The increasing pressure to launch the ground war early was making me crazy.

I could guess what was going on and figured that Defense Secretary Dick Cheney and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Colin Powell were caught in the middle. There had to be a contingent of hawks in Washington who did not want to stop until we'd punished Saddam. We'd been bombing Iraq for more than a month, but that wasn't good enough. These were guys who had seen John Wayne in The Green Berets, they'd seen Rambo, they'd seen Patton, and it was very easy for them to pound their desks and say, " By God, we've got to in there and kick ass! Gotta punish that son of a bitch! " Of course, none of them was going to get shot at. None of them would have to answer to the mothers and fathers of dead soldiers and Marines.

Late Wednesday, February 20, we received another weather forecast: lousy on the twenty-fourth [the designated launch date], lousy on the twenty-fifth, with a stretch of clear weather beginning the twenty-sixth. My commanders argued that we should postpone the attack-not only Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Walt Boomer this time, but also Maj. Gen. Binney Peay, whose 101st Air Assault Division needed good weather for its helicopters. I had to convince Powell, and that would be a conversation I preferred not to have in front of my staff. It was neither fair nor appropriate to expose them to what I was sure would be real disagreement between their leaders. So I phoned from my little bedroom down the hall. The minute I began with "We're having a problem with the weather," Powell became exercised.

"I've already told the President the twenty-fourth. How am I supposed to go back now and tell him the twenty-sixth? You don't appreciate the pressure I'm under. My President wants to get on with this thing. My secretary wants to get on with it. We need to get on with this. "

I got pretty exercised too. "I'm not trying to be a smart-ass, but what if we attack on the twenty-fourth and the Iraqis counterattack and we take a lot of casualties because we don't have adequate air support? And you're telling me that for political reasons you don't want to go in and tell the President he shouldn't do something that's militarily unsound? For chrissakes, Colin, don't you understand? My Marine commander has come to me and said we need to wait. We're talking about Marines' lives!"

"Don't patronize me with talk about human lives! " he shouted. It was the first time I'd ever heard him lose his temper, and he was livid. "What are you doing? Sitting there in front of all your officers putting on a big show while you talk to me this way! "

I got hot, too, because I'd gone out of my way to make sure the conversation was private. "I'm not doing that at all and I'm not being disloyal to you. What I'm trying to say is that I'm under pressure too. My commanders are telling me to wait. Secretary Cheney was sitting right here when General Boomer said he needed four days of air support for his attack to succeed. But you are pressuring me to put aside my military judgment for political expediency. I've felt this way for a long time. " I was trying to keep my voice steady but was not having much luck. " Sometimes I feel like I'm in a vise-like my head is being squeezed in a vise. Maybe I'm losing it. Maybe I'm losing my objectivity. But I don't think so."

By this time Powell had calmed down. I said, "I understand where you're coming from, but I want you to understand where I'm coming from." We agreed it was important that we keep working together. "I'll take your recommendation to the secretary," he replied. Half an hour later, naturally, the weather forecasters changed their minds: the weather on the twenty-fourth and twenty-fifth wasn't going to be so bad after all. I called Powell back. "I've got good news. The weather has shifted. Tell everybody the twenty-fourth is a go."

[In a real sense, Schwarzkopf had begun preparing for the Gulf War three years before.]

It was an evening in late June 1988, after I'd been back at the Pentagon almost a year as deputy chief of staff for operations, when Army Chief of Staff Carl Vuono observed that the four-star job was coming open at Central Command. It bore responsibility for all U.S. military operations in Southwest Asia, parts of the Middle East, and the Horn of Africa.

Actually, I'd thought about Central Command, in one form or another, all my life. The Middle East had always fascinated and compelled me: a great deal of Schwarzkopf family life had been invested in that part of the world 56. l could also foresee the region's increasing strategic importance. "Central Command is where you can make history,"I told Vuono the next day.

My appointment was announced in late July 1988, so that fall I signed up for an intensive course on the Middle East at the Foreign Service Institute; eight hours a day for two weeks, I sat in the front row, taking copious notes on cultures, customs, oil issues, water issues, and religious conflicts. I came home every night exhilarated.

I took over Central Command on November 23, at my new headquarters in Tampa. Less than two weeks later, I found myself standing on the balcony of a Cairo hotel room, looking out across the Nile and listening to the nighttime call to prayer. This was my first trip to the Middle East since 1947, when I went as a boy to live with my father, an Army in Teheran, and my mind was flooded by memories. In the moonlight, I could make out the domes and minarets, familiar shapes from my boyhood. I was back. As a fourteen-year-old I'd promised myself that I'd return, and now, after forty years, I had.

I intended as soon as possible to visit as many of my countries as I could. In Cairo and Islamabad, Pakistan's capital, the meetings were genial and direct. In Riyadh my reception was cooler. For years Congress had strictly limited the Saudis' freedom to buy American arms, on the theory that any weapon sold to Arabs, even moderate Arabs, would end up being used against Israel. So when I arrived I found Prince Sultan Bin Abdulaziz al-Saud, the minister of defense and aviation, "unavailable."

Finally I had a twenty-minute audience with Prince Abdul Rahman Bin Abdulaziz al-Saud, the deputy minister of defense and aviation. When I allowed as how I'd been in his country before, he was surprised-and doubly so when I told him my visit had taken place in 1947.

I reminded him of the warm relations between the Americans and the Saudis after World War II. "As a result," I continued, " my father came here to Riyadh in 1946 and had an audience with your father. He met King Abdulaziz al-Saud, and now I am meeting you. I consider this a renewal of the ties my family has had with yours.

