American Portraits

The Courage of General Matthew Ridgway

In this lesson, students will explore the life of Matthew Ridgway and his role in the Korean War. Students will understand how Matthew Ridgway’s courage helped save the United States’ and United Nations’ forces during the Korean War. Through his example, they will learn how they can use courage in their own lives to accomplish their purpose.

Founding Principles

Individual Responsibility image

Individual Responsibility

Individuals must take care of themselves and their families and be vigilant to preserve their liberty.

Narrative

Matthew Ridgway was born into a military family in March 1895. His father, Colonel Thomas Ridgway, was an artillery officer. Upon graduating high school, Ridgway applied for the United States Military Academy, West Point. However, he failed the entrance exam. Not to be easily dissuaded, Ridgway applied again, this time successfully. He graduated and was commissioned in 1917, just as America was entering the First World War….

Narrative PDF

Compelling Question

How can acting with courage help you accomplish your identity and purpose?

Virtue Defined

Courage is the capacity to overcome fear in order to do good.

Lesson Overview

In this lesson, students will explore the life of Matthew Ridgway and his role in the Korean War. Students will understand how Matthew Ridgway’s courage helped save the United States’ and United Nations’ forces during the Korean War. Through his example, they will learn how they can use courage in their own lives to accomplish their purpose.

Objectives

  • Students will analyze General Matthew Ridgway’s performance during the Korean War.
  • Students will understand how to use courage to accomplish their purpose.
  • Students will apply their knowledge of courage to their own lives.

Background

The Korean War was an outgrowth of an unstable situation on the Korean Peninsula at the conclusion of the Second World War. In August 1945, the Soviet Union declared war on the Empire of Japan. With the endorsement of the United States, Soviet forces seized land in the northern part of the peninsula, stopping at the 38th The United States then occupied the southern half. Two different political regimes with opposing views emerged from this situation, creating the perfect recipe for conflict.

War broke out in June 1950. North Korea, hoping to assert its dominance over the entire peninsula, invaded South Korea and made quick progress. South Korea, supported by United States and United Nations forces, fell back around the port city of Pusan. They fought hard and were finally relieved when U.N. and U.S. forces landed at Incheon, forcing the North Koreans to withdraw. The fight then moved north, all the way to the Chinese border. Then, in November, the Chinese shocked the world by allying with North Korea and attacking U.N. and U.S. forces, once again driving them south.

The fighting eventually settled in the area around the 38th Parallel. It was during this chaotic situation that General Matthew Ridgway arrived on the Korean Peninsula.

Vocabulary

  • Alma mater
  • 38th parallel
  • Incheon
  • Logistical
  • Interwar
  • Embroiled
  • Vain
  • Beleaguered
  • Pined
  • Defeatism
  • Eminent
  • Concerted

Introduce Text

Have students read the background and narrative, keeping the Compelling Question in mind as they read. Then have them answer the remaining questions below.

For more robust lesson treatment, check out our partners at the Character Formation Project

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Questions

Walk-In-The-Shoes Questions
As you read, imagine you are the protagonist.

  • What challenges are you facing?
  • What fears or concerns might you have?
  • What may prevent you from acting in the way you ought?

Observation Questions

  • Who was Matthew Ridgway?
  • What was General Ridgway’s assignment in Korea?
  • How did General Ridgway’s courageous actions shape his identity?

Discussion Questions
Discuss the following questions with your students.

  • What is the historical context of the narrative?
  • What historical circumstances presented a challenge to the protagonist?
  • How and why did the individual exhibit a moral and/or civic virtue in facing and overcoming the challenge?
  • How did the exercise of the virtue benefit civil society?
  • How might exercise of the virtue benefit the protagonist?
  • What might the exercise of the virtue cost the protagonist?
  • Would you react the same under similar circumstances? Why or why not?
  • How can you act similarly in your own life? What obstacles must you overcome in order to do so?

Additional Resources

  • “The Forgotten Maverick General Who Saves South Korea.” WSJ. http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424127887324744104578472771068875576
  • Hanson, Victor Davis. The Savior Generals: How Five Great Commanders Saved Wars That Were Lost, from Ancient Greece to Iraq. New York: Bloomsbury Press, 2013.
  • Matthew B. Ridgway. Soldier: the memoirs of Matthew B. Ridgway, as told to Harold H. Martin. Greenwood, 1974.

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