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Serving Alongside Giants...A Marine Officer in WWII & Korea


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#1 Brig

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Posted 09 September 2015 - 06:06 PM

As we approach the eve of the 65th Anniversary of the Inchon Landings next week, I thought this would be a fitting time to reveal this grouping.

 
This is a project that has been 2 and a half years in the works. I acquired a stripped Marine officer dress blues jacket and a few photos in a trade. Little by little, the rest came to me in further trades, until I had a stack of paperwork 8 inches thick. As this Marine retired in 1964, his NARA record is unavailable due to the 63 year rule at the archives. However, his muster rolls were full of lots of great information. He was also a bit of a hoarder when it came to keeping copies of his paperwork, so the box of papers I managed to acquire were of great help in putting his history together. I assume they were stored in a basement and experienced some flooding as they are full of water damage and were fairly stuck together, however I was able to gently seperate them with only a few hours of careful work. Additionally, there were several copies of the resume he had prepared in anticipation of transfer to the civilian world which gave me great insight into his post 1958 career, which is the cutoff of the muster rolls.
 
As he played a rather important role as a battalion commander in Korea, the amount of material available about him and his unit during this period was outstanding in regards to articles and published works. I had intended to make this a brief write-up, and this is fairly evident in his pre and post Korean War service. However, it would have been practically impossible to discuss his role in Korea without discussing several movements and actions of his unit itself, as well as developing both the friendly and enemy situations throughout. Thus, you will find this period of his biography rather extensive. My intended brief synopsis of his career rapidly morphed into a 25 page text document, which I intend to share here with you all now. It easily could have been twice as long. Those of you with a keen interest in the history behind the artifacts will hopefully find this thread an interesting read.
 
So, without further adue, I give to you the story of Colonel Thomas L Ridge, United States Marine Corps...
 



#2 Brig

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Posted 09 September 2015 - 06:08 PM

Thomas Lee Ridge was born on Valentine's Day, February 14, 1915 in the city of Chicago, Illinois to Peter J Ridge and Anna Madisen (Ridge).
 

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A young Thomas Ridge on horseback, around 5 years old.

  
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Thomas as a boy.

 

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Thomas as an alter boy.

 
Thomas developed a keen interest in ping pong and marksmanship, and began target shooting in 1931, practicing an average of half an hour every day. A naturally gifted shot, he would shortly go on to compete in many competitions. He would rack up many victories. In June 1932, he won the Elburn Legion prize for 1st place in the junior class during the 3rd Annual Junior Rifle Tournament sponsored by Kane County American Legion. In February of 1933, he was 1 of 4000 junior riflemen who participated in a national telegraphic rifle shoot conducted by the National Rifle Association. One of 163 finalists, during the finals, he fired 40 shots in the prone position with a .22 caliber rifle, tying for 1st place with a perfect score of 400. During a shootoff tie-breaker, Thomas won the match by firing 59 straight bullseyes, with his competitor shooting only a consecutive 9, thus earning the Gooding Trophy, a silver medal, and the title as individual scholastic champion of the NRA. In June of that year, he placed 1st place in the Kane Country Junior Rifle Tournament sponsored by the American Legion in the 15-17 year old class.
 
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Some of the badges earned by Thomas for marksmanship. Due to lack of ribbons and bars, not all eras are known and these likely span a long range of his life starting in high school.

 

Thomas attended Elgin High School, where in 1933-34 as a senior he served as an electrician during school productions of plays and musicals to include the mystery melodrama 'Remote Control' and the production of 'Zeta-Apple-Pie'. As a senior, he would also be voted president of the Hi-Y Club at the YMCA, an association with which he would remain closely involved with throughout college. In March of 1934, he would be 1 of 19 seniors to make the Honor Roll.
 
Upon graduating high school, Thomas attended the University of Illinois to pursue a BS in business, emphasizing on foreign commerce and taking additional enrichment courses in foreign background in Liberal Arts and Sciences. Due to the impact of the Great Depression on his family's finances, he would have to work his way through college. Thomas would write a term paper entitled "The Economic Capability of Germany to Support a Major War Effort". He would later say that the research for this paper led him to believe that a future Germanic war was inevitable and revealed to him that the US would soon need soldiers over diplomats. Because of this, he began to place his emphasis on ROTC.
 
During all 4 years of his attendance, Thomas participated in the cavalry branch of the ROTC as well as served as a member of the 'Pershings Rifles' shooting team and the University of Illinois Rifle and Pistol Teams. He was on the fencing team and polo team for a year, served as Chairman of the YMCA cabinet, and was a member of the Accountancy Club for 3 years, the Business Staff of the Daily Illinois,  the Cavalry Club, the YMCA, the University of Illinois Rifle Club, and the student organizations the 'Band of X' and 'Scabbard & Blade'. He sought culture by attending events such as the Ballet Russe, the St Louis Orchestra, and the Twilight Concert. 


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Some of Thomas' ROTC insignias.



#3 Brig

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Posted 09 September 2015 - 06:24 PM

Thomas was heavily involved in marksmanship while enrolled in college. During his freshman year, as captain of the Inter-Unit Rifle Team, he placed 1st in the individual category, with his team placing 1st overall. Promoted to the rank of 1st Sgt in his second semester, he earned an "excellence bar" as a basic student of the Cavalry Unit. He competed in the Hazelton Trophy Competition and a shoulder-to-shoulder match with the University of Wisconsin.  On May 23, 1935 he was awarded a monogramed sweater for excellence in rifle and pistol marksmanship as a member of the Men's Rifle Team by Colonel Fred R Brown, the school Commandant. By the end of his freshman year, he would also earn the 1935 Phalanx Award as the outstanding freshman in cavalry and his name would be placed on a bronze tablet for excellence in military scholarship.
 
During his sophomore year, he made the Cavalry Rifle Team and was selected as a member of the Cavalry Basic Course Inter-Unit Rifle Team, of which he was made team captain. In November of 1935, he fired the Inter-Unit match as a basic student, placing 3rd individual with a score of 95 out of 100. His team's combined score of 937 earned them 1st place by a single point. On December 14th, he competed in the Intramural Rifle Match telegraphic rifle shoot on an independent team called the "Lucky 13". The team placed 1st in the independent team matches, earning the gold medal. Thomas was the 2nd highest shooter on the team with a score of 87 points. He received the American Legion Award as the Outstanding Sophomore in Cavalry in 1936.
 
During his junior year, Thomas would be president of the University of Illinois Rifle Club  and served as the captain of the Inter-Unit Rifle Team and Hearst Trophy Rifle Team, placing 1st in both events, as well as placing 1st while shooting on the Sixth Corps Area Intercollegiate Team. As a member of Sixth Corps, he shot on the 1937 Sixth Corps ROTC Camp Perry Rifle Team and was awarded an expert qualification by the War Department. He would be the high man in the Big Ten Team Match of 1937 and receive the military scholarship awarded by the Ladies Auxiliary to the VFW as outstanding junior in Pershing Rifles.
 

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A framed photo of Thomas' 1937 1st Place team. Thomas holds the Hearst Trophy at center.
 

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Some of Thomas' patches from the 1937 Camp Perry Matches.
 

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Thomas receives the gold medal from the Ladies Auxiliary of the VFW.

 

During his senior year at the University of Illinois, on top of again being president of the University Rifle Club, Thomas would serve as the secretary of the Pershing Rifles. He served as Captain of the 1937 Inter-Unit Rifle Team, placing 3rd individually, and as the captain of the Hearst Trophy Rifle Team, placing 1st. He again shot on the Sixth Corps Area Intercollegiate Team, and would again place 1st. 


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Thomas and his team receiving awards for excellence in competition.
 

Thomas graduated from the University of Illinois in 1938 with a univeristy average of 3.04 and a military average of 5, holding the final ROTC rank of Cadet-Major and holding expert qualifications in Small Bore, Pistol D (3x), and Pistol A.
 

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Thomas' ROTC Portrait.


Edited by Brig, 09 September 2015 - 06:33 PM.


#4 Brig

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Posted 09 September 2015 - 06:35 PM

Thomas applied for an active duty commission in both the Army and Marine Corps under the Thomason Act, with recommendations by officers in all 6 units of the university's military department. Commissioned in the Army Reserve cavalry as a 2nd Lieutenant on June 7th, he was informed on June 29th that he was tentatively selected for a one year stint of active duty and was ordered to report to Fort Sheridan, Illinois on July 5th. However, on June 28th, Thomas had been accepted as a 2nd Lieutenant to the regular component of the US Marine Corps, and on Independence Day, July 4th, he resigned his commission in the Army Reserves to accept his commission with the USMC.
 

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Thomas' framed Army Commission Document.

