Matthew Ridgway

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Matthew Ridgway
Matthew B. Ridgway.jpg
General Matthew Ridgway in 1951.
"Old Iron Tits" [1] [2]
Born(1895-03-03)March 3, 1895
Fort Monroe, Virginia, US
DiedJuly 26, 1993(1993-07-26) (aged 98)
Fox Chapel, Pennsylvania, US
Buried 38°52′37″N77°04′14″W / 38.87702°N 77.07047°W / 38.87702; -77.07047
AllegianceUnited States
Service/branch United States Army
Years of service1917–1955
Rank General
Service number O-5264
Unit Infantry Branch
Commands held Chief of Staff of the United States Army
Supreme Allied Commander Europe
Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers
United Nations Command
Eighth Army
Caribbean Command
XVIII Airborne Corps
82nd Airborne Division
82nd Infantry Division
15th Infantry Regiment
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 Medal w/ Valor Device (2)
Purple Heart
Presidential Medal of Freedom
Congressional Gold Medal
Signature MB Ridgeway Signature.png

General Matthew Bunker Ridgway (March 3, 1895 – July 26, 1993) was a senior officer in the United States Army, who served as Supreme Allied Commander Europe (1952–1953) and the 19th Chief of Staff of the United States Army (1953–1955). Although he saw no service in World War I, he saw plenty in World War II, where he was the first Commanding General (CG) of the 82nd "All American" Airborne Divison, leading it in action in Sicily, Italy and Normandy, before taking command of the newly formed XVIII Airborne Corps in August 1944. He held the latter post until the end of the war in mid-1945, commanding the corps in the Battle of the Bulge, Operation Varsity and the Western Allied invasion of Germany.


Ridgway held several major commands after World War II 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. He also persuaded President Dwight Eisenhower to refrain from direct military intervention in the First Indochina War to support French colonial forces, thereby essentially delaying the United States' Vietnam War by over a decade. His long 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." [3]

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." [4] He graduated in 1912 from English High School in Boston and applied to United States Military Academy at West Point because he thought that would please his father (who was a West Point graduate). [5]

Ridgway failed the entrance exam the first time due to his inexperience with mathematics, but after intensive self-study he succeeded the second time. [5] At West Point he served as a manager of the football team. He graduated from there on April 20, 1917, two weeks after the American entry into World War I, and received his commission as a second lieutenant in the Infantry Branch of the United States Army. Among his fellow graduates included several men who, like Ridgway himself, would eventually become generals, such as J. Lawton Collins, Mark W. Clark, Ernest N. Harmon, Norman Cota, Charles H. Gerhardt, George H. Weems, William Kelly Harrison Jr., William W. Eagles, Bryant Moore, John M. Devine, Norman Schwarzkopf Sr., Theodore Leslie Futch and Laurence B. Keiser. [6]

Military career

World War I

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." [7]

Interwar Period

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 a company commander in the 15th Infantry Regiment in Tientsin, China. [8] This was followed by a posting to Nicaragua, where he helped supervise free elections in 1927.

In 1930, Ridgway became an advisor to the Governor-General of the Philippines. He graduated from the Army 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 Army, and Assistant Chief of Staff of the Fourth Army. General George Marshall, the Chief of Staff of the United States Army, 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 the one-star general officer rank of brigadier general that month.

World War II

Following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941 and the American entry into World War II, Ridgway was promoted rapidly from lieutenant colonel to major general in the space of only four months. In February 1942 he was assigned as Assistant Division Commander of the 82nd Infantry Division, which was then in the process of formation. The division was under the command of Major General Omar Bradley, a fellow infantryman whom Ridgway highly respected. The two men trained the thousands of men joining the division over the next few months. In August, two months after Bradley's reassignment to command of the 28th Infantry Division, Ridgway was promoted to the two-star rank of major general in April and was given command of the 82nd Division. The 82nd, having finished all of its basic training and 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 United States Army, and required much training, testing, and experimentation. Thus the division was, on August 15, 1942, redesignated as the 82nd Airborne Division.

