As Washington and Baghdad Gird for Battle, America's Desert Leader Is a General Who Is Known as the Bear
Exactly how the Gulf crisis will play out from here, however, is another matter. The one certainty is that if it does come to a shooting match, Schwarzkopf will be the man running the war for the U.S. Since the invasion nearly four weeks ago, Schwarzkopf has been logging 17-hour days in the War Room. He looks out over a huge hall known as the Crisis Action Center; there, scores of military personnel bustle among consoles that project the latest reports on intelligence and troop movements on four 10-foot by 10-foot panels. As commander of Operation Desert Shield, he is responsible not only for the deployment of troops, but also for all air and naval activities in the Gulf, including the interception of ships going to and from Iraq. Last week he was making preparations to move his command to the thick of things in Saudi Arabia, which suited him just fine. "I'm an action guy," says Schwarzkopf, whose nickname, the Bear, perfectly describes his burly, 6'3" frame.
Given his upbringing, that taste for the martial life is hardly surprising. Schwarzkopf's father, Herbert Norman, was the son of German immigrants who spoke no English at home. Nevertheless he graduated from West Point and after a stint in the Army became the first superintendent of the New Jersey State Police. During his tenure he earned nationwide fame as the lead investigator in the Lindbergh baby kidnapping case. When his father rejoined the Army during World War II and resumed his military career, young Norman and the rest of the family began traveling all over the world. Eventually he too entered West Point, graduating 42nd out of 485 in the class of 1956.
For military men of Schwarzkopf's generation, of course, Vietnam proved a defining experience. In 1965, Schwarzkopf went to South Vietnam as an adviser; he ultimately did two tours and won a raft of medals. He also played a role in a controversial incident that later became the subject of the book Friendly Fire by C.D.B. Bryan. The parents of a GI named Michael Mullen, who was killed in 1970 by U.S. artillery, originally blamed Schwarzkopf, the battalion commander. But Bryan's investigation exonerated Schwarzkopf, who emerges from the book as a courageous and honorable officer.
It was during one of his interludes back at West Point that Schwarzkopf met his future wife, Brenda, a TWA flight attendant. Since then the Schwarzkopf's, who have two daughters, Cindy, 20, Jessica, 18, and a son, Christian, 13, have lived the classic life of an Army family, moving at least 16 times and enduring frequent periods apart. Brenda recalls one Sunday in October 1983 when her husband, then a major general, was called to work. "He came back," says Brenda, 49, "and said, 'I have to go. I can't tell you where.' " Two days later she turned on the TV and learned of the U.S. invasion of Grenada.
In orchestrating Operation Desert Shield, Schwarzkopf has had to contend with more than the usual logistical nightmares. There is, certainly, the 120°F heat and the threat of chemical and biological weapons. But as the Commander in Chief—the C-in-C (pronounced "sink") in Army parlance—no detail is too small for Schwarzkopf's attention. Seeking to protect the sensibilities of host Saudi Arabia, he dictated that U.S. troops leave their girlie magazines at home; nor could any booze be brought into the kingdom, whose alcohol laws are as bone-dry as its climate. Whatever happens, this is likely to be Schwarzkopf's last major command, since he plans to retire next summer after 35 years in the Army. He permits himself only a hasty glimpse of what life will be like when it returns to normal. "I want to come home and be with my family, then go out with all my buddies and shoot sporting clays and then probably go fishing," he says. "But we're a long way from that right now."
—Bill Hewitt, Linda Kramer at MacDill Air Force Base