It is an example of transformational leadership at the tactical, operational, and strategic level that has a major impact on a major conflict.
Lieutenant General Matthew B. Ridgway assumed command of Eighth U.S. Army after it had been driven south in the early phases of the Korean War. Faced with a broken and dispirited force, Ridgway had to turn the situation around quickly. His memorandum of January 1951, “Why We Are Here,” was a message to the troops about what was at stake, and embodied his belief in the cause and faith in the fighting spirit of the force. In six months, a rejuvenated Eighth U.S. Army had driven the Chinese north of the 38th parallel. It is one of the great stories of U.S. military history.
This inaugural episode of the Dusty Shelves series, Army historian Con Crane and War Room podcast editor Jacqueline E. Whitt present the memorandum and the story of Lieutenant General Ridgway. The memorandum, displayed and transcribed below, comes from the collection of Ridgway’s papers available at the Army Heritage and Education Center.
You can also download the podcast here.
View Ridgway’s Letter (final signed and draft form) in the below gallery (5 images):
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You can also access a transcribed (PDF) version of the memorandum here.
LEARN MORE ABOUT THE “DUSTY SHELVES” SERIES
Con Crane is a military historian with the Army Heritage and Education Center and associated editor of War Room. Jacqueline E. Whitt is Professor of Strategy at the U.S. Army War College. The views expressed in the podcast are those of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect those of the U.S. Army War College, U.S. Army, or the Department of Defense.
Photo: American General Matthew Ridgway commanding the 8th Army talks to US officers before his departure to the Korean front line 05 January 1951 in Seoul.
Photo Credit: AFP/Getty Images
Posts in the “Dusty Shelves” series:
- DUSTING OFF THE DUSTY SHELVES
- HOW A HOMING PIGEON SAVED THE LOST BATTALION OF WORLD WAR I (DUSTY SHELVES)
- COOK’S ‘MIDNIGHT DRAWINGS’ AND THEIR HAUNTING VIEWS OF WAR (DUSTY SHELVES)
- BUILDING THE CONTINENTAL ARMY: VON STEUBEN’S “BLUE BOOK” (DUSTY SHELVES)
- RECEIPT: BOMB, ATOMIC, 1 EACH (DUSTY SHELVES)
- NSC-68: THE POLICY DOCUMENT THAT SHAPED THE COLD WAR (DUSTY SHELVES)
- RIDGWAY’S MEMO: “WHY WE ARE HERE” (DUSTY SHELVES)
- THE “DUSTY SHELVES SERIES”: BRINGING MILITARY HISTORY TO LIFE