Ridgley Gaither – Lieutenant General, United States Army

From a contemporary press report:

Ridgley Gaither, a pioneer paratrooper who served as Police Commissioner of Annapolis, Maryland, after retiring in 1962 as commander of the 2nd Army at Fort Meade, Maryland, died Monday, October 26, 1992, of heart failure at the Fairfield Nursing Center in Crownsville, Maryland.

Services for General Gaither, who was 89 and lived in Annapolis Roads, will be conducted at 11 am Monday at St. Anne's Episcopal Church, in Church Circle in Annapolis, followed at 1 p.m. by services at Arlington National Cemetery.

Born in Baltimore, he was a graduate of Boys' Latin School and began his career as a military officer in 1924 after his graduation from St. John's College in Annapolis. His family had included Army officers since the Revolutionary War.

Before World War II, he served at various posts in this country, Alaska (then a territory) and China, where he was stationed when the Japanese invaded in 1937.

An early proponent of airborne forces, he became the second commander of the Parachute School at Fort Benning, Georgia, taking the training along with the men under his command and qualifying as a master parachutist. He was also a graduate of the Command and General Staff College.

After heading the Parachute School from 1943 until 1945, he jumped with the 17th Airborne Division, east of the Rhine River, landing almost on top of a German anti-aircraft battery. The Americans took the position, and later, General Gaither said one group of Germans might have been taken prisoner sooner if he had not shot down their truce flag, which was so dirty he did not immediately recognize it. In addition, he said, he risked being fired upon to retrieve a dental plate in a bag he had dropped in the landing.

General Gaither then served briefly with the 86th Infantry Division in the Philippines and then from 1946 until 1949 with troops on the border between Italy and Yugoslavia, becoming a member of the allied commission that established the border and serving as military governor of Trieste. During this period he also served as president of a War Crimes Court in Florence, Italy.

In 1949, he became commander of the 82nd Airborne Division. By the start of the Korean War, he was operations officer in the Pentagon. After commanding the 11th Airborne Division in this country, in 1952, he became commander of the 40th Infantry Division in 1953, fighting in the Punchbowl and Heartbreak Ridge sectors in Korea.

After becoming intelligence officer in the Far East Command in 1954, he served as assistant chief of staff for intelligence in Washington in 1955 and 1956.

After being made a Lieutenant General in 1956 he headed the Army Reserve and National Guard units in the Continental Army Command. In 1958 he became commander in chief of the Caribbean Command, a post he kept until taking over the Second Army in 1960.

His decorations included the Distinguished Service Medal with oak leaf cluster, the Legion of Merit, the Bronze Star with a V, and the Italian Cross.

General Gaither was the nephew of General Charles D. Gaither, who had served as Baltimore Police Commissioner.

General Gaither became Annapolis police commissioner in 1966, retiring finally in 1973. He was also a former president of the Society of the Cincinnati of Maryland, a former commander of the Annapolis chapter of the Military Order of the World Wars, and a Paul Harris Fellow of the Rotary Club of Annapolis. He had also been a member of the Annapolis Yacht Club and other organizations.

His first wife, the former Dorothy Bassford, died in 1969. He is survived by his wife, the former Ada Anne Gregory Howley Brown; a daughter, Elizabeth Ochs, of Arlington, Virginia; two grandchildren; and six great-grandchildren.


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