"Cometh the hour, cometh the man" is an adage that was penned for men such as General H. Norman Schwarzkopf.
It is very easy for Englishman to prefer British heroes over those from other countries. Some might say it is even easier for United States citizens to acknowledge the achievements of their own citizens whilst deprecating those of any other nation. Eisenhower, for example, was a great man - but so was Montgomery!
This book, however, is about a man who is not in open comparison to any. He tells an account of his own life which, as others have already stated, is so honest as to be brutally so. How odd that the fickle finger of fate is able to steer any man towards his ultimate destiny. What if Eisenhower (or even Montgomery) had joined the Navy?, what if Norman Schwarzkopf had railed against his father's wishes and "not" joined the US Army?
But they did and I am unable to avoid that cliché which demands that "the rest is history." Having said that, I would suggest General Schwarzkopf's contribution to that history is as great as any man's.
Other reviewers have sought to express their views in their own ways and quite rightly so! Some of those reviews give the reader a quick impression - "it's a great book" and all that, whereas others seek to paraphrase the book and, is so doing give the reader a better impression of what is found within it's pages.
Me, well, for the very first time in a long time, I feel as though I have read a book. Just think about that. Take a moment to look at any of my book reviews, then click on that button which says "see all my reviews" and you will see what I mean. Some of those books are on subjects I feel very passionate about. Some are great books and well worth the 5 star rating given. Others are less than ordinary and not even worth the single star one is required to donate to the charitable cause that best describes that particular offering in print.
Then I find a biography from a retired general who came to prominence during the first Gulf War, the biography of a man who recognised it does not take a hero to order men into battle, the biography of an ordinary bloke who did good, served his country and the cause of freedom well and expects nothing in return.
Buy it. Read it. Only then will you also appreciate what I mean by having "read" a book. There will come a time when you will read it again.
Retired British Army major.
on October 2, 2001
I read this autobiography just as the terrorist attacks occured...it was like deja vu, reading that Schwarzkopf, Cheney, Powell and President Bush were in the same kind of talks 10 years ago as they obviously are today.
To characterize Gen.H.Norman Schwarzkopf as a man and a great leader, it only takes this quote from his Farewell Remarks to Departing Troops in Saudi Arabia on March 8, 1991:
"...And you are going to take back the fact that ISLAM is not a word to be feared. It's a religion to be respected just as we respect all other nations. That's the American way."
on December 20, 2001
The service was excellent and the book from Redstone books was in excellent condition. Eaglecandy is excellent too. keep up the good work.
on May 14, 2013
An honest story, which will inspire many, all over the world for years to come . I didn't put it down, cover to cover.
on October 7, 1999
A very good book that brings Norm to a personal level in which you understan true character and patriotism.
on June 23, 2004
This is a great book written like a novel. Norm takes us with him, we feel like we are there reliving his life events. We also get to see the softer side of Stormin Normin, as he nearly punches out a MP in Vietnam who was less than respectful of an asian college. Softer, you ask? Read the rest of the book to see what he gets like when mad. I also liked the part of the book where Norm was talking about the problem with the NVA attacking, then running across the Cambodia border so the USA Army could not attack. One day Norms platoon is attacked and the NVA runs away, so Norm calls another soilder and asks for the map. The other soilder points to Cambodia and says "they crossed the border". Norm takes the map, licks his thumb, and proceeds to erase/smudge the part of the map that shows the border. Norm then says "Nah, they are still in Vietnam, lets go get em".
Just be warned, after reading this book you might feel like going to the local Army recruiting station. It is a great book!
on January 1, 2003
"It doesn't take a Hero" is the remarkable story of a remarkable man, the title of which comes from a quote Schwarzkopf gave during an interview with Barbara Walters in 1991; "It doesn't take a hero to order men into battle. It takes a hero to be one of those men who goes into battle."
Schwarzkopf's story is very different from his compatriot, the now Secretary of State, Colin Powell. The two men are of completely different temperaments, and their tales are told in ways that reflect their personalities. Powell's book is rather dry, with the occasional flash of self-depreciatory humor... and you get the feeling that this was included on the advice of his co-author!