 
In July of 1938, assigned the service number 0-5833, Thomas reported to the Marine Barracks at League Island, Pennsylvania, in order to attend The Basic School. In August and September, he was part of the Marine Detachment at the Rifle Range in Cape May, New Jersey. Thomas attended the school with many Marines who would go on to have distinguished careers in the Corps, including Gregory "Pappy" Boyington (who would earn the Medal of Honor flying with the Black Sheep Squadron in WWII), Ray G Davis (who would earn the Medal of Honor in Korea with 1/7 and go on to become Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps), Randolph C Berkeley Jr (the son of Major General Berkeley, the recipient of the Medal of Honor and 2 Navy Crosses), John W Burkhardt (who would earn 6 Distinguished Flying Crosses), Lowell F English (who would earn the rank of Major General), George R Newton (Silver Star recipient and later taken POW while serving in China), Daniel C Pollock (who would earn the Navy Cross on Iwo Jima), Donn J Robertson (who would earn the Navy Cross and rank of Lieutenant General), and Alvin S Sanders (who would become a Brigadier General). He would be instructed by the likes of Major Frank B Goettge (of the fateful Goettge Patrol on Guadalcanal) and Captain Lewis B 'Chesty' Puller. 
 

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A 1938 Christmas Menu for The Basic School. Inside the menu is a list of student officers and the instructor cadre. This menu is not in my possession.
 

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A portion of the 1938-39 Basic School Class Yardlong. This yardlong is not in my possession.

 

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Thomas (2nd from left) and fellow student officers marching while at TBS.

 

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Thomas in his dress whites.



#5 Brig

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Posted 09 September 2015 - 06:42 PM

Upon graduating from TBS, from April 30th until May 26th, 1939, he would participate in the Eastern Divisional Rifle & Pistol Competition at Marine Barracks, Quantico, earning a silver grade Divisional Match badge and a bronze grade Marine Corps Match badge. The following day, he would board the USS Quincy and set sail. From June to July, he served with the Marine Detachment aboard the USS Portland with fellow TBS graduate Ray Davis. He would serve as a member of the Auditing and Inventory Board, as well as the recorder of the exam board. In July, while on ship, he attended the Atlantic Fleet Heavy Cruiser Anti-Aircraft Gunnery School, during which he was assigned to Battery O 5" Anti-Aircraft. While aboard ship, the Corps made good use of his marksmanship background, and assigned him as the OIC for the detachment's Small Bore Rifle Team.
 

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USS Portland, on which Thomas would serve with future Medal of Honor recipient Ray Davis (photo taken from Wikipedia).

 
Eventually ending up back with the Marine Detachment aboard the USS Quincy in June of 1940, he would serve as the OIC of Landing Force Training. The ship would win division honors conducting this type of exercise under his command. Assigned as Special Planning Officer, he would assist in developing a plan for possible seizure of French and Dutch Islands in the Carribean. Thomas would spend much of the next two months in Brazil and Uruguay in response to the "Nazi Scare". On request of the Uruguayan governement, the Navy and Marine Corps conducted a show of force at Montevideo. Thomas became interested in the Brazilian language, customs, and culture and saw the Brazilians as a strategically important ally to the US. During this time, he made many friends in the Brazilian Navy, whom he would keep in touch with even after departing. He also made note of the lack of marksmanship training and weapons upkeep by the Brazilian Marine Corps, skills which were not required of the Brazilian Marines. He departed Brazil on August 15th aboard the USS Wainwright, diesmbarking at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba on the 30th and setting sail immediately for Boston on the USS Walke.


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USS Quincy, on which Thomas would serve during a show of force in response to the "Nazi Scare" (photo taken from Wikipedia).

 

In October, after a month of leave, Thomas was assigned to the Marine Barracks at Boston Navy Yard, where he was immediately assigned as the OIC of the Small Bore Rifle Team, a billet he would hold until April of the following year. During his first month on station, he showed interest in obtaining a masters degree in South American History as well as taking courses from the Marine Corps University. Fresh from Brazil and inspired by his experience, he requested duty to South America to study language, which was denied. In December, he toured the ranges of the local Boys Club in Charleston, which had relied heavily on the Yard's Marine Detachment for instruction of their shooting team. On January 6th, 1941, accompanied by a Sergeant Camp, Thomas began instructing 6 older, intelligent and interested boys in the club in all fundamentals of rifle marksmanship, so that the club would have an internal group of instructors.
 
In February, assisted by a Naval Boatswain, he was assigned to the newly created Department of Drill and Physical Fitness. The Commandant had noticed an alarming lack of readiness in the sailors serving alongside the Marines, and mandated that sailors receive a minimum of 1 hour drill per week, and 15 minutes of exercises per day. As Marine requirements already exceeded this minimum, Marines were exempt from the program. During the same month, he was accepted at Boston University Graduate School, which he attended at night in pursuit of a Master of Arts in the subject of Hispanic-American History. Future assignment would prevent him from completing this degree. Additionally, he enrolled in the Berlitz School of Languages to study Portugese. At the end of the month, he sent a letter to the Commandant stating his duty preferences, with Portugese Language Assignment to Brazil being first on the list, followed by Spanish Language Assignment and Marine Detachment Trinidad.
 
Promoted to 1st Lieutenant on June 25, 1941, Thomas was transferred in July to the Marine Barracks at the Naval Air Station in Jacksonville Florida, where he was again immediately assigned to a billet in marksmanship, this time as the OIC of Marksmanship Training. On October 10th, the Jacksonville Post Marine Team competed in the Florida West Coast Pistol Matches held at St. Petersburg. Thomas placed 1st individually in the 20 shot slow fire competition in Class "B". The team won several other medals, individual members taking 1st in National Match "AA", 1st in Aggregate Match "AA", 2nd aggregate class "B", 1st in 20 shots timed fire class "C", and 3rd in aggregate class "C".
 

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Thomas' 1st place medal (on right) for the Class "B" 20 shot slow fire at the 1941 Florida West Coast Pistol Match, alongside another medal earned in that year.

 
At the end of November/beginning of December 1941, Thomas reported to the Central Recruiting Division in Chicago to organize and develop a Mobile Recruiting Unit consisting of a display trailer and 6 total personnel. On December 6th, having heard that Rear Admiral A.T. Beauregard desired a Marine officer on his staff for an upcoming mission to Brazil, and on the recommendation of Colonel Thomason, he wrote the Admiral requesting attachment, proposing improvement to the Brazilian marksmanship program, which had its ranges out in town instead of on base. His request was accompanied by several letters of recommendation from previous commanders. However, on December 9th, he wrote Colonel Thomason stating that he feared that his request of December 6 would incorrectly appear as an attempt to evade line duty after the "Japanese act of aggression" at Pearl Harbor on the 7th. However, almost immediately following the attacks, most Marine officers on attache duty requested immediate transfer to sea duty, and Thomas was selected as the Marine Officer during the upcoming mission to Brazil.


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Thomas (center) along with 2 of his Marines in front of the Mobile Recruiting Unit. Notice the shoulder patch on the Marine on the right. Special thanks to Darrell for the digital touch-up of the photo.
 
 



#6 Brig

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Posted 09 September 2015 - 06:52 PM

On January 13th, 1942, Thomas received his vaccines in Washington DC and was assigned as the intelligence officer of the Naval Attache at the American Embassy in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, departing the 16th via Pan Air from Miami and arriving the 18th. On February 2nd, he was promoted to Captain (temporary) and served as Assistant Naval Attache and Assistant Naval Attache for Air.


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Colorized photos of Thomas in Brazil wearing the evening mess uniform with vest and shoulder epaulettes.

 
The US Naval Mission to Brazil consisted of 13 observer offices in 13 port cities and totaled a staff of 120 US military personnel. Thomas was charged with organizing and overseeing these offices which involved diverse duties involving shipping, control, convor control, logistics, and intelligence. He helped to develop a naval base in Rio which would later become and independent command under a Navy commodore. He assisted in the establishment of air bases, port facilities, and the shipment of strategic material.
 
Thomas' seeking out of culture in college would become handy while developing his relationship with Comandante Carmargo, the senior officer of Fuzileiros (Brazilian Marines) during the attendence of the ballet. At the request of the Brazilian government, he would be assigned the additional duty as advisor to the Brazilian Marine Corps. While in this position, he introduced US Marine Corps training and equipment in the effort to modernize the outdated Brazilian force.
 
In June of 1942, still with a desire to futher develop the marksmanship program of the Brazilian Marines, Thomas managed to secure 6 rifles from Mossberg Arms, a .22 caliber Machine Gun, and ammunition under the Lend-Lease agreement. He further requested targets and a complete set of Marine Corps marksmanship badges for exhibition, receiving them the following month. While in Brazil, Thomas would meet his future wife, Helen Guarana de Barros. Born into a diplomatic family, she was well educated, having attended schools in England and Germany. She would later become a Lieutenant Commander in the United States Navy and gain US citizenship in 1947 in Washington DC.
 

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The range for the Brazilian Marine Corps that Thomas was instrumental in establishing. Notice the 6 targets, presumably for use by the 6 rifles he acquired from Mossberg. Thomas is on the left.

 

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A pass authorizing Thomas to ticket (tour?) the Brazilian airports.

 

In October, Thomas was promoted to Major (temporary) and authorized to wear the "Defense Medal Ribbon" with star for his previous service aboard the USS Quincy. On December 28th, he began wearing the "Western Hemisphere Ribbon" (American Campaign), also for service aboard the Quincy. He would further receive a letter of commendation on February 13th, 1943 from the commandant of the Brazilian Marine Corps, Rear Admiral Milciades Alves, for his acquisition of the target rifles. 


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Thomas in Brazil in the autumn of 1942 wearing his newly awarded "Defense Medal Ribbon" with star.

