Ridgway, Matthew Bunker, born on 03-03-1895 in Fort Monroe, Virginia, was the son of Ruth Starbuck Bunker and Colonel Thomas Ridgway, a Field Artillery Officer and Civil War veteran. He was raised and attended school in Virginia where he focused on learning Spanish. He stayed in Virginia until he entered the West Point Academy in 1913. There he managed the football team until he was graduated and commissioned as an officer in 1917. He was ranked 56th out of 139 cadets in his clas, until attending the Infantry Officer’s Advanced Course at Fort Benning, Georgia. In the years leading up to World War II, Captain Ridgway commanded a combat company in the 15th Infantry Division in China where he worked with the Flying Tigers Squadron
He attended the Command and General Staff School at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas in 1935 upon his promotion to the rank of Colonel. General George Catlett Marshall was impressed with Ridgway and soon after the outbreak of World War II he was sent to the War Plans Division in Washington DC. Brigadier General Ridgway was promoted to that rank in 1942 and given command of the 82nd Airborne Division , one of the nation’s only two parachute divisions.
The other one is the 101st Airbone Division under General Maxwell Davenport Taylor. The 101 Airborne Division had the next losses during their campaign in Europe; In Normandy, killed/died of wounds 868, wounded in action 2.303, missing/captured 665. In Holland during Operation Market Garden, killed 752, wounded 2.151 and missing 398. In the battle of the Bulge in Belgium, killed 482, wounded 2.449 and missing 527, in total killed 2.043, wounded 2.782 and missed 1590. Ridgway was the instrumental planner of the Army’s first combat airborne drop into Sicily, Italy; an operation in which he always regretted not being able to jump personally. Ridgway was also responsible for planning the airborne jumps on D-Day on June 6, 1944.
This time the General made the jump into Europe with his troops where he was wounded in the back and received the Purple Heart. The 82nd fought for 33 days while advancing toward St. Sauveur le Vicomte. In September 1944, Ridgway accomplished two new feats. Casualties of the 82nd during the European campaign, 1.619 killed in action, 6.560 wounded in action and 332 died of wounds.
He was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, the second highest military award, for extreme gallantry and risk of life in actual combat with an armed enemy force and he was given command of the 18th Airborne Corps . The command of the 82nd came to General James “Slim Jim” Gavin. There Ridgway, nicknamed “Old Iron Tits”, led his troops through the invasion of the Rhineland and Ardennes. Ridgway was in envolved in the trial of the German General Anton Drosler, who was found guilty of a war crime and sentenced to death.
On 27-11-1944, the Mediterranean Theatre Commander, Lieutenant General Matthew Bunker Ridgway, confirmed the sentence. At 8 a.m. on the morning of 01-12-1944, General der Infanterie, Anton Dostler was executed, age 54. He is buried on the war cemetery of Pomezia, Italy. On 02-05-1945, Ridgway’s troops joined up with the Red Army at the Baltic Sea. He was promoted to Lieutenant General in the spring of 1945 at the conclusion of the war. General Ridgway was serving in Washington at the outbreak of the Korean War until, in late December 1950, word came that Lieutenant General Walton Harris Walker “Johnnie Walker”, commander of the 8th Army had been killed in a jeep crash. The 8th Army was in full retreat after the Chinese Communist forces opened a massive counteroffensive a month before, and was fleeing back across 38th Parallel. He was named Walker’s successor and quickly made his way to the combat zone in South Korea. He received the Legion of Merit Award for exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding services and achievements during this assignment and left Korea only once for a trip to Washington DC. to receive the Distinguished Service Medal from President Harry Shipp Truman for outstanding leadership at the West Point Academy Commencement Ceremony in 1952. General Ridgway was appointed Army Chief of Staff by President Dwight “Ike” Eisenhower upon his return from South Korea; however he was a stubborn man who was fiercely protective of the Army. The Army accepted his request for retirement in June 1955, only months before his originally scheduled retirement. His military career had spanned 37 years and three major theatre wars. Matthew Ridgway was married three times. He also had a son, Colin, who died unfortunately at an early age in a camping accident. He spent the remainder of his retirement serving on the Board of Trustees of The Mellon Institute in Pittsburgh. In 1986, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom for civilians displaying especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.
Death and burial ground on Ridgway, Matthew Bunker.
He lived with his wife “Penny” in their Fox Chapel home until he died of cardiac arrest in his home on 26-07-1993.
He was 98 years old. He is most remembered as a fierce soldier, innovative leader, and loving husband and father. Ridgeway is buried with his wife Mary, born Anthony, who died age 79, on 19-07-1997, on Arlington National Cemetery, Section 7. Close by in Section 7, the Air Corps Lieutenant General, Head of the American Air Force, Frank Andrews. Close by in Section 7, the Major General, Commander 35th Division, nicknamed “Sante Fe Division” , Paul Baade, General, Chief of Staff of Sixth Army, nicknamed “Alamo Force” , George Decker, General, Commander 85th Infantry Division, nicknamed “Custer”, Wade “Ham” Haislip, Brigadier General, Commander U.S. Marine Corps , Lemuel Shepherd Jr. and General, Vice Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army , John Hull, Major General, Commander 1st Division Northwest, Clift “Mr Ships” Andrus, First Allied Airborne Army . U.S. 2* Air Force Lieutenant General, Operation “Market Garden”, Louis Brereton,