General Matthew B. Ridgway: From Progressivism to Reaganism, 1895-1993

By Kingseed, Cole C. | Infantry, September/December 1999 | Go to article overview
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General Matthew B. Ridgway: From Progressivism to Reaganism, 1895-1993


Kingseed, Cole C., Infantry


General Matthew B. Ridgway: From Progressivism to Reaganism, 1895-1993. By Jonathan M. Soffer. Praeger, 1998. 246 Pages. $59.95. Reviewed by Colonel Cole C. Kingseed, U.S. Army.

Few American generals have compiled military records as distinguished as that of General Matthew Ridgway. Commander of the 82d Airborne Division and the XVIII Airborne Corps in World War II; Commander-in-Chief, Far East in Korea; and Supreme Commander at NATO, Ridgway established himself as a leader of remarkable talent, in both the martial and the political areas. This book, the first full-length biography of this exceptional soldier, reflects social scientist Jonathan M. Soffer's empirical findings that Ridgway represented an ideology that favored the build-up of a statecontrolled military-industrial economy through deficit spending. Although such an approach may be satisfying to organizational theorists, it leaves the average reader trying to discover the real Ridgway and his rightful place in history.

Soffer has not attempted to write a definitive biography. He focuses on politics and ideology and has not sought to replicate the work of numerous historians who have chronicled Ridgway's famous battles in detail. Although he readily admits that Ridgway was decisive, self confident, and single-minded in combat, he portrays the famed warrior as less successful in more diplomatic and political roles. As a diplomat during the Korean armistice negotiations and again in Europe as Eisenhower's successor at NATO, Ridgway was too resistant to compromise and his social vision of society sometimes brought him into conflict with civilian political leaders.

Nowhere was this more apparent than in Ridgway's tour as Army Chief of Staff from 1953-1955. To ensure a viable national security program, Ridgway argued for an expanded Army role in national defense. He vigorously defended the traditional missions of the Army for wartime preparedness and believed that budgetary reductions impeded the Army's ability to meet its global commitments with a proposed 10 percent reduction in forces. Such views were simply not in harmony with Eisenhower's New Look, a defense policy review that featured increased emphasis on massive retaliation and significant cuts in the Army's end strength.

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