 

In late 1943, Thomas wrote and submitted the first ever detailed analysis of long term dangers of Communism in Latin America to US political and commercial interests. In January of 1944, he was recalled to Washington DC by the Navy Department for consultation purposes, returning in February. Additionally, in January, he was appointed as Executive Officer in addition to his other positions in Brazil. Participating in joint planning, he drafted the Ship Lift Doctrine for the transport of the Brazilian Expeditionary Force to Africa. On March 29th, he received a Letter of Commendation from the Brazilian Director General, Department of Posts and Telegraphs, as well as another on March 31st from General Mendonca, Brazilian Minister of Transportation, Communications and Public Works.
 

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Thomas with fellow staff of the US Naval Mission to Brazil.

 

On the 6th of July, Thomas was presented with a silver plate by the Comandante and officers of the Brazilian Marine Corps. On the 28th, he received a Letter of Commendation submitted by the US Naval Attache to the Chief of Naval Operations, the content of which was classified as 'Secret'. By the end of his tour, he had received a total of 5 written commendations. On July 30th, he detached from the American Embassy in Brazil and was ordered to Headquarters Marine Corps in Washington DC in accordance with Dispatch 222002 of July 23rd and on July 30th, he was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel (temporary).


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A studio photo of the silver plate presented to Thomas by the Commandant and officers of the Brazilian Marine Corps.



#7 Brig

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Posted 09 September 2015 - 07:05 PM

From August through September, Thomas was a student at the Command and Staff Course. In October, he was assigned to the Marine Corps Schools Detachment at Quantico as a student under the justification of 5th Command & Staff's G-2.  On October 27th, Thomas would be decorated with the Brazilian Order of the Southern Cross, officer grade, by the Brazilian government for outstanding service rendered to the Brazilian nation and humanity, in war or peace. The next day, he went on leave, and on November 6th, he and Helen were married in Dade County, Florida. 
 

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The case to Thomas' Brazilian Order of the Southern Cross. Unfortunately, the medal is absent.

 

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Brazilian Order of the Southern Cross, Officer Grade. Photo pulled from the Internet. His medal is not in my possession.

 

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Thomas wearing the ribbon bar for the Order of the Southern Cross.

 

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Thomas and Helen Ridge. Not sure where this was taken, perhaps Brazil, or perhaps departing the court house after their marriage?

 

An interesting side note is that Helen's brother, Artur Guarana de Barros, would serve as a Brazilian Army Engineer Officer in Italy with the US 5th Army during WWII and become one of the very first Brazilian paratroopers and Pathfinders, attending the US Army Pathfinder Course at Fort Benning in 1948 and the Pathfinder Paratrooper Course in the Brazilian School of Prachute in 1951. He would ultimately achieve the rank of General.


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Artur Guarana de Barros, brother of Helen Guarana de Barros Ridge, in his Brazilian Army Uniform.



#8 Brig

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Posted 09 September 2015 - 07:15 PM

After his marriage, Thomas reported, unaccompanied, to San Francisco on November 15th for further transit to Pearl Harbor for service with the Fleet Marine Force. On November 17th, he was attached to Headquarters, Fleet Marine Force-Pacific. He was assigned as the assistant G-2 with Headquarters Company, Headquarters and Service Battalion, FMF-PAC. He would be involved with the planning phases for many Pacific operations, including Iwo Jima, Okinawa, and the Occupation of Kyusha. He also assisted in several operations that never got past the planning stages, to include Formosa and China.
 
On March 14th, Thomas was assigned to temporary duty with headquarters of the 10th Army as the senior of a group of intelligence officers assigned to observe the battle of Okinawa during Operation Iceberg. They were tasked with making recommendations on the tactical, logisticaly and other changes deemed necessary, based off their observations, for future operations in the Japanese islands. During the battle, he assumed the additional duties of an officer in his group who had been wounded. On April 12th, Thomas was wounded in action when he was struck by an anti-aircraft fragment which severely lacerated the cornea of his left eye. While undergoing treatment of his wound, he continued on with his duties.
 
On the night of April 18th, Thomas was enroute to the front lines to witness the demonstration of the snooperscope (aka sniperscope), a secret and experimental night vision device designed to assist snipers that had been developed by the Army parallel to the German's "Nacht Jager" devices. He was within 1000-1500 meters of "the little brown men looking us in the eye" when he was caught in an enemy barrage. A shell exploded in his vicinity, moderately lacerating the middle of his right thigh. His leg would bother him for years after.
 
In addition to the battle star to his Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal, Thomas would be recommended by the G-2 Assistant Chief of Staff, Julien R Marshall, for the Navy Commendation Ribbon. The award would later be approved by Lieutenant General Roy Geiger, who had taken charge of the 10th Army when its commander was killed in action. His citation would read:


"For meritorious and efficient performance of duty while serving as the intelligence officer on the staff of the Commanding General, Headquarters, Fleet Marine Force, Pacific, from 17 November 1944 to 28 May 1945. While serving in this capacity, Lieutenant Colonel RIDGE was assigned to temporary duty with the Tenth Army as the senior of a group of intelligence officers who were to observe the OKINAWA SHIMA, RYUKYU ISLANDS operation. While serving in this capacity he assumed the additional duties of a wounded officer belonging to his group and while in the performance of these duties, was himself wounded on 12 April 1945. In spite of his wound, he continued in the performance of his duties while undergoing treatment for his painful wound. By his perseverance and courage and his willingness to perform additional duties, he materially aided in the successful conclusion of a difficult operation, and was subsequently able to submit a report that fully covered all of the manifold phases of intelligence on OKINAWA, thereby furnishing invaluable information and guidance for future operations. He served with distinction throughout and his conduct was in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service."
 

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An unsigned copy of the citation for Thomas' Navy Commendation Ribbon, as was signed by General Geiger.
 

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Thomas, wearing the 3rd Marine Division SSI on his shirt sleeve, shaking hands with General Geiger. 
 

Thomas was recommended for duty once again in Brazil by the Chief of the US Naval Mission there. He would not receive this assignment. From June through October, he would serve with the G-2 of 3rd Marine Division, being assigned as Assistant Chief of Staff in July. On July 24th, on Guam, he was presented the Purple Heart for the wounds he'd received April 12th on Okinawa by Major General Graves B Erksine. However, he was not awarded a gold star device for the wound sustained on the 18th until years later, presumably because of the classified nature of the activities he's been engaged in at the time of his wound. He would later apply for the Navy Occupation Medal, but be informed he did not qualify for the award.


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Thomas receives his Purple Heart from Major General Graves B Erksine.



#9 Brig

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Posted 09 September 2015 - 07:21 PM

A week after the Japanese surrender, Thomas was assigned to conduct the analysis of long term US foreign intelligence requirements which would later cause the Joint Chiefs of Staff to reverse a prior decision and resulted in the new series of Basic Area Intelligence Publications. In October he would be found qualified for duty involving flight training, but whatever his aviation ambitions may have been, he would not pursue them.
 
From August 1945 through March 1946, Thomas would concurrently serve as the executive and planning officer of the Joint Japanese Survey Group, a joint service group organized after the cessation of hostilities in accordance with a CINCPAC directive tasked with the mission of preparing definitive studies on the wartime military aspects of TRUCK and CHICHI JIMA, conducting strategic, historical and technical studies of main islands held by the Japanese at the end of the war. His duties with the board would take him to the Marianas Islands, and he would submit comprehensive reports on the phases he'd been assigned; his great interest, initiative, and originality being noted by his superiors. He would edit the final reports at Pearl Harbor in March of 1946.
 
On March 16th, Thomas departed Pearl Harbor, and after a month of leave, he was assigned to Company "C", 1st Headquaters Batalion, Headquarters Marine Corps in Washington DC, with the CNO Intelligense Staff at the Office of the Chief Naval Officer of the Naval Department. He would serve with this command until approximately July 1948, under both Admirals Nimitz and Denfield. There, he was charged with the preparation of studies and estimates as required by Naval Planning and Policy levels. During this period, he was further assigned to a special international estimates group of 4 officers, 1 civilian and clerical staff, created by Secretary of the Navy Forrestal to monitor world affairs of importance to the Navy from 1946-1949. As a member of this group, Thomas would be involved in the studies and estimates of almost all international crisis, including the study and estimates of Soviet subs, atomic and other capabilities.
 
Additionally in 1946, Thomas found himself briefly back in Brazil in an official capacity when he was assigned as a member of the US Marine Corps Board as part of a US Group Study to survey the Brazilian Marine Corps and recommend further action for its continued modernization and development. He would further his off-duty education by attending night courses in philosophy (logic) at George Washington University and attempted to get assigned to a post in London.
 
On June 10th, having been recommended for a Navy Commendation Medal for his service in Brazil, Thomas received word that the awards board had decided that his actions, while meritorious, were not sufficient to warrant a personal decoration. In October, an acquaintance in England informed him that he was being considered for a British decoration for his cooperation with British forces during his time as Assistant Naval Attache in Brazil. This award would ultimately never be approved. On October 30th, Thomas received a Letter of Appreciation and Commendation from the Brazilian Commandant, Rear Admiral Sylvio de Carmargo, through the Commandant of the Marine Corps, in regards to his past and current efforts in the modernization of the Brazilian Marine Corps.
 
