Heartbreaking News: Colonel John W. Ripley USMC (Ret). - Page 2
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  1. #16
    Just received this email from the Royal Marines Association:


    I regret to inform you that Colonel John Ripley USMC died in his sleep last week. He was the most decorated USMC officer and he served with many in the Corps as an exchange officer for nearly three years. He graced us with his presence at this year's reunion and took the salute for the Corps of Drums Mess Beatings in the Drill Shed on the Saturday night and inspected the Static Company on the Parade on Sunday. It is sad to note that another real gentleman who was an inspecting officer at Reunion has passed away so soon afterwards. His funeral is this Friday at the Naval Military Academy Annapolis.

    Rest in peace Colonel.



  2. #17


    Colonel John W. Ripley, USMC, RIP
    Posted by Keith Pavlischek on November 4, 2008, 12:37 PM

    Colonel John W. Ripley, USMC died this past week.

    We throw around the word hero a bit too casually these days and as a result we too often miss the real deal. Colonel Ripley was the real deal. He was the real deal even apart from the single event for which his is renown.

    In late March 1972 twenty thousand North Vietnamese communists launched an offensive designed to reach Saigon and achieve a military and psychological victory over the South Vietnamese and the few remaining American advisors.

    Captain John Ripley having already served a tour in Vietnam as a Marine company commander, for which he was highly decorated, was now serving as an advisor to a battalion of seven hundred South Vietnamese marines. Captain Ripley and those marines were ordered to hold a pivotal bridge spanning a river near the village of Dong Ha. Ripley later said his orders were simply “hold or die.”

    He held.

    To prevent the advance of more than two hundred enemy armored vehicles, Captain Ripley had to destroy the bridge. Dangling from the bridge’s I-beams, his body weighed down by dynamite and C4 explosives, Captain Ripley climbed the length of the five-hundred-foot bridge, hand over hand. In a June 2008 interview for Marine Corps Times, Colonel Ripley said “I had to swing like a trapeze artist in a circus and leap over the other I-beam. . . . I would work myself into the steel. I used my teeth to crimp the detonator and thus pinch it into place on the fuse. I crimped it with my teeth while the detonator was halfway down my throat.” All this while the enemy desperately trying to kill this solitary Marine hanging beneath the bridge. The bridge was destroyed.

    Captain Ripley’s actions gave the South Vietnamese marines time to regroup and stop the communist invasion in Quang Tri Province. According to Marine Corps Colonel John Grider Miller, author of The Bridge at Dong Ha (1989), Saigon would probably have been lost in 1972 but for Ripley. For his actions, Captain Ripley was awarded the Navy Cross, the nation’s second highest award for valor.

    Colonel Ripley’s action at Dong Ha are legendary in the Marine Corps and are captured in this diorama—Ripley at the Bridge—at the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis.

    Requiem in Pacem, Colonel Ripley. Semper Fidelis.


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  3. #18
    John W. Ripley dies at 69; Marine received Navy Cross for heroism in Vietnam War
    By Dennis McLellan

    10:00 PM PST, November 4, 2008

    Retired Marine Corps Col. John W. Ripley, a Vietnam war hero who was awarded the Navy Cross for risking his life to blow up a strategic Highway 1 bridge that halted the advance of North Vietnamese troops and tanks during the 1972 Easter Offensive, has died. He was 69.

    Ripley was found dead Saturday at his home in Annapolis, Md., said his son, Stephen Ripley, who believes that his father died in his sleep four nights earlier.

    He said his father had received a liver transplant seven years ago, but his recent health had been good.

    "He was the closest thing we had to a living legend, and he will be remembered far into the future," said John Grider Miller, a retired Marine colonel and author who worked closely with Ripley while writing the 1989 book "The Bridge at Dong Ha."

    It's the story, Miller said, "of one man, one bridge, one day."

    "I really got into Ripley's head as he moved through that day," Miller said. "He woke up that morning convinced he would not live through the day."

    Then a 32-year-old captain on his second tour of duty in Vietnam, Ripley was the senior advisor to a battalion of South Vietnamese Marines in 1972.

    They had been sent to Dong Ha near the demilitarized zone to take defensive positions along the south bank of the Cua Viet River at the start of the North Vietnamese offensive.

    On Easter Sunday, Ripley received word that the vanguard of the North Vietnamese Army -- 20,000 troops and 200 tanks -- was moving down Highway 1 toward the bridge.

