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ALLIED LEADER REMEMBERED FOR BRAVERY UNDER HEAVY FIRE

SHARE ALLIED LEADER REMEMBERED FOR BRAVERY UNDER HEAVY FIRE

Gen. Matthew Ridgway drove the communists back across the 38th parallel during the Korean War, convincing his men that the grenade and first-aid kit strapped to his battle jacket weren't for show.

The former Army chief of staff died Monday at his home in suburban Fox Chapel. He was 98.Ridgway - who died one day short of the 40th anniversary of the signing of the Korean War armistice in 1953 - took over the allied effort in Korea in the spring of 1951 after President Harry Truman fired Gen. Douglas MacArthur in a dispute over strategy. Truman soon gave Ridgway four-star status.

He convinced soldiers the additions to his uniform were not MacArthuresque theatrics.

"We thought, `This Ridgway must be a phony with all that stuff. He'll never come to the front," recalled Robert Curtis of Sumner, Wash. But the general refused to let heavy fire keep him from visiting a command post. Curtis sat on the hood and guided the general's jeep while mortar shells landed within 30 yards.

Ridgway, who once estimated he saw more combat than any other general during World War II, commanded the 82nd Airborne Division and the 18th Airborne Corps during that war, as well as the 8th Army and the U.N. Command in Korea. He also served as U.S. commander in chief for the Far East, supreme commander for the Allied Powers in Japan and supreme allied commander in Europe.

Later, he argued against U.S. reliance on nuclear weapons at the expense of conventional forces and persuaded President Dwight D. Eisenhower not to send combat personnel to Vietnam.

"There is still one absolute weapon," he said in 1953. "That weapon is man himself."

During World War II, he converted the 82nd Infantry Division into the 82nd Airborne, the Army's first airborne division, and led it in combat on D-Day.

Ridgway, then 49, parachuted into Normandy on June 6, 1944, landing alone in a dark pasture, only to see an approaching shadow. The general said he drew his .45-caliber sidearm and whispered the password, "Thunder," but there was no answer. Finally, the shadow moved, and Ridgway realized it was a cow.

"I could have kissed her," he said.

In 1950, MacArthur, then the allied commander in Korea, chose Ridgway to lead the 8th Army, which was was demoralized and in retreat when Ridgway took charge. Within four weeks under Ridgway, the 8th Army mounted a counteroffensive against Korea's superior numbers, regaining the 38th parallel and beyond.

"I am not interested in real estate - just in killing the enemy," he said at the time.