Matthew Ridgway

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Matthew Ridgway
General Matthew Bunker Ridgway.
Birth name Matthew Bunker Ridgway
Born (1895-03-03)March 3, 1895
Fort Monroe, Virginia, U.S.
Died Script error: The function "death_date_and_age" does not exist.
Fox Chapel, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Arlington National Cemetery
Section 7, Grave 8196-1
Lua error in Module:Coordinates at line 668: callParserFunction: function "#coordinates" was not found.
Allegiance  United States of America
Service/branch Seal of the United States Department of War.png United States Army
Years of service 1917–1955
Rank US-O10 insignia.svg General
Commands held 15th Infantry Regiment
82nd Airborne Division
XVIII Airborne Corps
Eighth Army
Supreme U.N. and U.S. commander in Korea
Chief of Staff of the United States Army
Battles/wars Mexican Border Service

World War I
Banana Wars

World War II

Korean War

Awards Distinguished Service Cross (2)
Army Distinguished Service Medal (4)
Silver Star (2)
Legion of Merit (2)
Bronze Star w/ Valor Device
Purple Heart
Presidential Medal of Freedom
Congressional Gold Medal

Matthew Bunker Ridgway (March 3, 1895 – July 26, 1993) was a senior officer of the United States Army. He held several major commands and was most famous for resurrecting the United Nations (UN) war effort during the Korean War. Several historians have credited Ridgway for turning the war around in favor of the UN side. His long and prestigious military career was recognized by the award of the Presidential Medal of Freedom on May 12, 1986 by President Ronald Reagan, who stated that "Heroes come when they're needed; great men step forward when courage seems in short supply."[1]

Early life and education

Ridgway was born March 3, 1895 in Fort Monroe, Virginia, to Colonel Thomas Ridgway, an artillery officer, and Ruth Ridgway. He lived in various military bases all throughout his childhood. He later remarked 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 graduated in 1912 from English High School in Boston[2] and applied to West Point because he thought that would please his father (who was a West Point graduate).[3]

Ridgway failed the entrance exam the first time due to his inexperience with mathematics, but after intensive self-study he succeeded the second time.[3] At West Point he served as a manager of the football team. In 1917, he was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Army. The same year he married Julia Caroline Blount. They had two daughters, Constance and Shirley, and divorced in 1930.[4]

Shotly after his divorce, Ridgway married Margaret (“Peggy”) Wilson Dabney, the widow of a West Point graduate (Henry Harold Dabney, class of 1915), and in 1936 he adopted Peggy’s daughter Virginia Ann Dabney. Ridgway and Peggy divorced in June, 1947.


Beginning his career during World War I, Ridgway was assigned to duty on the border with Mexico as a member of the 3rd Infantry Regiment, and then to the West Point faculty as an instructor in Spanish. He was disappointed that he was not assigned to combat duty during the war, feeling that "the soldier who had had no share in this last great victory of good over evil would be ruined."[5]

During 1924 and 1925 Ridgway attended the company officers' course at the United States Army Infantry School in Fort Benning, Georgia, after which he was given command of a company in the 15th Infantry in Tientsin, China.[6] This was followed by a posting to Nicaragua, where he helped supervise free elections in 1927.[2]

In 1930, he became an advisor to the Governor-General of the Philippines. He graduated from the Command and General Staff School at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, in 1935 and from the Army War College at Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania, in 1937. During the 1930s he served as Assistant Chief of Staff of VI Corps, Deputy Chief of Staff of the Second United States Army, and Assistant Chief of Staff of the Fourth United States Army. General George Marshall assigned Ridgway to the War Plans Division shortly after the outbreak of World War II in Europe in September 1939. He served in the War Plans Division until January 1942, and was promoted to brigadier general that month.