By the fall of 1989, during my second round of visits to the Middle East, I found doors starting to open. Now that they knew of my fascination with their culture, my Arab counterparts welcomed me into some of their palaces, museums, and mosques. At one dinner in Kuwait City, my hosts were delighted when I chose to wear Arab robes. I couldn't help but think of the film "Lawrence of Arabia."

Arab officials were also willing to share military secrets. During my visit to Kuwait, for example, Gen. Mizyad al-Sanii took me on a tour of his military installations. I couldn't help noticing that all of Kuwait's guns were pointed north, toward Ira Al-Sana now told me point-blank that Iraq was the number-one threat to Kuwait.

From its inception in 1983, Central Command had been defined as a rapid-deployment force whose wartime mission was to stop the Red Army from seizing the precious oil fields of Iran. But nobody except a few stubborn hard-liners believed that we'd go to war against the Soviets in the Middle East.

Unless we could define a valid purpose for my new command, I was prepared to recommend to the secretary of defense that we shut it down. One night in July 1989, eight months after becoming commander in chief and after my initial visits to the Middle East, I lay in bed staring at the ceiling and let a new plan begin to take shape.

What was the most likely worst case? Iraq as the aggressor: the world's fourth-largest army was sitting just north of oil fields whose output was essential to the industrialized world. I thought of the many Arabs who had said I shouldn't worry about Iraq, and the few who'd said I should. I decided worrying was the prudent course.

I knew my next step was to work my way through the Pentagon bureaucracy so we could officially for go further preparations for the Soviet invasion of Iran. Admiral William Crowe, then chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was preparing recommendations on national military strategy to deliver to Congress before his retirement in September. But his drafts, which the Pentagon circulated to the commanders in chief for comment, made no provision whatever for the Middle East: he thought the Defense Department should reserve its resources for the continental United States, NATO, and the Pacific.

I considered my options. Having been stuck behind a desk in Washington five times, I knew enough bureaucratic kung fu to fight back. In the normal course of business I'd already presented my plan for redefining Central Command to Defense Secretary Dick Cheney's top civilian strategists, Paul Wolfowitz and Henry Rowen. So when Admiral Crowe submitted his strategy for Secretary Cheney to review, Wolfowitz and Rowen called me and asked incredulously, "Do you agree with this?"

"Of course not!" I growled, explaining how I'd been stonewalled. They took the problem directly to Cheney-who immediately ordered that the Middle East be written in.

[Schwarzkopf was authorized to revise Central Command's war plans with Iraq as the principal threat.]

Central Command played a new war game, Internal Look, in late July 1990. As the exercise got under way, the movements of Iraq's real-world ground and air forces eerily paralleled the imaginary scenario in our game. To make the drill more realistic, I'd asked our message center to start sending a stream of fictional dispatches about military and political developments in Iraq. The message center also passed along routine bulletins about the real Middle East. Those concerning Iraq were so similar to the game dispatches that the message center had to stamp the fictional reports "Exercise Only."

I spent the week uneasily, with one foot in the realm of the exercise and the other in the realm of fact, where the real crisis had started to build. On July 17, Saddam Hussein angrily and publicly threatened Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates. In Kuwait, General al-Sanii and Maj. Gen. Jaber al-Khaled alSabah put their forces in defensive positions. But the emir overruled them and ordered the troops back to their garrisons. Based on experience, the emir assumed Saddam could be placated with money. American diplomats agreed that Saddam would not attack. But I was blessed with an intelligence staff so good that the military intelligence community in Washington usually let us take the lead, seconding our assessments of Middle East developments. And there was no way to mistake what we were seeing for a mere show of force: this was a battle plan taking shape.

The worst-case scenario I'd imagined materialized. The conquest of all of Kuwait took less than three days and it looked as if the Iraqis weren't planning to stop there.

Early on Saturday, August 4, I met Cheney and Colin Powell at the Pentagon and outlined my presentation for President Bush during the twenty-minute helicopter flight to Camp David in the Maryland hills. The President had already been warned that deploying troops was not an instant solution. In the context of a crisis only three days old, the three months I told them it would take see medal most an eternity, Still, I wanted to make absolutely certain that the civilians around the table understood how powerful an enemy we would face.

" What I've discussed so far is a contingency plan for the defense of Saudi Arabia," I explained. " If we ever wanted to kick the Iraqis out of Kuwait, we'd have to go on the offense-and that would take a whole lot more troops and a whole lot more time." I put up a slide that showed my back-of-the-envelope calculation: we'd have to more than double the size of the projected force, pulling at least six additional divisions out of the United States and Europe and transporting them and additional support units to the gulf. The earliest such an army would be ready to fight was the slide's bottom line. "Time frame: 8-10 months."

I heard a few people around the table gasp. This was a much had ever imagined making in the Middle East. It was also much more time than they thought would be needed. Both Cheney and Powell completely supported my position.

[The U.S. military response depended on a request from Saudi Arabia, and Schwarzkopf was ordered to join a mission led by Cheney to brief Saudi King Fahd on American strategy and capability.]

The discussion among the members of the royal family present was very brief. One by one, the princes spoke, but Prince Bandar Bin Sultan al-Saud, King Fahd's skillful ambassador to Washington, didn't translate. King Fahd responded sharply to one of them and then turned to Cheney and said in English simply, "Okay."

We held a short meeting to review what had taken place. U.S. Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Chas Freeman, who had followed the royal family's conversation in Arabic, told us that the princes had mostly counseled caution. The turning point had come when one remarked, "We must be careful not to rush into a decision." This had caused King Fahd to retort, " The Kuwaitis did not rush into a decision, and today they are all guests in our hotels!"

