Sputnik Escalates the Cold War
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Ridgway, Matthew Bunker (1895–1993)

Title: Matthew Bunker Ridgway
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U.S. Army general and army chief of staff (1953–1955). Born at Fort Monroe, Virginia, on 3 March 1895, Matthew Ridgway graduated in 1917 from the U.S. Military Academy, West Point. During World War II he was promoted to brigadier general in January 1942 and to major general that August. During 1942–1944 he commanded the 82nd Airborne Division in Europe and fought in Italy, France, and Germany. In August 1944 he took command of the new XVIII Airborne Corps and directed it in the Netherlands, in the Battle of the Bulge, and in Germany.

Promoted to lieutenant general in June 1945, Ridgway held a succession of different commands. In December 1950 he took charge of the Eighth Army in Korea following the sudden death of Lieutenant General Walton H. Walker. Restoring the Eighth Army's shattered morale, he drove communist forces back above the 38th Parallel. In April 1951 President Harry S. Truman relieved the insubordinate General Douglas MacArthur as commander of United Nations (UN) forces and replaced him with Ridgway. In July 1951 Ridgway opened truce talks with North Korea and the People's Republic of China (PRC).

Promoted to full general, in May 1952 Ridgway followed General Dwight D. Eisenhower as supreme commander of Allied forces in Europe (SACEUR), where he worked to build up cooperation and military effectiveness within the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Soon after becoming president in 1953, Eisenhower appointed Ridgway chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS). Ridgway mistrusted the president's New Look defense doctrine of relying primarily upon atomic weapons rather than conventional military forces and clashed repeatedly with both Eisenhower and Secretary of Defense Charles E. Wilson. In 1954, when French forces were besieged at Dien Bien Phu and the French government sought American military assistance and intervention through air strikes, Ridgway successfully urged restraint and moderation, warning that any such action risked embroiling the United States in a disastrous war.

Retiring in June 1955, Ridgway joined a military contracting firm and wrote extensively on defense and foreign policy matters. President John F. Kennedy's administration proved receptive to Ridgway's ideas that the U.S. military maintain sufficient manpower to permit a flexible response to a wide range of situations. As a private citizen, Ridgway deplored growing U.S. involvement in Vietnam, thinking the war unwinnable and ill-considered. He was among the senior advisors, or Wise Men, who in March 1968 urged President Lyndon B. Johnson to suspend bombings, seek a negotiated peace, and begin withdrawing American forces from Vietnam. Ridgway died in Fox Chapel, Pennsylvania, on 26 July 1993.

Priscilla Roberts


Further Reading
Mitchell, George Charles. Matthew B. Ridgway: Soldier, Statesman, Scholar, Citizen. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole, 2002.; Ridgway, Matthew B. The Korean War. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1967.; Ridgway, Matthew B. Soldier: The Memoirs of Matthew B. Ridgway, As Told to Harold H. Martin. New York: Harper, 1956.; Soffer, Jonathan M. General Matthew Ridgway: From Progressivism to Reaganism, 1895–1993. Westport, CT: Praeger, 1998.
 

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