World War II

In August 1942, several months after the American entry into World War II, upon Omar Nelson Bradley's assignment to the 28th Infantry Division, Ridgway was promoted to major general and was given command of the 82nd Airborne Division. The 82nd, having already established an excellent combat record in World War I, had earlier been chosen to become one of the Army's five new airborne divisions. The conversion of an entire infantry division to airborne status was an unprecedented step for the U.S. Army, and required much training, testing, and experimentation.

Ridgway and staff outside of Ribera, Sicily on July 25, 1943.

Unlike his men, Ridgway did not first go through airborne jump school before joining the division. Ridgway successfully converted the 82nd into a combat-ready airborne division; he remained in command and eventually earned his paratrooper wings.

Ridgway helped plan the airborne element of the invasion of Sicily in July 1943, and commanded the 82nd Airborne in combat there. During the planning for the invasion of the Italian mainland, the 82nd was tasked with taking Rome by coup de main in Operation Giant II. Ridgway strongly objected to this unrealistic plan, which would have dropped the 82nd on the outskirts of Rome in the midst of two German heavy divisions. The operation was cancelled only hours before launch. In 1944, Ridgway helped plan the airborne operations of Operation Overlord, the Allied invasion of Normandy. In the Battle of Normandy, he jumped with his troops, who fought for 33 days in advancing to Saint-Sauveur-le-Vicomte near Cherbourg (St Sauveur was liberated on June 14, 1944). During the severe fighting in the Normandy bocage the 82nd Airborne Division suffered 46% casualties.

In September 1944, Ridgway was given the command of XVIII Airborne Corps, which was then deployed in Operation Market Garden. Command of the 82nd Airborne Division subsequently passed to Brigadier General James Gavin. XVIII Airborne Corps also helped stop and later push back German troops during the Battle of the Bulge in December. In March 1945, he led his troops into Germany during Operation Varsity, the airborne component of Operation Plunder, and was wounded in the shoulder by German grenade fragments on March 24, 1945. In June 1945 he was promoted to lieutenant general. At war's end, Ridgway was on a plane headed for a new assignment in the Pacific theater of war, under General of the Army Douglas MacArthur, with whom he had served while a captain at the United States Military Academy at West Point.

Post-World War II

Ridgway was a commander at Luzon for some time in 1945 before being given command of the U.S. forces in the Mediterranean Theater, with the title Deputy Supreme Allied Commander, Mediterranean. From 1946 to 1948, he served as the U.S. Army representative on the military staff committee of the United Nations. He was placed in charge of the Caribbean Command in 1948, controlling U.S. forces in the Caribbean, and in 1949 was assigned to the position of Deputy Chief of Staff for Administration under then Army Chief of Staff General J. Lawton Collins.

In December 1947 Ridgway married Mary Princess "Penny" Anthony Long, his third wife.[4] They remained married until his death 46 years later. In April 1949, their only child, Matthew Bunker Ridgway, Jr., was born. Ridgway's son was killed in an accident in 1971. His wife died in 1997.

Korean War

File:Eighth Army SSI.svg
8th Army shoulder sleeve insignia

Ridgway's most important command assignment occurred in 1950 after the death of Lieutenant General Walton Walker on December 23. Ridgway was assigned as Walker's replacement in command of the 8th U.S. Army, which had been deployed in South Korea in response to the invasion by North Korea in June of that year. At the time of his reassignment, Ridgway was serving on the Army staff in the Pentagon as Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations and Administration.

When Ridgway took command of the 8th Army, the Army was still in a tactical retreat, after its strong foray into North Korea had been met with an unexpected and overwhelming Communist Chinese advance. Ridgway was successful in turning around the morale of the 8th Army.

