Matthew Bunker Ridgway
'Old Iron Tits'
Graduate, U.S. Military Academy, Class of 1917
Engagements: • Banana Wars (1898 - 1934)• World War II (1941 - 1945)• Korean War (1950 - 1953)
Matthew Bunker "Old Iron Tits" Ridgway
The Early Years
Matthew Bunker Ridgway was born on 3 March 1895 in Fort Monroe, VA. He was the son of Colonel Thomas Ridgway, an Army artillery officer, and Ruth Ridgway. As a result, he lived on military bases throughout his childhood. He once 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 Boston English High School in Boston and applied to the U.S. Military Academy because he thought that would please his father (a West Point grad). Ridgway failed the entrance exam the first time because of his inexperience with mathematics. However, after intensive study, his second attempt was successful.
While at West Point, he served as a manager of the football team. Upon his graduation with the Class of 1917, he was commissioned a Second Lieutenant of Infantry in the U.S. Army. The same year he married Julia Caroline Blount. They had two daughters, Constance and Shirley, and divorced in 1930.
A year after Ridgway graduated, he returned to West Point as an instructor in Spanish. He was frustrated that he wasn't assigned to combat duty in World War I. His feeling was that "the soldier who had had no share in this last great victory of good over evil would be ruined."
Ridgway attended the Company Officers' Course at the U.S. Army Infantry School in Fort Benning, GA, during 1924-25. After completion of the course he was given command of a company in the 15th Infantry in Tientsin, China. 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. He graduated from the Command and General Staff School at Fort Leavenworth, KS, in 1935 and from the Army War College at Carlisle Barracks, PA, in 1937. During the 1930s he served as Assistant Chief of Staff of VI Corps; Deputy Chief of Staff of the Second U.S. Army, and Assistant Chief of Staff of the Fourth U.S. 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, when he was promoted to Brigadier General.
World War II
Ridgway was promoted to Major General in August 1942 and given command of the U.S. 82nd Airborne Division when Omar N. Bradley was transferred to the 28th Infantry Division. Having already established a combat record in World War I, the 82nd had earlier been selected 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.
Unlike his men, Ridgway did not complete airborne jump school before joining the division. Still, Ridgway successfully converted the 82nd into a combat-ready airborne division; he also eventually earned his Paratrooper wings.
Ridgway helped plan the airborne invasion of Sicily in July 1943, where he commanded the 82nd in combat. During the planning for the invasion of the Italian mainland, the 82nd was tasked with taking Rome by coup de main (an offensive operation that capitalizes on surprise and simultaneous execution of supporting operations to achieve success in one swift stroke) in Operation Giant II. Ridgway strongly objected to what he considered an unrealistic plan that would drop the 82nd on the outskirts of Rome in the midst of two German heavy divisions. The operation was canceled only hours before launch. In 1944, Ridgway helped plan the airborne operations of Operation Overlord, the Allied invasion of Europe. In the Normandy operations, he jumped with his troops, who fought for 33 days in advancing to Saint-Sauveur-le-Vicomte near Cherbourg (St Sauveur was liberated on 14 June 1944).
In September of '44, Ridgway was given command of the XVIII Airborne Corps that was deployed in Operation Market Garden. The XVIII Airborne Corps also helped stop, and later push back, German troops during the Battle of the Bulge. In March 1945, he led his troops into Germany during Operation Varsity, and was wounded in the shoulder by German grenade fragments on 24 March. Ridgway was promoted to Lieutenant General in June of '45.
At war's end, Ridgway was on a plane headed for a new assignment in the Pacific Theater, under the command of General of the Army Douglas MacArthur, with whom he had served while a Captain at the U.S. 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; this command came with the title Deputy Supreme Allied Commander, Mediterranean. From 1946-48, 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. In 1949 he 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. They remained married until his death 46 years later. In April 1949, their only child, Matthew Bunker Ridgway, Jr., was born; he was killed in an accident in 1971.
The most important command assignment of Ridgway's military career occurred in 1950, and literally by 'accident.' The assignment came about due to the death of 8th Army Commander Lieutenant General Walton Walker in a vehicular accident in Korea on 23 December 1950. He took over the 8th U.S. Army, which had been deployed in South Korea upon the invasion by North Korea in June of that year. At the time, Ridgway was serving on the Army staff in the Pentagon as Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations and Administration.
When Ridgway took command, the Army was still in a tactical retreat, after a 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 Eighth Army.
Ridgway was unfazed by the Olympian demeanor of General Douglas MacArthur, then overall commander of UN forces in Korea. MacArthur gave Ridgway operational latitude that he had never given General Walker. 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 specifically asked 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."
Upon taking command 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.
The character of the Korean War had changed with the entry of China. 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 counteroffensive in the spring of 1951.
When General Douglas MacArthur was relieved of command by President Harry Truman in April 1951, Ridgway was promoted to full general, and assumed command of all UN 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.
