National Victory Celebration Parade, June 8, 1991. The day-long celebration was being held in honor of the coalition forces that liberated Kuwait during Operation Desert Storm.

Does luck come into play at all here?

Norman Schwarzkopf: Oh boy, does it ever. Somebody said, “If you give me a choice between doubt and luck, I’ll take luck every single time.” I believe that. I can think of many times in my career where I came to a fork in the road. I was convinced that I should have gone down one way, and instead I went down a different way. In hindsight you look back, if you’d gone down that first way you wouldn’t be where you are today. So luck is very important, sure it is.

What was wrong with the way America fought the Vietnam War?

Norman Schwarzkopf: I don’t know where to start.

First of all, it was a piecemeal commitment. We dribbled our troops in. One of the principles you learn from studying military history is if you’re going to go to war, you don’t piecemeal your troops in, because then they get chewed up and spit out in piecemeal. But it was a piecemeal commitment. We dribbled our troops in for years and years. It was always the light at the end of the tunnel. You know, give us 100,000 more and that sort of thing, and the light never came. Secondly, we didn’t use our full military power. We were fighting with one hand tied behind our back. We had this ridiculous situation where the enemy was across a border, and they could attack across the border and do anything they wanted to you, but when you prevailed and went to chase them, you had to stop at the border. You know, “Olly olly in free! I’m on the other side of the border and you can’t chase me.” That’s a crazy way to go about fighting a war. We didn’t project the power that we had. There’s some people who say that our objectives were not clear. I don’t know about that, but I certainly feel in hindsight that our war termination criteria were never clear to any of us. So all of that was the wrong way to go about fighting a war.

Army General H. Norman Schwarzkopf, commander of U.S. Central Command, accompanied by his wife, Brenda, waves to the cheering crowd during the welcome home parade honoring the men and women who served in Desert Storm, June 10, 1991. (Photo Credit: Tech. Sgt. Hans Deffner)
General H. Norman Schwarzkopf accompanied by his wife, Brenda, waves to the cheering crowd during the welcome home parade honoring the men and women who served in Desert Storm, June 10, 1991. (Hans Deffner)

What kind of reception did you get when you came home from Vietnam? I gather it wasn’t the hero’s welcome you got for the Persian Gulf War.

Norman Schwarzkopf: The first time I came home from the war I was confused because I had been so intensely involved in this thing called a war, and I came back to the United States, and it was like it wasn’t going on. This was 1966. The only families who were involved in the war were people who had loved ones over there. Nobody else seemed to much even know or care that the war was going on. When I came back in 1970 it was different because now we were being blamed for the war. The military, who were just doing their duty. Draftees, I mean kids that had been drafted in the military and sent to war, when they came back home were being blamed by the American people for the war. That’s intolerable. I mean, that’s terrible.

But a maturation process came about in the American people. In the Gulf War you didn’t run into that. I think they finally recognized that the members of the armed services are people who are just doing their duty because their country asked them to. They’re not the ones who caused the war itself. We got letters in the Gulf from people who would say, “I may not agree with the decisions that put you there, but now that you’re there, I’m supporting you. You’ve got my support.” I can’t tell you how many thousands of Vietnam veterans I’ve run into who threw their arms around me and just said, “Thank you, General, you made it all right. You vindicated us.” It’s amazing, but somehow, so many of them feel that they won in the Gulf War. That’s good stuff.

And it’s not only because you were victorious, but because of the response to the troops.

Norman Schwarzkopf: Many of the victory parades that were held included the Vietnam veterans. In my remarks before Congress, I very specifically mentioned the Vietnam veterans, and said we were proud to be joining their ranks. I wanted to make sure that they got the credit for what they’d done, too.

How did mistakes of the Vietnam War influence your battle plans in the Persian Gulf?

Norman Schwarzkopf: A lot. Both positive and negative.

Somebody once said, you learn more from negative leadership than you do from positive leadership, I believe that. I believe that very much. I was bound and determined that we weren’t going to repeat some of the mistakes that we made in the Vietnam War. I was bound and determined that if we were going to war, we were going to get it over with. We were going to use our full military might. And I would say to you, I’m very proud and very happy that our country, that our administration, that the President on down — Secretary of Defense — allowed us to do it that way. War is never the right thing to do, but if you have to fight a war, there is a right way to fight the war. That’s the way that will minimize your casualties, save the lives of the people who are out there fighting. Get it over with as fast as you can.

