H. Norma Schwarzkoff sent me a letter dated 12 January 1991, with four days left in Operation Desert Shield and four days before before Operation Desert Storm began. Beneath a red flag with four gold stars, it reads:
COMMANDER IN CHIEF
UNITED STATES CENTRAL COMMAND
OPERATION DESERT SHIELD, APO NY 09852Dear Mr. Curley,
Thanks for sending me a copy of your letter to President Bush. Believe me when I say I will consider all options when it comes to achieving victory. It means a great deal to hear from fine citizens, such as you, who support our efforts in this time of world crisis.
Rest assured that the safety and well-being of my troops has been and will continue to be foremost on my mind. Have no fear, if it comes to war, we are not going into this one with one hand tied behind our backs.
Again, thanks for your support.
H. NORMAN SCHWARTZKOPF
General, U.S. Army
Funny thing is, I never sent a letter to General Schwartzkopf. On November 2, 1990, I did send a letter to President George H. W. Bush with the following strategy.
November 2, 1990
President George W. Bush
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, DC 20008
Dear Mr. President,
Considering substantial Iraqi armed forces due in and around Kuwait City, would it be effective for us to adopt a "desert island hopping strategy by going around the "island" of Kuwait and racing straight for Baghdad and the Hussein clique in the event of war?
This strategy follows centuries of American doctrine. General George Washington used it very effectively against a vastly superior force at Trenton. Germantown, etc. General Lee repeatedly beat 4 to 1 odds at critical battles during the Civil War by using such an attack strategy. His forces feigned to the front and then rolled rapidly to the left or right to quickly win over vast Union armies. General MacArthur realized early on he could never defeat the superior Japanese forces in WWII by taking them on man for man so he by-passed them time and again until he took Tokyo. Your military and strategic advisers can certainly cite many other examples of the effective use of this "by-passing" strategy drawn from numerous battles during these and other successful American wars.
These advisers are, not doubt, offering far wiser and more learned advice and options to you at present. I only write because I believe such a strategy, if adopted, will minimize losses. Although I feel a little self conscious about writing, I do so because I currently correspond with a host of marines located just ten miles from the Kuwait border. After arriving at his "desert island hopping" strategy, I believe I owe it to them -- in hopes of extending their precious lives -- to at least suggest it to you and your advisers for consideration.
May God grant you wisdom whatever course of action you take. My family and I will continue to keep you in our prayers.
Bruce V. J. Curley
Now, how did that letter get from the White House to General Schwartzkopf? I have no way of knowing.
I do know that when his letter arrived in June of 1991, well after the war ended in such a spectacular victory for us, my wife said, "Who do you know in Saudi Arabia?"
"No one." I replied.
"Well, this letter is addressed to you and it is from Saudi Arabia."
I looked at it and it had the four star flag on the outside, but no name. My son and I had been writing and sending things to about 32 service members, so it could have been one of them.
But when I opened it, sand grains feel out. These grains of sand rubbed the ink from the line, "...no fear, if it comes to war, we..." And it was the letter reproduced above.
What is remarkable is that a letter from an unknown civilian was analyzed in the White House, sent to the General, and that he took the time 4 days before the war to respond to it. I can't think of many countries where that could happen.
It is one small story in a fabled story that is General Schwartzkopf's life. Learn more about him. Especially if you are a junior officer in the military. He was a real general, in contrast to the perfumed prince generals numerous these days, politicians following whatever winds blow in the White House and willing to do anything to get ahead. Colin Powell, who stopped General Schwartkopf from going to Baghdad because of how the news media was showing the Iraqi soldiers deaths, is the kind of craven, politically driven, advance by plot rather than competence, that is the opposite of General Schwartzkopf. Sadly, he is the model of so many current generals who are so craven they print manuals saying that Taliban attacks on American troops are due to our troops insensitivity. God help us.
- It Doesn't Take a Hero" is his autobiography. I read it and reread it. Besides being a book about leadership, it is chock full with history. His father's and Norman's days in Tehran during WWII (and thus his deep insight into the muslim mind), with the Linburgh baby kidnapping alone is worth the read. But there are detailed insights. For example, at one point the Saudi's kept complaining the American tanks kept breaking down. This is weeks before Operation Desert Storm when he had a thousand other tasks to deal with. But he stopped, sent his top general to find out what was going on, and quickly learned that the Saudi's, all being lazy, had ignored their instructions to change the tank filters when they filled with sand. Instead of arguing, he had his men do it and added hundreds of tanks to his arsenal.
- Bio post death of General Schwartzkopf can be found here in the Tampa Bay Times.
- General Schwartzkopf's 14 Rules for Leaders can be found here.
- Leading Marines link on General Schwartzkopf's leadership.