"It doesn't take a Hero" is full of blunt, sometimes brutal, soldiers wit; one of the funniest examples concerns a Sergeant who swore relentlessly, and had to tell his assembled troops that they were now being commanded by a Colonel - not Schwarzkopf by the way - who didn't take to profanity in any way, shape, or form. The sergeant lined them up, and cursing with practically every other word, told them to cut out the ... swearing or else! Although this may look terribly contrived, when you read the book, you simply know that it happened, just the way Schwarzkopf says it did.
When you read Powell's story you respect him for what he achieved, mainly his rise from immensely humble origins to high political office, but when you read Schwarzkopf's, you can't help but like the man, warts and all.
As well as the brutal humor, Schwarzkopf is also brutally honest about his home life. He came from a well-to-do middle class family, his father was a West Point graduate, who later led the hunt for the Lindbergh kidnappers, and served President Roosevelt on a special assignment in Iran between the Great Wars. They lived in the best house in their town, and even employed a maid, but there was a dark family secret... his mother's alcoholism. The hurt and the pain this caused himself, his father and sisters, is dealt with openly and honestly, and you cannot help but feel that the inclusion of this was a very difficult decision for him to make.
The part of the book that deals with his duties in Vietnam is very well written, and like Powell, he also rails against the stupidity and arrogance of the politicians and 'Brass' who ordered young men to lay down their lives in that far away land for no good reason. And like Powell, he became equally convinced that he had to do something to change the army from within; it was either that or resign. In that respect he and Powell were remarkably similar in their thoughts and actions.
But far and away the most interesting part of the book is his telling of the Gulf War, Desert Storm. It is probably true to say that without "Stormin'" Norman, there wouldn't have been a, successful, Gulf War. His experiences in the Middle East as a young man, he lived with his father when he was posted to Iran, gave him a unique insight into the Arab world that served him personally, and the coalition as a whole, very well indeed.
He was able to play on the links his father had with Arab Royalty, and then forged his own links with the current Saudi Royal Family, working with Crown Princes on a first name basis to get things done, everything from releasing endless millions of dollars in payments to the US - what is the daily rental on an aircraft carrier?! - to arranging for "tent cities" to be erected to shield the incoming troops from the scorching desert sun.
But for me, the most interesting aspect of the Gulf War section was the politics of the coalition, especially in the Arab world, something that was almost completely missing in Colin Powell's telling. In this crucial, although mostly unknown area of the War, Schwarzkopf's experiences in the Middle East were invaluable. Middle Eastern politics are a lethal mine field at the best of times - us Brits have had our fingers burnt on more than one occasion over the years! - and pouring hundreds of thousands of free thinking, free drinking, Western troops of endless religious and moral persuasions into the autocracy that is the kingdom of Saudi Arabia, should have been a recipe for utter disaster!
Schwarzkopf's deft handling of the endless 'difficulties' involving religious services, the consumption of alcohol, the reading of magazines of dubious 'artistic' merit, even the receiving of Christmas cards and the erection of Christmas decorations, were handled with a skill and subtlety that one would not have thought a mere 'soldier' possible. And then of course there was the Israeli question. The one thing above all else that would have blown the coalition apart would have been Israel attacking Iraq in retaliation for the Scuds that fell on Israeli territory. Although much of the efforts to keep Israel out of the action were handled direct from Washington, Schwarzkopf's handling of the Saudi's in particular, on the ground as it were, was masterful.
"It doesn't take a Hero" is a fascinating tale, a real inspiration, it shows what one man can achieve through clear thinking, a positive attitude, boundless enthusiasm, and a profound love, not only of his own country, but of mankind. I would recommend it highly.
on December 5, 2002
While it's been many years since I was in the army, reading this book, as I followed the details of both Schwarzkopf's personal and public life, I felt as though I was there with him. And I was comfortable metaphorically traveling through the life of a born determined soldier.
Regardless of what you may think of the Gulf War, or of the military, this is a wonderful story about someone who is determined to live the life that he has been sent here to live.
"It Doesn't Take a Hero," reflects his message, "No matter your history, or the history of the organization in which you most identify with, you can still reach your highest dreams."
This book will make you laugh quite a bit, as you follow his determination to avoid politics, and remain true to his basic soldiering identity. This is not to say that he would be less of a leader, nor less of a person to have aimed for a political position. He became the soldier that all of his life experiences led him to be.
As I read this, I could almost hear his voice, jokes and all.