Ridgway also assumed from MacArthur the role of Military Governor of Japan. During his tenure, Ridgway oversaw the restoration of Japan's independence and sovereignty on 28 April 1952.
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. 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.'"
Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army
On 17 August 1953, Ridgway replaced General Collins as the Chief of Staff of the U.S. 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. 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, 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. However, disagreements with the administration, mainly regarding the administration's downgrading of the Army in favor of the Navy, prevented him from being appointed to a second term.
Ridgway retired from the U.S. Army on 30 June 1955 and was succeeded by his one-time 82nd Airborne Division Chief of Staff, Maxwell D. Taylor. Even after he retired, Ridgeway was a constant critic of President Eisenhower.
In his retirement, Ridgway remained very active in leadership capacities and as a speaker and author. He relocated to the Pittsburgh suburb of Fox Chapel, PA, 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.
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. 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.
Ridgway advocated maintaining a chemical, biological, and radiological weapons capability, arguing that they could accomplish national goals better than the weapons currently in use. 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.
On 5 May 1985, Ridgway was a participant in the Ronald Reagan visit to Kolmeshöhe Cemetery near Bitburg, when former Luftwaffe ace Johannes Steinhoff, in an unscheduled act, firmly shook his hand in an act of reconciliation between the former foes.
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 of turning the tide of the Korean War as "the greatest feat of personal leadership in the history of the Army." 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."
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.
Medals, Awards & Badges
Distinguished Service Cross with Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster
* Ridgway is one of only three general officers who have been given the CIB for service while a general officer; Major General William Dean [Honoree Record ID 27] and General Joseph Stilwell [Honoree Record ID 334] are the other two.
Distinguished Service Cross Citation (First Award):
SYNOPSIS: Major General Matthew Bunker Ridgway (ASN: 0-5264), United States Army, was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations against an armed enemy while serving as Commanding General, 82d Airborne Division, in action against enemy forces in July 1943. Major General Ridgway's intrepid actions, personal bravery and zealous devotion to duty exemplify the highest traditions of the military forces of the United States and reflect great credit upon himself, the 82d Airborne Division, and the United States Army.
General Orders: Headquarters, Seventh U.S. Army, General Orders No. 24 (September 11, 1943) Action Date: July 1943
Distinguished Service Cross Citation (Second Award):
The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, July 9, 1918, takes pleasure in presenting a Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster in lieu of a Second Award of the Distinguished Service Cross to Major General Matthew Bunker Ridgway (ASN: 0-5264), United States Army, for extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations against an armed enemy while serving as Commanding Officer, 82d Airborne Division, in action against the enemy from 6 June 1944 to 9 June 1944, in France. Major General Ridgway jumped by parachute at approximately 0200 prior to the dawn of "D" Day and landed about 3/4 mile northeast of *****, France, to spearhead the parachute landing assault of his Airborne Division on the Cotentin Peninsula. Throughout "D" Day, he visited every point in the then surrounded area in order to evaluate the opposition and to encourage his men. He penetrated to the front of every active sector without thought of the personal danger involved. He exposed himself continuously to small arms, mortar and artillery fire; as, by his presence and through words of encouragement, he greatly assisted and personally directed the operations of one of his battalions in the important task of securing the bridgehead across the ***** River, which required a frontal assault against strongly entrenched enemy positions. His personal bravery and his heroism were deciding factors in the success of his unit in France. Major General Ridgway's gallant leadership, personal bravery and zealous devotion to duty exemplify the highest traditions of the military forces of the United States and reflect great credit upon himself, the 82d Airborne Division, and the United States Army.
General Orders: Headquarters, First U.S. Army, General Orders No. 35 (July 19, 1944) Action Date: June 6 - 9, 1944
General Ridgway was also the recipient of the two highest civilian awards in the United States:
Congressional Gold Medal
** Ridgway's long and prestigious military career was recognized by the presentation of the Presidential Medal of Freedom on 12 May 1986 by President Ronald Reagan, who stated that "Heroes come when they're needed; great men step forward when courage seems in short supply."
The National Infantry Association awarded him the Order of Saint Maurice (Primicerius) and their annual Doughboy Award.
Ridgway appeared on the 30 April 1951 and 12 May 1952 covers of LIFE Magazine and the 5 March 1951 and 16 July 1951 editions of TIME Magazine.
Ridgway was honored by his adopted hometown of Pittsburgh with the entrance to the Soldiers and Sailors National Military Museum and Memorial, located in the city's education and cultural district, being renamed "Ridgway Court."
• Bearing his name is the Matthew B. Ridgway Center for International Security Studies at the University of Pittsburgh.
Death and Burial
General Matthew Bunker Ridgway died at his suburban Pittsburgh home on 26 July 1993 of cardiac arrest at age 98. He died holding the permanent rank of General in the U.S. Army. He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, VA, in Section 7, Grave 8196.
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."
|Origin of Nickname/Handle:|
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.
|Honoree ID: 41||Created by: MHOH|