Schwartzkopf – It Doesn’t Take a Hero

General Schwarzkopf’s autobiography opens with the mention that he was shaped by emotion – by Vietnam and his mother’s alcoholism as much as by his father being a general (x).  And I wonder now if it it was his experience in Vietnam that led to what I would consider a “conservative” approach to Desert Shield and Desert Storm – building up forces, assembling superior firepower, using air strikes to devastate resistance, and then advance with crushing superiority.  In other words, the approach we didn’t quite follow for Gulf War II.

p13: Schwarzkopf’s father left to serve in Iran during World War II:

So his leaving was a big tragedy.  He was going off for a long time.  Well, what was a long time?  He was gone all week long anyhow.  That was already a long time.  Nobody expressed it to me in terms of months and years.  Even if they had, I doubt I’d have understood.

p24: Schwarzkopf endures his mother’s alcoholism:

At times it was anger that overwhelmed me, at other times fear, but what I had felt most often was complete helplessness.  I simply retreated, which Mom let me do because I was the youngest and her favorite.  Deep inside me was a place where I would withdraw when things were unhappy at home.  I discovered I could hide the painful feelings and still make friends and love dogs and help old ladies across the street and be a good guy.  I had lots of buddies, but no real close friend.  I learned to be self-contained and independent.  Maybe that was a gift my mother gave me. (24)

p34 – the mixing of cultures among the children at the mission school in Iran.

p36-37: illness in Iran. Despite vaccines, exotic diseases still killed, and the kids grew accustomed to jaundice.

p39 – father and son discuss the mother’s alcoholism

p41 – the father takes on the mother’s drinking to shield the children.

p53-54 – losing the camaraderie with his father, especially over the mother’s alcoholism.

p56 – the father can’t understand Ruth Ann’s turn to communism: “What the hell is happening to my daughter?  Where did I go wrong?  I’ve spent my life fighting communism and now she’s becoming a communist!”  (my question: circa 1948, would any Army man have said he’d spent his entire life fighting communism??)

p60-61 – pie and the honor code.  “Honor is fundamentally a code of conscience; any institution that wants to foster it should not use a person’s sense of honor against him, as Valley Forge did.  We’d been wrong to throw pie, but the cadet regimental commander had shown even poorer judgment by escalating a relatively minor situation into a matter of personal honor” (61).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

8 + 18 =