Summary

Conflict Period:
World War II 1
Branch:
Army 1
Rank:
General 1
Birth:
03 Mar 1895 2
Death:
26 Jul 1993 2
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Personal Details

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Person:
Matthew Ridgway 2
Gender: Male 2
Social Security Number: ***-**-7013 2
Birth:
03 Mar 1895 2
Death:
26 Jul 1993 2
Cause: Natural 2
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World War II 1

Branch:
Army 1
Rank:
General 1

Korean War 3

Rank:
Supreme Allied Commander 3

World War I 2

Branch:
Army 2
Rank:
Supreme Allied Commander 3
Enlistment Date:
20 Apr 1917 2
Organization:
Army 2
Organization Code:
ARMY 2
Release Date:
30 Jun 1955 2

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Stories

General Matthew B. Ridgway (1895-1993) 


"Secretary Pace came over, took the phone call," recalls retired Army colonel Harry Maihafer of the day he witnessed a moment in history. "Then, he and General Ridgway went outside...as I recall, it was raining cats and dogs and a hail storm was going on. And they came back in and General Ridgway looked as though he had the weight of the world on his shoulders." Maihafer's description is surely accurate: Ridgway had just been informed that President Truman had relieved General MacArthur, and that he was now in charge of the war in Korea. 

As difficult as the situation in Korea was, it's hard to imagine a commander better suited to handling it than Matthew Bunker Ridgway. Like MacArthur, he had literally spent his entire life in the U.S. Army. The son of an artillery colonel, Ridgway graduated from West Point in 1917, where the yearbook described him as, "Beyond doubt, the busiest man in the place." Having just missed the fighting in France, Ridgway worked his way through a series of peacetime assignments, including stints in China, Nicaragua, and the Philippines. But in 1942 he was named commander of the 82nd Division, just before it was turned into one of the army's new elite airborne divisions. He made the most of it, leading the 82nd into Normandy on D-Day before moving on to a corps command. "A kick-ass man," one subordinate said of Ridgway, who became known as "Tin-tits" among his men for the hand grenades prominently strapped to his chest at all times. 

MacArthur had known and thought highly of Ridgway since the early 1920s, when he placed the young captain in charge of physical education at West Point. With his keen intelligence, aggressive instincts, and reputation as a fighter, Ridgway was the logical choice to take over the 8th Army when General Walker was killed in a jeep accident in December of 1951. Even though his forces were losing badly -- they were in the midst of the longest retreat in U.S. military history -- MacArthur exhibited complete trust in his new commander. "The Eighth Army is yours, Matt. Do what you think best." 

Ridgway did not let him down. While MacArthur railed against Washington, telling the Joint Chiefs that his forces faced annihilation if he could not expand the war into China, Ridgway managed to stop the retreat roughly seventy mile south of Seoul. Then in mid-January he started north, and he did it all within the parameters set by Washington. "Ridgway took hold of the Eighth Army, grabbed it by the throat, gave it a good shake, and straightened it out," says retired Marine commander Edwin Simmons. "If you had looked at a situation map at the end of December, 1950, you would have seen little blue dots all over the peninsula, little isolated U.N. positions -- no sign of coherence or integrity. He shook all that out. He reformed a line across the peninsula from one coast to the other, and then he began a deliberate, buttoned-up offensive a step at a time: good artillery support, good air support, identify your objectives and take them." Ridgway's offensive, known as the "meatgrinder" because of the heavy casualties it inflicted on the Chinese and North Koreans, moved slowly north until the U.N. had recaptured Seoul and reached the 38th parallel. 

Ironically, MacArthur pushed Truman too far just when Ridgway had stabilized the situation in Korea. In fact, after Ridgway assumed overall command, the military situation changed very little. For the next two years, the armies traded casualties along defensive lines near the 38th parallel, the border between the two countries when the war began. Despite Ridgway's able leadership, cease-fire negotiations begun in mid-1951 dragged on until Ridgway left the following spring. Far from being punished, Ridgway left to replace General Eisenhower -- who was busy getting himself elected president -- as NATO commander in Europe. Ridgway took over the Army's top job, Chief of Staff, a year later. He retired in 1955. 