Major General Matthew Ridgway and members of his staff outside Ribera, Sicily, July 25, 1943. US Army General Matthew Ridgway, Ribera, Sicily, 25 July 1943.jpg
Major General Matthew Ridgway and members of his staff outside Ribera, Sicily, July 25, 1943.

Initially composed of the 325th, 326th and 327th Infantry Regiments, all of which were due to be converted into glider infantry, the 327th was soon transferred out of the 82nd to help form the 101st Airborne Division, commanded by Major General William C. Lee. Unlike his men, Ridgway did not first go through airborne jump school before joining the division. He successfully converted the 82nd into a combat-ready airborne division and remained in command and eventually earned his paratrooper wings. To replace the 327th, Ridgway received the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, commanded by Colonel Theodore Dunn, later replaced by Lieutenant Colonel Reuben Tucker. In February 1943 the 326th was also transferred out and replaced by the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, under Colonel James M. Gavin. [9] In April the 82nd, which in Ridgway's mind had received only a third the training time given to most divisions, was sent to North Africa to prepare for the invasion of Sicily. [10]

Ridgway helped plan the airborne element of the invasion of Sicily. The invasion, which took place in July 1943, was spearheaded by Colonel Gavin's 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment (reinforced into the 505th Parachute Regimental Combat Team by the 3rd Battalion of Tucker's 504th). Despite some successes, Sicily nearly saw an end to the airborne division. Due mainly to circumstances beyond Ridgway's control the 82nd suffered heavy casualties in Sicily, including the division's Assistant Division Commander, Brigadier General Charles L. Keerans. [11] During the 504th's drop on the morning of July 9, which was widely scattered due to friendly fire, Ridgway had to report to Lieutenant General George S. Patton, commander of the Seventh United States Army (under whose command the 82nd fell), that, out of the more than 5,300 paratroopers of the 82nd Airborne Division who had jumped into Sicily, he had fewer than 400 under his control. [12]

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 the Italian capital of Rome in the midst of two German heavy divisions. The operation was canceled only hours before launch. The 82nd did, however, play a significant role in the Allied invasion of Italy at Salerno in September which, but for a drop by Ridgway's two parachute regiments, may well have seen the Allies pushed back into the sea. The 82nd Airborne Division subsequently saw brief service in the early stages of the Italian Campaign, helping the Allies to break through the Volturno Line in October. The division then returned to occupation duties in the recently liberated Italian city of Naples and saw little further action thereafter and in November departed Italy for Northern Ireland. Lieutenant General Mark W. Clark, commander of the Fifth United States Army, a fellow graduate of the West Point class of 1917, referring to Ridgway as an "outstanding battle soldier, brilliant, fearless and loyal", who had "trained and produced one of the finest Fifth Army outfits", was unwilling to give up either Ridgway or the 82nd. [13] As a compromise, Colonel Tucker's 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, along with supporting units, was retained in Italy, to be sent to rejoin the rest of the 82nd Airborne Division as soon as possible.

In late 1943, after the 82nd Airborne Division was sent to Northern Ireland, and in the early months of 1944, Ridgway helped plan the airborne operations of Operation Overlord, codename for the Allied invasion of Normandy, where he argued, successfully, for the two American airborne divisions taking part in the invasion, the 82nd and the inexperienced 101st, still commanded by Major General Lee (later replaced by Brigadier General Maxwell D. Taylor, formerly commander of the 82nd Airborne Division Artillery), to be increased in strength from two parachute regiments and a single glider regiment (although with only two battalions) to three parachute regiments, and for the glider regiment to have a strength of three battalions. 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). Relieved from front-line duty in early July, the 82nd Airborne Division had, during the severe fighting in the Normandy bocage, suffered 46 percent casualties. [14]

Major General Matthew Ridgway and Major General James M. Gavin during the Battle of the Bulge, December 19, 1944. Major-General Ridgway and Major-General Gavin.jpg
Major General Matthew Ridgway and Major General James M. Gavin during the Battle of the Bulge, December 19, 1944.
From left to right: Major General J. Lawton Collins, British Field Marshal Sir Bernard Montgomery and Major General Matthew Ridgway, December 1944. GENERAL COLLINS, FIELD MARSHAL MONTGOMERY, AND GENERAL RIDGWAY.jpg
From left to right: Major General J. Lawton Collins, British Field Marshal Sir Bernard Montgomery and Major General Matthew Ridgway, December 1944.

