Matthew Ridgway

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Matthew Bunker Ridgway (March 3, 1895July 26, 1993) was a United States Army general. He held several major commands and was most famous for salvaging the United Nations war effort in the Korean War.

Born in Fort Monroe, Virginia, he graduated West Point in 1917, and was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Army. After returning to West Point as an instructor in Spanish the year after he graduated, Ridgway completed the officers' course at the Infantry School in Fort Benning, Georgia, after which he was given command of the 15th Infantry. This was followed by a posting to Nicaragua, where he helped supervise free elections in 1927.

In 1930, he became an advisor to the Governor General of the Philippines. A few years later, he attended the Command and General Staff School in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas; at the same time (the mid-1930s), he was Assistant Chief of Staff of VI Corps. Thereafter, he held positions of Deputy Chief of Staff (2nd Army) and Assistant Chief of Staff (4th Army) of two army units. General George Marshall was impressed, and soon after the outbreak of World War II, he assigned Ridgway to the War Plans Division.

In August 1942, Ridgway was promoted to Brigadier General, and was given command of the 82nd Airborne Division, upon Omar N. Bradley's assignment to the 28th Infantry Division. The division was selected to become one of the army's two airborne assault divisions, based in no small part on Ridgway's skill as a trainer, and flexibility of thinking compared to his peers. At that time, the Airborne Division concept was an experiment for the US Army.

Ridgway helped plan the airborne invasion of Sicily, in 1943, and a year later, he helped plan the airborne operations on Operation Overlord. In the Normandy operations, he jumped with his troops, which fought for 33 days in advancing to St-Sauveur-le-Vicomte. In September of 1944, Ridgway was given the command of the XVIII Airborne Corps, and led his troops into Germany. The year after, he was promoted to Lieutenant General. At war's end, Ridgway was on a plane headed for a new assignment under General of the Army Douglas McArthur, with whom he had served under while a Captain at the United States Military Academy at West Point.

He held a command at Luzon for some time in 1945, before being given command of the US forces in the Mediterranean Theater, also gaining the title of Deputy Supreme Allied Commander, Mediterranean. He was given command of US forces in the Caribbean in the late 1940s, before being given the position of Deputy Chief of Staff, under Army Chief of Staff General J. Lawton Collins.

Ridgway's most important command assignment occurred in 1950, upon the death of Lieutenant General Walton Walker. Upon Walker's death, he received command of the 8th US Army, which had been deployed in South Korea upon the invasion from North Korea in June of that year. He led his troops in a subsequent counter-offensive in 1951, and when General Douglas MacArthur was relieved of command by President Harry Truman, Ridgway was promoted to full general, assuming command of United Nations forces in Korea.

Military historians generally credit Ridgway with turning the 8th US Army from a defeated, broken army, into one that fought the overwhelming masses of troops from the People's Republic of China to a standstill. During this period, Ridgway's leadership by personal example, as well as his thorough knowledge of basic military operational principles, set a leadership standard few in US Army history could match. Ridgeway also was not fazed by the Olympian demeanor of General McArthur, who gave Ridgeway latitude in operations he had not given his predecessor.

In May 1952, Ridgway replaced General Dwight D. Eisenhower as the Supreme Allied Commander, Europe (SACEUR). However, he upset other European military leaders by surrounding himself with American staff, and returned to the U.S. to replace General Collins as the Chief of Staff of the United States Army. In that position, Ridgway is credited by historians as having delayed US entry into the Vietnam War, when President Eisenhower asked for his assessment of US military involvement in conjunction with the French. In response, Ridgway prepared a comprehensive outline of the massive commitment that would be necessary, which dissuaded the President from intervening. However, the experience sorely tested the relationship Ridgway had enjoyed during World War II with Eisenhower, and he retired from the US Army in 1955, succeeded in the Chief of Staff post by his onetime 82nd Airborne Division Chief of Staff Maxwell D. Taylor. In the opinion of a number of military historians, Ridgway's stand as Chief of Staff delayed US intervention in Vietnam for around ten years.

Ridgway had been forced to retire earlier than he planned, but he was secure in the belief he had served his nation to the best of his ability. The year after his retirement, he published his autobiography, The Memoirs of Matthew B. Ridgway.

Ridgway's success in the military was not matched by success in his personal life. He married three times. For a while, he held the position of chairman of the board of trustees of the Mellon Institute for Industrial Research in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. According to his friends and colleagues, Ridgway was never the same after his son died in an auto accident in 1971, becoming increasingly depressed and morose. He died at his home in the Pittsburgh suburb of Fox Chapel at age 98 in July 1993 of cardiac arrest, holding permanent rank of General in the United States Army.

Preceded by:
Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower
Supreme Allied Commander Europe (NATO)
Succeeded by:
Gen. Alfred Gruenther
Preceded by:
Gen. J. Lawton Collins
Chief of Staff of the United States Army
Succeeded by:
Gen. Maxwell D. Taylor

Template:End boxde:Matthew Ridgway zh:马修·李奇微


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