Gaither, Ridgely A Jr., born 23-02-1903 in Baltimore, Maryland, began his career as a military officer in 1924 after his graduation from St. John’s College in Annapolis. His family had included Army officers since the Revolutionary War. Before World War II, he served at various posts in this country, Alaska, then a territory and China, where he was stationed when the Japanese invaded China in 1937.After heading the Parachute School from 1943 until 1945, he jumped with the 17th Airborne Division, nicknamed “Goldan Talons” east of the Rhine River, landing almost on top of a German anti-aircraft battery. In terms of casualties, the 17th suffered a total of 1,346 casualties between 24 and 29 March, when Operation Plunder came to an end The German Generalfeldmarschall der Panzertruppe, Kommandeur XXXXI Panzergruppe, Walter Model
committed suicide there, because of the hopeless situation. The Americans took the position, and later, General Gaither said one group of Germans might have been taken prisoner sooner if he had not shot down their truce flag, which was so dirty he did not immediately recognize it. In addition, he said, he risked being fired upon to retrieve a dental plate in a bag he had dropped in the landing. General Lieutenant, Gaither then served briefly with the 86th Infantry Division, nickname “Blackhawk Division” , in the Philippines and then from 1946 until 1949 with troops on the border between Italy and Yugoslavia, becoming a member of the allied commission that established the border and serving as military governor of Trieste. Casualty figures for the 86th Infantry Division, European theater of operations, total battle casualties: 785, total deaths in battle: 161. During this period he also served as president of a War Crimes Court in Florence, Italy.