In August 1944, Ridgway was given the command of XVIII Airborne Corps. Command of the 82nd Airborne Division passed to Brigadier General James M. Gavin, who had served as Ridgway's Assistant Division Commander. The first operation involving Ridgway was Operation Market Garden where his 101st Airborne Division dropped near Eindhoven to secure the Bridges between Eindhoven and Veghel on the road to Arnhem. Ridgway dropped with his troops and was in the forefront of the Divisions part of the fighting. The XVIII Airborne Corps helped stop and push back German troops during the Battle of the Bulge in December. In March 1945, with the British 6th Airborne Division and United States 17th Airborne Division under command, he led the corps 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. He led the corps in the Western Allied invasion of Germany. 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.

Major General Matthew Ridgway (left) decorates British Brigadier James Hill with the American Silver Star, March 1945. Pictured also in the middle is Field Marshal Sir Bernard Montgomery. The British Army in North-west Europe 1944-45 BU2910.jpg
Major General Matthew Ridgway (left) decorates British Brigadier James Hill with the American Silver Star, March 1945. Pictured also in the middle is Field Marshal Sir Bernard Montgomery.

Ridgway spoke highly of British Field Marshal Sir Bernard Montgomery, stating that his time serving under Montgomery was "most satisfying" and that "He gave me the general outline of what he wanted and let me completely free." [15] Ridgway noted that while Montgomery was a "free spirit who was sometimes a bit hard to restrain," he also referred to Montgomery as "a first-class professional officer of great ability ... and Monty could produce ... I don't know anybody who could give me more complete support than Monty did when I was under British command twice ... I had no trouble with Monty at all." [16]


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

In December 1947, Ridgway married Mary Princess "Penny" Anthony Long, his third wife. [17] 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

Eighth Army shoulder sleeve insignia Eighth United States Army CSIB.svg
Eighth 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 Eighth United States Army, which had been deployed in South Korea in response to the invasion by North Korea in June of that year.

When Ridgway took command of the Eighth 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 in the Battle of the Ch'ongch'on River. 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." [18]

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 effect 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.

Battle of Chipyong-ni Vickers RAR Chipyong-ni.jpg
Battle of Chipyong-ni

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 Operation Thunderbolt, a counter-offensive in early 1951.

When General MacArthur was relieved of command by President Harry S. 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 "Tin Tits" for his habit of wearing hand grenades attached to his load-bearing equipment at chest level. [19] He oversaw the desegregation and integration of United States Army units in the Far East Command, which significantly influenced the wider army's subsequent desegregation. [20]

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. [21]

Supreme Allied Commander, Europe

In May 1952, Ridgway succeeded 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. [22] 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.'" [23]

Ridgway urged the Anglo-French-American high commissioners for Germany 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." [24] 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." [24]

Chief of Staff of the United States Army

Ridgway in the 1940s Matthew Ridgway.jpg
Ridgway in the 1940s

On August 17, 1953, Ridgway succeeded 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 United States 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. [25] 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, [26] as noted by the 1954 Alfhem affair in Guatemala. These concerns would lead to recurring disagreements during his term as chief of staff. Ridgway was the leader of the "Never Again Club" within the U.S. Army that regarded the Korean War which ended in a draw as a something of a debacle and were strongly opposed to fighting another land war in Asia, especially against China. [27]