On January 4, 1947 Thomas' wife Helen gave birth to their first child, a daughter they named Karen Lee. On February 11th, he received word that he was now authorized to add the 'V' device to the Navy Commendation Medal he had earned on Okinawa. Ten days later, Harold Dodd wrote to Brigadier General Merritt A Edson (of Raider fame), recommending Thomas as the potential replacement to relieve Larry Hayes in Brazil. Again, Thomas would not be given the assignment. In July, he would recommend Brazilian Commandant Carmargo for the Legion of Merit, receiving reply that the award was denied. Admiral Carmargo would in fact later be presented with the award, but whether he was because of further efforts of Thomas is unknown. On August 7th, after much effort on his part, Thomas was finally approved the gold star device on his Purple Heart for wounds on April 18th on Okinawa. On September 24th, he would receive his permanent commission to Lieutenant Colonel, back dated to July 30, 1944.


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The proposed Legion of Merit citation for Brazilian Commandant Carmargo as submitted by Thomas.

 

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The rejection notes pertaining to Commandant Carmargo's denied Legion of Merit.

 

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Document authorized Thomas the gold star device in lieu of 2nd award of the Purple Heart.

 

At the end of 1947 and the beginning of 1948, Thomas entered the lecture curcuit as the CNO representative to lectures at the Naval War College and Naval Intelligence School, speaking on Amphibious Staff Planning from an intelligence viewpoint. He lectured at the annual meeting of American geographers at the University of Charlottesville, Virginia, giving a speech entitled "Naval Interests in Geographical Research" as pertaining to amphibious operations. Likely inspired by his time on the Japanese survey group, he concluded that the development of knowledge concerning beach conditions had been severely hampered by a lack of interest in the academic community and encouraged them to pursue studies in the field for potential future use by the armed forces.
 
On January 7, 1948, Thomas received word that the Brazilian government had awarded him their Navy War Service Medal with 1 silver star device. On April 19th, he once again submitted a request for duty with the US Naval Mission to Brazil. Once again, he would not be given the assignment. In August, he was assigned as the Inspector-Instructor to the 5th Infantry Battalion in Washington DC. On November 18th, Colonel Edmund J Bucklet, having recommended that Ridge's Commendation Medal be upgraded to a Bronze Star for actions on Okinawa, was informed by the awards board-who had received recent guidance to clamp down on future awards for WWII service-that the upgraded was not warranted.  On advice from the Colonel, and in his own keen interest in his awards, Thomas would request additional documentation, being called "vain" by the woman he talked with due to his continued persistance pertaining to his decorations in recent months.


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The Brazilian Naval Board of War Awards citation for Thomas' Naval War Service Medal.

 

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Brazilian Naval War Service Medal. Picture pulled from the Internet, his medal is not in my possession.



#10 Brig

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Posted 09 September 2015 - 07:28 PM

In February of 1950, Thomas sent his wife and daughter, along with their luggage and 1947 Chevrolet, to Brazil indefinitely so that Helen may recover her health. In May, he was notified that he was likely to take over a battalion in the 6th Regiment, as the Regimental Commander, Colonel Litzenberg, had requested Thomas be assigned to his regiment. He was informed in a personal letter that the regiment was being transferred to the west coast that summer, and it stood a good chance of going on the "cold weather exercise" in September, which was expected to last 6 weeks. Regularly sending money to his family in Brazil, Thomas transferred to government quarters on Camp Lejeune, being assigned as the Battalion Commander of 1st Battalion, 6th Regiment in June.


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Excerpt of a questionaire Thomas sent requesting information on his new station at Camp Lejeune, referring to a 'Cold Weather Exercise'.

 

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Newspaper article reporting Thomas' assignment as Battalion Commander of 1/6.

 
On July 30th, Thomas and his battalion were transferred by ancient troop train to Camp Pendleton, where, in August, 1/6 was reorganized as 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines. Within 10 days, the 2 element, half strength battalion would be expanded into a full strength, 3 element unit equipped with WWII vintage supplies and equipment. While the gear was good in quantity, it was of poor quality, and the battalion found itself with little time for field training. Soon the battalion found itself aboard the USNS General Simon S Buckner, named after the CG of 10th Army whom General Geiger succeeded on Okinawa, steaming towards Japan. Arriving at Kobe on the 3rd of September, the unit was staged in the former barracks of the Army's 24th Infantry Division at Otsu, on the south shore of Lake Biwa, 65 miles away from regimental headquarters.
 

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USNS General Buckner. Image taken from Wikipedia.

 

After a visit to his battalion on the 6th by Major General Almond of X Corps, Thomas and his 3 Majors were summoned to the regimental command ship berthed in Kobe. Rumors about their mission were quieted and the battalion commanders of the 1st Regiment were informed that they would be executing an amphibious landing on Inchon. The Regimental S-2, Captain Stone W Quillan, went over the beach defenses in front of a large map that was dotted with suspected weapon emplacements. He was followed by the Regimental S-3, Major Robert E Lorigan, who briefed them on the upcoming scheme of maneuver for what had been dubbed Operation Chromite.
 
Due to tide conditions, the landing would commence at 1730 on the 15th of September. Landing at Blue Beach 2 and climbing over the sea wall, LtCol Thomas Ridge's 3/1 would be the right flank unit of the main landing, leading the assault beside 2/1 into a sparsely settled sector consisting of factory buildings and open fields. Darkness would be upon them by 1900, giving them a mere 90 minutes of daylight to establish their lines in an encircling movement intended to cut off the ingress and egress routes of the enemy in the heavily populated city of Wolmi-do. After Lorigan had finished, the regimental commander, Colonel Lewis 'Chesty' Puller, stood up and said, "You people are lucky. We used to have to wait 10 or 15 years for a war. You get one every 5 years. You people have been living by the sword. By God, you better be prepared to die by the sword."
 

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Map depicting the Blue Beach Assault landing of Inchon.

 

Equipped with a plan but with no room for field training, Thomas' battalion was able to conduct little more preparation than road-bound conditioning marches. Additionally, the sea wall on the Kobe waterfront provided a rehearsal area to try out the makeshift ladders that were intended for breaching the sea walls on the objective at Inchon.



#11 Brig

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Posted 09 September 2015 - 07:36 PM

On D-Day, September 15th, a prepatory bombardment by air peppered the North Korean coast throughtout the day. Naval gunfire took over late in the afternoon when it began to rain, grounded the aviation assets. At 1530, the Marines of 3/1 began loading into the landing crafts. As the LST's carrying Thomas' men headed toward the beach, the Navy's ships laid down a final intense bombardment. Immediately prior to hitting the beach, LSMR's fired a 2000 round rocket barrage upon the landing area.  At 1732, 2 minutes behind schedule, the first waves hit the beach, and then confusion and chaos ensued. Their "cold weather exercise" had begun.

 
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Historical Photo of the first waves of 3/1 making their way towards the shore of Blue Beach 2 on Inchon. Thomas is most likely aboard one of the landing craft.

 

The only exit from Blue Beach had been blocked by an earth and rock slide caused by the Navy's prepatory fire, forcing the Marines of 3/1 to scramble over a 15 foot sea wall. Engineers immediately set to the task of installing cargo nets over the wall and breaching portions of it with explosive charges, and the Marines continued the advance to the Inchon-Seoul highway. The rain continued into what would be a dark night. By midnight, Thomas and his 3/1 was on its objective. By nightfall of the 16th, the assault phase of the operation was complete.
 
The exploitation phase of the operation began on the morning of September 17th. Thomas and his 3/1, along with the rest of the 1st Regiment, were to advance on Seoul along the main highway and rail line, pushing through the city of Yongdong-po and crossing the Han River enroute. Shortly after 0800 on the 18th, Thomas and his Marines were on the attack. By 0900, they had passed through the burning town of Sosa and by 1130 he had seized his objective in the vicinity of Hill 123, 1500 yards east of the town. In the middle of the afternoon, Thomas and his boys began receiving heavy indirect enemy mortar and artillery fire directed from the southeast. Marine air and artillery were called in, but were unable to locate the enemy emplacements. The fire continued periodically throughout the day.
 

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Map depicting the 1st Marine Regiment's capture of Sosa.

 
Just prior to their dawn attack on the 19th, Thomas and his battalion were again targeted by heavy enemy mortar fire. Their advance began on schedule, making a rapid advance within their designated zone. However, the North Koreans, having recovered from the initial shock of the landings, had mined the main highway, slowing the regiment's advance as the engineers hurried to clear the mines. Despite the delay, they were able to advance to Kalchi'm Creek just west of Yongdong-po. By 0945 on the 20th, Thomas his boys were in place on the western side of the city. Artillery and air hammered enemy positions within the city, and on the 21st, following another prepatory bombardment, they were on their way into town, battling fierce enemy resistance. By the end of the day, they controlled half of the city, and over night the enemy pulled out of the other half.
 
Early the next morning, orders were issued by division for the recapture of Seoul. By the evening of the 23rd, Thomas' 3/1, along with the rest of the 1st Marine Regiment, had completed its seizure of Yongdong-po and was prepared to cross the Han River. The following morning, enemy mines were cleared and LVTs assembled. 3/1 crossed last, encountering minimal resistance and, upon landing, passed through 2/1, turning the direction of the attack from east to north.
 