    "Ripley realized he couldn't stop these guys with 600 Marines, and if the North Vietnamese got across the bridge, the South Vietnamese were all dead," Miller said. "So he decided to blow the bridge."

    He did it by positioning five boxes of TNT -- and plastic explosives to detonate the TNT -- along the bridge: an approximately 600-foot-long steel structure with steel-reinforced concrete supports.

    After swinging hand-over-hand along the outside girder of the bridge, Ripley swung up into the first of five channels created by adjacent girders and crawled back through the channel toward the shoreline.

    He then began pulling out the first 100-pound box of TNT and plastic explosives that had been placed in the channel by U.S. Army Maj. Jim Smock.

    It took Ripley about three hours to position the heavy boxes of explosives along the bridge's five different channels and set the fuses.

    And, Miller said, "any time Ripley dropped down one channel to swing to another channel, he was exposed to direct fire."

    At one point, an enemy tank fired a round from its main gun at Ripley. But, Miller said, the round hit the bridge before it was armed and ricocheted to the south bank, where it exploded.

    As Ripley worked, Miller said, he was "very highly focused on just doing his job. He knew that this had to be done and that he was the only one who could do it."

    "He had that quality of accepting his own potential death to do what had to be done."

    In a videotaped interview for the U.S. Naval Institute's "Americans at War" documentary series, Ripley said that "the idea that I would be able to even finish the job before the enemy got me was ludicrous."

    "When you know you're not gonna make it, a wonderful thing happens: You stop being cluttered by the feeling that you're going to save your butt."

    When he was finished, the exhausted Ripley pulled himself hand over hand under the bridge and back to shore under enemy fire.

    In his Naval Institute interview, Ripley said that when "the time fuses detonated, all of a sudden the shock wave picked me up from behind. It just blew me through the air, and I'm lying on my back looking skyward, and I can see enormous chunks of this bridge blowing through the air. It was a tremendous feeling."

    In blowing up the bridge, Miller said, Ripley "stalled the armored attack, and the NVA had to move inland to seek another crossing site. That gave the South Vietnamese defenders time to organize the defense on a line farther south and that line held so the enemy, even after they crossed the river, never got below the northernmost province."

    For his actions at the bridge at Dong Ha, Ripley received the Navy Cross, the second-highest decoration that the country gives for heroism.

    "A lot of people think he should have had the Medal of Honor," Miller said.

    He said Ripley's heroic feat is taught to midshipmen at the Naval Academy, where Ripley has been memorialized with a large diorama at the entrance to Memorial Hall titled, "Ripley at the Bridge."

    During his career in theMarines, Ripley completed training in four of the toughest military programs in the world: Marine Corps' Force Reconnaissance, Army Rangers, Army Airborne and Britain's Royal Marines Commando.

    In June, he became the first Marine inducted into the U.S. Army Ranger Hall of Fame at Ft. Benning, Ga.

    Born in Radford, Va., on June 29, 1939, Ripley enlisted in the Marine Corps after graduating from high school in 1956.

    He was appointed to the U.S. Naval Academy and graduated in 1962 with a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering.

    In addition to his tour as an advisor in Vietnam in the early 1970s, Ripley served an earlier tour as a company commander with the 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marines, during which he received a Purple Heart.

    Among his other awards were the Silver Star, two Legion of Merit awards and two Bronze Stars with combat Vs for valor.

    After his second tour in Vietnam, he served in multiple billets, including tours as a battalion commander and a regimental commander.

    During the 1980s, he drew on his Royal Marine training to teach Marines how to fight in the Arctic and subsequently led a Marine battalion in joint training with the Norwegians in the Arctic.

    After retiring from the Marines in 1990, he was president and chancellor of what it is now called Southern Virginia University in Lexington, Va., and he was president of Hargrave Military Academy in Chatham, Va.

    He then served as director of the Marine Corps History and Museums Division and the Marine Corps Historical Center.

    In addition to his son Stephen, Ripley is survived by his wife, Moline; two other sons, John and Thomas; a daughter, Mary Ripley; a sister, Susan Goodykoontz; and eight grandchildren.

    A funeral service will be held at noon Friday at the U.S. Naval Academy Chapel.

    Instead of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to the Marine Corps Law Enforcement Foundation, www.mc-lef.org.

    McLellan is a Times staff writer.



  4. #19
    Vietnam war hero leaves legacy

    11/4/2008 By Pvt. Daniel Boothe , Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton

    MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. — —Remembered for stopping a column of North Vietnamese tanks by detonating explosives he set on two bridges during the Vietnam War in 1972, Col. John W. Ripley passed away, Oct. 28.