Using the secure telephone linking us to Central Command in Tampa, where it was about noon on Monday, August 6, 1 told General Craven C. "Buck" Rogers, my deputy commander in chief, that we were going to commit troops, and instructed him to have the Joint Chiefs of Staff give orders to deploy the first unit, the Division Ready Brigade of the 82nd Airborne, from Fort Bragg.

In theory, all I had to do was push a button. Hours after Desert Shield began, our divisions should have been inundated with thousands of pages of printouts saying things like "Send tank number 123 from the X Battalion of your Y Brigade by rail to Norfolk, Virginia, to be loaded on ship Z, which will sail for 20 days, to arrive at Dhahran harbor by August 30."

However, there was a big problem. Since we'd been in the middle of revising Central Command's battle plan when the crisis broke, we hadn't yet entered the data into the computer banks-a painstaking process that under normal circumstances takes a full year. Our only alternative was to schedule the airlift and sealift by hand. I'd never dealt with anything so complex nor had to make so many key decisions so quickly, in my life.

Exactly one week into Desert Shield, Colin Powell arrived in Tampa and found me champing at the bit. Though Powell and I conferred by phone many times each day, we hadn't seen each other since Desert Shield had begun. The minute we sat down in my office, I raised a concern I'd been brooding about all week: I couldn't see where the operation was supposed to lead. I told Powell that the longer Saddam waited to launch his invasion, the more certain we were of being able to defend Saudi Arabia. But suppose the invasion never came? I couldn't imagine the United States simply pulling out while Iraq still occupied Kuwait. Nor could I imagine waiting a year or more for diplomatic or economic pressure to convince Saddam to withdraw-the mothers and fathers of America would never put up with the idea of their sons and daughters roasting in the hot sun all that time. Nor was I sure how long the soldiers themselves would tolerate such an assignment. The only alternative, I told Powell, would be to attack-a course of action I'd warned the President would involve a much larger military commitment than we'd made. Powell replied that he was as worried as I about where Desert Shield would lead, but that nothing more had been decided by the White House. When he left, I thought at least he and I were in basic agreement.

Two days later I was called to the Pentagon to help the Joint Chiefs brief President Bush on the progress of Desert Shield. When the meeting broke up, the President and Secretary Cheney went upstairs to Cheney's office while Powell invited me into his.

As soon as we sat down Powell asked, "If you had to kick the Iraqis out of Kuwait right now, how would you do it?"

"What? I wouldn't. I couldn't! I've made it clear to everyone that we aren't sending enough forces to do that."

"Suppose you were ordered to."

I went cold. "I'll show you," I told Powell grimly, sketching a map of Kuwait on a piece of paper and indicating where the attack could take place. "We could seize this crucial road junction near Jahra northwest of Kuwait City and block the flow of supplies to their front lines. If we could hold it, they would be forced to withdraw. But it would be crazy as hell and we'd probably end up losing the entire force."

He nodded, and we went on to other business. When I got up to leave he said, "Would you mind if I kept the sketch?"

Twenty minutes later he called me back to his office and told me that he'd met with Bush and Cheney. 'I've shown your offensive plan to the President," he added.

I was thunderstruck. 'Wait a minute! Jesus! That's not my recommendation! " In the chain of command, Powell was my link to the top, and I was worried that he'd volunteered us for a course of action that could lead to disaster. But he reassured me: "Don't worry, Norm. I just used it as an illustration."

On the way back to Tampa that afternoon, I had the front cabin of the Air Force jet to myself-my first time alone since the start of the crisis. I felt euphoric that the briefing to the President had gone so well, that he'd personally recognized me on national television-it all went to my head. For the moment I forgot all about the worries waiting for me back at Central Command and thought, 'If this thing turns out right, maybe I should reconsider my retirement plans. I've been thrust into the limelight-I could end up chief of staff of the Army! " Other people, most significantly Powell, had told me I was a contender; suddenly it seemed like a real and appealing possibility.

But only for a few minutes. As we flew on, I reminded myself, "Schwarzkopf, you've never wanted to be chief of staff." For one thing, it would mean living and working in Washington for four more years. More important, I realized that during this crisis I didn't want my judgment clouded by concern with how my decisions would affect my chances for a job. I'd been down the careerism road before, during the dark phase of my life that followed my service in Vietnam, and I wasn't going to make the same mistake. In August 1991, I would retire. Or if Desert Shield went on longer than that, I'd stay until the job was done right, or until I got fired.

[On Aug. 16, a team of air-force officers arrived from Washington with the plan for Instant Thunder, the retaliatory air campaign, a strategy designed to cripple Iraqs military without laying waste to the country.]

The targets were grouped into categories, the first being Iraq's leadership. After the shooting started we repeatedly asserted that the United States was not trying to kill Saddam Hussein-President Bush said so himself-and that was true, to a point. But at the very top of our target list were the bunkers where we knew he and his senior commanders were likely to be working For our purposes, it was sufficient to silence Saddam-to destroy his ability to command the forces arrayed against ours. If he'd been killed in the process, I wouldn't have shed any tears.

When I called Powell to say I was ready to leave for Riyadh, he quizzed me closely about whether he'd still be able to reach me by phone. Then he added, almost as an afterthought, " On your way, I'd like you to stop here in Washington and give me a full briefing on your offensive plan-air and ground both."