Matthew B. Ridgway Dies at 98; Leader of U.S. Troops in 2 Wars

Gen. Matthew B. Ridgway, who became Army Chief of Staff after leading American forces in Normandy and United Nations troops in Korea, died yesterday at his home in Fox Chapel, Pa., a suburb of Pittsburgh. He was 98.

He died of cardiac arrest, said his lawyer, G. Donald Gerlach.

General Ridgway also planned and executed the Army's first major airborne assault, in Sicily in World War II, and was a soldier-diplomat who served on several international commissions.

In April 1951 he succeeded General of the Army Douglas MacArthur as the commander of the United Nations forces in Korea and of the Allied occupation forces in Japan. In June 1952 he replaced General of the Army Dwight D. Eisenhower as supreme commander of Allied forces in Europe. A Bitter Exit

In 1953 General Ridgway was appointed Army Chief of Staff by President Eisenhower, under whom he had served in World War II. But what should have been the capstone of a distinguished military career ended in bitter frustration for the general in 1959, when he retired after finding himself in almost constant disagreement with Eisenhower, the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

At one point the President bluntly told General Ridgway that his views were "parochial" because he did not accept the new strategy of using the threat of atomic bombs delivered by airplanes as the nation's chief line of defense and de-emphasizing the role of the foot soldier. General Ridgway objected to the strategy as failing to adequately develop concepts of using air power, nuclear weapons and ground soldiers in conjunction in distant conflicts.

But General Ridgway continued to fight budget cuts for the Army. "Throughout my two years as Chief of Staff," he recalled later, "I felt I was being called upon to tear down, rather than build up, the ultimately decisive element in a properly proportioned fighting force on which the world could rest its hope for maintaining the peace or, if the catastrophe of war came, for enforcing its will upon those who broke that peace."

Although he was otherwise known as an unflamboyant officer, he had one habit that became a Ridgway trademark. Just as Gen. George S. Patton was famous for wearing twin pearl-handled pistols in World War II, General Ridgway always had a hand grenade attached to one shoulder strap on his battle jacket, and a first-aid kit on the other.

"Some people thought I wore the grenades as a gesture of showmanship," he said years later. "This was not correct. They were purely utilitarian. Many a time, in Europe and Korea, men in tight spots blasted their way out with grenades." Early Memories Of Garrison Life

Matthew Bunker Ridgway was proud of the fact that he was an "Army brat," the son of Col. Thomas Ridgway, an artillery officer, and the former Ruth Starbuck Bunker. He was born on March 3, 1895, at Fort Monroe, Va., where his father was stationed.

General Ridgway said in his memoirs, "Soldier" (Harper & Brothers, 1956) that his "earliest memories are of guns and marching men, of rising to the sound of the reveille gun and lying down to sleep at night while the sweet, sad notes of 'Taps' brought the day officially to an end."

He was reared on several Army posts and graduated from English High School in Boston in 1912. His first attempt to enter the United States Military Academy at West Point was unsuccessful because he failed geometry on his entrance examination. But he succeeded on his second try and in 1913 entered the academy, where he became undergraduate manager of the football team.

He graduated in 1917, was commissioned a second lieutenant of infantry and, in anticipation of being sent to fight in World War I, was quickly promoted to first lieutenant and then temporary captain. But he did not go overseas; instead, he went Eagle Pass, Tex., where he commanded an infantry company.

In 1918 Captain Ridgway returned to West Point, became an instructor in Spanish and later manager of the athletics program. In 1925 he completed the company officers course at the Infantry School at Fort Benning, Ga., and was given his first overseas assignment, command of a company in the 15th Infantry in Tsientsin, China.

