"If we weren't playing cops and robbers, we were playing cowboys and Indians," a boyhood friend of Norman Schwarzkopf recalled in an interview in the Trentonian newspaper. "And Norman - well, he always had to be the good guy."
Another boyhood acquaintance, Paul Mott, told the newspaper he remembered Norman as "a brat" who was very protective of his sisters and "always seemed to get in the way" when he tried to talk to pretty, blond Ruth Ann.In addition to being a fine athlete, he was an amateur magician.
He rode the bus to public schools in Princeton, five miles up the road from the family home in Lawrenceville, N.J. The Schwarzkopfs, who were Presbyterians, infused their offspring with values of fair play and respect for the individual. Schwarzkopf has told a story of riding the bus one day and out of courtesy, giving his seat to an old black woman, only to have the other whites on the bus make fun of him.
He says that on arriving at home, he asked his mother whether he had done something improper, and he quotes her response: "Remember this: You were born white, you were born Protestant, you were born an American. Therefore, you're going to be spared prejudices that other people will not be spared. But you should not forget one thing. You had absolutely nothing to do with the fact that you were born that way. It was an accident of birth that spared you this prejudice."
In telling that tale, Schwarzkopfadded, "I just grew up liking people. I tend to judge people on what kind of human beings they are, and I like to be judged the same way. I like people to look at the net worth of Norman Schwarzkopf, and I hope that they judge me on what kind of heart I have in me."
Interestingly enough, the name H. Norman Schwarzkopf had been a household word before. In 1932, the infant son of the aviation hero Charles A. Lindbergh was stolen from a second floor bedroom at the family's newly built estate near the small town of Hopewell, in central New Jersey. The kidnapping touched off a national wave of outrage and public curiosity.
Hordes of reporters, thrill-seekers, amateur criminologists and self-styled clairvoyants flocked to the area.
Holding the line against the unwanted invaders was Col. H. Norman Schwarzkopf, a 1915 West Point graduate and former World War I cavalry officer who in 1921, at age 25, had been hired to organize and head New Jersey's new state police force. A stocky, dapper figure with a close-cropped mustache, deep-set penetrating eyes and an almost Prussian bearing, this son of German immigrants had built the force, beginning with 81 troopers chosen from 1,600 applicants, along paramilitary lines.
Col. Schwarzkopf was the star player in the affair, a familiar figure in newspaper photographs. Later he became the narrator on the popular weekly radio show, "Gangbusters," which dramatized real-life crime stories.
Having been too young to recall any of the machinations of the Lindbergh case, H. Norman Schwarzkopf Jr. has said his first recollection of his father is from those days when, as a small boy, he was allowed to stay up on Friday nights to listen as his father and the radio cops on "Gangbusters" brought the crooks to justice.
"The other thing I distinctly remember about my father was how all the people who worked for him admired and respected him," the younger Schwarzkopf told one interviewer.
When the United States entered World War II, the elder Schwarz-kopf was soon back in uniform - this time as an Army colonel. In early 1942, after giving his West Point sword to his 8-year-old son and telling him, "Now you're the man of the house," Schwarzkopf was dispatched to Iran, where he was assigned to build a security force for the country that was then serving as the base for a major United States commitment to help the Soviet Union in its struggle against Nazi Germany.
Shortly after the end of the war in 1945, the almost 12-year-old Norman Jr. joined his father in Iran. They hunted and rode horseback together in the desert. The younger Schwarzkopf also learned the fine points of shooting from his father, who had been a sharpshooter at West Point.
Young Schwarzkopf picked up some of the Farsi language, including a few of the more common swear words. He found that the Iranians, like the people back home, admired and respected his father. Years later, as a victorious general in his own right, the son would tell an interviewer that his father's memory had been an inspiration.
"I probably thought about him more since I've been over here than I have in many, many years," he said. "I just mean that many times, I've thought that if he was looking at me now, I know he would be proud."
In the fall of 1952, Norman Jr. realized his long-cherished ambition to become a cadet at the U.S. Military Academy, following in his father's footsteps. Nor did the legacy end there. He inherited his father's old nickname - "Schwar-zie." In his plebe, or freshman year, the traditional hazing by upperclassmen included frequent demands that he imitate the sounds of screeching brakes, police sirens and chattering machine-gun fire that opened the "Gangbusters" radio show.
He graduated 42nd in a class of 485.
The 1956 edition of Howitzer, the West Point yearbook, remixing his name as "Norman H. Schwarz-kopf," depicts a young man with a pleasant yet serious expression, but offers little in the accompanying paragraph to foretell the future: "Schwarzie's far-flung travels from New Jersey to Iran have made him a connoisseur of life. His afternoons at West Point were filled with soccer, tennis and wrestling, an excellent competitor in each. His genial personality has won him many friends. His spirit is his greatest asset and will assure him success."Comment on this story
Next: Grenada - A reluctant general decides to stay in uniform.
From the book SCHWARZKOPF: THE MAN, THE MISSION AND THE TRIUMPH
Copyright 1991 Richard Pyle
Reprinted by permission of the publisher, Penguin Books U.S.A. Distributed by Los Angeles Times Syndicate