H. Norman Schwarzkopf, four-star general and commander of U.S. Central Command during the first Gulf War, died today at the age of 78. Schwarzkopf was a national hero following the triumph of the forces under his command in Iraq — in a speech following the conflict, President George H. W. Bush remarked, “this victory also belongs to the one the British call ‘the man of the match’ — the tower of calm at the eye of Desert Storm, General Norman Schwarzkopf” (Saturday Night Live famously portrayed the general . . . otherwise). Schwarzkopf was the son of an Army man who worked for the U.S. government in Iran during the general’s childhood, and attended West Point like his father.
During one combat incident in Vietnam, then-colonel Schwarzkopf particularly distinguished himself, the New York Times explains:
On May 28, the colonel ordered his helicopter down to rescue troops who had wandered into a minefield. Some were airlifted out, but he stayed behind with his troops. A soldier tripped a mine, shattering his leg and wounding the colonel, who crawled atop the thrashing victim to stop him from setting off more mines. Three other troopers were killed by an exploding mine, but the colonel led the survivors to safety. The incident sealed his reputation as a commander willing to risk his life for his men.
For his heroism that day, Schwarzkopf was awarded a Silver Star, one of three which he was awarded for his actions in Vietnam.