In the spring of 1954, Ridgway was very much opposed to Operation Vulture, the proposed American intervention in Vietnam with tactical nuclear weapons to rescue the French from certain defeat at the Battle of Dien Bien Phu. [28] The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Arthur W. Radford, supported Operation Vulture and recommended it to Eisenhower, arguing that the United States could not permit the victory of the Communist Viet Minh over the French. [29] Making matters more complicated on 20 March 1954, the chief of the French general staff, General Paul Ély, visited Washington and Radford had shown him the plans for Vulture and gave him the impression that the United States was committed to carrying it out. [29] In a dissenting opinion, Ridgway argued that the plan would not work as he maintained that airpower alone, even with the use with tactical nuclear weapons, would not be enough save the French. [28] Ridgway argued that only the commitment of 7 American infantry divisions could save the French at Dien Bien Phu, and predicated that if the United States intervened in Vietnam, then so too would China. [28] Ridgway wrote that if China entered the Indochina War, then the United States would have to commit 12 divisions to Vietnam. [28] Against Radford, Ridgway argued having the United States bogged down in a land war in Asia once again fighting the Chinese would be a costly distraction from Europe, a place that he maintained was far more important than Vietnam. [28] In a dissenting report to Eisenhower against Radford's recommendations, Ridgway stated "Indochina is devoid of decisive military objectives" and to fight a war there "would be a serious diversion of limited U.S. capabilities". [28] Ridgway felt that Radford as an admiral who had never fought against the Chinese was too dismissive of Chinese power, and he did not see the dangers of the United States fighting yet another trying struggle against the Chinese, in less than a year after the end of the Korean war. [27]

Ridgway's objections to Vulture gave Eisenhower pause, but Radford's vehement insistence that if three tactical atomic bombs were dropped on the Viet Minh forces besieging the French at Dien Bien Phu would be enough to save Indochina for France made the president indecisive. [28] Both the Vice President, Richard Nixon, and the Secretary of State, John Foster Dulles, were all for Vulture and lobbied Eisenhower hard to accept it. [28] Eisenhower himself felt guilty over the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, and during one meeting told Admiral Radford and Air Force General Nathan F. Twining: "You boys must be crazy. We can't use those awful things against Asians for a second time in less than ten years. My God!" [30] Eisenhower finally agreed to carry out Vulture, but only if Congress gave its approval first and if Great Britain agreed to join in. [28] The leaders of Congress gave an equivocal answer, rejecting the idea of Vulture as an American operation, but willing to support it if it was an Anglo-American operation. [28] Finally, the British Prime Minister Winston Churchill rejected the idea of British intervention in Vietnam, which killed Vulture. [31] On 7 May 1954, what was left of the French forces at Dien Bien Phu surrendered, which brought down the government of Premier Joseph Laniel in Paris, and led to a new government being formed by Pierre Mendès France whose sole mandate was to pull all French forces out of Indochina. [32]

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. [33] Disagreements with the administration over the administration's downgrading of the army in favor of the United States Navy and the United States Air Force, prevented Ridgway from being appointed to a second term. [34] 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. In the October 7, 1960 presidential debate, John F. Kennedy mentioned General Ridgway as among supporters of the position that the United States should not attempt to defend Quemoy (Kinmen) and Matsu from attack by China (PRC). [35] [36]

The "Wise Men"

In November 1967, Ridgway was recruited to join the "Wise Men", a group of retired diplomats, politicians and generals who assembled time from time to give their advice on the Vietnam War to President Lyndon B. Johnson. Though the "Wise Men" group whose informal leader was the former Secretary of State Dean Acheson were widely dismissed as a gimmick to allow Johnson photo-opps, the president did have much respect for the "Wise Men" and took their counsel seriously. [37] In early 1968, Ridgway together with General James M. Gavin and General David M. Shoup expressed their opposition to the strategic bombing offensive against North Vietnam and declared that South Vietnam was not worth the trouble it was taking to defend it. [38] The criticism sufficiently rattled Johnson's powerful National Security Adviser W.W. Rostow that he wrote a 5-page memorandum for the president arguing that Ridgway, Gavin and Shoup did not know what they were talking about and expressed supreme confidence that the bombing offensive would soon force North Vietnam to its knees. [39]