Retired Army General H. Norman Schwarzkopf gives an acceptance speech after receiving the Congressional Medal of Honor Society's Patriot Award during a ceremony in Shreveport, Louisiana, September 12, 2002. The Patriot Award is the society's highest award, presented to a distinguished American who exemplifies the ideals that make the United States strong. (Photo Credit: Master Sgt. Michael A. Kaplan)
2002: General Norman Schwarzkopf gives an acceptance speech after receiving the Congressional Medal of Honor Society’s Patriot Award during a ceremony in Shreveport, Louisiana. The Patriot Award is the society’s highest award, presented to a distinguished American who exemplifies the ideals that make the United States strong.

You’ve spoken before about a moral dilemma, when you were called to Grenada. How did you resolve that?

Norman Schwarzkopf: I had long since resolved the moral question in my mind. I did it after Vietnam. I did it when I had a choice to either get out of the military or stay in when I arrived at 20 years. I could have retired at 20 years, and I decided to stay in. So I had resolved the moral dilemma in my mind. Although I will say, when we were about to go into Grenada, the question flashes across my mind: “Grenada? What are we doing here? Are we getting involved in another Vietnam? Are we getting involved in another war that the American people are not going to support?” But the Gulf was the same thing, let me tell you what. The young troops over there were not afraid of the enemy. What they were afraid of was they were going to get involved in another war that the American people weren’t going to support. That’s what they were afraid of.

You learned in Grenada, I gather, not to underestimate the strength of an adversary.

Norman Schwarzkopf: I’ve never underestimated the strength of an adversary. But Grenada certainly brought that point home to me very, very clearly. In this case, everybody had just pooh-poohed the enemy, and said they weren’t going to fight, but they did. Of course, that’s “best case” planning. All of us learned to do “worst case” planning, so that’s not the way to plan it.

2006: General H. Norman Schwarzkopf attends the 21st Annual Great Sports Legends Dinner to benefit The Buoniconti Fund to Cure Paralysis at the Waldorf Astoria, September 19, 2006, in New York City. The event honors sports legends for their great athletic achievements and has raised more than 32 million dollars for spinal cord injury research at The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis. (Photo by Matt Szwajkos/Getty Images for Alan Taylor)
2006: General H. Norman Schwarzkopf attends the 21st Annual Great Sports Legends Dinner to benefit The Buoniconti Fund to Cure Paralysis at the Waldorf Astoria, September 19, 2006, in New York City. The event honors sports legends for their great athletic achievements and has raised more than 32 million dollars for spinal cord injury research at The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis. (Photo by Matt Szwajkos/Getty Images for Alan Taylor)

It seems incredible, but you were more or less planning the Desert Shield operation in your head, before there was a need to do it. What were your duties at the time this was going on?

Norman Schwarzkopf: I had been Commander-in-Chief of Central Command for almost two years when the war broke out. My responsibilities were to conduct any military operations that took place in the Horn of Africa, the Middle East and Southwest Asia. You could call it a lucky guess, maybe.

Keys to success — Vision

Norman Schwarzkopf: I had been Commander-in-Chief of Central Command for almost two years when the war broke out. My responsibilities were to conduct any military operations that took place in the Horn of Africa, the Middle East and Southwest Asia. You could call it a lucky guess, maybe.

I had studied the area and we had come to the conclusion that the worst-case scenario that we would have to face would be Iraq. I mean, Iraq had the fourth largest army in the world at that time. They had just won major victories against the Iranians. They had modern military equipment. So, when you looked around at the area and said, who is the worst enemy that you’d have to fight over there? It was Iraq. And we said, what’s the worst thing they could do? And that would be sweeping down and deciding to take over all the oil fields. So we decided that if that’s the worst-case scenario, then make sure that we plan to handle the worst-case scenario, and we could handle any lesser scenarios that might come up. So you might say we made a lucky guess and we were right.