Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf Dies at 78

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FILE - In this Sept. 14, 1990 file photo, U.S. Army Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf, commander of U.S. forces in Saudi Arabia, answers questions during an interview in Riyadh.  Schwarzkopf died Thursday, Dec. 27, 2012 in Tampa, Fla. He was 78. (AP Photo/David Longstreath, File)
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H. Norman Schwarzkopf, the retired general credited with leading U.S.-allied forces to a victory in the first Gulf War, has died at age 78, a U.S. official confirmed to ABC News.

He died today in Tampa, Fla., a U.S. official told the Associated Press.

Schwarzkopf, sometimes called "Stormin' Norman" because of his temper, actually led Republican administrations to two military victories: a small one in Grenada in the 1980s and a big one as de facto commander of allied forces in the Gulf War in 1991.

"'Stormin' Norman' led the coalition forces to victory, ejecting the Iraqi Army from Kuwait and restoring the rightful government," read a statement by former Secretary of State Colin Powell, who was chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the Gulf War. "His leadership not only inspired his troops, but also inspired the nation."

Schwarzkopf's success during what was known as Operation Desert Storm came under President George H.W. Bush, who said today through his office that he mourned "the loss of a true American patriot and one of the great military leaders of his generation."

"Gen. Norm Schwarzkopf, to me, epitomized the 'duty, service, country' creed that has defended our freedom and seen this great nation through our most trying international crises," Bush said. "More than that, he was a good and decent man -- and a dear friend."

Bush's office released the statement though Bush, himself, was ill, hospitalized in Texas with a stubborn fever and on a liquids-only diet.

Schwarzkopf, the future four-star general, was born Aug. 24, 1934, in Trenton, N.J. He was raised as an army brat in Iran, Switzerland, Germany and Italy, following in his father's footsteps to West Point and being commissioned as a second lieutenant in 1956.

Schwarzkopf's father, who shared his name, directed the investigation of the Lindbergh baby kidnapping as head of the New Jersey State Police, later becoming a bridgadier general in the U.S. Army.

The younger Schwarzkopf earned three Silver Stars for bravery during two tours in Vietnam, gaining a reputation as an opinionated, plain-spoken commander with a sharp temper who would risk his own life for his soldiers.

"He had volunteered to go to Vietnam early just so he could get there before the war ended," said former Army Col. William McKinney, who knew Schwarzkopf from their days at West Point, according to ABC News Radio.

In 1983, as a newly-minted general, Schwarzkopf once again led troops into battle in President Reagan's invasion of Granada, a tiny Caribbean island where the White House saw American influence threatened by a Cuban-backed coup.

But he gained most of his fame in Iraq, where he used his 6-foot-3, 240-pound frame and fearsome temper to drive his troops to victory. Gruff and direct, his goal was to win the war as quickly as possible and with a focused objective: getting Iraq out of Kuwait.

"If it had been our intention to take Iraq, if it had been our intention to destroy the country, if it had been our intention to overrun the country, we could have done it unopposed," he said at a military briefing in 1991.

He spoke French and German to coalition partners, showed awareness of Arab sensitivities and served as Powell's operative man on the ground.

Powell today recalled Schwarzkopf as "a great patriot and a great soldier," who "served his country with courage and distinction for over 35 years."

"He was a good friend of mine, a close buddy," Powell added. "I will miss him."

Schwarzkopf retired from the Army after Desert Storm in 1991, writing an autobiography, becoming an advocate for prostate cancer awareness, serving on the boards of various charities and lecturing. He and his wife, Brenda, had three children.

Schwarzkopf spent his retirement in Tampa, home base for his last military assignment as commander-in-chief of U.S. Central Command.

ABC News' Dana Hughes, Gina Sunseri and Polson Kanneth contributed to this report.

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