It took me about five minutes to register what he'd said. I told my staff I needed to talk to the chairman in private. Then I got Powell back on the line. " I want to make sure of something that I thought we'd decided before," I said, trying to keep my voice steady. "I briefed a defensive plan to the President, I'm following orders to put a defensive force in place, and all of a sudden you guys in Washington are asking me to prepare an offense using that defensive force. Something is wrong here. I can give you my conceptual analysis, but that's all it is-apart from the phase-one air attack, it's nothing I'd recommend, nothing we've actually planned, nothing I'd act on. I'm afraid somebody who doesn't understand that is going to turn around and say 'execute this offensive.' "

"Norman! Trust me. You've got to trust me," Powell exclaimed. Do you think I'd ever let that happen? My problem is that I've got all these hawks in the National Security Council who keep saying we ought to kick Saddam out of Kuwait now. I've got to have something to keep them under control."

Powell seemed to be gambling that if he could convince the White House that the military had the crisis under control and was making progress toward developing contingency war plans, we wouldn't be ordered to do anything rash. I decided that he was right-not that it mattered, because I had no choice but to go along.

To welcome me to Riyadh, Prince Khalid Bin Sultan al-Saud, commander of the Arab coalition's air defense forces and the man King Fahd had appointed as my counterpart, had arranged a traditional coffee ceremony in a reception hall at the base. Then we drove in heavily armored Mercedeses downtown to the Ministry of Defense building-headquarters for Desert Shield. The Saudis had given me an imperial-sized second-floor office. Adjoining the office were a bedroom and a small bathroom with a shower, all very plain. It was where I ended up living for nine months.

I had to mask my sense of urgency in my dealings with the Saudis. To my consternation, their most pressing concern was neither the threat from Saddam nor the enormous joint military enterprise on which we were embarked. What loomed largest for them was the cultural crisis triggered by the sudden flood of Americans into their kingdom. For example, merchants in downtown Dhahran were appalled when off-duty women soldiers started browsing in their stores-- with assault rifles slung over their shoulders! At a warehouse we'd rented, women soldiers unloading boxes of medical supplies took off their fatigue jackets and worked in their T-shirts. We got angry complaints about women disrobing in public.

I kept reminding myself that I had a lot of guys who could do the military planning, but I was the only one who could assure the Saudis that the Dallas Cowgirls were not going to come over and corrupt the kingdom that was the guardian of Islam's holiest cities. So every night at ten o'clock I went to Prince Khalid's office at the Ministry of Defense. The conversation would frequently stretch past midnight. Khalid and I would sit in his big maroon over-stuffed chairs, while his aide served fancy fruit juices, coffee, and cappuccino. I'm not known for being patient, but to do the job there, that's just what I was.

Not until mid-September did we see a clear indication that Iraq was abandoning the idea of invading Saudi Arabia and assuming a defensive posture. Earlier, their Republican Guard divisions had pulled back slightly from the Saudi border; now their other armored units backed away from the border as well. In their place, tens of thousands of infantry moved in, digging trenches and building barricades, evidently preparing for a long siege.

You didn't have to be Clausewitz to realize we needed a plan for a ground offensive. Not only were the gulf nations urging us to kick Iraq out of Kuwait, but Powell had made it clear-although without issuing a formal order-that Washington was impatiently awaiting an "offensive option" from Central Command. My staff and I were completely stumped: no matter how many times we looked at it, we saw no way to stretch the force we had available into a winning offense.

Colin Powell called to order me to send a team to brief the Joint Chiefs, Secretary Cheney, "and possibly the President" on Desert Storm.

"I gotta tell you, as far as a ground offensive is concerned, we've still got nothing," I warned.

"Well, your air offensive plan is so good that I want these people to hear it," he replied. "But you can't just brief the air plan. You have to brief the ground plan too."

I got a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. With Iraq showing no sign of responding to the UN embargo, and with more than 200,000 young Americans now baking in the Saudi desert, I suspected Washington was finally about to confront the question of what came next. My old fear returned that we'd be ordered to do something foolish. "I'd like to conduct the briefing myself," I said tensely.

"No, you stay there. If you come to Washington it'll cause too many rumors."

"At least let me send my chief of staff," I urged. Powell finally agreed.

The following morning Carl Vuono showed up on a long-planned visit to the theater. I cornered him and vented my frustration: "Goddammit, Carl, you guys on the Joint Chiefs are supposed to be the President's principal advisors on warfare. Why am I being required to send back an offensive plan I don't believe in? These are our Army troops we're talking about! You, the chief of staff of the Army, ought to be telling the President we're in no position to go on the offense unless we have more forces." Vuono, who hated confrontations, smiled and said simply, "Norm, you're doing a wonderful job and we're all behind you one hundred percent." It was later reported that afterward he'd complained that our one-hour meeting had lasted four-and-a-half hours and had been like a psychotherapy session.

The textbook way to defeat a force such as I saw arrayed against me would have been to hold it in place with a frontal attack while sending an even bigger army to outflank it, envelop it, and crush it against the sea. I looked at the bright red stickers on my office map, representing the army occupying Kuwait; along its western flank was a slab of Iraqi territory three times Kuwait's size, and except for a handful of small towns and air bases, it was desert. More important for my purposes, it was largely unguarded.

We'd earlier discussed the possibility of launching armored units through that sector but had shelved the idea because our forces would be spread too thin and because we weren't sure we could keep our units supplied with ammunition and gas across such distances. But Washington now appeared willing to consider sending more divisions, and that changed everything. True, it would require the largest maneuver of armor in the desert in U.S. military history-but it seemed the most likely way to end a ground war decisively and fast. On October 15, I told Central Command's planners to assume another armored corps and to develop a flanking attack.

