"Gen. Matthew B. Ridgway and his career"
On Nov. 7, 1991, Army Gen. Colin L. Powell with a delegation of U. S. Senators visited the Fox Chapel home of Gen. Matthew B. Ridgway.
That day, Gen. Ridgway, 96, a hero of World War II and the Korean War, received the Congressional Gold Medal and the infantryman’s combat badge. Powell, then chairman of the Armed Forces Joint Chiefs of Staff, presented the medal valued at $25,000 to Gen. Ridgway. To this date, it is considered to be the highest civilian honor Congress can bestow.
While Ridgway was thrilled with the medal, he was especially delighted with the infantryman’s combat badge, the other honor he received that day. During World War II, only infantrymen who had served a minimum of 90 consecutive days in a combat zone wore it. He did not fit that criterion but an exception was made in his particular case.
Sixty-eight years ago this week, along with the rest of the world’s freedom-loving citizens, Gen. Ridgway celebrated the defeat of Nazi Germany and the end of World War II. He knew many heroes of that conflict, including Gen. Dwight Eisenhower and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill.
A true Army brat, Gen. Ridgway was born at Fort Monroe, Va., where his father, Colonel Thomas Ridgway was stationed. In 1913, Ridgway entered the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.
Before dawn on D-Day, Gen. Ridgway made a combat jump into Normandy on June 6, 1944. Risking his life, he directed soldiers to secure the bridgehead over the Merderet River.
By 1951, Gen. Ridgway was in Korea, where he rallied United Nations forces to seize strategic territory.
In 1953, Ridgway became U.S. Army Chief of Staff, the most frustrating assignment of his career. He disagreed with President Dwight Eisenhower’s decision to emphasize the threat of nuclear bombs over investment in maintaining a strong army of foot soldiers. Gen. Ridgway opposed American involvement in the Vietnam War. He also did not believe that women should be admitted to the U.S. service academies.
After his death at age 98 in 1993, Ridgway was buried with full military honors in Arlington Cemetery.
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