    Ripley was honored earlier this year, becoming the only Marine to be inducted into the U.S. Army Ranger Hall of Fame and was also commemorated in 2004 with the dedication of the John W. Ripley Forward Operating Base in Afghanistan.

    "A lot of people think South Vietnam would have gone under in 1972 had he not stopped them," said John G. Miller, a former Marine adviser in Vietnam and author of “The Bridge at Dong Ha,” a book based on Ripley’s accomplishments during Vietnam.

    We were ordered to “hold and die” fighting against 20,000 Viet Cong soldiers and 200 North Vietnamese tanks, said Ripley in an interview with the U.S. Naval Institute. I'll never forget that order, hold and die.

    "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 worrying about you and focus on what has to be done.”

    The only way to stop the enormous force was to destroy the bridges, Ripley added.

    Ripley crawled under each bridge under heavy gunfire and dangled for more than three hours, said Miller. Despite a command suggestion to hold the bridge for a counterattack, Ripley rigged the 500 pounds of explosives that brought down the twin spans above the Cua Viet River, Miller added.

    "I had to crimp the fuse with my teeth while the detonator was halfway down my throat pinching it into place," said Ripley.

    Ripley was shot in the side by a North Vietnamese soldier in 1972 and, during two additional tours of duty, was pierced with so much shrapnel that doctors found metal fragments in his body as recently as 2001.

    When the Cua Viet River bridges fell, a major route into South Vietnam was closed to the massed enemy troops and part of the North Vietnam offensive’s momentum was halted.

    “They would have been wrecked if the tanks had crossed,” said Ray Madonna, retired lieutenant colonel and 50-year friend serving alongside Ripley in Vietnam. “Capt. Ripley even coordinated naval gunfire stopping the tanks from crossing at a shallower point downstream,” he added.

    After Vietnam, Ripley continued to serve, losing most of the pigment in his face from severe sunburns while stationed above the Arctic Circle. Ripley later retired in 1992, after being appointed as a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

    In the 35 years spent with the Marine Corps, Ripley earned several decorations including the Navy Cross, the Silver Star, two Legions of Merit, two Bronze Star Medals, with combat “V” for valor, and the Purple Heart. He was also awarded the “Quad Body” distinction for completing the four most intense military courses in the world; the Army Rangers, Marine Reconnaissance, Army Airborne and Britain’s Royal Marines, said Miller.

    "He was a Marine's Marine, respected, highly respected by enlisted men, by his peers and by his seniors," Madonna said.

    After retiring from the Marine Corps, he was president and chancellor of Southern Virginia College in Lexington, Va.

    "My Dad never quit anything and never went halfway on anything in his life," said his son, Stephen B. Ripley. "He just was a full-throttle kind of person and those people that he cared about, he really cared about."

    Ripley was found in his home Saturday in Annapolis, Md., after missing a speaking engagement on Friday, said Stephen. The cause of death has not been determined, but it appears he died in his sleep. Funeral arrangements are still pending, he added.

    "I admired John not only because of his obvious war heroism, but because of how he conducted himself after the war," said Thomas L. Wilkerson, retired major general and chief executive, U.S. Naval Institute. "John was the standard to which we all aspire. There wasn't any baggage around John about how things should go. He walked his own talk.”


  5. #20
    Sent by email......................

    Marines, Ladies and Gentlemen,

    Updated information as follows:

    Times and locations remain the same for the wake/viewing, funeral service, and burial:

    Wake/Viewing 6 November, 1600-2000: Taylor Funeral Home, 147 Duke of Gloucester St. Annapolis Maryland

    Service 7 November, 1200: US Naval Academy Chapel

    Procession to Graveside aboard the US Naval Academy Grounds: 1330

    Graveside Service: 1400

    Reception to follow in the US Naval Academy's Alumni Hall until approximately 1630

    The US Naval Academy Marines and Brigade of Midshipmen will provide an honor guard at the funeral home this evening.

    Parking for the Wake 6 November: Parking is extremely limited at the funeral home. Recommend parking at the public parking garages on Duke of Gloucester or West Streets. Please use this website for parking information: http://www.ci.annapolis.md.us/info.asp?page=8305 Average garage parking rates are $1.25 per hour.

    Parking for Friday 7 November: Very limited aboard the US Naval Academy. Directions to the Academy remain the same as in the original e-mail below. When coming through the gate ensure the guard knows you are there for the Ripley Funeral.

