Why did other U.S. Army generals dislike Gen. Matthew Ridgeway?

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Why did other U.S. Army generals dislike Gen. Matthew Ridgeway?

Gen. Ridgway lived in my Pittsburgh neighborhood for 38 years after he retired as Army Chief of Staff in 1955 to head Mellon Institute. I talked to him a number of times and quickly came to the conclusion that I was happy he was on our side in Europe during WWII and during the Korean War. He was one tough soldier, even in his late 80s and 90s. He died in 1993 at age 98.

Ridgway was quite intelligent and popular with the enlisted men and most officers in his command and with the media. He made the cover of Time Magazine for the first time after leading a major airborne assault across the Rhine into Germany in March 1945. He was a favorite of Army Chief of Staff Marshall but didn’t suffer fools gladly. Ridgway did not hesitate to relieve a commander in the field who failed to measure up to his standards in WWII or Korea.

In Korea he took over a desperate situation with the US Army in full retreat. MacArthur sought the use of atomic weapons to halt the invading Chinese. Ridgway stopped the Chinese with conventional weapons and the same retreating troops he inherited, less a number of commanders that he fired and replaced. Then Army Chief of Staff Omar Bradley described Ridgway’s performance in Korea as nothing short of remarkable. Time put him on its cover for the second time when Truman fired MacArthur and replaced him with Ridgway.

Ridgway was fearless on the battlefield and seemed to enjoy combat. He parachuted with his 82nd Airborne Division behind enemy lines at night in both Sicily and on D-Day in France. In both operations the pilots missed their drop zones and scattered paratroopers over a wide area. The 82nd suffered a 46% casualty rate.

Ridgway slowly realized that airborne tactics are not only incredibly dangerous but rather foolhardy. He headed the failed airborne invasion of Holland in the fall of 1944 and then crossed the Rhine in March 1945 leading a needlessly large and complicated parachute operation.

Ridgway had many admirers and more than a few in the army who resented him. He earned a Purple Heart in the final weeks of WWII — with the war already clearly won — by charging a German position, firing from his hip, then diving for cover as a rocket exploded in front of him.

Yes, we should all be thankful he was on our side in WWII and Korea.

He bitterly opposed the war in Vietnam, however. His 1953 analysis was that a land war in Indochina could not be won.

Ridgway wrote in his 1955 memoirs “Soldier” that his proudest military achievement was, as Army Chief of Staff, convincing President Eisenhower to not come to the aid of the French who were surrounded and defeated in Vietnam.

Five years later incoming President Kennedy obviously did not read Ridgway’s memoirs.