Ridgway was unfazed by the Olympian demeanor of General of the Army Douglas MacArthur, then overall commander of UN forces in Korea. MacArthur gave Ridgway a latitude in operations he had not given his predecessor. After Ridgway landed in Tokyo on Christmas Day 1950 to discuss the operational situation with MacArthur, the latter assured his new commander that the actions of Eighth Army were his to conduct as he saw fit. Ridgway was encouraged to retire to successive defensive positions, as was currently under way, and hold Seoul as long as he could, but not if doing so meant that Eighth Army would be isolated in an enclave around the capital city. Ridgway asked specifically that if he found the combat situation "to my liking" whether MacArthur would have any objection to "my attacking". MacArthur answered, "Eighth Army is yours, Matt. Do what you think best."[7]

Upon taking control of the battered Eighth Army, one of Ridgway's first acts was to restore soldiers' confidence in themselves. To accomplish this, he reorganized the command structure. During one of his first briefings in Korea at I Corps, Ridgway sat through an extensive discussion of various defensive plans and contingencies. At the end, he asked the staff about the status of their attack plans; the corps G–3 (operations officer) responded that he had no such plans. Within days, I Corps had a new G-3. He also replaced officers who did not send out patrols to fix enemy locations, and removed "enemy positions" from commanders' planning maps if local units had not been in recent contact to verify that the enemy was still there. Ridgway established a plan to rotate out those division commanders who had been in action for six months and replace them with fresh leaders. He sent out guidance to commanders at all levels that they were to spend more time at the front lines and less in their command posts in the rear. These steps had an immediate impact on morale.

With the entry of China, the complexion of the Korean War had changed. Political leaders, in an attempt to prevent expansion of the war, did not allow UN forces to bomb the supply bases in China, nor the bridges across the Yalu River on the border between China and North Korea. The American Army moved from an aggressive stance to fighting protective, delaying actions. Ridgway's second big tactical change was to make copious use of artillery.

China's casualties began to rise, and became very high as they pressed waves of attacks into the coordinated artillery fire. Under Ridgway's leadership, the Chinese offensive was slowed and finally brought to a halt at the battles of Chipyong-ni and Wonju. He then led his troops in a counter-offensive in the spring of 1951.

When General Douglas MacArthur was relieved of command by President Harry Truman in April, Ridgway was promoted to full general, assuming command of all United Nations forces in Korea. As commanding general in Korea, Ridgway gained the nickname "Old Iron Tits" for his habit of wearing hand grenades attached to his load-bearing equipment at chest level. Photographs however show he only wore one grenade on one side of his chest; the so-called "grenade" on the other side was in fact a first-aid packet.

General Ridgway urged the high commissioners to pardon all German officers convicted of war crimes on the Eastern Front of World War II. He himself, he noted, had recently given orders in Korea “of the kind for which the German generals are sitting in prison.” His “honor as a soldier” forced him to insist upon the release of these officers before he could “issue a single command to a German soldier of the European army.”[8]

In 1951 Ridgway was elected an honorary member of the Virginia Society of the Cincinnati.

Ridgway also assumed from MacArthur the role of military governor of Japan, the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers. During his tenure, Ridgway oversaw the restoration of Japan’s independence and sovereignty on April 28, 1952.[9]

Supreme Allied Commander, Europe

In May 1952, Ridgway replaced General Dwight D. Eisenhower as the Supreme Allied Commander, Europe (SACEUR) for the fledgling North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). While in that position Ridgway made progress in developing a coordinated command structure, oversaw an expansion of forces and facilities, and improved training and standardization. He upset other European military leaders by surrounding himself with American staff. His tendency to tell the truth was not always politically wise.[10] In a 1952 review, General Omar Bradley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, reported to President Harry Truman that "Ridgway had brought NATO to 'its realistic phase' and a 'generally encouraging picture of how the heterogeneous defense force is being gradually shaped.'"[11]

Chief of Staff of the United States Army

Ridgway in the 1940s

On August 17, 1953, Ridgway replaced General J. Lawton Collins as the Chief of Staff of the United States Army. After Eisenhower was elected President, he asked Ridgway for his assessment of U.S. military involvement in Vietnam in conjunction with the French. Ridgway prepared a comprehensive outline of the massive commitment that would be necessary for success, which dissuaded the President from intervening. A source of tension was Ridgway's belief that air power and nuclear bombs did not reduce the need for powerful, mobile ground forces to seize land and control populations.[12] Ridgway was concerned that Eisenhower's proposal to significantly reduce the size of the Army would leave it unable to counter the growing Soviet military threat,[13] as noted by the 1954 Alfhem affair in Guatemala. These concerns would lead to recurring disagreements during his term as Chief of Staff.