    Additional parking WILL be available at the Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium or can be obtained by using public parking in Annapolis. (See above website for additional information).

    Guests need to have $5.00 cash for parking at the stadium.

    Bus transportation will be provided from the Stadium Parking Lot beginning at approximately 1000.

    Last bus will leave the Stadium parking lot for the Chapel at 1130 in order to allow time to arrive at the Chapel and be seated before the 1200 service.

    The service will begin at 1200 Sharp and last approximately 75 minutes.

    Uniform for the service: Marines: Dress Blue Alpha Official Escort: Dress Blue Alpha with Sam Browne Belt.

    The Chaplain will speak

    Tom Ripley will speak for the family

    The Commandant of the Marine Corps will speak

    At the conclusion of the service, guests will follow the casket and the official party from the Chapel and form up in the procession area immediately in front of the Chapel but to the rear of the official escort.

    The official escort will consist of a contingent of Marines from Marine Barracks, Washington DC, the family, honorary Pall Bearers, and Marines from the US Naval Academy Semper Fi Society.

    Guests will follow to the rear of the escort. There will be buses for those who need transportation from the Chapel to the graveside.

    Quiet hours will be observed during the procession.

    There will be one class change during the service.

    Once at the graveside, the Marines and Midshipmen from the Semper Fi Society will fall out of formation and join the remainder of the guests.

    The graveside service will last between 20 and 30 minutes.

    Flags will be presented to each of the four Ripley Children.

    At the conclusion of the graveside service. The family invites guests to return to the Naval Academy's Alumni Hall for a reception that will last to approximately 1630.

    HQMC Combat Camera will support the event.

    My sincere apologies if I have missed any detail.

    The Ripley family is honored to have you join them and passes on their sincere thanks for all of the prayers and concern shown by thousands of people whose lives were influenced by this legend of our Corps.

    I remain...

    Semper Fidelis.

    Giles Kyser

    Colonel of Marines

    Chief of Staff for the Deputy Under Secretary of the Navy


  6. #21
    November 07, 2008, 0:00 p.m.

    Ripley at the Bridge
    Semper Fidelis, my friend.

    By Mackubin Thomas Owens

    America lost one of its truly great heroes over the weekend. Col. John Ripley, United States Marine Corps (Ret.), a veteran of the Vietnam War, died in Annapolis at age 69. Unfortunately, this hero’s name is far less well-known than that of William Calley of My Lai fame.

    We Marines love our heroes, and we all know their names: Dan Daley, Smedley Butler, John Basilone, etc. But among those who populate this select pantheon, none surpasses John Ripley and the legend of “Ripley at the Bridge.”

    John graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1962, receiving a commission in the Marine Corps. In October of 1966, he assumed command of “Lima” Company, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment in Vietnam. During this tour he was wounded in action and awarded the Silver Star medal for valor.

    John had a successful career in the Marines, serving as an infantry battalion and regimental commander. He also earned the “Quad Body” distinction, graduating the Army’s Rangers School (he is the only Marine in the U.S. Army Ranger Hall of Fame), the Army’s Airborne school, Marine reconnaissance training, and Britain's Royal Marines training course.

    But the action that would make John a legend occurred in 1972. By spring of that year, most of the American troops had left Vietnam, leaving only advisers to the South Vietnamese military. He was one of them, a senior adviser to the 3rd Battalion of the Vietnamese Marine Corps.

    On March 30, 1972, the Peoples’ Army of Vietnam — the North — abandoned irregular warfare, launching the biggest conventional offensive of the war. The “Easter Offensive” far exceeded the Tet Offensive of 1968 in scope. Hoping to negate U.S. air power by taking advantage of the monsoon season, they attacked with massive armor and artillery on three fronts, including the area south of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). On this northern front, one division attacked directly south across the DMZ toward Quang Tri while another assaulted eastward from Laos along Route 9, through Khe Sanh and into the Quang Tri River Valley.

    Caught by surprise, the South Vietnamese could only try to slow the offensive, retreating south of the Cua Viet River at Dong Ha. But 20,000 soldiers and 200 tanks from the North were poised to strike across the river — and they were planning use a bridge defended by about 600 Southern soldiers, who had been ordered to “hold and die.” John related later that he would never forget that order. The only way to stop the North was to destroy the bridge. Fortunately, South Vietnamese engineers had placed 500 pounds of TNT and plastic explosives near the bridge. But the explosives would still need to be placed properly to bring down the twin spans.