Colin Powell came to Riyadh on October 22 and once again acknowledged that the forces we had weren't adequate for pushing Iraq out of Kuwait. Powell also cautioned that President Bush would take his time making a decision on increased forces. "The mood in Washington shifts every week," he explained. "Ten days ago it was hawkish; in the past four or five days people have been talking about giving the economic sanctions time to work. But nobody is ready to make a decision: they're preoccupied with the budget crisis and next month's election."

"I'm not sure we can bring more troops to the gulf without a clear mandate from Congress and the American public," Powell told me. I nodded. Nobody wanted another Vietnam, and I understood Powell's determination to avoid political as well as military mistakes. But in the course of that conversation, he made up his mind. " If we go to war," he promised, "we will not do it halfway. The United States military will give you whatever you need to do it right." I felt as though he'd lifted a great load from my shoulders.

My sense of well-being didn't last long. That Saturday, Powell got back to Washington and called with a bombshell. "I better not go out of town anymore," he began.

"Why not?"

"Well, while I was away, Secretary Cheney came back from his trip to Russia with his own idea for an offensive plan. He had some of the guys on the Joint Staff work it up and went over and briefed the President."

I was rattled when I hung up the phone. Up to now, unlike the way things had gone in Vietnam, the U.S. chain of command had worked as it should. We'd had no repeat performance of Lyndon Johnson getting on the radio during the Pueblo incident and issuing orders to the tail gunner in a bomber. But now I wondered whether Cheney had succumbed to the phenomenon I'd observed among some secretaries of the Army: put a civilian in charge of professional military men and before long he's no longer satisfied with setting policy but wants to outgeneral the generals.

We called this new scheme the " western excursion." I told my planning staff to examine it fairly. But despite our criticism, the western excursion wouldn't die: three times in that week alone Powell called with new variations from Cheney's staff. The most bizarre involved capturing a town in western Iraq and offering it to Saddam in exchange for Kuwait. Eventually we convinced Washington that these excursions were logistically unsupportable and would do nothing to advance our cause.

At noon on Wednesday, October 31, 1 dictated a long memorandum to Powell, detailing the success of Desert Shield to date and again asking, "Where do we go from here?" I hoped that by putting my request for further direction on paper I could get Washington to budge.

While the memo was being typed, I left headquarters to visit one of our troop compounds. When I came back, Powell was on the phone. " The President has made a decision. Next weekend Secretary of State James Baker will come to ask King Fahd and our other allies to agree to offensive operations. Then we'll take the idea to the UN and ask for an ultimatum for Iraq to leave Kuwait. You should be prepared to build up the force and go to war."

"How big a buildup do you mean?" I asked carefully.

"It will be dramatic. You're gonna get everything you asked for and more." Naming a half-dozen major units the Joint Chiefs had earmarked, Powell explained that the decision had been to nearly double the force of Desert Shield. I had never believed I'd feel reassured to see the United States move toward war. But now, as much as I continued to wish for peace, I was relieved to have a clear mission. While our leaders didn't always respond to requests as quickly or decisively as I liked, they had never let us down.

Late at night on January 9, 1 sat alone in my office in Riyadh watching TV. In Geneva, Secretary of State Baker and Iraqi Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz had just wrapped up their talks-the last-ditch effort to keep our respective nations from going to war. When Baker stepped up to the podium, I thought he looked grim. He told the press and the television audience that Aziz had given him no indication that Iraq was willing to withdraw from Kuwait.

I felt sick at heart as I conjured the terrible risks we were about to face. We knew we would win, but we had no idea what our casualties would be, how the American public would react, or even whether the coalition would hold together.

On the surface, the day before the air attack began passed much like any other. My staff and I attended to dozens of routine questions of finances, visitors, housing, and the like for which there would be no time once the shooting started. Despite the activity, headquarters seemed hushed; there was little conversation.

Three o'clock ticked by-H-hour, the official beginning of the air attack. By this time, I knew, the F-117s would be pounding numerous targets in Baghdad, and generally all hell should be breaking loose at dozens of sites across enemy territory. By early afternoon I was able to tell Powell in Washington that we'd completed fully 850 missions. We'd clobbered many of the 240 targets on our list: Saddam's palace in Baghdad had been annihilated; the ITT Building downtown was reportedly "glowing"; two major Scud missile sites in western Iraq had been severely damaged; the key suspected biological and nuclear weapons bunkers had been destroyed.

The mobile Scud launchers turned out to be even more elusive than we'd expected. Then Khalid came up with an explanation. In chatting with the Egyptians under his command-the Egyptians being expert in Soviet equipment because they'd formerly owned a great deal of it-he'd discovered that a mobile launcher could drive away as soon as six minutes after firing. We had been told thirty minutes by our intelligence agencies. Now it made sense: by the time we detected a launch and were able to relay the coordinates to our pilots, who then flew to the target, the Iraqis had scrammed.

Most nights I stayed awake to see if there'd be a Scud launch they typically came between two and four in the morning. I'd go to bed just before dawn-my staff had standing orders to wake me if anything important happened-and catch four hours' sleep before the morning briefings. In the middle of the day, crises permitting, I'd take a two-hour nap. I'd moved my quarters to a small room in the basement, right down the corridor from the war room.

I wasn't eating regular meals. Staff Sgt. Wayne " Smitty" Smith, my enlisted aide, would ask, " Sir, what do you want for supper?" I usually had a choice of instant Cup O' Noodles (my wife, Brenda, had sent a case of assorted flavors) or a microwaved hot dog. A few nights a week some of the staff would go over to the Saudi officers' club for dinner and bring back a sandwich. And somebody was always wandering around the war room with a box of cookies from home.