President Eisenhower approved a waiver to the military’s policy of mandatory retirement at age 60 so Ridgway could complete his two-year term as Chief of Staff.[14] However, disagreements with the administration mainly regarding the administration's downgrading of the Army in favor of the Navy and the Air Force, prevented him from being appointed to a second term.[15] Ridgway retired from the Army on June 30, 1955 and was succeeded by his one-time 82nd Airborne Division chief of staff, General Maxwell D. Taylor. Even after he retired, Ridgway was a constant critic of President Eisenhower.[16]

Personal life

Ridgway remained very active in retirement both in leadership capacities and as a speaker and author. He relocated to the Pittsburgh suburb of Fox Chapel, Pennsylvania in 1955 after accepting the Chairmanship of the Board of Trustees of the Mellon Institute as well as a position on the board of directors of Gulf Oil Corporation among others. The year after his retirement, he published his autobiography, Soldier: The Memoirs of Matthew B. Ridgway. In 1967, he wrote The Korean War.

In 1960, he retired from his position at the Mellon Institute but continued to serve on multiple corporate boards of directors, Pittsburgh civic groups and Pentagon strategic study committees.[17]

Ridgway continued to advocate for a strong military to be used judiciously. He gave many speeches, wrote, and participated in various panels, discussions, and groups. In early 1968, he was invited to a White House luncheon to discuss Indochina. After the luncheon, Ridgway met privately for two hours with President Lyndon Johnson and Vice-President Hubert Humphrey. When asked his opinion, Ridgway advised against deeper involvement in Vietnam and against using force to resolve the Pueblo Incident.[18] In an article in Foreign Affairs, Ridgway stated that political goals should be based on vital national interests and that military goals should be consistent with and support the political goals, but that neither situation was true in the Vietnam War.[19]

Ridgway advocated maintaining a chemical, biological, and radiological weapons capability, arguing that they could accomplish national goals better than the weapons currently in use.[20] In 1976, Ridgway was a founding board member of the Committee on the Present Danger, which urged greater military preparedness to counter a perceived increasing Soviet threat.[21]

On May 5, 1985 Ridgway was a participant in the Ronald Reagan visit to Kolmeshöhe Cemetery near Bitburg, when former Luftwaffe ace (fighter pilot) Johannes Steinhoff (1913 - 1994) in an unscheduled act firmly shook his hand in an act of reconciliation between the former foes.[22] [23]

Ridgway died at his suburban Pittsburgh home at age 98 in July 1993 of cardiac arrest, holding permanent rank of General in the United States Army. He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery, Section 7, Grave 8196-1[24] (Lua error in Module:Coordinates at line 668: callParserFunction: function "#coordinates" was not found.).[25] In a graveside eulogy, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Colin Powell said: "No soldier ever performed his duty better than this man. No soldier ever upheld his honor better than this man. No soldier ever loved his country more than this man did. Every American soldier owes a debt to this great man."[26]


During his career, Ridgway was recognized as an outstanding leader, earning the respect of subordinates, peers, and superiors. General Omar Bradley described Ridgway's work turning the tide of the Korean War as "the greatest feat of personal leadership in the history of the Army."[27] A soldier in Normandy remarked about an intense battle while trying to cross a key bridge, "The most memorable sight that day was Ridgway, Gavin, and Maloney standing right there where it was the hottest [heaviest incoming fire]. The point is that every soldier who hit that causeway saw every general officer and the regimental and battalion commanders right there. It was a truly inspirational effort." As GHQ Secretary, in 1952 that was indirect rule in Japan , carrying peace treaty , and recognized the remilitarization of Japan , it was realized the reconstruction of the current Maritime Self-Defense Force (Japan Navy). The underlying Japan-US alliance of the Cold War era is a person who consolidate. Even the 21st century now, his achievements have been positively evaluated in Japan."[28]