In the aftermath of the Tet Offensive together with Johnson's near-defeat in the New Hampshire Democratic primary, where Johnson defeated the anti-war Senator Eugene McCarthy by only 300 votes, the White House was gripped by crisis with Johnson torn between continuing to seek a military solution to the Vietnam war or turning towards a diplomatic solution. [40] Adding to the sense of crisis was a maneuver by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Earle Wheeler, to force Johnson to rule out the diplomatic solution and to continue with the military solution. On 23 February 1968 Wheeler told General William Westmoreland to advise Johnson to send another 206,000 troops to Vietnam, even through Westmoreland insisted that he did not need the extra troops. [41] Under Wheeler's prodding, Westmoreland did make the request for another 206,000 soldiers, insisting in his report to Johnson that he could not win the war without them. [42] Wheeler's real purpose in having Westmoreland make the troop request was to force Johnson to call out the reserves and the state National Guards. [43] By 1968, there was no way to send another 206,000 men to join the half-million G.I.s already in Vietnam without abandoning the American commitments in Europe, South Korea and elsewhere except by mobilizing the reserves and the National Guards. [43] Calling out the reserves and National Guards would disrupt the economy, which in turn would force Johnson to end the peacetime economy, and taking such a step would make it politically impossible to turn towards a diplomatic solution. The economic sacrifices that a wartime economy would entail could only be justified to the American people by saying the goal was to fight on until victory.

At the same time as the debate swirled over Westmoreland's troop request, Clark Clifford, a longstanding friend of Johnson's and a known hawk arrived at the Pentagon on 1 March as the newly appointed Defense Secretary. Clifford's friend, Senator J. William Fulbright arranged for him to meet privately with Ridgway together with General Gavin. [44] Both Ridgway and Gavin advised Clifford that victory in Vietnam was unobtainable and he should use his influence with Johnson to persuade him to seek a diplomatic solution. [44] The advice from Ridgway and Gavin helped to convert Clifford from being a hawk to a dove. [44]

The Defense Secretary Clifford realized the political implications of the request for 206,000 more troops and lobbied Johnson hard to reject it, urging him to seek a diplomatic solution instead while Rostow advised him to accept it. [45] Since Westmoreland had maintained in his report that victory in Vietnam was impossible without the additional 206,000 troops, to reject the troop request would mean abandoning seeking a military solution. To resolve the debate, Johnson called a meeting of the "Wise Men on 25 March 1968 to advise him what to do. [37] The next day, the majority of the "Wise Men" advised Johnson that victory in Vietnam was impossible and that he should seek a diplomatic solution, counsel that was decisive in persuading him to open peace talks. [46] Of the 14 "Wise Men", only General Maxwell Taylor, Robert Murphy, Abe Fortas and General Omar Bradley advised Johnson to continue seeking a military solution with the rest all speaking for a diplomatic solution. [46] Ridgway's status as a war hero whom no-one could accuse of being "soft on Communism" added to the prestige of the "Wise Men" and made Johnson more likely to accept their advice. [37] On 31 March 1968, Johnson went on national television to announce his willingness to open peace talks with North Vietnam, that he was unconditionally stopping bombing most of North Vietnam and finally declaring that he was withdrawing from the 1968 election.

Personal life

In 1917 he married Julia Caroline Blount. They had two daughters, Constance and Shirley, before divorcing in 1930. [17]

Shortly 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. Later that year he married Mary Princess Anthony Long (1918–1997), who was nicknamed "Penny". [47] They remained married until his death. [48] They were the parents of a son, Matthew, Jr., who died in a 1971 accident shortly after graduating from Bucknell University and receiving his commission as a second lieutenant through the Reserve Officers' Training Corps. [49] [50]

Ridgway remained 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, Ridgway 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. [51]

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. [52] 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. [53]

Ridgway advocated maintaining a chemical, biological, and radiological weapons capability, arguing that they could accomplish national goals better than the weapons currently in use. [54] 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. [55]

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. [56] [57]


Ridgway died at his suburban Pittsburgh home at age 98 in July 1993 of cardiac arrest. He was buried at Arlington National Cemetery, in Arlington, Virginia. [58] [59] 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." [60]


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." [61] 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."

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." [62]

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. [63]

