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The Story of How One U.S. General Saved America from Defeat vs. North Korea

June 26, 2019 Topic: History Region: Asia Blog Brand: The Buzz Tags: Korean WarNorth KoreaSouth KoreaChinaGeneral Matthew B. Ridgway

The Story of How One U.S. General Saved America from Defeat vs. North Korea

Any guesses who?

”If I had Been Permitted to Choose My Own Successor I’d Have Selected You”

In the wake of MacArthur’s removal, Matt Ridgway was promoted to four-stars and named commander of Far East Command. He flew to Tokyo for a final official meeting with MacArthur in the embassy library and found him unusually complacent. “He was as calm and courteous as ever, and seemed to have accepted the decision with better grace, I thought, than most men similarly situated might have done.” Later, at the airport, MacArthur told Ridgway, “I hope when you leave Tokyo you will be chief of staff. If I had been permitted to choose my own successor I’d have selected you.”

On April 15 General James A. Van Fleet was given command of the Eighth Army. Ridgway remained in Korea another year, then replaced General Eisenhower as Supreme Allied Commander in Europe. In 1953 he became chief of staff, but they were trying and unpleasant years in the Pentagon. From day one Ridgway clashed with his civilian bosses, in particular “Engine” Charlie Wilson, President Eisenhower’s hard-charging Secretary of Defense. “He didn’t know how to handle his subordinates,” Ridgway complained. “He thought the senior officers who had spent their lives in the military were all a bunch of failures, and he came into the office of secretary of defense with a contempt for the Army. It showed in his indifference. One thing I never forgot is one time Bob Stevens and I had to go up to see him. When we were through he said, ‘Now, you men you know …’ like he was talking to a bunch of labor leaders or something. A lack of courtesy and consideration—you just don’t forget those things.”

To the strains of taps General Matthew Bunker Ridgway was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery on July 30, 1993. The old soldier lived to 98 years of age, but he never forgave MacArthur for his handling of the Eighth Army early in the war. Although he “deplored” MacArthur’s actions, he said, “it never shook my recognition of MacArthur’s brilliance and his wonderful past record.”

Originally Published June 26, 2019.

This article originally appeared on the Warfare History Network.

Image: Reuters