Retired Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf, who commanded coalition forces during the Gulf War, died Dec. 27, a U.S. official said. He was 78.
After Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990, Schwarzkopf directed the buildup of 700,000 coalition troops. On January 17, 1991, they began a nearly six-week air assault of Iraqi forces that was followed by a swift ground campaign that pushed Saddam Hussein's forces out of Kuwait.
U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said the general left an indelible imprint on the military.
"General Schwarzkopf's skilled leadership of that campaign liberated the Kuwaiti people and produced a decisive victory for the allied coalition," Panetta said in a written statement. "In the aftermath of that war, General Schwarzkopf was justly recognized as a brilliant strategist and inspiring leader. Today, we recall that enduring legacy and remember him as one of the great military giants of the 20th century."
Former President George H.W. Bush, who is hospitalized, said the general was a "true American patriot and one of the great military leaders of his generation."
In 1988, Schwarzkopf was appointed commander of U.S. Central Command.
A Time magazine correspondent described the general, as he prepared his troops along the Kuwaiti border in 1990, as a man "with a John Wayne swagger and a growl like a grizzly."
The general earned the sobriquet "Stormin' Norman."
Schwarzkopf made a reputation as a plain-spoken commander when he gave media briefings during Operation Desert Storm.
He told a room full of his reporters: "As far as Saddam Hussein being a great military strategist, he is neither a strategist, nor is he schooled in the operational arts, nor is he a tactician, nor is he a general, nor is he a soldier. Other than that, he's a great military man, I want you to know that.