[The air war continues for three weeks.]

The tension really started to build late Monday, February 18. First Powell called. "The National Security Council is saying we may need to launch the ground attack a little early. He spoke in a terse tone that signaled he was under pressure from the hawks. I could feel another confrontation with Washington brewing and wanted to give Powell as much support as I could. The following morning I asked my commanders if we could advance the attack by two days. By this time Gen. Walt Boomer, the U.S. Marines commander, had reconnaissance teams in no man's land, scouting paths through the Iraqi barriers. "We can if you need to," he replied. "But we'll sustain a whole lot more casualties." Heavier casualties made no sense, and the other commanders said they needed the time they'd been promised. So I decided to tell Powell: "I'm sorry, the twenty-second is out."

In cold rain and darkness and under the covering fire of 155-mm howitzers, the first Marines crossed into Kuwait-M-60 tanks and Cobra helicopters in the lead, followed by thousands of troops in armored personnel carriers and humvees.

Back at the war room in Riyadh, we were so removed from the action that all we knew was that our forces were finally on their way across the border. It might take the entire day to piece together an accurate picture of how the attack was progressing. I desperately wanted to do something, anything, other than wait, yet the best thing I could do was stay out of the way. If I pestered my generals, I'd just distract them.

Just before noon a crucial bit of news came in: the Kuwaiti resistance radioed that the Iraqis had blown up Kuwait City's desalinization plant. Since Kuwait City had no other source of drinking water, this could only mean that the Iraqis were about to leave. And if they intended to pull out of Kuwait City, I reasoned, they intended to pull out of Kuwait.

At that point I knew I had to act. Timing is everything in battle, and unless we adjusted the plan, we stood to lose the momentum of the initial gains. I'd fought this campaign a thousand times in my mind, visualizing all the ways it might unfold, and from the fragmentary reports coming into the war room I could discern that the Iraqis were reeling. If we moved fast, we could force them to fight at a huge disadvantage; if we stayed with the original timetable, they might escape relatively intact.

Hours earlier I'd alerted both Lt. Gen. John Yeosock, commander of all U.S. Army Forces, and Prince Khalid that I might decide to speed up the main attack. I got Yeosock back on the line; he told me that he and his corps commanders-based on their assessment of the battle reports and despite the bad weather-wanted to go now. I called Khalid; he confirmed that the Egyptian, Saudi, and other Arab commanders had agreed, after some debate about the weather, that they, too, were ready to go.

So I gave the order to my forces, Khalid gave the order to his, and at three that afternoon we let loose the main attack of Desert Storm.

At 2:15 on Tuesday morning, the night operations chief nudged me awake. " Sir, we picked up a public broadcast on Baghdad radio. They're ordering their troops out of Kuwait."

I went into the war room, shaking my head to clear it. We were only forty-six hours into the campaign, but the days and nights were starting to blur. Powell called almost immediately. I told him we were monitoring the roads and would bomb any military target that presented itself. He confirmed we were to continue with the attack-Iraq had given no indication that it was willing to accept the UN resolutions. But he speculated, "This could very quickly lead to a cease-fire."

"If it happens in less than a day or two, we could have a big problem with the Republican Guard," I said. Since their positions were in Iraq, not Kuwait, an immediate cease-fire would mean they'd probably escape. On that worrisome note, I went back to my room for a few more hours' sleep.

When I returned to the war room just after sunrise, I immediately asked, "Where is the Republican Guard?" Storms were still hampering our reconnaissance. "We're not sure, but we think they haven't moved," I was told. That news, if true, was encouraging. But then Maj. Gen Burt Moore, my operations chief, informed me that VII Corps hadn't moved either, though it was our main attack force assigned to destroy the Guard.

On the phone, General Yeosock confirmed the report. "John," I said bluntly, "no more excuses. Get your forces moving. We have got the entire goddamn Iraqi army on the run. Light a fire under VII Corps."

My only major concern after briefings in early February had been VII Corps. Its plan of maneuver seemed plodding and overly cautious: advance, stop, regroup, advance again, and so on. General Yeosock explained that Lt. Gen. Fred Franks, the actual commander of VII Corps, was worried that he did not have enough men or combat power to succeed in the attack. I reminded him that our air campaign was pounding the enemy ground forces and eroding the Iraqi's will to fight. I reiterated: "Let me make it clear, John. I do not want a mechanical grind-it-out operation. We must be flexible enough to capitalize on things as they occur. The idea is not to get to intermediate objectives and then stop to rearm and refuel. If you have divisions sitting around you will present a huge target for chemicals and you will lose. You cannot have VII Corps stopping for anything. "

At noon we heard that Moscow, still operating as Baghdad's intermediary, had called for a meeting of the UN Security Council to discuss a possible cease-fire. That prompted a phone call from Powell, who, after listening to my description of our progress across the front, asked, "Can't you get VII Corps moving faster?" I suggested that, if a cease-fire seemed imminent, " You might have to buy us some time."

Things got very quiet on the other end of the phone. Then Powell said evenly, "Call General Yeosock. Tell him the chairman is on the ceiling about this entire matter of VII Corps. I want to know why they're not moving and why they can't attack an enemy that has been bombed continually for thirty days The I've been maneuvering for more than two days and still don't even have contact with the enemy. It's very hard to justify VII Corps's actions to anyone in Washington. I know I shouldn't be second-guessing anyone in the field, but we should be fighting the enemy now.