At 0700 on the 25th, despite heavy resistance, Ridge and his men entered Seoul. The enemy fought savagely from roadblocks and rooftops, and the Marines of 3/1 found themselves engaged in savage house-to-house fighting. Ridge moved elements of his command post to the immediate front in order to best observe the situation, coming under enemy sniper and machine gun fire on several occasions. By nightfall, they had advanced nearly 2000 yards into the city. Forseeing a probable enemy counterattack, Thomas assigned his weapons company commander, Major Edwin H Simmons, to assist the rifle company commanders in establishing their defenses for the night. The roadblock (standard operating procedure at the time for infantry at night) was commanded by 1st Lieutenant Harold Savage and manned by 2 rifle squads, a heavy machine gun section, a rocket squad, and a 75mm recoilless gun section. Simmons established his forward command post in the cellar of a house on the high ground.
 
At 2009, the order came through to push the attack to the limit of their assigned objectives.  When Thomas received this order, he directed Simmons to send a patrol 300 yards to the front to make contact with a similar patrol being sent out by 3/5. Corporal Charles Collins led an 8 man squad accompanied by 3 native guides. They encountered the enemy in the final preparation stages of a large infantry and armored counterattack-approximately a battalion size element supported by a dozen tanks. Spotted, the patrol came under enemy fire and Collins yelled at them to get back and report while he single handedly covered their withdrawel. The unit returned and reported their findings, and at 0145 Thomas relayed the intel back to Chesty Puller.
 
Major Simmons had heard the initial exchange of fire, which told him that Collins' patrol had encountered trouble. The sounds of tanks emerged from 5-600 yards to the immediate front of the roadblock. Simmons quickly warned Ridge and, as he issued orders to Lt Savage, enemy tanks opened up, mortally wounding his radio operator, PFC Julius Vargo. A full-scale battle erupted at the roadblock. Simmons called in artillery and mortar support as the Marines at the roadblock opened fire on the enemy armor with rockets and recoilless rifles. After 2 hours, the barrels of the supporting artillery were close to burning out. Ceasing their fire, the enemy resumed their armored attacks. At some point during the night, a hostile phosphorous artillery shell landed in the command post, severely burning Thomas' hands. In pain, he stayed at his post and continued directing his battalion. The rifle companies began to run out of ammo and Ridge sent out an urgent request for resupply. By utilizing all available vehicles, the ammo was able to be delivered under fire. The attack continued until 0530, artillery and mortars setting a record for the Korean War, expending all of the shells in a nearby Army dump in addition to their on-position reserves.
 

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Edwin H Simmons, who would earn the rank of Brigadier General and come to be known as "The Collective Memory of the Corps" due to his renown as a historian.

 
In the light of day, Thomas and his men were greeted by the carnage of the night prior. 4 enemy tanks and 2 dual-purpose anti-tank guns had been destroyed, and over 250 enemy were counted as dead. Corporal Collins, who had remained behind to cover his patrol as they ran to warn of the coming counterattack, made his way back to friendly lines, having dressed in Korean civilian attire and hunkering down in a house after holding out as long as he could. Thomas' men had to be relieved, as they had burned out the barrels of their weapons during the prolonged and heavy firing of the battle. When newsmen asked Puller about the fleeing enemy, Chesty replied in character, "all I know about a fleeing enemy is there's over two hundred out there that won't be fleein' anywhere-they're dead." 
 
Later, for his skill in directing the artillery and mortar fire, Major Simmons would be decorated with the Silver Star, presumably submitted by Ridge. Thomas himself would receive a second gold star, in lieu of 3rd award, to his Purple Heart, for the wounds received to his hands. Additionally, he would later receive the Silver Star for his actions on the 25th. His citation would read:


"The President of the United States of America takes pleasure in presenting the Silver Star to Lieutenant Colonel Thomas L. Ridge (MCSN: 0-5833), United States Marine Corps, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity as Commanding Officer of the Third Battalion, First Marines, FIRST Marine Division (Reinforced), in action against enemy aggressor forces in the streets of Seoul, Korea, on 25 September 1950. Observing that hostile forces were stubbornly resisting the forward movement of his battalion, Lieutenant Colonel Ridge fearlessly moved elements of his command post to the immediate vicinity of the front lines in order to keep abreast of the situation and, repeatedly braving heavy hostile sniper and machine gun fire, skillfully directed his battalion's operations. Accurately estimating the enemy's capabilities and foreseeing a counterattack in the early hours of the next day, he expertly placed the units of his command on their night main line of resistance and, when the attack materialized, was primarily responsible for the success of the battalion in decisively defeating and throwing back the enemy with great loss in manpower and materiel. Although suffering from the pain of severe wounds to his hands, which had been inflicted when hostile phosphorous artillery shells landed in the command post, he courageously remained at his post throughout the night. His indomitable fighting spirit, tactical skill and heroic leadership during this aggressive action reflect great credit upon Lieutenant Colonel Ridge and the United States Naval Service."
 

54.jpg
A copy of the transmittal letter from Chesty Puller to Thomas Ridge, authorizing a 2nd gold star device in lieu of a 3rd Purple Heart. No conclusive evidence could be found that the enemy utilized phosphorous shells on the night of the 25th and the round that landed in the CP and burned Thomas' hands may possibly have been a friendly round that fell short.



#12 Brig

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Posted 09 September 2015 - 07:43 PM

Following the capture of Seoul, Thomas and his battalion were loaded aboard ship in anticipation of the amphibious assault against Wonson Airfield. However, on October 11th, as they waited for the Navy to clear the harbor of mines, South Korean forces swept up from the south and secured the city. On the bright and clear day of the 26th, after more than 3 weeks of inactivity, he and his battalion began to move ashore in an administrative landing that would prove to be the least opposed of the Marine Corps' 280 amphibious landings to date. There was a feeling amongst the troops that they would be home by Christmas, and summer had given way to a biting wind. Night passed without incident, and Thomas awoke to a layer of ice on the rice paddies the next morning.
 
Thomas was ordered to move his battalion 26 miles inland to occupy and clear the Majon-ni sector and to establish blocking positions at the north-to-south and east-to-west road junctions which were being utilized by North Koreans seeking safety in the northern mountains. Reinforced by an artillery battery and a platoon each of mortars and engineers, he and his battalion began the move in 2 march units. Although tanks were available to Thomas, the road was too narrow at the 3000 foot crest for them to pass. Reaching the town before the majority of his battalion in front of the 1st march unit at about 1630, Thomas and Major Joseph Trompeter, his Ops-O (who himself had earned a Silver Star for actions during the push to take Seoul), made a thorough survey of the area. With a population of less than 400, Majon-ni was a poor village in a Y-shaped valley 1500 feet below the pass.
 
Thomas established a defensive plan. Due to the height and distance of the commanding terrain, he determined it would be impossible to establish effective outposts and instead settled on a perimeter defense with each of his 3 rifle companies prescribed a sector. Because of the extensive front it would entail, his riflemen would be spread too thin for security. To overcome this, Thomas ordered provisional platoons be formed by personnel for H&S Company, his engineer attachments, and that the artillery be battery be stripped down to the bare minimum required to operate the guns. In addition, 3 roadblocks were to be established. Ridge assigned Major Simmons and his Weapons Company the responsibility of constructing and manning these blocks. As defensive positions were dug, the artillery gun crews puzzled over the dilemma of being able to cover the entire perimeter while the engineers began surveying ground for a landing strip that would be able to support observation planes.
 
Thomas was faced with the additional dilemma of controlling and supervising the natives within his established perimeter. Having found large quantities of Communist literature left behind by the post-WWII Soviet occupation, he suspected the sympathies of the local population. To deal with this potential issue, Ridge established a foreign civil affairs unit of a dozen men under 1st Lieutenant Donald Holmes. From then on he came to be known as the "sheriff". Additionally, he screened and selected 12 South Koreans to serve as counterintelligence agents. A village council headed by a Korean mayor was formed and a curfew imposed. The roads into the town became clogged with fleeing refugees and enemy soldiers in civilian clothing. These people were screened, interrogated and searched at the roadblocks. Over 4000 civilians passed through and 700 prisoners were taken.
 
By the time night fell on the first day of his occupation of Majon-ni, Thomas' planned defense was well underway. Telephone and radio communications, consisting of 2 switchboards and 35 field phones, had been established, and Ridge had selected a Russian-style schoolhouse as his Battalion CP, in addition to established a secondary CP in case his primary choice became untenuable. The first night passed uneventfully and the next morning air support arrived and Thomas dispatched 2 motorized and several foot patrols, none of which encountered any enemy. On the afternoon of the 27th, a supply convoy arrived unmolested and several enemy troops surrendered at the roadblocks relaying intel of a thousand more in the hills with similar desires. Thomas requested that Chesty air drop a supply of surrender pamphlets to be distributed and ordered wire obstacales and minefields laid.


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Map depicting 3/1's positions on the perimeter of Majon-ni. The blue arrow is pointing at the Battalion CP, within the circle.

 

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Technical Sergeant William Burgin's sketch of Thomas' battalion CP at Majon-ni. Burgin was with Headquarters, 1st Marine Division.

 

A routine started to develop of manning the perimeter, policing the village, searching those who approached the roadblocks, and conducting security and reconaissance patrols. The surrender pamphlets were dropped over pre-designated sectors and mortars and artillery began a series of harassing fires to encourage surrender. Captain Dave Swinford managed to capture 20 men from the air, herding them towards the position with his plane in the air. Ridge sent out a patrol to receive them.
 