On the day of the Germans' furthest advance in the Battle of the Bulge, Ridgway commented to his subordinate officers in the XVIII Airborne Corps: "The situation is normal and completely satisfactory. The enemy has thrown in all his mobile reserves, and this is his last major offensive effort in this war. This Corps will halt that effort; then attack and smash him."[29]

Ridgway considered leadership to have three primary ingredients: character, courage, and competence. He described character—including self-discipline, loyalty, selflessness, modesty, and willingness to accept responsibility and admit mistakes—as the "bedrock on which the whole edifice of leadership rests." His concept of courage included both physical and moral courage. Competence included physical fitness, anticipating when crises will occur and being present to resolve them, and being close to subordinates—communicating clearly and ensuring that they are treated and led well and fairly.[30]

Monograph published by the U.S. Army 2011

The United States Army School of Advanced Military Studies published a monograph in 2011. An excerpt from the abstract (p. 2):

...Ridgway overcame inadequacy. Although he completed all the military education available, it was only after intense crucible of three combat operations that he eventually applied operational art successfully. Ridgway achieved tactical success but did not adequately apply operational art from HUSKY, NEPTUNE and MARKET. Ridgeway learned from his failures and progressively improved his application of operational art during the BULGE and VARSITY. Not until his fifth experience, did he master operational art. ... the most important subcomponent of visualization depends on eleven elements of operational art. These elements are the template this monograph uses[31]


No insignia Cadet, United States Military Academy: June 14, 1913
US-O1 insignia.svg Second Lieutenant, Regular Army: April 20, 1917
US-O2 insignia.svg First Lieutenant, Regular Army: May 15, 1917
US-O3 insignia.svg Captain, National Army: August 5, 1917
US-O3 insignia.svg Captain, Regular Army: July 18, 1919
US-O4 insignia.svg Major, Regular Army: October 1, 1932
US-O5 insignia.svg Lieutenant Colonel, Regular Army: July 1, 1940
US-O6 insignia.svg Colonel, Army of the United States: December 11, 1941
US-O7 insignia.svg Brigadier General, Army of the United States: January 15, 1942
US-O8 insignia.svg Major General, Army of the United States: April 6, 1942
US-O9 insignia.svg Lieutenant General, Army of the United States: June 4, 1945
US-O7 insignia.svg Brigadier General, Regular Army: November 1, 1945
US-O10 insignia.svg General, Army of the United States: May 11, 1951
US-O10 insignia.svg General, Regular Army, Retired: Jun 30, 1955

Awards and decorations

Combat Infantry Badge.svg Combat Infantryman Badge (General Ridgway is one of three general officers who have been awarded the CIB for service while a General Officer, along with General Joseph Stilwell and Major General William F. Dean. General of the Army Douglas MacArthur was an honorary recipient of the CIB.) [32]
US Army Airborne basic parachutist badge.gif Parachutist Badge [33]
United States Army Staff Identification Badge.png Army Staff Identification Badge
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Distinguished Service Cross with oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Distinguished Service Medal with three oak leaf clusters
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Silver Star with oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Legion of Merit with oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze Star with "V" device and oak leaf cluster
Purple Heart
Presidential Medal of Freedom.[1]
World War I Victory Medal
American Defense Service Medal
American Campaign Medal
Silver star
European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with five campaign stars
Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal
World War II Victory Medal
Army of Occupation Medal with "Germany" clasp
National Defense Service Medal
Silver star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Korean Service Medal with seven campaign stars
Grand Cross of the Legion of Honor of France (1953)
United Nations Service Medal
  • Ridgway appeared on the April 30, 1951 and May 12, 1952 covers of Life magazine.
  • Ridgeway appeared on the March 5, 1951, and July 16, 1951 editions of Time magazine.