A little while later-by now it was late afternoon Franks himself called. The first thing he brought up was his concern that some Iraqi units he'd bypassed might come up to hit him on the flank. He wanted them destroyed before his forces turned to the Republican Guard, and therefore was about to order an attack toward the south.

"Fred," I interrupted, "for chrissakes, don't turn south! Turn east. Go after 'em!" I recognized he was going through the usual last-minute jitters that precede a crucial battle.

VII Corps did attack the Republican Guard all night. Not surprisingly, they fought hard to hold their ground. But we overwhelmed them and by dawn our reports showed that the Tawakalna Division had been almost completely destroyed while we hadn't lost a single tank. The Medina and Hammurabi divisions, confused by the discovery of a massive coalition force closing in on them from the west, tried to hurry their retreat toward Basra.

In Kuwait City joyous crowds filled the streets as Kuwaiti, Saudi, Egyptian, and other Arab forces rolled in just after daybreak. Back in Riyadh, despite the knowledge that there was still tough fighting ahead, it was hard not to share in the elation.

"How much longer do you need to finish off the Republican Guard?" I asked Yeosock. " One more day," he answered promptly.

Soon Powell called in a relaxed and happy mood. "We ought to be talking about a cease-fire. The doves are starting to complain about all the damage you're doing."

"What do you mean?" I said. What had happened, of course, was that journalists were now interviewing Air Force pilots who'd been hitting the convoys fleeing Kuwait. And as soon as we'd liberated the area around Kuwait City, reporters who had once been part of the media pools had taken pictures of Highway 6, where we'd bombed a convoy Monday night. It was a scene of utter devastation that they named the "Highway of Death."

Powell and I both knew that wasn't the case. Though many Iraqis in the convoy had died, most had jumped out of their vehicles and run away. I felt irritated-Washington was ready to overreact, as usual, to the slightest ripple in public opinion. I thought, but didn't say, that the best thing the White House could do would be to turn off the damned TV in the situation room. Powell didn't seem perturbed-he was accustomed to the political ebb and flow.

"So tell me what you want to do," he said."I want the Air Force to keep bombing those convoys backed up at the Euphrates where the bridges are blown. I want to continue the ground attack tomorrow, drive to the sea, and totally destroy everything in our path. That's the way I wrote the plan for Desert Storm, and in one more day we'll be done."

Powell called again, at 10:30 p.m. He told me that in Washington the controversy over wanton killing had become uncomfortably intense even the French and the British had begun asking how long we intended to continue. "The President is thinking about going on the air tonight at nine o'clock and announcing we're cutting it off. Would you have any problem with that?"

Nine in Washing-ton meant five in the morning in Riyadh-only six-and-a-half hours from now. He waited as I took a minute to think. My gut reaction was that a quick cease-fire would save lives. If we continued to attack through Thursday, more of our troops would get killed, probably not many, but some. What was more, we'd accomplished our mission: I'd just finished telling the American people that there wasn't enough left of Iraq's army for it to be a regional military threat. Of course, Yeosock had asked for another day, and I'd have been happy to keep on destroying the Iraqi military for the next six months. Yet we'd kicked this guy's butt, leaving no doubt in anybody's mind that we'd won decisively, and we'd done it with very few casualties. Why not end it? Why get somebody else killed tomorrow? That made up my mind.

"I don't have any problem with it," I finally answered. "Our objective was the destruction of the enemy forces, and for all intents and purposes we've accomplished that objective. I'll check with my commanders, but unless they've hit some snag I don't know about, we can stop."

A few hours later Powell called to confirm: "We'll cease offensive operations, but there's been a change. The President will make his announcement at nine o'clock, but we won't actually stop until midnight. That makes it a hundred-hour war." I had to hand it to them: they really knew how to package an historic event.

The White House, I told the staff, had added a stipulation that Iraqis in the war zone must leave their equipment and walk north-a stipulation I liked because it would allow us to finish the job of eliminating their weapons. But Maj. Gen. Bob Johnston interjected that this would be impossible to enforce fully: "Sir, we can block a lot of the roads, but we'll never be able to stop the Iraqis who are already at the river from repairing the bridges and taking their equipment north unless we attack them."

The decision was too big for central Command: we had to bring it to Washington's attention. So I called Powell, repeated Johnston's point, and warned, "If we call this cease-fire we're going to see Republican Guard T-72s driving across pontoon bridges."

"Can you hit them tonight?" he wanted to know. I said I'd already ordered Yeosock to redouble his helicopter attacks; we had Apaches flying under orders to destroy every tank they could find.

" Okay," Powell said. " I'll get back to you." Twenty minutes later he called and said the White House now understood that some tanks would get away and had decided to accept it.

[Later, Schwarzkopf plans cease-fire talks at Safwan airfield inside Iraq, but learns from Yeosock he has no forces there.]

Safwan airfield was just an asphalt strip in the desert, but-apart from its use as a meeting site-the whole sector was crucial to our ability to block the escape of Iraqi heavy equipment from Kuwait and root out any remaining Scud storage bunkers. Yeosock called back just before dawn and confirmed my worst fears: we had nobody at Safwan-not at the airfield and not at the nearby mountain where the Scuds were reportedly hidden, let alone at the road junction I'd explicitly ordered the Army to take. Helicopters from the First Infantry Division, The Big Red One, had flown combat patrols along the highway and had reported no enemy forces, he said, but its troops had never set foot in the sector.

