Gulf War's General "Stormin" Norman Schwarzkopf dies

Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf, famed U.S. commander of the Gulf War, has died, U.S. and defense officials confirm. Schwarzkopf became a household name in 1991 as commanding general of Operation Desert Storm and the military coalition that drove Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein's invading troops out of Kuwait.

"With the passing of General Norman Schwarzkopf, we've lost an American original," said President Obama, in a statement. "Schwarzkopf stood tall for the country and Army he loved. Our prayers are with the Schwarzkopf family, who tonight can know that his legacy will endure in a nation that is more secure because of his patriotic service."

President George H.W. Bush also released a statement, according to KHOU television news in Houston, saying, "Barbara and I mourn the loss of a true American patriot and one of the great military leaders of his generation. A distinguished member of that Long Gray Line hailing from West Point, General 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. More than that, he was a good and decent man -- and a dear friend. Barbara and I send our condolences to his wife Brenda and his wonderful family."

Long before the Iraq War of 2003 gave the world Gens. Tommy Franks, George Casey, David Petraeus, or Ray Odierno, the Persian Gulf gave us "Stormin" Norman.

Schwarzkopf led an operation involving more than 600,000 U.S. troops who had amassed in the Middle East following Hussien's invasion of Kuwait in 1990.  The participating nations marked the 20th anniversary of the liberation of Kuwait, last year.

The swift and stunning U.S.-led victory at the tail end of the Cold War was a rare spate of hot American military action since the Vietnam War. It also unfolded live and in real time on cable news, making instant celebrities of the military and Pentagon leadership at the time, including then-Defense Secretary Dick Cheney. Virtually all Western media outlets were expelled from Baghdad before U.S. bombs began to fall ahead of the ground invasion. But CNN carried live video and audio, with anchor Bernard Shaw's now famous call, "The skies over Baghdad have been illuminated," to a captivated American audience watching the war, live from their living rooms.

"America lost a great patriot and a great soldier," said retired Gen. Colin Powell, who served as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to Bush during the war, in a statement posted to his Facebook page. "Norm served his country with courage and distinction for over 35 years. ...His leadership not only inspired his troops, but also inspired the nation. He was a good friend of mine, a close buddy. I will miss him."

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said, Schwarzkopf "left an indelible imprint on the United States military and on the country," noting the general earned three Silver Stars over two tours in Vietnam and commanded Central Command.

"General Schwarzkopf’s skilled leadership of that campaign liberated the Kuwaiti people and produced a decisive victory for the allied coalition.  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.  My thoughts and prayers are with the Schwarzkopf family in this time of sadness and grief."

Gen. Martin Dempsey, Joint Chiefs chairman, in a statement said he was saddened by Schwarzkopf's passing, calling the him "one of the 20th century's finest soldiers and leaders."

Schwarzkopf died at his home in Tampa, Fla. this afternoon at 2:20pm, surrounded by his family, a U.S. official told the E-Ring. "He passed after battling a long illness," the official said. The illness was not disclosed.

J. DAVID AKE/AFP/Getty Images