Ridgely Gaither

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Ridgely Gaither
Ridgely Gaither as commander of the 11th Airborne Division in 1952.jpg
Ridgely Gaither as commander of the 11th Airborne Division in 1952
Born February 23, 1903 (1903-02-23)
Baltimore, Maryland
Died October 26, 1992 (1992-10-27) (aged 89)
Annapolis, Maryland
Buried Arlington National Cemetery
Allegiance  United States
Service/branch Emblem of the United States Department of the Army.svg United States Army
Years of service 1924–1962
Rank US-O9 insignia.svg Lieutenant General
Commands held Army Parachute School
82nd Airborne Division 82nd Airborne Division
11th Airborne Division (United States) 11th Airborne Division
40th Infantry Division (United States) 40th Infantry Division
XVIII Airborne Corps (United States) XVIII Airborne Corps
United States Southern Command U.S. Army Caribbean Command
Second United States Army Second United States Army
Battles/wars World War II
Korean War
Awards Distinguished Service Medal (2)
Silver Star (2)
Legion of Merit
Bronze Star
Other work Annapolis, Maryland Police Commissioner

Ridgely Gaither was a United States Army lieutenant general prominent as commander of the 40th Infantry Division during the Korean War, and commander of the XVIII Airborne Corps, U.S. Army Caribbean Command and Second United States Army.

Early life[edit]

Gaither was born in Baltimore, Maryland on February 23, 1903 to a family which has included Army officers since the American Revolution and is the namesake of Gaithersburg, Maryland. Gaither graduated from St. John's College in Annapolis and received his commission as a second lieutenant of Infantry in 1924.[1][2]

Early career[edit]

Gaither served in positions of increasing responsibility and rank, including assignments in the continental United States, Alaska, Hawaii and China.[3] He graduated from the Infantry Officer Course in 1933 and the Command and General Staff College in 1939.[4]

World War II[edit]

An early advocate of using paratroopers in offensive military operations, from 1943 to 1944 Gaither commanded the Army Parachute School, receiving promotion to brigadier general.[5][6]

While there, he was instrumental in forming the 555th Parachute Infantry Company (nicknamed the Triple Nickels), a segregated unit which was the U.S. Army's first African-American paratrooper unit.[7]

In 1945 Gaither went to Europe to take part in fighting against Nazi Germany, including a combat parachute jump with the 17th Airborne Division. He landed east of the Rhine River, almost on top of a German anti-aircraft battery. The Americans took the position, and Gaither said later that one group of Germans might have been taken prisoner sooner if he had not shot down their white flag of surrender, which was so dirty he didn’t immediately recognize it.[8]

Later in 1945 General Gaither was assigned as assistant division commander of the 86th Infantry Division in the Philippines, where he served until the end of the war and immediately afterwards.[9]

Post World War II[edit]

From 1946 until 1949 Gaither served as assistant division commander of the 88th Infantry Division with duty on the border between Italy and Yugoslavia. He also served as a member of the Allied commission that established the border, military governor of Trieste, and as president of the War Crimes Court in Florence, Italy.[10][11][12][13][14]

Gaither commanded the 82nd Airborne Division from July to October, 1949.[15][16]

From 1949 to 1951 Gaither served in the Operations Division of the Office of the Army's Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations.[17]

Gaither commanded the 11th Airborne Division from 1951 to 1953.[18][19][20]

Korean War[edit]

General Gaither was commander of the 40th Infantry Division from 1953 to 1954, including combat during the Battle of Heartbreak Ridge.[21][22]

Post Korean War[edit]

In 1955 Gaither was assigned as commander of the XVIII Airborne Corps.[23]

From 1955 to 1956 Gaither served as the U.S. Army's assistant chief of staff for Intelligence, G-2, and was promoted to Lieutenant General.[24]

Gaither was deputy commander of the Continental Army Command from 1957 to 1958, with duty as commander of Army Reserve Forces.[25]

From 1958 to 1960 Gaither was commander of the U.S. Army Caribbean Command.[26][27][28] He became a hereditary member of the Maryland Society of the Cincinnati in 1960.

Gaither was assigned as commander of the Second United States Army in 1960, where he remained until his retirement in 1962.[29]

Retirement and awards[edit]

General Gaither retired in 1962. His awards included two Distinguished Service Medals, two Silver Stars, the Legion of Merit and the Bronze Star.[30][31][32][33]

Civilian career[edit]

Gaither lived in Annapolis, where he was commissioner of police from 1966 to 1973.[34][35]

Death and Interment[edit]

General Gaither died of congestive heart failure Oct. 26, 1992 at the Fairfield Nursing Center in Annapolis.[36]

Services were conducted at St. Anne's Episcopal Church, in Annapolis, followed by burial at Arlington National Cemetery. He is interred at Section 2, Site 4888-1.[37][38]

External resources[edit]