    Aided by a U.S. Army officer, Maj. James Smock, John set up the explosives. He had to expose himself to enemy fire while swinging hand over hand along the bridge’s girder, with heavy loads of explosives slung over his shoulders. The odds against success seemed insurmountable.

    As John observed later, “the idea that I would be able to even finish the job before the enemy got me was ludicrous.” However, “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.” But John never lost his sense of humor. In his report, he observed:

    [The enemy,] rather than concentrating their fire on me — and I certainly couldn’t have made it through had they done so — they seemed to be watching incredulously as my body would appear, then disappear, hanging above the river. The enemy watched with a mixture of what seemed to be humor and amazement. In my judgment, they knew their massive assault would be successful and whatever I happened to be doing was relatively inconsequential; besides, I was providing them amusement.

    According to John Miller, the author of The Bridge at Dong Ha, which details the battle and John’s actions, “a lot of people think South Vietnam would have gone under in '72 had he not stopped them” by destroying the bridge.

    No one has described John’s actions better than my friend, Gerry Turley, the senior Marine adviser during the Easter Offensive in his book of the same name. John’s actions constituted “an epic example of fortitude, extraordinary bravery and personal resolve to defeat the enemy by fulfilling the last order, even if it means losing [one’s own life].” For his actions at the Dong Ha Bridge, John was awarded the Navy Cross, the nation’s second-highest award for valor.

    On Saturday, November 8, I will join Marines throughout the globe to celebrate the 233rd birthday of the Corps. It has become a tradition to set a table with an empty chair to honor those Marines who are absent. I and many others will be thinking of John Ripley on this occasion. Semper Fidelis, my friend.

    — Mackubin Thomas Owens is a professor at the Naval War College in Newport, R.I. He served 30 years in the Marine Corps and Marine Corps Reserve, including service in Vietnam as an infantry platoon commander in 1968-69. He is the editor of Orbis.


  7. #22


    Marines bid farewell to one of their heroes

    By EARL KELLY, Staff Writer
    Published November 08, 2008

    With moist eyes, young midshipmen and hardened old warriors alike, stood at attention yesterday as the casket of Vietnam War hero retired Marine Col. John Walter Ripley was taken from the Naval Academy Chapel.

    One old comrade, who stood with Col. Ripley against a large Communist force on Easter Sunday 1972, flew in from California for the funeral Mass and final commendation.

    "Col. Ripley worked as my adviser for two years," retired Vietnamese Marine Corps Lt. Col. Le Ba Binh said through a translator during an interview. "He was a genuine guy, very nice, very well spoken. It hit me hard when I heard" about his death.

    Col. Binh, who commanded a Vietnamese battalion, said that Col. Ripley liked to talk about history, and when they served together, the two of them often would analyze historical battles to "come up with ways to fight the enemy."

    "He also acted as a friend, and showed me how to move (troops) while under heavy enemy fire," Col. Binh said.

    Col. Ripley, who died last week at age 69, graduated from the Naval Academy in 1962. He lived in Annapolis.

    Col. Ripley was assigned as a military adviser in 1972, when the United States was trying to shift onto the South Vietnamese more responsibility for conducting the war.

    While an "adviser," he virtually single-handedly stalled an invading column of communist tanks by blowing up the bridge at the town of Dong Ha, South Vietnam.

    Col. Ripley and a group of 600 South Vietnamese were ordered to stop the enemy force, which consisted of about 20,000 soldiers and about 200 tanks.

    Determined to destroy the bridge even though he was under heavy fire, Col. Ripley swung beneath the structure and advanced by walking with his hands.

    He worked for three hours, going back and forth to carry ordnance, until he had packed the bridge's steel beams with 500 pounds of explosives, he said in a 2006 interview with The Capital.

    He said his orders were "Hold and die."

    Col. Ripley crimped detonator caps onto the primer cord by biting them, and one mishap would have blown his head off.

    Col. Ripley said the assignment of destroying the bridge became simpler after he realized he most likely was going to die, no matter what he did, and he may as well focus on the mission.

    That 1972 mission was not Col. Ripley's first tour of duty in Vietnam, nor his first taste of combat. Some veterans of his first tour, in 1967, were at the graveside, wearing red baseball caps with "Ripley's Raiders" emblazoned on them.

    They said they served with Col. Ripley at places along the demilitarized zone, such as the Rockpile, Highway 9 and Khe Sanh.

