By Carlo Munoz - 12/28/12 01:58 AM EST
Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf, one of they key military strategists behind the First Gulf War and the public face of that military effort, is dead at 78. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Schwarzkopf will be remembered as a "giant" in US military history.
The retired four-star Army general died Thursday night in Tampa, Fla. due to complications related to pneumonia. .
"General Schwarzkopf was justly recognized as a brilliant strategist and inspiring leader," Panetta said in a statement released shortly after Schwarzkopf's death.
"We recall that enduring legacy and remember him as one of the great military giants of the 20th century," Panetta said.
The decorated Vietnam veteran and former chief of U.S. Central Command was an "American original" whose legacy will continue to have an impact on American military operations in the Gulf region and across the globe, according to a White House statement.
"General Schwarzkopf stood tall for the country and Army he loved . . . his legacy will endure in a nation that is more secure because of his patriotic service," the White House said.
Schwarzkopf became a household name in the early 1990's for his almost nightly televised situation reports on Operation Desert Storm, the U.S.-led operation in 1991 to oust Iraqi forces from Kuwait.
Relying heavily on American air power and the Pentagon's emerging arsenal of precision-guided weapons, U.S. and coalition troops drove the forces of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait in less than a month and a half.
The speed and overwhelming force of the American assault on Iraqi forces earned Schwarzkopf the nickname of “Stormin’ Norman.” He retired from the armed forces shortly after the end of the Gulf war.
Along with two combat tours in Vietnam, Schwarzkopf also coordinated American landing forces in the invasion of Grenada in 1983, prior to Operation Desert Storm.
He was born in 1934 in Trenton, N.J.
Updated at 10:26 p.m.