Routine infantry duty in the United States followed. But in 1927, because of his fluency in Spanish, the young officer was asked by Maj. Gen. Frank Ross McCoy to become a member of an American mission to Nicaragua, charged with supervising free elections in that strife-torn republic.

Captain Ridgway had hoped to be part of the Army's pentathlon team in the 1928 summer Olympics Games in Amsterdam, but he recalled later that he had realized that "I could not reject so bright an opportunity to prepare myself for any military-diplomatic role that the future might offer." Diplomatic Role Between the Wars

It was the first of several military-diplomatic assignments. He sat on a commission that adjudicated differences between Bolivia and Paraguay, and in 1930 became a military adviser to Theodore Roosevelt Jr., then Governor General of the Philippines.

Captain Ridgway's success in that assignment led to his appointment to the Army's Command and General Staff School at Fort Leavenworth, Kan. After completing that two-year course in 1937, he became one of the elite Army officers marked for quick advancement and top leadership.

By then he had been promoted to major and had come under the wing of George C. Marshall, then a brigadier general, who, as Army Chief of Staff-designate, took him to Brazil on a special assignment. In September 1939, when World War II erupted in Europe, Major Ridgway was sent to the war plans division of the War Department's general staff in Washington. It was a much-desired assignment because it was from the war plans division that senior officers were selected for higher command.

By August 1942 he was a brigadier general and in command of the newly reactivated 82d Infantry Division; when it became one of the Army's first two airborne divisions he remained in command and won his paratrooper wings.

In North Africa in the spring of 1943, General Ridgway planned the Army's first major night airborne operation, part of the invasion of Sicily. The invasion, which began on July 10, 1943, led to in a rapid conquest of the western half of the island. By the end of the month all resistance had ceased.

That first airborne attack, involving paratroopers dropped from airplanes and troops flown into enemy territory on gliders, made American military history, but it was carried out with severe losses. Both enemy and Allied antiaircraft gunners shot down more than a dozen of the 82d's transport planes. These and other losses resulted from staff failure, mistaken instructions and the newness of such an operation.

As a result, General Ridgway, along with other airborne commanders like Gen. Maxwell D. Taylor and Gen. James M. Gavin, had a difficult time persuading higher command of the ultimate effectiveness of landing soldiers and equipment by parachute and gliders. A 'Lucky' Jump Over Normandy

Although General Ridgway had not jumped into battle with his troops in the Sicilian campaign, he insisted on a combat jump into Normandy before dawn on D-Day, June 6, 1944. The citation to the Oak Leaf cluster on his Distinguished Service Cross said that in the Normandy jump he "exposed himself continuously to fire" and "personally directed the operations in the important task of securing the bridgehead over the Merderet River."

The general's recollection of his jump was slightly less reverential. "I was lucky," he said. "There was no wind and I came down straight, into a nice, soft, grassy field. I recognized in the dim moonlight the bulky outline of a cow. I could have kissed her. The presence of the cow meant the field was not mined."

A few months after D-Day, General Ridgway was given command of the new 18th Airborne Corps and directed its operation in the vicinity of Eindhoven, the Netherlands, in the Ardennes and along the Rhine River. His troops battled the German "Ruhr pocket" and finally, on May 2, made a historic linkup with Soviet troops on the Baltic.

"General Ridgway has firmly established himself in history as a great battle leader," General Marshall later said. "The advance of his Army corps to the Baltic in the last phase of the war in Europe was sensational to those fully informed of the rapidly moving events of that day."

The war over, General Ridgway, early in 1946, went to London as General Eisenhower's military adviser to the United States delegation to the United Nations Assembly. He helped draft a plan for an international United Nations force to curb aggression, a force that General Ridgway himself was destined to command a few years later in Korea.