Thomas worried about the road between Woman and his outpost and requested a practice air drop to ensure him his unit could be resupplied if the road was cut. On the 5th day of unopposed occupation, Ridge assigned How Company to make the patrol along the southern road. Reinforced by machine guns, mortars, a forward observer and air liason, the patrol entered a 2 mile long, narrow gorge to the right of the Maam-San mountain. Once the main body was inside, the enemy engaged, pouring fire down from above on either side, achieving fire superiority as the Marines poured out of their vehicles. Ridge was informed of the situation and artillery swung their guns in anticipation of fire missions while a relief force was organized. Without warning, the enemy gave up the fight, having killed 5 and wounding 16 of Thomas' Marines.
 
During the ambush, a supply convoy had departed Wonsan and came upon a section of road that had been blown away. Halting, the Marines came under heavy enemy fire. 5 trucks and 2 jeeps were destroyed before the enemy was dispersed by Corsairs. Ridge was forced to request an aerial resupply of ammunition, rations, and vehicle fluids. 4 hours later, 43,000 pounds spread-loaded beneath 152 parachutes was dropped into the Majon-ni perimeter while medevacs were coordinated via helicopters and observation planes.
 
Captain Robert H Barrow of 1/1, future 27th Commandant of the Marine Corps, was assigned the mission of getting a 45 truck convoy of supplies through to Ridge at Majon-ni. Pushing through 5 roadblocks under heavy fire, a poorly placed airstrike was called in and the targest was marked by 60mm mortars. Darkness put an end to his air support. Reluctantly, he was forced to admit temporary defeat and return to Wonsan. During the return trip, a track went over a 60 foot cliff with 20 Marines onboard and a human chain had to be formed to retrieve them. 16 were injured in the drop. At 0830 the next morning, the convoy started out on its second attempt to resupply Ridge and his 3/1. Killing and dispersing a platoon size element of the enemy, the convoy swiftly overcame further obstacles and made it to Majon-ni with the badly needed supplies by early afternoon. Thomas temporarily absorbed them under his command, giving them a place on his perimeter.


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An artist's (Burgin?) sketch at Majon-ni of Thomas. Name was written by his wife.

 

X Corps, having received intel that the enemy was utilizing the copper mine area near the 4000 foot Turyu-San mountain 9 miles northeast of Majon-ni as an assembly area, order Ridge to investigate further. Intel estimate anywhere from 5-7000 enemy troops in this sector and Ridge depleted his sector by sending 2 rifle companies augmented by Weapons Company on a motorized reconaissance in force commanded by Major Reginald Myers, who had earned 2 Bronze Stars during the Inchon landing. In order to sustain his perimeter, Ridge ordered every able-bodied man into provisional platoons to man the line. His battalion reserve consisted of a records clerk, the H&S Co 1st Sergeant, and a single runner. Capturing 80 prisoners during its mission, the patrol was made without incident. 643 prisoners now crowded the stockage and would soon outnumber the Marines.
 
The next morning at 0130, Ridge received reports of flares and booby traps being tripped to the front of How Company. By 0330, his entire perimeter was heavily engaged by small arms, grenades, mortars and artillery. Manned by 5 Marines on the high ground, the battalion observation post heard enemy infiltrators moving into position and requested illumination. Before daylight and out of ammo, the OP was forced to withdraw. As daylight revealed a shroud of fog, an enemy officer exposed himself near the OP and shouted, "Banzai! Banzai! Banzai!", earning the nickname 'Tarzan' and being driven to cover by Ridge's artillery. In an act that would later heavily lend to the Marine Corps ethos of 'Every Marine a Rifleman', a platoon was organized from cooks, clerks and supply staff. Led by 2nd Lieutenant Charles Maddox, this hastily thrown-together platoon assaulted the high ground in an attempt to retake the OP. With their indirect fire slamming the summit, the Marines climbed the mountain and by 0630 had retaken the OP, shouting after the retreating North Koreans with, "Banzai yourself, you bastards!" Due to their task of retaking the OP, the cooks were delayed in the preparation of breakfast.
 
Upon conclusion of the engagement, Thomas released Captain Barrow and his men back to Wonsan, sending with them 619 prisoners from the stockade. This caused Chesty an amount of anxiety knowing that his Marines were outnumbered 3 to 1 by their prisoners, however, Barrow and his prisoners returned without incident. That afternoon in Majon-ni, the civilian populous began a mass evacuation. Questioning revealed that an "extermination" attack had been ordered by North Korean General Pak-Thomas Ridge and his Marines were to be killed to the last man. Undaunted by this decree, Ridge alerted his perimeter and ordered the civilians back to their homes and enforced a strict curfew. Shortly after 0100, the enemy initiated a series of probing attacks and an effort was made to again seize the OP. Inflicting heavy casualties, Ridge's men threw the enemy back.
 
With this final defeat, General Pak gave up the idea of taking Majon-ni and routed his division northward to Kuksu-ri. Ridge's men again fell into a routine of patrolling and manning the perimeter. Mail arrived, medevacs were made within minutes, and supplies entered as needed. On November 10th, the Marine Corps' birthday, honoring a long standing tradition, Thomas' cooks prepared a huge cake, icing it in strawberry jam due to lack of frosting. Posts were rotated to their company CP's so that every Marine was able to enjoy a piece of the treat. On the 14th, Ridge and his 3/1 were relieved after 18 days by the US Army. While briefing his Army replacement inside the CP, the perimeter again came under attack. It was business as usual, and Thomas proceeded with his brief as his men pushed back the assault. Having repelled the attacks of 3 enemy battalions throughout their 2 weeks at the village, Thomas and his boys had killed 525 enemy, wounded 1750 more and taken a total of 1395 prisoners. For his actions during the occupation of Majon-ni, Thomas would later be decorated with the Bronze Star with combat distinguishing "V" device. His citation would read as follows:
 

"For meritorious service in connection with operations against the enemy while serving as commanding officer of a Marine infantry battalion in KOREA from 28 October 1950 to 14 November 1950. Assigned the independent mission of establishing a defensive position at Majon-ni to deny the enemy the use of this important road hub, Lieutenant Colonel RIDGE expertly retained tactical control of his battalion despite opposition by numerically superior enemy forces, by the skillful employment of combat patrols, reconaissance in force, and the use of supporting arms. In addition, by emphasising the employment of his intelligence agencies, and as a result of a sound civil affairs program which won the support of the native population, he was able to obtain an unusual volume of intelligence information, which permitted the establishment of the defensive position deep in enemy territory. When enemy forces cut the main supply route to his rear, completely surrounding his position, he skillfully coordinated the air dropping of essential supplies, and on two occasions elements of his battalion fought their way through enemy roadblocks with supplies. During the course of the action, a total of 1395 prisoners of war were taken, and heavy casualties were inflicted on the enemy. His sound and inspiring leadership and thorough knowledge of the problems involved resulted in the successful completion of his mission. Lieutenant Colonel RIDGE's exemplary and meritorious conduct throughout was in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.

Lieutenant Colonel RIDGE is authorized to wear the combat "V"."

 
 
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Certified true copy of Thomas' Bronze Star citation.



#13 Brig

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Posted 09 September 2015 - 07:52 PM

Upon relief, Thomas and his 3/1, along with the rest of the 1st Regiment, began moving north to Chigyong. From there he was ordered to take his battalion north to Hagaru-ri, detaching George Company to guard supplies until shuttling transportation could be arranged to take them forward. The weather turned from a wet to dry cold with temperatures reaching as low as minus 25 degrees and during this movement there was a shortage of motorized transport, Chesty's priority being available vehicles haul tents to serve as warming stations that could be set up for the riflemen. Initially, this call led to a shortage of ammo, but Puller justified it with, "I'll take care of my men first. Frozen troops can't fight. If we run out of ammunition, we'll go to the bayonet."
 

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Aerial view of Chosin Reservoir in 1950.

 

Upon arrival, Thomas was given the mission of defending the perimeter. Hagaru-ri was 2500 yards below the southern tip of the Chosin Reservoir and to the west of the Changjin River. This would be the furthest north any element of the 1st Regiment would reach. Hagaru-ri was vital to the division as it offered the only reasonably level ground within the AO where an airfield could be established, and the 1st Engineer Battalion immediately set to work in its construction. In the Division Commander's words, Hagaru-ri "had to be held".
 
Thomas called on his South Korean counterintelligence agents and sent them into the surrounding territory. Within a day that had returned with identical reports-a division of Chinese were moving south with the intent to attach the perimeter at 2130 on the night of the 28th. Once again, Thomas found himself with too much ground and too few personnel. The perimeter he was tasked to defend stretched for 4 miles, and his 2 rifle companies and weapons company were not enough to effectively hold the ground. Once again, Thomas drew from his support element, plugging in bodies from wherever he could pull from. Cooks, clerks, and mechanics pulled from 1st Motor-T Battalion, 1st Service Battalion, an Army engineer company, artillery, and his own H&S were once again pressed into service as riflemen. To ensure proper coordination with the Army and ROK units in his charge, Thomas assigned a Marine officer and radio operator to each of their positions. Judging by the terrain, Thomas predicted that, depite the enemy's advance from the north, they would attack from the south. He placed his two rifle companies where he felt his perimeter would be hit the hardest, and filled in the rest with his provisional riflemen. Weapons company was again assigned the roadblocks. The Division Commander, Major General Oliver P Smith, arrived by helo to establish his CP within the perimeter.


