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Retired Lt. Gen. Calvin A.H. Waller, a 32-year combat veteran who was deputy commander of U.S. forces in the gulf war, died Thursday of a heart attack.

Waller, 58, died while on a trip to Washington with his wife, Marion, according to a statement released by his employer, Kaiser-Hill, an environmental contractor based in Colorado.He had retired from the Army in 1991.

Waller also served in Vietnam and Korea and was one of the Army's highest-ranking blacks when he retired.

"America has lost a great American and a great soldier," said Lt. Gen. C.G. Marsh, commander of Ft. Lewis in Washington state, a position once held by Waller.

"He contributed professionalism and competence with a natural warmth and infectious enthusiasm that inspired everyone he met," Marsh told the Tacoma (Wash.) News Tribune.

As deputy to Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf, the top U.S. commander in the gulf war, Waller was directly in charge of the main U.S. forces in the January 1991 offensive against Iraq.

He stirred controversy before the war by arguing that U.S. troops were not ready to fight by the United Nations' deadline for Iraq's withdrawal from Kuwait.

At the time, the statement appeared to undercut President Bush's strategy of steadily increasing pressure on Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. Allied forces began bombing Iraq and Kuwait shortly after the Jan. 15, 1991, deadline. Iraq was defeated within several weeks.

In 1992, Waller was one of a dozen retired military leaders who endorsed President Clinton in his campaign against Bush.