Sunday, December 22, 2013

the savior generals: matthew ridgway

much can be found on the internet about matthew ridgway.  he died during the summer of 1993, when i was probably at a high school basketball camp getting ready for my senior year season.  i had never heard of him until i read the savior generals.  i may have heard mention of his name, but if anyone came up to me and asked me who matthew ridgway was, i would not have been able to give an answer.

yet, my life and many others, is influenced by what he did for 100 days in korea.  today, i spend a lot of time fiddling around, texting and talking on my samsung phone.  two summers ago, we were all entertained by gangum style.  many people love and drive hyundais.  all the people in south korea can live their free lives because of those 100 days ridgway spent regaining territory and saving people living south of the 38th parallel.

what was so special about ridgway that gave him the capacity to save the korean war?

he lead from the forward.  he was a soldier's soldier.  he dressed like the soldiers he lead.  he kept a grenade and first aid kit on him all the time - giving way to the name iron tits.

he didn't alienate mcarthur.  he was savvy enough to not speak ill of mcarthur.  he was also savvy enough to follow his civilian leaders back in washington d.c.  he installed competent colonels below him and allowed the less-competent to have desk jobs back in the states.  he also ensure that when he communicated to his leaders, they in turn did not leak any information to the press.

he gave the troops a reason to fight.  he gave them a vision about what the world would be like if the chinese communists were left un-checked.  he talked of commitment to allies and to the recently formed united nations.  he spoke of congress funding the war.  he even put the why in the context of the survival of western civilization.

he changed tactics.  he consolidated the line.  he fought at night and had air superiority.  his supply lines were reliable.  he also knew that the communists would not be able to keep their supply lines in good shape

as i read this chapter, i got the impression that mcarthur just left the troops to their own and that they were set adrift and disorganized once the communists came pouring down the peninsula.  all that the military really needed was a solid, steady hand - and in ridgway, they got that.

one final parting thought about ridgway.  it seemed the consensus, prior to ridgway taking command, was that the united states could simply drop a couple of nukes on korea and be done with it.  but others, including ridgway felt that nuclear escalation was not the best way.  russia has exploded nukes of their own - it was the dawn of the cold war - and nuclear escalation was a real risk.  sure millions ended up dying the old fashion way, but had nukes been uses, my guess is that number would have been far higher.