Boys' Latin School of Maryland biography, Ridgely Gaither, accessed January 23, 2011
Ridgely Gaither page, Arlington Cemetery web site, accessed January 23, 2011
Ridgely Gaither page, Find A Grave web site, accessed January 23, 2011


  1. ^ Newspaper article, Miss D. W. Bassford Weds Lieut Ridgely Gaither, Baltimore Sun, July 19, 1924
  2. ^ Social Security Death Index
  3. ^ Newspaper article, 626 U.S. Citizens Listed in Tientsin, New York Times, July 30, 1937
  4. ^ Official U.S. Army Register, compiled by U.S. Army Adjutant General, published by U.S. Government Printing Office, 1956
  5. ^ Newspaper photo caption, Giraud Inspects Benning Troops, Sarasota Herald-Tribune, July 15, 1943
  6. ^ Newspaper article, Leaps Minor Study for Paratroopers, New York Times, by Hanson W. Baldwin, New York Times, October 21, 1943
  7. ^ Black Americans in Defense of Our Nation, published by Diane Publishing Company, 1990, page 103
  8. ^ Newspaper article, Baltimore Officer Lands Atop Anti-Aircraft Guns, Baltimore Sun, April 18, 1945
  9. ^ Newspaper article, Commander Of 11th Airborne Has Long Record Of Service, Kentucky New Era, February 23, 1952
  10. ^ Newspaper article, Gaither Denies MP's Abused Tito's Soldiers, Baltimore Sun, Sep 16, 1946
  11. ^ Newspaper article, Elizabeth Gaither Engaged, New York Times, January 18, 1948
  12. ^ Newspaper article, Allies Find Yugoslavs Bolshevize Trieste Zone, by Camille M. Cianfarra, New York Times, March 27, 1948
  13. ^ Newspaper article, Powederkeg Peril in Triests Denied, New York Times, May 9, 1948
  14. ^ Newspaper article, U.S. to Shift Trieste Command, New York Times, Feb 14, 1949
  15. ^ Serving History web site, 82nd Airborne Division, Past Division Commanders page
  16. ^ 82nd Airborne Division, Steven J. Mrozek, 1997, page 82
  17. ^ Newspaper article, Army Commands in Korea Shifted, New York Times, December 1, 1951
  18. ^ Web site, History of the 11th Airborne Division, by Leo Kocher, accessed July 12, 2010
  19. ^ Newspaper article, 13 Generals In Far East Reassigned, Army Announces Minor Shakeup, by United Press, published in Pittsburgh Press, Dec 1, 1951
  20. ^ Newspaper article, 11th Airborne Opens Reunion, New York Times, December 7, 1952
  21. ^ Korean War order of battle: United States, United Nations, and Communist ground, Naval and Air Forces, by Gordon L. Rottman, 2002, page 32
  22. ^ Newspaper article, General Moves, by Associated Press, published in The Straits Times (Singapore), January 18, 1954
  23. ^ USA Airborne: 50th Anniversary, by Bart Hagerman, 1990, page 435
  24. ^ Newspaper article, Maj. Gen. Gaither Appointed Army Chief of Intelligence, Baltimore Sun, August 11, 1955
  25. ^ Newspaper article, Top Brass Inspects Guard Division, by Associated Press, published by Reading (Pennsylvania) Eagle, August 22, 1957
  26. ^ Newspaper article, Caribbean Command to Shift, New York Times, March 7, 1958
  27. ^ Newspaper article, Dr. Milton Eisenhower Applauded in Panama, Los Angeles Times, July 14, 1958
  28. ^ Newspaper article, Mock War in Panama; Five Latin Countries Join the U.S. In Testing 'Remote' Canal Defense, by Hanson Baldwin, New York Times, March 6, 1960
  29. ^ Newspaper article, Gaither Assumes New Command, Baltimore Sun, August 2, 1960
  30. ^ Official U.S. Army Register, compiled by U.S. Army Adjutant General, published by U.S. Government Printing Office, 1946
  31. ^ Newspaper article, Army Honors Gen. Gaither; Legion Of Merit Presented In Washington Ceremony, Baltimore Sun, February 14, 1946
  32. ^ Official U.S. Army Register, compiled by US Army Adjutant General, published by U.S. Government Printing Office, 1960
  33. ^ Home of Heroes, Army Recipients of the Silver Star for Conspicuous Gallantry in Action During World War II, accessed July 12, 2010
  34. ^ Newspaper article, Gaither Gets Council OK, Baltimore Sun, January 4, 1966
  35. ^ Newspaper article, Gaither Bows Out After 8 Years in Post, The Capital (Annapolis), May 30, 1973
  36. ^ Newspaper article, Lt. Gen. Ridgely Gaither Dies; Led Infantry Division in Korea, The Washington Post, October 29, 1992
  37. ^ Newspaper article, Lt. Gen. Ridgely Gaither, Pioneer Paratrooper, October 29, 1992, Baltimore Sun
  38. ^ United States Department of Veterans Affairs, Nationwide Gravesite Locator