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1992 Distinguished Graduate Award


        A distinguished soldier who has led American and Allied troops in every theatre of action and at every level of command in peace and in combat, Matthew Bunker Ridgway has served his country with courage, steadfast dedication to duty, and a high sense of honor over a career
spanning 38 years and three major wars.

        Less than two months after graduating from the Military Academy in April 1917, he commanded a company of the 3rd U.S. Infantry. Returning to West Point in 1918, Captain Ridgway taught Spanish in the Department of Modern Languages, served as an instructor in the
Department of Tactics, and held the appointment of Graduate Manager of Athletics for three years.

        During the years between the world wars, Matthew Ridgway served in command and staff positions with the 15th, 9th, and 33rd Infantry Regiments, and with Second and Fourth Armies. His government also called on him to perform many key assignments in South and Central America, working with the American Electoral mission to Nicaragua and Secretary of the Nicaraguan National Board of Elections; as Secretary of the Commission of Inquiry and Conciliation for Bolivia and Paraguay; and accompanying the Chief of Staff designate, General George C. Marshall on a mission to Brazil in 1939.

        From the War Plans Division of the War Department General Staff in 1942, Matthew Ridgway joined the 82nd Infantry Division. He reorganized this unit as our first airborne division, and then commanded the division through some of the most difficult fighting in World War ll. General Ridgway's dynamic and outstanding leadership of the 82nd Airborne Division, and later, of the XVIII Airborne Corps, enabled American airborne troops to establish an enviable record of success in North Africa, Sicily, Italy, Normandy, Northern France, the Rhineland, the Ardennes, and Central Europe.

        Always with his troops at the point of heaviest combat, he was twice awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, twice awarded the Silver Star, twice the Legion of Merit, twice the Distinguished Service Medal, twice the Bronze Star with "V" device for valor, and he was also wounded in action.

        At the end of the war, General Ridgway commanded the Mediterranean Theatre of Operations. He then served as the United States Army Representative to the United Nations Military Staff Commission and as Senior United States Delegate to the Inter-American Defense Board. These assignments were again followed by a command tour as Commander-in-Chief, Caribbean Command.

        Recognized as the Army's leading field commander, General Ridgway was relieved as Deputy Chief of Staff of the United States Army and reassigned as Commanding General, Eighth U.S. Army, Korea in 1950. In 1951, he replaced General MacArthur as Commander in Chief, Far East Command and Supreme Commander for Allied Powers General Ridgway took command of an Army that has suffered serious reverses and whose morale was low. His inspired leadership and indomitable spirit brought hope where there had been none before; his vigor of mind and his presence at every critical action brought success to a revitalized Army.

        A short tour as Supreme Allied Commander, Europe was followed by his final assignment on active duty, as Chief of Staff of the United States Army.
        Following his retirement, General Ridgway worked tirelessly in the interests of a strong national defense; he has authored numerous articles and books that have alerted this nation to the dangers of military complacency.

        General Matthew Ridgway's life epitomizes the very finest qualities of the American soldier. He was steadfast in battle, dauntless and tough-minded in the face of adversity, and always honest and perceptive in performing his duty at the highest levels of command.

        Throughout a military career that brought him to the pinnacle of his profession, he was dedicated to the principles and ideals that established this great nation. Accordingly, the Association of Graduates of the United States Military Academy takes pride in presenting the 1992 Distinguished Graduate Award to Matthew Bunker Ridgway, Class of April 1917.