Twenty-two years to the day when Operation Desert Storm ended, the general who commanded that allied ground offensive was laid to rest at West Point, N.Y. A memorial service for retired Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf, a U.S. Military Academy Class of 1956 graduate, was held at the Cadet Chapel Feb. 28 with family, friends and colleagues in attendance. (Photo by Tommy Gilligan USMA PAO)
WEST POINT, N.Y. (Feb. 28, 2013) — Twenty-two years to the day when Operation Desert Storm ended, the general who commanded the coalition force ground offensive was laid to rest at West Point, N.Y.
A memorial service for retired Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf, a U.S. Military Academy Class of 1956 graduate, was held at the Cadet Chapel Feb. 28 with family, friends and colleagues in attendance.
Following the service, Schwarzkopf was buried near his father, Maj. Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf Sr., at the West Point Cemetery. His father, a 1917 USMA graduate and cavalry officer, was a World War I veteran and founder of the New Jersey State Police and served as its first superintendent. A contingent of N.J. State Police officers , and also more than 100 USMA cadets, senior leaders and staff and faculty, attended the services.
Retired Maj. Gen. Leroy Suddath delivered the first memorial tribute, having met Schwarzkopf at the academy 61 years ago. At 21, Suddath had three years of college but admitted to not being so academically-inclined when he entered West Point. Having Schwarzkopf for a roommate was truly fortunate. At 17, Schwarzkopf was among the youngest in the Corps of Cadets and his classmates benefited from his knowledge of Middle Eastern culture and his dedication to the motto of “Duty, Honor, Country.”
“He was a leader in the Corps of Cadets and, for Norman, academics were a piece of cake,” Suddath said. “He spent more time helping his roommates than on his own studies.”
Schwarzkopf graduated 43rd among 480 cadets in the Class of 1956 and commissioned from West Point as an infantry second lieutenant. After earning his master’s in mechanical engineering from the University of Southern California, Schwarzkopf returned to West Point where he instructed cadets for two years in the Department of Mechanical Engineering.
Schwarzkopf served two tours in Vietnam, served in Grenada as an Army advisor to the Navy and later became commander-in-chief of the U.S. Army Central Command.
But it was his presence during the Gulf War as he commanded a coalition force of more than 700,000 troops from 34 nations that captured the world’s attention. Schwarzkopf became famous for his engaging personality during televised press conferences from Kuwait–a command performance of firsts in the dawn of a 24-hour news cycle.
Suddath said Schwarzkopf’s leadership in the war guaranteed his place as one of the all-time great commanders of the U.S. Army and credits the general for being a visionary of superior intellect. Shunning pressure to enter politics, Schwarzkopf focused his post-Army career toward charitable causes.
“He was a strong supporter of the Starlight Foundation, an organization dedicated to rescuing children from abusive situations. He was a champion for the wounded warriors … and a national spokesperson for cancer awareness,” Suddath said. “He never wavered from a life of duty, honor, country.”
Suddath said Schwarzkopf possessed the morality and intelligence to command the respect of an entire nation and left behind a great legacy.
“He was not just a bright light in the Long Gray Line, he was one of the brightest lights in the Long Gray Line and we will miss him,” he added.
Former Secretary of State Colin Powell, also speaking at the memorial, was an ROTC graduate at City College of New York and, like Schwarzkopf, commissioned in the infantry.
Powell spoke of working with Schwarzkopf and former Vice President Dick Cheney in the Joint Chiefs of Staff as the military was preparing for a post-Cold War strategy.
“(He) had the greatest intellectual understanding of the need for change,” Powell said, in making the case for a reduction to a smaller yet fully capable force.
Powell, serving as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in 1990-91, said the precise planning Schwarzkopf did in response to Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait went largely unchanged and would become Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. The American people were surprised by what they saw on television every day, Powell said, of the young men and women trained to fight with discipline, honor and respect. Schwarzkopf was adept at articulating the actions of the coalition force to the world.
“He gained the full confidence of the American people,” Powell said.
Schwarzkopf would share stories with Powell, day and night, about these servicemembers and become animated in his recollections.
Powell said Schwarzkopf left an indelible impression in American history and will forever be remembered as “Stormin’ Norman,” “The Bear,” and a man whose dedication to his troops led them to victory and whose larger than life personality “lit up the country and lit up the world.”
Cynthia Schwarzkopf presented a more intimate portrait of her father, one who could relax in his recliner while listening to Pavarotti or the “Les Miserables” soundtrack and then appear onstage the next day singing alongside Johnny Cash. In a lifetime of international travel, having slept in luxurious palaces and hotels, she said he was equally comfortable sleeping in tents and drinking day-old hot chocolate on a family camping trip.
“Where the public remembers the war hero, dressed in desert camouflage or wearing a uniform decorated with medals and ribbons, we remember a father who would dress up in clown costume … to perform magic tricks at our childhood birthday parties,” she said.
Choking back tears, she spoke more of the father and husband than of the general the public knew. She remembered the West Point instructor who took pride in molding cadets into Army officers, then would come home to make sure his children were practicing their multiplication table flash cards.
Schwarzkopf was 78 when he died of complications from pneumonia on Dec. 27, 2012 in Tampa, Fla. Cynthia said following his death, the family found televised tributes to Schwarzkopf cathartic and healing, shifting them from mourning the loss to celebrating his memory.
“In life, when duty called, he was there,” she said. “Duty, honor, country was his creed. Doing what was right was his guide.”