In Memory of one of the Few and the Proud…Semper Fi!
I cannot let the passing of this brave, selfless American hero go without offering my Condolences and Gratitude to his family and loved ones and expressing the debt of Gratitude owed to him by the Nation and Corps of men he selflessly served. Heaven today is joyously recieving another fine, proud Marine and great citizen of our country. Rest in Peace Retired Marine Col. John Ripley, your duty is done and it is time for your rich reward in heaven. Thank God for men such as this one. Thank you!
Vietnam War Hero Dies at Home at 69
Source: Virginian – Pilot
Publication date: 2008-11-04
The Associated Press
Retired Marine Col. John Ripley, who was credited with stopping a column of North Vietnamese tanks by blowing up a pair of bridges during the 1972 Easter Offensive of the Vietnam War, died at home at age 69, friends and relatives said Sunday.
Ripley’s son Stephen Ripley said his father was found at his Annapolis home Saturday after missing a speaking engagement on Friday. The son said the cause of death had not been determined but it appeared his father died in his sleep.
In a videotaped interview with the U.S. Naval Institute for its Americans at War program, Ripley said he and about 600 South Vietnamese were ordered to “hold and die” against 20,000 North Vietnamese soldiers with about 200 tanks.
“I’ll never forget that order, ‘hold and die,’
” Ripley said. The only way to stop the enormous force with their tiny force was to destroy the bridge, he said. “The idea that I would be able to even finish the job before the enemy got me was ludicrous,” Ripley said. “When you know you’re not going to make it, a wonderful thing happens: You stop being cluttered by the feeling that you’re going to save your butt.”
Ripley crawled under the bridge under heavy gunfire, rigging 500 pounds of explosives
that brought the twin spans down, said John Grider Miller, a former Marine adviser in
Vietnam and the author of “The Bridge at Dong Ha ,” which details the battle.
Miller said the North Vietnamese advance was slowed considerably by Ripley. “A lot of people think South Vietnam would have gone under in ’72 had he not stopped them,” Miller said.
Ray Madonna, president of the U.S. Naval Academy’s 1962 graduating class, served in Vietnam as a Marine at the same time and said his classmate saved countless U.S. and South Vietnamese troops.
“They would have been wrecked” if the tanks had crossed, Madonna said. He said Ripley also coordinated naval gunfire that stopped the tanks from crossing at a shallower point downstream.
“He was a Marine’s Marine, respected, highly respected by enlisted men, by his peers and by his seniors,” Madonna said.
Miller said Ripley, who was born in Radford, Va., descended from a long line of veterans going back to the Revolutionary War. He graduated from the Naval Academy in 1962, after enlisting in the Marines out of high school and spending a year in naval school in Newport, R.I.
He earned the “Quad Body” distinction for making it through four of the toughest military training programs in the world: the Army Rangers, Marine reconnaissance, Army Airborne and Britain’s Royal Marines, Miller said. He was also the only Marine to be inducted in the U.S. Army Ranger Hall of Fame. Ripley earned the Navy Cross and Silver Star for his service in Vietnam. He later served on the Joint Chiefs of Staff and was regimental commander at Camp Lejeune, N.C., among other postings.
After retiring from the Marines, he was president and chancellor of Southern Virginia College in Lexington. Stephen Ripley said his father had a deep and tenacious love for his country, the Marine Corps and his family. “My Dad never quit anything and never went halfway on anything in his life,” he said. “He just was a full-throttle kind of person and those people that he cared about, he really cared about.”
Ripley is survived by his wife, Moline B. Ripley ; sons Stephen,Thomas and John; a daughter, Mary Ripley ; and eight grandchildren. Funeral arrangements were pending.
Update: Nov. 17,2008
EDITORIAL: John Ripley
Source: Richmond Times-Dispatch
Publication date: 2008-11-17
By Richmond Times-Dispatch, Va.
Nov. 17–A child of Radford, John Ripley enlisted in the Marines after high school and attended the Naval Academy. He graduated in 1962, was commissioned a second lieutenant, and in 1965 went to Vietnam. His career forms the stuff of legend.
If the nation had not grown anemic, he would have been as well known as the heroes of ancient wars. Ripley never sought fame — he scorned mere celebrity — so the condition did not bother him. A roll-call of his medals suggests the nobility of his person. Navy Cross, Silver Star, Legion of Merit (twice), Bronze Star (twice), Purple Heart. We could continue. Modesty defined the man.
During the Easter season of 1972 the Vietnamese communists descended in full force upon the South. Village after village fell as troops pressed ever on. Saigon itself seemed under threat. Capt. Ripley and his unit, which included about 600 South Vietnamese, received an order to halt an advance of 20,000 North Vietnamese, who were supported by 200 tanks. The bridge at Dong Ha was designated Ripley’s Alamo.
Amid enemy fire, he swung under the bridge to plant the explosives that brought down the span; the attack stalled as the fragments splashed into the waters and were strewn upon the ground. Historians believe that if the defense at Dong Ha had failed, South Vietnam might have collapsed there and then. The North eventually won the war, yet while the Vietnamese endured great sufferings an abject defeat in 1972 likely would have proved more costly not only to Vietnam but to the United States. A questionable involvement pursued by a dubious strategy by often ignominious leaders and undermined in the streets at home detracts not a bit from the courage of individuals such as Ripley.
Ripley’s post-service years included stints as president and chancellor of Southern Virginia College in Buena Vista and as president of Hargrave Military Academy in Chatham. As director of the Marine Corps’ History and Museums Division, he played a crucial role in the development of the National Museum of the Marine Corps that opened in 2006 in Quantico. The site is his shrine.
Last month Ripley died in Annapolis at 69. “O Judge of all nations, we remember before you with grateful hearts the men and women who in the day of decision ventured much for the liberties we now enjoy.” A Marine is always a Marine, and for generations hence Col. John Ripley will live in the remnant’s fond memory.
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Copyright (c) 2008, Richmond Times-Dispatch, Va.
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.