Major assignments

Orders, decorations, medals and badges

United States badges, decorations and medals

Combat Infantry Badge.svg Combat Infantryman Badge (General Ridgway is one of five general officers who have been awarded the honorary CIB for service while a general officer, along with General Joseph Stilwell, Major General William F. Dean, General of the Army Omar Bradley, and General of the Army Douglas MacArthur. Generals are not allowed to be awarded the CIB. The CIB is only available to colonels and below.) [64]
Basic combat 1 jump.png Basic Combat Parachutist Badge with one bronze jump star [65]
United States Army Staff Identification Badge.png Army Staff Identification Badge
Fourragere CG.png French Fourragère in the colors of WWII
ArmyOSB.svg Six Overseas Service Bars
Bronze oakleaf-3d.svg
Distinguished Service Cross ribbon.svg
Army Distinguished Service Cross with oak leaf cluster
Distinguished Service Medal ribbon.svg Bronze oakleaf-3d.svg Bronze oakleaf-3d.svg Bronze oakleaf-3d.svg Army Distinguished Service Medal with three oak leaf clusters
Bronze oakleaf-3d.svg
Silver Star ribbon.svg
Silver Star with oak leaf cluster
Bronze oakleaf-3d.svg
Legion of Merit ribbon.svg
Legion of Merit with oak leaf cluster
Valor device.svg
Bronze oakleaf-3d.svg
Bronze Star ribbon.svg
Bronze Star with "V" device and oak leaf cluster
Purple Heart BAR.svg Purple Heart
United States Army and U.S. Air Force Presidential Unit Citation ribbon.svg Army Presidential Unit Citation
Presidential Medal of Freedom (ribbon).svg Presidential Medal of Freedom [3]
World War I Victory Medal ribbon.svg World War I Victory Medal
Second Nicaraguan Campaign Medal ribbon.png Second Nicaraguan Campaign Medal
American Defense Service Medal ribbon.svg
American Defense Service Medal with one bronze service star
American Campaign Medal ribbon.svg American Campaign Medal
Arrowhead device.svg
European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign ribbon.svg
European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with Arrowhead device and eight campaign stars
Asiatic-Pacific Campaign ribbon.svg Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal
World War II Victory Medal ribbon.svg World War II Victory Medal
Army of Occupation ribbon.svg Army of Occupation Medal with "Germany" clasp
National Defense Service Medal ribbon.svg National Defense Service Medal
Korean Service Medal - Ribbon.svg Silver-service-star-3d.png Bronze-service-star-3d.png Bronze-service-star-3d.png Korean Service Medal with seven campaign stars

International and foreign orders, decorations and medals

Legion Honneur GC ribbon.svg Grand Cross of the Legion of Honor of France (1953)
BEL Kroonorde Grootkruis BAR.svg Order of the Crown (Belgium), Grand Cross
Cavaliere di gran Croce Regno SSML BAR.svg Order of Saints Maurice and Lazarus, Knight Grand Cross (Italy)
GRE Order of George I - Grand Cross BAR.png Order of George I, Grand Cross (Greece)
Ordre de la couronne de Chene GC ribbon.svg Order of the Oak Crown, Grand Cross (Luxembourg)
MEX Order of the Aztec Eagle 2Class BAR.png Order of the Aztec Eagle, Grand Cross (Mexico)
Order of Orange-Nassau ribbon - Knight Grand Cross.svg Order of Orange-Nassau, Knight Grand Cross (The Netherlands)
PRT Military Order of Aviz - Grand Cross BAR.png Order of Aviz, Grand Cross (Portugal)
MCO Order of Saint-Charles - Grand Cross BAR.png Order of Saint-Charles, Grand Cross (Monaco)
Cordone di gran Croce OMRI BAR.svg Order of Merit of the Italian Republic, Knight Grand Cross
Order of the White Elephant - 1st Class (Thailand) ribbon.svg Order of the White Elephant, 1st Class (Thailand)
Order of the Bath (ribbon).svg Order of the Bath, Knight Commander (Great Britain)
Grand Officer Boyaca.png Order of Boyaca, Grand Officer (Colombia)
Grande ufficiale OMS BAR.svg Military Order of Savoy, Grand Officer (Italy)
PHL Legion of Honor - Chief Commander BAR.png Philippine Legion of Honor, Chief Commander
PAN Order of Vasco Nunez de Balboa - Grand Officer BAR.png Order of Vasco Núñez de Balboa, Grand Officer (Panama)
BEL Order of Leopold II - Commander BAR.png UK MID 1920-94.svg Order of Leopold II, Commander with palm (Belgium)
BRA Order of the Southern Cross - Officer BAR.png Order of the Southern Cross, Officer (Brazil)
Croix de guerre 1939-1945 stripe bronsepalme.svg Croix de guerre 1939–1945 (France) with bronze palm
Croix de Guerre 1940-1945 with palm (Belgium) - ribbon bar.png Croix de guerre (Belgium), WWII with bronze palm
United Nations Service Medal Korea ribbon.svg United Nations Korea Medal
Inter-american defense board medal ribbon.svg Inter-American Defense Board Medal
Korean War Service Medal ribbon.svg Korean War Service Medal