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Map depicting the Hagaru-ri defense perimeter November 28-29.

 

On the night of the 28th, shortly after dark, it began to snow. By 2100, 2 inches had accumulated on top of the ice. At approximately 2210, enemy artillery and mortars began raining down around the Marines. Phosphorous shells were heavily used and heavy casualties started to be taken while the enemy infantry crept into range and began lobbing hand grenades. A violent attack ensued, with the enemy overrunning positions and penetrating the line. Upon notification, Ridge immediately dispatched a 50 man unit to reinforce the line. After sustaining heavy casualties, they were successful in dulling the attack but the enemy had achieved fire superioritu and was rapidly strengthening their force. Ridge dispatched another 50 men that were able to seal off the penetration. 3 hours after the attack began, it withered.
 
In the ice covered eastern hills, Ridge had dispatched Army detachments, attaching Marine Captain John Shelnutt and radio operator PFC Bruno Podolak to oversee and report from their sector. As the attack against the perimeter withered, the engineers on the hill came under heavy fire and were forced to withdraw. Shelnutt was killed as the enemy overran the hill and Podolak was left behind by the withdrawing Army unit. Podolak radioed Thomas and told him he would hold firm, hiding in a hole and reporting on the enemy.
 
Having committed 100 men to reinforce the perimeter, Thomas was down to 20 men in his reserves. He tasked his XO, Major Reginald Myers, to form them up and retake the hill at all costs. Myers met up with the fleeing Army unit and reorganized them for a counterattack. Myers ordered tanks and mortars to fire on the hilltop and was informed by Podolak that the enemy surrounding him on the hill was battalion strength. At 0315, Myers led his rag-tag assault element of 315 men slipping and sliding up the ice-covered hill, repeatedly exposing himself to enemy fire as he shouted encouragement and pushed forward those lagging. Only 75 men reached the crest, rescuing Podolok and holding their line until daybreak when an airstrike could be called in. For this action, Myers' would later be awarded the Medal of Honor, undoubtedly recommended by Thomas.
 
Ridge sent an additional 2 attacks up the hill in an attempt to relieve Myers' depleted force, but both attacks were pinned down by enemy fire. Myers' was forced to pull back to the face of the hill and dig his men in. In the light of day, 750 dead enemy lay frozen in front of the perimeter at Hagaru-ri. This had come at a heavy price, with the defenders having suffered 500 casualties of their own. Fortunately, much higher casualties had been avoided by the enemy's failure to untilize indirect fires. The line was intact.
 
With an urgeant need to clear the road between Koto and reinforce the vital position of Hagaru-ri, Chesty Puller formed Taskforce Drysdale consisting of the British Royal Marine 41st Commando, a company of the Army's 31st RCT, and Thomas' George Company. They would encounter fierce resistance and battle their way towards Hagaru-ri throughout the day and into the night, finally rejoining Thomas and his 3/1 within the perimeter at 0130 on the 30th. George Company would suffer 63 casualties and earn 2 Medals of Honor on the way. Ridge placed George Company in reserve and they were reorganized to relieve Myers. At 0900, they had retaken the hill.


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Map depicting the defensive positions at Hagaru-ri on December 1. Notes written by Helen Ridge.

 

At 2130, the enemy onslaught resumed, signaled by a green popup. Small units made probing attacks, which evolved into a full scale attack by 2330. This time, the enemy was supported by indirect fire and threatened to penetrate the line. The Marines fought back savagely. At one point, George Company's line was bent back, but Ridge rushed reinforcements to the sector and the line was stabilized.
 
On December 1st, the 31st Regimental Combat Team, having fought off continual Chinese attacks during the 6 mile southern withdrawal from the P'ungnyuri Inlet were forced to stop near the sawmill at Sasu-ri and abandon their convoy, leaving the dead and wounded behind and crossing the ice on foot. The Chinese overran the trucks and killed the wounded and destroyed many of the vehicles.  Lieutenant Colonel Olin Beall, in command of 1st Marine Division's Motor-T Battalion, observed from the north end of Haguri-ri. His story and uniform can be viewed here... http://www.usmilitar...t/?hl=hagaru-ri .
 
At 1935 on December 3rd, an advance party of the 7th Marines reached the roadblock at Hagaru-ri. Having fought from Yudam-ni through the surrounding Chinese, the 5th and 7th Marines marched silently into the perimeter, haggard and hard, the resupplies and air support coming out of Hagaru-ri being instrumental in facilitating their ability to fight their way out. Some of this air support possibly came from Lloyd B Finley, whose uniform and story can be seen here... http://www.usmilitar...y/?hl=hagaru-ri . Or from Hugh F 'Whiskey' Newell, whose medals and story can be seen here... http://www.usmilitar...s/?hl=hagaru-ri .
 
Upon seeing the Marines enter his position, Thomas was overcome by a wave of relief. The airstrip had been completed, and those casualties incapable of walking were flown out. A division hospital was established within the perimeter. By 1300 on the 4th, after nearly 20 hours, the final elements of the Yudam-ni task force were inside the perimeter. 650 Marine replacements were flown in. General Tunner of the Air Transport Command flew in and told General Smith he was willing to fly out the Marines as fast as the airstrip could take planes, but was informed in turn that no able-bodied man would be flown out.


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The statues of the Korean War Memorial covered in snow, fittingly representative of what Thomas and his Marines endured at the Chosin Reservoir.

 

On December 5th, Thomas and his 3/1 were attached to the 5th Regiment for the march out of the Reservoir. They would continue to hold the perimeter at Hagaru-ri until the 7th Marines had moved south to Koto. The perimeter again came under heavy attack that night, and 340 Chinese lay dead before them in the morning. The Marines continued to fight their way south, taking with them their wounded, dead and equipment while leaving nothing for the enemy to use. On the night of December 7th, they arrived in Koto-ri and Thomas and his boys were reunited with Chesty and their regiment. On the 9th, the order came down to evacuate the Hugnam area. From Koto-ri, the Marines would march to the sea, with the 1st Regiment defending Koto-ri until the final trains had departed and taking up the rear guard. 3500 civilian refugees gathered at the north roadblock and had to be driven back by firing over their heads. Enemy fire continued to steadily pour in. Two hours before daylight on the 10th, a force of 350 enemy attacked Thomas' positions but were successfully beaten back. The 1st Regiment moved out, and by the night of the 11th the last elements of the 1st Marine Division had entered the seaport town of Hamhung and were loaded aboard ship. During this night, PFC Henry F Klinzing of the 1st Signal Battalion went MIA. His medals and story can be seen here... http://www.usmilitar...osin-reservoir/


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Thomas decorates Joseph Trompeter with the Legion of Merit. 

 
During the Defense of Hagaru-ri, Thomas's 3/1 suffered 33 KIA with 10 more later dying of their wounds, 2 MIA, and 270 WIA for a total of 415 casualties. For their actions at the Chosin Reservoir, they would be awarded the Presidential Unit Citation, as well as the title of "The Chosin Few". Additionally, for his actions during the defense of Hagaru-ri, Thomas would be again decorated, this time with the Legion of Merit with combat distinguishing device. His citation would read as follows:
 

"For exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding services to the Government of the United States while serving as Commanding Officer of a Marine infantry battalion if KOREA from 26 November to 10 December 1950. During the Chosin Reservoir operations against the enemy, Lieutenant Colonel RIDGE discharged his responsibilities with great skill, aggressiveness and initiative. His battalion was charged with a portion of the defense at Hagaru-ri from 27 November 1950 to 7 December 1950, and from 28 November 1950 to 5 December 1950 he acted as Defense Area Commander. With complete disregard for his own personal safety and fatigue, he so skillfully employed his reinforced battalion that determined and coordinated enemy attacks against the defense were repelled, and the defense perimeter remained intact, withstanding all enemy efforts to overrun and destroy the garrison. A most capable and inspiring leader, he was directly instrumental in making it possible for other advancing units of the division to reorganize and replenish their supplies before continuing the advance, and the constructing of a base for the treatment and evacuation of casualties. In the attack to Koto-ri and Chinhung-ni, he continued the skillful tactical employment of the battalion, inflicting heavy casualties upon the enemy, inspiring the members of his command to even greater efforts, and contributing materially to the success achieved by the division. Lieutenant Colonel RIDGE's skilled service and exemplary conduct throughout this period were in keeping with the highest traditions of the united States Naval Service.

Lieutenant Colonel RIDGE is authorized to wear the combat "V"."

 
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The citation for Thomas' Legion of Merit.