  1. 1.0 1.1 Arthur, Billy A., Obituary: General Matthew Ridgway, The Independent, 1993-08-10, retrieved 2009-08-31
  2. 2.0 2.1 Biography from Arlington National Cemetery official website.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Mitchell 2002, p. 7.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Mitchell 2002, p. 16.
  5. Mitchell 2002, p. 10.
  6. Mitchell 2002, p. 67.
  7. The Korean War: The Chinese Intervention, pp 27–28
  8. David Clay Large (1996). Germans to the Front: West German Rearmament in the Adenauer Era. University of North Carolina. p. 117.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. Mitchell 2002, p. 104.
  10. Mitchell 2002, p. 123.
  11. Mitchell 2002, p. 118.
  12. Mitchell 2002, p. 143.
  13. Mitchell 2002, p. 129.
  14. Mitchell 2002, p. 135.
  15. Mitchell 2002, p. 159.
  16. Patterson, Michael. "Matthew Bunker Ridgway, General, United States Army". from a contemporary press report March 1993. Arlington National Cemetery website. Retrieved 26 February 2013. ... he retired after finding himself in almost constant disagreement with Eisenhower...<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  17. Mitchell 2002, p. 195.
  18. Mitchell 2002, pp. 176-177.
  19. Mitchell 2002, p. 179.
  20. Mitchell 2002, p. 189.
  21. Mitchell 2002, pp. 197-8.
  22. Helmut Kohl and Ronald Reagan at the Military Cemetery in Bitburg (May 5, 1985)
  23. 5. Mai 1985: Helmut Kohl und Ronald Reagan in Bergen-Belsen und Bitburg (more detailed)
  24. "Gen Matthew Ridgway (1895–1993)". FindAGrave. Retrieved June 20, 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  25. Arlington National Cemetery Explorer
  26. Mitchell 2002, p. 205
  27. Mitchell 2002, p. 206.
  28. Mitchell 2002, p. 34.
  29. Hastings 2005, p.225
  30. Mitchell 2002, pp. 20-22.
  31. Kurz, Maj. Joseph R. (5 December 2011). "General Matthew B. Ridgway: A Commander's Maturation of Operational Art" (PDF). US Army School of Advanced Military Studies. Retrieved May 1, 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  32. Mitchell 2002, p. 204.
  33. GEN Ridgeway Airborne
  34. Matthew B. Ridgway Center for International Security Studies
  • Groves, Bryan N. MG Matthew Ridgway as the 82d Airborne Division commander : a case study on the impact of vision and character in leadership. Institute of Land Warfare, Association of the United States Army, 2006. OCLC 74162981
  • Hastings, Max. Armageddon: The Battle for Germany, 1944-1945. Vintage Books, 2005. ISBN 0-375-71422-7.
  • Mitchell, George C. Matthew B. Ridgeway: Soldier, Statesman, Scholar, Citizen. Stackpole Books, 2002. ISBN 0-8117-2294-5.
  • Matthew B. Ridgway, The Korean War. Doubleday, 1967. OCLC 1974850
  • Matthew B. Ridgway, Soldier: the memoirs of Matthew B. Ridgway, as told to Harold H. Martin. Greenwood, 1974. ISBN 0837177006

External links

Military offices
Preceded by
General of the Army
Douglas MacArthur
Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers (SCAP) Japan
Succeeded by
General Mark Wayne Clark
Preceded by
General of the Army
Dwight D. Eisenhower
Supreme Allied Commander Europe (NATO)
Succeeded by
General Alfred Gruenther
Preceded by
General J. Lawton Collins
Chief of Staff of the United States Army
Succeeded by
General Maxwell D. Taylor
Preceded by
Lieutenant General Walton Walker
Commanding General of the Eighth United States Army
Succeeded by
Lieutenant General James Van Fleet