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4-609 To Major General Matthew B. Ridgway, December 18, 1944

   
Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: December 18, 1944

Subject: World War II


To Major General Matthew B. Ridgway

December 18, 1944 [Washington, D.C.]

Confidential

Dear Ridgway,

I have had several letters from you regarding airborne troop operations and organization, the last of December fourth.1 These have been circulated through the operation and organization sections of the General Staff and have been given very serious consideration. Prior to the receipt of your letter of December fourth I had directed that the preliminary proposal be prepared for reorganization based on the recommendations received from you and General Eisenhower and the close-up proposals of General Chapman who was brought to Washington for this purpose.2 This work was being gotten under way at the same time that instructions were sent overseas for a representative from your force to be hurried over here, General Taylor being the man you chose.

As a result of these various moves, a new organization has been adopted which I understand from General Taylor is in all probability wholly acceptable to you and your associates who have had full experience in such matters.3

Regarding you personally, I should be very glad to see you over here when your services over there can be spared. Or it may be that I shall have the opportunity of seeing you over there though I can never be certain about dates or the direction of my movements. Just now it would appear that you could not leave the theater. In January the situation should be much clearer.

Your people have done great things and I feel certain that with the profit from the experience already gained your next endeavor will meet a tremendous success. The courage and dash of airborne troops has become a by-word and is a great inspiration to all the others.

With warm regards and the hope that you find some cheer in the Christmas season,

Faithfully yours,

Document Copy Text Source: George C. Marshall Papers, Pentagon Office Collection, Selected Materials, George C. Marshall Research Library, Lexington, Virginia.

Document Format: Typed letter.

1. On August 27, 1944, Ridgway had assumed command of the newly created Eighteenth Airborne Corps (17th, 82d, and 101st Airborne divisions). Ridgway had written to Marshall on November 1, 1944: “With minor exceptions, all efforts over the past two years to reorganize the airborne division on the basis of combined training and battlefield experience have met with War Department disapproval. . . . The arbitrary limitation of the airborne division to its present strength has been demonstrated to be unsound. . . These divisions entered action with a strength far in excess of the 8600 authorized by present T/O [Table of Organization]. The 82d Airborne Division, in Normandy, had roughly 13,000, and in Holland, nearly 14,000. The 101st Airborne Division had only slightly less.” The greater strength—approaching that of an infantry division—was essential due to the large initial losses in air drops and the large base echelon remaining behind at the departure airfields. (Ridgway to Marshall, November 1, 1944, GCMRL/G. C. Marshall Papers [Pentagon Office, Selected].)

The G-3 division argued that “The War Department, the Army Ground Forces, the Army Air Forces and the Airborne Center believe that an airborne force should be a highly trained light combat unit which lands by parachute and glider at a critical point and that this force must be reenforced by other ground force divisions within a period of two to five days.” But, G-3 asserted, Ridgway wanted airborne divisions to “fight in the line as an Infantry Combat Division when not being employed as an Airborne Unit”; G-3 saw no evidence that “any fundamental changes in our airborne doctrine or organization” were needed. (Porter summary of memorandum, November 8, 1944, ibid.)

Ridgway wrote on December 4 to thank Marshall for permitting Maxwell Taylor to come to the Pentagon to discuss airborne division reorganization. (Ridgway to Marshall, December 4, 1944, ibid.)

2. Major General Elbridge G. Chapman, Jr., had been commanding general of Airborne Command since 1942.

3. Ridgway later wrote: “General Marshall received General Taylor, listened to our presentation—and granted a very material increase in the strength of the airborne divisions. From that time on, we had no more trouble with this problem…. If General Marshall had adopted any other attitude than the one he did I would have been profoundly surprised. The combat soldier never had a better and more understanding friend than George C. Marshall. With the burdens of a global war upon his shoulders, he never forgot the man with the rifle, the man whose task it was to kill and be killed.” (Matthew B. Ridgway and Harold H. Martin, Soldier: The Memoirs of Matthew B. Ridgway [New York: Harper and Brothers, 1956], p. 126.)

Recommended Citation: ThePapers of George Catlett Marshall, ed.Larry I. Bland and Sharon Ritenour Stevens(Lexington, Va.: The George C. Marshall Foundation, 1981- ). Electronic version based on The Papers of George Catlett Marshall, vol. 4, “Aggressive and Determined Leadership,” June 1, 1943-December 31, 1944 (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996), pp. 695-697.

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