In the late 1940's, General Ridgway was commander of United States forces in the Caribbean, a post more diplomatic than military. By late December 1950 he was a lieutenant general, serving as Army Deputy Chief of Staff in the Pentagon, when word came that Lieut. Gen. Walton Walker, commander of the Eighth Army in Korea, had been killed in a jeep crash.

The Eighth Army was then in full retreat from Chinese Communist forces, which had opened a massive counteroffensive a month before, and was fleeing back across the 38th parallel, which divided South and North Korea. General Ridgway was named General Walton's successor and was soon on his way to Korea.

General Ridgway was credited with rallying the United Nations forces, whose morale had been severely strained by heavy losses and bitterly cold weather. He stayed conspicuously at the front lines, exhorting his troops to concentrate on killing the enemy rather than trying to regain ground.

But in a series of hard-fought counteroffensives, he succeeded in driving the Communist forces out of all but the northwestern corner of South Korea, seizing strategic territory north of the 38th parallel.

Then, in 1951, came the epic clash between General Ridgway's superior, General MacArthur, who was overall allied commander in the Far East, and President Harry S. Truman.

General MacArthur, embittered by the Chinese Communist forces' victory south of the Yalu River in North Korea, proposed various steps to defeat the enemy, including "unleashing" the Chinese Nationalists on Taiwan against mainland China.

President Truman, afraid that such measures might widen the war, ruled out General MacArthur's ideas. Then the general made the disagreement public. General Ridgway wrote later, in his 1967 book "The Korean War," that the confrontation was a "clash of wills, bordering closely on insubordination."

On April 11, 1951, Truman removed General MacArthur, a national hero, from his command in the Far East, provoking a public uproar, and named General Ridgway to succeed him.

Lieut. Gen. James A. Van Fleet replaced General Ridgway as the commander of United Nations forces in Korea, where the war settled into a stalemate while peace talks dragged on for two years at Panmunjon, near the 38th parallel. Fighting ended on July 27, 1953, when the Chinese and North Koreans signed an armistice with the United Nations and South Korean forces.

In Tokyo, General Ridgway generally followed the occupation policies established by General MacArthur; the occupation essentially ended with the signing of the Japanese Peace Treaty in San Francisco on Sept. 8, 1951. The next year General Ridgway succeeded Eisenhower as supreme commander of Allied Forces in Europe. 'Frustrating Job' As Chief of Staff

In 1953, General Ridgway received what he was to call "the toughest, most frustrating job of my whole career," his appointment as Army Chief of Staff. Seeing what he regarded as dangerous efforts to downgrade the role of the Army, he clashed repeatedly with Charles E. Wilson, the Secretary of Defense, and Adm. Arthur Radford, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Finally, a few months short of his original retirement date, General Ridgway left the Army in June 1955.

In retirement in Pittsburgh, the old soldier grew increasingly dissatisfied with the nation's military policy. He summed up his resentments in 1979, after the Pentagon ordered paratroopers to stop wearing the airborne's distinctive red beret, the symbol of paratrooper spirit.

After urging that the order be reversed, General Ridgway asserted: "I publicly protested the adoption of the volunteer Army, now a demonstrated failure and perhaps a disaster. I publicly deplored the dismantling of Selective Service and the admission of women into our service academies. Every one of those actions is now looming as potentially detrimental to the esprit and effectiveness of our armed forces -- a blow at discipline, without which no military unit is worth its keep."

In 1986, General Ridgway was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. The citation said: "Heroes come when they are needed; great men step forward when courage seems in short supply. World War II was such a time, and there was Ridgway."

In 1991, he was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal by Gen. Colin L. Powell, the current Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

General Ridgway's first marriage, to the former Caroline Blount, ended in divorce. A second marriage, to Margaret Wilson, also ended in divorce. In 1947 he married Mary Anthony Long.

Besides his wife, Mary, who is known as Penny, the general is survived by two daughters, Constance and Shirley. A graveside service is to be held at Arlington National Cemetery at 1:30 P.M. on Friday.

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