Other honors


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 ArmyMay 15, 1917
US-O3 insignia.svg Captain National ArmyAugust 5, 1917
US-O3 insignia.svg Captain Regular ArmyJuly 18, 1919
US-O4 insignia.svg Major Regular ArmyOctober 1, 1932
US-O5 insignia.svg Lieutenant colonel Regular ArmyJuly 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 StatesJanuary 15, 1942
US-O8 insignia.svg Major general Army of the United StatesApril 6, 1942
US-O9 insignia.svg Lieutenant general Army of the United StatesJune 4, 1945
US-O7 insignia.svg Brigadier general Regular ArmyNovember 1, 1945
US-O8 insignia.svg Major general Regular ArmyRetroactive to
April 6, 1942
US-O10 insignia.svg General Army of the United StatesMay 11, 1951
US-O10 insignia.svg General Regular Army, RetiredJune 30, 1955


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  2. "Ridgway, Matthew Bunker, "Old Iron Tits"". World War II Graves. January 23, 2018.
  3. 1 2 Arthur, Billy A., Obituary: General Matthew Ridgway, The Independent , 1993-08-10, retrieved 2009-08-31
  4. Mitchell, George Charles (2002). Matthew B. Ridgway : soldier, statesman, scholar, citizen. Stackpole Books. p. 3. ISBN   978-0811722940.
  5. 1 2 Mitchell 2002, p. 7.
  7. Mitchell 2002, p. 10.
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  18. "The Korean War: The Chinese Intervention".
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  34. Mitchell 2002, p. 159.
  35. October 7, 1960 Presidential Candidates Debate. Event occurs at 52:34. Archived from the original on April 16, 2019. Retrieved December 7, 2019 via C-SPAN.
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  42. Karnow 1983 p. 531.
  43. 1 2 Karnow 1983 p. 550.
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  48. Sheridan, Patricia (July 23, 1997). "Death of General's Widow Marks "Passing of an Era"". News Record. North Hills, PA. p. 3.
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  50. "Month Before Death: Matthew B. Ridgway Jr. is flanked by proud parents at Bucknell University on May 29 shortly after being commissioned a second lieutenant in the Army" . Post-Gazette. Pittsburgh, PA. September 9, 1971. p. 26.
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  56. "GHDI – Image".
  57. 5. Mai 1985: Helmut Kohl und Ronald Reagan in Bergen-Belsen und Bitburg Archived 2013-05-02 at the Wayback Machine (more detailed)
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  66. Matthew B. Ridgway: Soldier, Statesman, Scholar, Citizen, George Charles Mitchell, p. 209
  67. "Matthew B. Ridgway Center".

Further reading

Military offices
Preceded by
Omar Bradley
Commanding General 82nd Infantry Division
June–August 1942
Post redesignated 82nd Airborne Division
New title Commanding General 82nd Airborne Division
August 1942 – August 1944
Succeeded by
James Gavin
New title Commanding General XVIIIth Airborne Corps
August 1944 – July 1945
Succeeded by
John W. Leonard
Preceded by
Walton Walker
Commanding General Eighth United States Army
December 1950 – April 1951
Succeeded by
James Van Fleet
Preceded by
Douglas MacArthur
Commander United Nations Command in Korea
April 1951 – May 1952
Succeeded by
Mark Clark
Preceded by
Douglas MacArthur
Supreme Commander Allied Powers Japan
April 11, 1951 – April 28, 1952
Succeeded by
Position terminated
Preceded by
Dwight Eisenhower
Supreme Allied Commander Europe
June 1952 – August 1953
Succeeded by
Alfred Gruenther
Preceded by
Joseph Collins
Chief of Staff of the United States Army
August 1953 – June 1955
Succeeded by
Maxwell Taylor