Ridgway graduated from the Command and General Staff School, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, in 1935 and from the Army War College in 1937. Between 1939 and 1942, he was in the War Plans Division of the War Department's General Staff. A protégé of Army Chief of Staff General George C. Marshall, he was promoted to lieutenant colonel in July 1940, colonel in December 1941, and temporary brigadier general in January 1942. He was then assigned as assistant division commander of the 82nd Infantry Division assembling at Camp Claiborne, Louisiana, under Major General Omar N. Bradley. In June 1942, he assumed command of the 82nd, reorganizing it in August into an airborne division when he was promoted to temporary major general.
Ridgway commanded the 82nd in Sicily in July and August 1943 and in Italy from September to November 1943, during which the unit captured Naples and fought in the drive to the Volturno River before returning to England to prepare for the Normandy Invasion. He made his only combat jump with his division on 6 June 1944, and he fought with it throughout the Normandy Campaign. In August 1944, he turned over command of the 82nd to James Gavin and subsequently took charge of the newly formed XVIII Airborne Corps, directing it in Operation market-garden, during the Battle of the Bulge, and throughout the drive into Germany.
Promoted to lieutenant general in June 1945, Ridgway briefly commanded the Mediterranean Theater. From 1946 to 1948, he was U.S. representative to the UN Military Staff Committee, and from 1948 to 1949, he headed the Caribbean Defense Command. Appointed deputy chief of staff of the army in August 1949, Ridgway took command of Eighth Army in Korea on the death of Lieutenant General Walton Walker. In that post, he stopped its retreat before Chinese forces, restored its morale, and returned it to the offensive. Ridgway subsequently succeeded General of the Army Douglas MacArthur as supreme Allied commander, in April 1951. Appointed supreme Allied commander, Europe in May 1952, he was promoted to full general. In August 1953, he was appointed army chief of staff. Declining to serve his full four-year term because of his disagreement with President Dwight D. Eisenhower's defense polices that placed reliance on nuclear weapons, Ridgway retired in June 1955. He then wrote his memoirs and served on various corporate boards. He died in Fox Chapel, Pennsylvania, on 26 July 1993.
Guy A. Lofaro
Blair, Clay. Ridgway's Paratroopers: The American Airborne in World War II. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1985.; Gavin, James M. On to Berlin: Battles of an Airborne Commander. New York: Viking, 1978.; Ridgway, Matthew B. Soldier: The Memoirs of Matthew B. Ridgway, as Told to Harold H. Martin. New York: Harper, 1996.; Soffer, Jonathan N. General Matthew B. Ridgway: From Progressivism to Reaganism, 1895–1993. Westport, CT: Praeger, 1998.