#14 Brig

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Posted 09 September 2015 - 08:02 PM

Following the withdrawel from the Chosin Reservoir, Thomas and his 3/1 continued to conduct operations in Korea, with Thomas making several aerial reconaissances. On March 15, 1951, he was transferred to Headquarters Battalion, 1st Marine Division to serve as the assistant division G-2, where he took part in numerous aerial reconaissances over the following 4 months in support of operational planning. For his total of 22 aerial flights, he would later be awarded the Air Medal, an uncommon decoration for an infantry officer. His citation would read as follows:

 
"For meritorious acts while participating in aerial flight over enemy territory. Serving with a Marine division in action against the enemy in KOREA, during the period 28 September 1950 to 16 July 1951, Lieutenant Colonel RIDGE participated in a total of twenty-two liaison and reconaissance flights in slow unarmed aircraft at extremely low altitudes over areas where enemy anti-aircraft fire was received or could be expected. Information gained during these flights aided materially in the success of ground operations. Lieutenant Colonel RIDGE's actions throughout were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service."
 

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The citation for Thomas' Air Medal.

 

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A certified log of reconaissance flights Thomas participated in in Korea.

 

From the 6th-26th of September, Thomas was in Tokyo, Japan as the ad du Representative of the Fleet Marine Force-Pacific. On the 28th, he arrived back in the US at Naval Amphibious Base Little Creek, Norfolk, Virginia. In January 1952, he was assigned to the Joint Action Panel, Division P&P, being approved his Top Secret Clearance on February 15th. In March, he was appointed as 1 of 3 Marine officers to the Joint Amphibious Board. On March 17th, Rear Admiral LA Thackrey presented Thomas with the Bronze Star and Air Medal he earned for service in Korea.
 

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The slightly crushed case and ribbon bar for Thomas' Air Medal. The medal is not in my possession.

 

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Thomas posing with his family wearing his newly awarded Bronze Star and Air Medal.

 

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Newspaper article reporting Thomas' award of the Air Medal.



#15 Brig

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Posted 09 September 2015 - 08:10 PM

After so many months away from his family, Thomas was now home nearly every night. He and Helen brought a Dachsund puppy named Fritzel into their home, and soon were expecting their second child, due November. The would have a son who would be named after his father-Thomas Jr. Thomas continued with his duties, being promoted to full bird Colonel in the 4th quarter of 1954 and becoming the senior Marine Corps member of the Joint Amphibious Board, responsible directly to the Commandant. After wrapping up his duties in April 1955 during a trip to Norfolk, Thomas was transferred to the staff of MCDC Quantico, where he served until July of 1956 as the Marine Corps Liason Officer for Joint Amphibious Matters to the Commander at Little Creek, serving as an observer, advisor, and negotiator on all concepts and forces to support landing forces. During this time, he continued competitive shooting. On July 13th 1956, Thomas was transferred to the Staff of the Commanding General at Norfolk with Headquarters Company, H&S Battalion, where he was assigned as the Assistant Commander of Staff G-2. A year later, on July 15th 1957, he was assigned as the newly created billet of Deputy Chief of Staff for Doctrine and Development at Marine Corps Schools Quantico to Lieutenant General Merrill B Twining. There he was responsible for concept guidance in the development, testing, and review of new doctrine, tactics, and equipment.


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More awards earned by Thomas in competition shooting. I do not know when he earned the 2 without date bars.

 

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Buttons from Thomas' alpha blouse and garrison cover and his tie clip, which appears unused and still has the Wosk tag on the bottom of the box.

 

In 1960, Thomas finally got his long-standing wish to return to a Latin American station. He was assigned as Naval Attache and Naval Attache for Air to the Dominican Republic. However, just prior to departing for his post, the Dominican Republic severed diplomatic relations and Thomas was transferred to a new organization known as the ALUSNA GROUP in San Juan, Puerto Rico, where he was tasked with maintaining current estimates on certain critical areas in the Carribean. In 1961, he reestablished the office of the Naval Attache at the American Embassy in Bogota, Colombia, while simultaneously serving as the Naval Attache and Naval Attache for Air in Equador. Neither country had had such an attache since shortly after WWII. He served as a member of the Embassy Country Team-an entity composed of key members of the embassy with the mission of preparing overall estimates and recommending actions to the host nations. In 1963, Thomas' tour was extended a year on the request of the US ambassadors in both Colombia and Equador. In addition, he served as a member of both the American Society Colombia and the Colombian Chamber of Commerce. He also served as an advisor to the Development Board of Javariana University in Bogata. He worked to develop various proposals involving the defection of Latin American trade from Europe and Asia to the US as a contribution to the "Gold Drain" problem, with his priniciple case involving 1.5 million US citizens. Thomas was notified by high authorities of the Colombian government that he was to be present a significant Colombian decoration. He was informed the same was true of Ecuador by the Ecuadorian President of Junta, Rear Admiral Castro. Whether he was presented either of these awards has not been determined.


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Official Portrait of Colonel Thomas L Ridge.

 

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I have been unable to determine what Thomas is being presented with in this image.



#16 Brig

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Posted 09 September 2015 - 08:18 PM

In 1964, after over 25 years of faithful service, having fought in 2 wars, been decorated for actions in combat on 5 occasions, and receiving 20 years of fitness reports with the top rating of "outstanding", Colonel Thomas Lee Ridge retired from the United States Marine Corps. Having made numerous contacts in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru, Venezuela, Mexico, Pueto Rico, and the Dominican Republic, Thomas was interested in a "line, staff or special position in an organization with significant present or future interests in foreign areas, especially Latin America and preferably South America". However, he wasn't opposed to a similar position in Europe or Asia.
 

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Miscellanious items of Thomas' including a sewing kit and rubber stamp. I believe the eagle hanger may have been what one of the 2 framed photos was suspended upon. If anyone knows what the pad in the case was for, please let me know.

 
Upon his retirement, Thomas would go on to work as a Defense Department official for 14 years, as well as the Assistant Director in the office of the Assitant Secretary for International Security Affairs. He would be honored with the Defense Meritorious Civilian Service Medal. Upon fully retiring, he and his wife lived in Potomac, Maryland, finally settling in California in 1995. He pursued his long-time hobbies of photography, golf, electronics, and reading. He was a member of St. Raphael's Catholic Church, the American Kennel Club, and the Delta Upsilon Fraternity.
 

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A picture of Thomas holding the portrait of him with his American Defense ribbon as displayed above.

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A picture of Thomas, presumably the same day due to the tie, holding the portrait of him with his American Defense ribbon. His sweater has a bullseye and 'Illinois' on the pocket, and I believe it may be the sweater presented to him for excellence on the shooting team in 1935.

 

Preceeded by his daughter less than 2 months prior, Thomas passed away on September 13, 1999 at the age of 84 of pneumonia in a nursing home in Concord, California. Prior to his burial, his loving wife of 55 years Helen passed away on October 10th. Thomas was buried at Arlington National Cemetary, Section 66, Grave 4611 on October 13th, and on November 24th, his wife was laid beside him.


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Thomas' headstone at Arlington National Cemetary.


#17 Brig

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Posted 09 September 2015 - 08:23 PM

The leather carrying case for Thomas' Mamelike sword with his initials painted on the flap of the cover. His sword is not in my possession

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#18 Brig

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Posted 09 September 2015 - 08:24 PM

It is evident in his portrait that Thomas, like many other Marines, favored the Viking Kwiksets, which are a bit more difficult to find than the crimped back ribbons of the era. His Brazilian decorations I had to craft by hand, as I was unable over 2 years to locate US versions of these awards. The 'V' devices are the correct period brown devices. I was fortunate to have several loose extras from a different grouping. I tried to put the devices on similarly skewed to match those in his portrait. The collar emblems are not the H&H "Dancing Birds" he favored in the portraits I have, I have been unable to find a matched, suitable screwback pair but hope to do so in the future. The silver Divisional Badge is his original, though unnamed. The Bronze is a 1960s or 70s straight-pin temporary replacement until a period piece can be acquired. I owe thanks to many members who helped me through this research and restoration, and wish to extend special thanks to our member Ricardo, who assisted in translations as well as his friend in the Brazilian Marine Corps who was able to lcoate some information for me from their records. It is fantastic that a Brazilian Marine was able to assist a US Marine today in researching a US Marine who provided so much assistance to the Brazilian Marines nearly 75 years ago.
 

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#19 Ricardo

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Posted 10 September 2015 - 03:14 AM

WOW!!!  VERY WELL DONE!!

 

That a GREAT research project and wonderful restoration!!!

 

I am very happy to have collaborated with you my friend!!!!

 

I enjoyed the connection with the history of Brazil.

 

Best regards,

 

Ricardo.



#20 USMCR79

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Posted 10 September 2015 - 03:36 AM

Great Restoration and narrative on this Marine

 

Bill



#21 bellasilva

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Posted 10 September 2015 - 04:09 AM

That's an incredible write-up Brig, and an amazing service history for that brave Marine.

#22 Cobra 6 Actual

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Posted 10 September 2015 - 04:12 AM

Outstanding work on a great Marine. Thank you!

#23 bobgee

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Posted 10 September 2015 - 05:27 AM

Great job, Tim. I believe worthy of submission to The Gazette or Leatherneck as an article. Semper Fi.......Bob



#24 ssggates

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Posted 10 September 2015 - 06:18 AM

Wow! That is a truly outstanding and unbelievable group.  The meticulous research you have done proves that it is in the right hands as well.   



#25 mes

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Posted 10 September 2015 - 06:22 AM

Great Job!  I agree with Bob this should appear in leatherneck or the Gazette.Very interesting history and a beautiful job on the restoration.

Mark




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