I felt as though I'd been punched in the gut and came completely unglued. I ordered you to send VII Corps to that road junction," I shouted. I want to know in writing why my order was violated and why this mission was reported carried out when it wasn't." I knew there could be legitimate reasons for not taking the sector, but it was absolutely unacceptable that erroneous "mission accomplished" reports had been forwarded to my headquarters. The fact that two days had passed and no correction had been made only made matters worse.

All my accumulated frustration and anger with VII Corps came boiling out. " I want Safwan airfield and Safwan Mountain occupied and thoroughly reconned," I ordered, "and I want all enemy equipment destroyed. I have to depend on you to set up a meeting site that is secure. Don't get into a major firelight. If there is a large enemy force you'll have to back off. Do you understand your orders?"

"Yes, sir."

"Do you think you are capable of carrying out this mission?"

"Yes, sir."

I couldn't let it go. "If not, let me know, and l will send the marine Corps up there."

"We can handle it," he said tersely.

"That's good, John. Make sure you do it smart. I don't want any troops put at risk to cover the asses of officers who failed to do the job in the first place." John was a great commander. I knew that he was tough enough to separate my emotionalism from my intent and orders and that he'd get the job done.

I came back into the war room at noon and found Lt. Gen. Cal Waller, my deputy commander in chief, and General Moore, waiting. "Not only do we not own Safwan," Waller said, shaking his head, "but there is an Iraqi unit occupying the airfield. And the Iraqis have tanks at the main road junction."

I immediately got Yeosock back on the phone. "We've got to take that road junction, John."

"There's a cease-fire!"

"There is no cease-fire. It's a temporary suspension of offensive operations on our terms. I want you to tell the Iraqis to withdraw. If they attack, return the fire."

When I called Yeosock again, he grimly announced, "The Iraqi commander says he's not going to leave."

"Fine. I've discussed this matter with the chairman. Here's what you'll do. You've got the entire 1st Infantry Division there. Dispatch overwhelming force and surround the guy completely, and make sure he sees. Then tell him, 'We cannot tolerate Iraqi units this close to our forces. You must leave this area or we will take you prisoner. We are doing this for the protection of our troops. If you fight, we will destroy you.'

Yeosock asked, "If he won't move ... "We're bluffing. I don't want you to attack. If he says no, tell me and we'll go back to the drawing board. But he's only got one company of tanks. There should be no problem getting him to leave without firing a shot."

By late afternoon a brigade commander from the 1st Infantry Division had encircled the road junction with fifty tanks. For good measure he'd also brought three companies of soldiers in Bradley Fighting Vehicles, and had heavily armed Apaches crisscrossing the skies. " My men are eager to fight," he told the Iraqi commander. It didn't take long for the Iraqi to order his tanks to leave.

[When Schwarzkopf arrives at Safwan for the cease-fire talks, he is met by General Franks, the VII Corps commander.]

As we saluted, he seemed tense; I guessed he was wondering whether I'd bring up the seizure of Safwan. But I had concluded that I had been neither intentionally disobeyed nor deliberately deceived. Besides, we now had Safwan and no one had been hurt taking it. After making sure Powell knew the details, I'd told him I'd decided to let the matter drop. I had also decided that I'd been too harsh in my criticism of VII Corps's slow progress during the ground battle. Franks was a fine commander who had carried out his assigned mission as he had seen it and, just like me, he'd been faced with the challenge of accomplishing that mission while sparing the lives of as many of his troops as possible. We would probably never know whether attacking the Republican Guard one or two days sooner would have made much difference in the outcome. What I did know was that we had inflicted a crushing defeat on Saddam's forces and accomplished every one of our military objectives. That was good enough for me.

[At the session with the Iraqis, after covering the coalition's main points, Schwarzkopf asks if the defeated generals have any matters to discuss.]

"We have one point," said Lt. Gen. Sultan Hashim Ahmad, deputy chief of staff at the Iraqi Ministry of Defense. "You know the situation of our roads and bridges and communications." I nodded, thinking of the overwhelming damage our bombing had done. "We would like to fly helicopters to carry officials of our government in areas where roads and bridges are out. This has nothing to do with the front line. This is inside Iraq."

It appeared to me to be a legitimate request. And given that the Iraqis had agreed to all our requests, I didn't feel it was unreasonable to grant one of theirs.

In the following weeks, we discovered what the son of a bitch had really had in mind: using helicopter gunships to suppress rebellions in Basra and other cities. By that time it was up to the White House to decide how much the United States wanted to intervene in the internal polities of Iraq. But to judge from intelligence reports we received at Central Command, grounding the Iraqi helicopter gunships would have had little impact. The tanks and artillery of the twenty-four Iraqi divisions that never entered the Kuwaiti war zone were having a far more devastating effect on the insurgents.

As we flew back over the devastated landscape, for the first time, I had a sense, not of triumph not not of glory, but of relief. I looked down at the Kuwaiti sky still darkened with the stain of war, and at the unspoiled Saudi sky ahead, and told myself again and again, "It really is over."

Before I'd left Riyadh, Mike Stone, the secretary of the Army, had visited and asked what I planned to do next. "I have my heart set on you as chief of staff of the Army," he'd said. I'd told him I'd long ago made up my mind to retire when the crisis ended, and had pointed out that whoever succeeded Vuono would be called upon to downsize the Army. "I'd rather retire with a great victory than suffer a thousand defeats at the hands of Congress," I'd told him.

On Friday, August 30, I put on my battle fatigues and reported to the personnel office at Central Command in Tampa. A young female soldier handed me my discharge form and said, " Sir, this is your DD-214. We recommend you put this form into your safe deposit box because this is the only real proof that you have that you were ever in the service."