Military leaders often have statues raised to them. Some go on to become U.S. presidents (including Washington, Grant, and Eisenhower). When General H. Norman Schwarzkopf retired from the U.S. Army, there was not even a ceremony -- unless you call getting handed your retirement papers a ceremony. Although that seems ungrateful for a man who led the allied troops so well in Desert Storm, it somehow seems fitting for this man. In this appropriately titled autobiography, It Doesn't Take a Hero, General Schwarzkopf shows himself to be a man focused on the tasks ahead of him as a servant leader rather than as a man searching for a hero's accolade.
Although General Schwarzkopf accomplished a lot, you get the sense from this book that these accomplishments were heavily influenced by a father, also a West Pointer and U.S. general by the same name. From the time he was quite young, his father and mother made it clear that he was to go to West Point. Clearly, being a dutiful, good son was his primary priority throughout his life. While many will excuse any failings in their own lives by having had a dysfunctional family, General Schwarzkopf seemed to roll with the punches. His mother suffered from alcoholism, no doubt influenced by his father's long overseas assignments in Iran.
Two particular elements of his life story particularly affected me. While a young officer, he often encountered older, senior officers who disgusted him with their lack of attention to duty and lying. Rather than fleeing from this corrupt connection, he soldiered on encouraged by good officers who pointed out that the system could only be cleansed by good officers rising to the top. He also liked virtually nothing about what he saw in the Vietnam War (either in Vietnam or on the home front), and internalized those lessons for running his own combat commands in Desert Shield and Desert Storm. As a result, loss of life was kept to a minimum, the culture of our Saudi hosts was honored, and politics was kept from shortchanging the troops.
I had a chance to hear General Schwarzkopf speak a few years ago. I'll always remember his advice to the audience about leadership. "Be the leader you would like to have." I would rather have that kind of leader than a hero any day.
Understanding that General Schwarzkopf had extensive experience in Iran and Europe as a youngster helped me to appreciate how lucky we were to have a talented general who also knew and appreciated Arabs and their culture. If you are like me, you will enjoy his reactions to the first times he was honored with foods that Americans normally don't eat. Like a good soldier, he popped them right down.
I also appreciate the candor in the book about his own failings and losses of temper, especially. Some autobiographies airbrush out any flaws or blemishes. That's essential to the myth of the hero. Showing the realities, on the other hand, legitimately can inspire all of us to overcome our faults to accomplish what needs to be done.
I recently read Stephen Ambrose's book, Citizen Soldiers, about the battles in northwestern France following D-Day through to the surrender of Germany. I was struck by how much of the top general's job involved diplomacy both with politicians and field commanders. I hope that lesson will be remembered as we begin our new task of stopping terrorism, and as we educate the next generation of military leaders.
After you read this book, think about a leader in your organization. What lessons from this book would apply to helping that leader? How can you assist that leader in being able to uncover and benefit from those lessons?
"Be the leader you would like to have."
on July 17, 2000
This is an excellent book that covers the life of a General ahead of his time.
At the close of his autobiography, Schwarzkopf lists, and answers, common questions that are asked of him. One of his responses to the issue of the future of the U.S. Army clearly demonstrates how "ahead of his time" he is in his thinking. Schwarzkopf, in his characteristically analytic vein, suggests the downsizing of the U.S. Army needs to be the result of a thorough analysis of the potential risks and rewards; not an arbitrary "shifting of funds." This forward-thinking policy, while seemingly obvious to a layman, is a project currently under way in the Department of Defense.
Perhaps the most obvious example of how ahead of his time Schwarzkopf really was is his list of the "big five." This is a list of goals that he would aim for as a division commander. The big five were: 1) to make sure the division was combat-ready, 2) to take care of the soldiers, 3) to take care of the soldiers' families, 4) to encourage camaraderie and cohesion at every level of the 24th, and 5) to teach subordinates [as he had been taught by his mentors]. While this list was similar to the "big four" that Warner had given Schwarzkopf at Fort Lewis, the "big five" incorporated elements from the many lessons he had learned in his diverse career in the Army. This integration of knowledge and creative thinking put him well ahead of his time in the bureaucratic Armed Forces.
His desire to find ways to establish himself as a leader, using the "big five" as a mold, is another example of Schwarzkopf's forward-looking leadership style. Upon his arrival at Fort Stewart, he was "on the lookout for ways to establish myself as the leader from the moment I set foot on the base." All of the above listed attributes, combined with his ability to work with military and political leaders of other countries made Schwarzkopf a "general ahead of his time."