    "We would have followed him anywhere," said Russ Jewett, a Fort Bragg, Calif., resident who served as a Navy medic with Col. Ripley's company.

    Col. Ripley's radio operator from his first tour also attended yesterday's funeral.

    He said, as he was leaving the cemetery, that Col. Ripley always liked being in the thick of things, and was the kind of officer who "led from the front."

    "I thought, man, this guy is going to get me killed," said Jesse G. Torres, of Hillsborough, N.C. "He was always on the go, and wherever he was, I was there; he never stopped.

    "It was the kind of fighting where the buttons on your jacket were too big - you couldn't get close enough to the ground," Mr. Torres said.

    The nation's top Marine, Commandant Gen. James T. Conway, told the mourners who packed into the academy chapel about Col. Ripley's love of history.

    Gen. Conway recalled telling Col. Ripley, a native Virginian, that he was born too late, and if he had been with the South during the Civil War, Gen. U.S. Grant would have been unable to invade.

    "'I might not have stopped him, but I believe I could have slowed him down,'" Col. Ripley told Gen. Conway.

    Gen. Conway also recalled Col. Ripley saying, "'There are sheep and their are wolves, and in the end, the wolves always win.'"

    Col. Ripley is survived by his wife, Moline B. Ripley, 67; three sons, Stephen Ripley, 43, Thomas Ripley, 38, and John Ripley, 35; a daughter, Mary Ripley, 39; and eight grandchildren.

    Col. Ripley's awards include the Navy Cross, the Silver Star, two Legions of Merit, two Bronze Star Medals with Combat "V," the Purple Heart, the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, the Meritorious Service Medal, the Navy Commendation Medal, the Combat Action Ribbon, the South Vietnamese Army Distinguished Service Order, and the South Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry with Gold Star.

    Some veterans have said that Col. Ripley should have been awarded the Medal of Honor, the nation's highest recognition for valor, but his heroic deeds could not be suitably documented because they were not witnessed by Americans.

    Still, Col. Ripley's heroic feat is taught to Naval Academy midshipmen, and he has been memorialized with a large diorama "Ripley at the Bridge," which is displayed in the Naval Academy's Memorial Hall.

    A future Marine, Midshipman 4th Class Roger Willis, of Tacoma, Wash., was one of hundreds of midshipmen who attended the funeral and walked to the cemetery.

    "There is a link in the chain, the class that graduated 50 years earlier (1962) was Col. Ripley's class," said Midshipman Willis, a freshman who will graduate in 2012 and said he hopes to become a Marine tank commander.

    "I have always wanted to be a Marine, and people like Col. Ripley confirm that this is what I want to do."

    Slide Show



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  8. #23

    Col Ripley USMC


    I have just read about the passing of Colonel J Ripley USMC who had a long association with the Royal Marines after commanding Y Company 45 Cdo RM in the late 60's and early 70's. It is a sad time for us all when someone of his stature passes

    Our thoughts are with you all and his family

  9. #24
    American Hero - Video Footage of Colonel Ripley's funeral

    Godspeed Colonel Ripley

    A Marine hero and the first Marine inducted into the Ranger Hall of Fame, Colonel John Ripley passed away in his sleep this weekend.

    Many of you probably don't know who John Ripley is. That is due, agreeing with John Donovan, to the fact that in 1972, no one cared what was happening in Viet Nam.

    Ripley was an advisor of a South Vietnamese Army Battalion that was told to "Hold and Die in Place" in order to stop a huge armored column trying to invade the South during the Easter Offensive. The only way to stop that column was to blow up two bridges. Go here to read one of the better write ups of Ripley and the bridge.

    The truth is that the war would have been drawn to an extremely bloodier conclusion in 1972 had Colonel Ripley not stopped 20,000 NVA.

    Below is video footage of the funeral of Colonel John Ripley.

    [Thanks to John H. for the link to the video.]

    Col. John W. Ripley's Funeral



    Last edited by thedrifter; 11-13-08 at 03:19 PM.

  10. #25
    Guest Free Member
    He saved a lot of Marines, Sailors and Soldiers that day. The Black Wall would have a lot more names added if it were not for his Honor Courage and Commitment.

    Semper Fi Col. John Ripley!

  11. #26
    He may not have been remembered by the generations of the 1970's but although I never new the Colonel those in the Royal Marines have the greatest respect for a truly professional hero. RIP

  12. #27
    Marine Free Member FistFu68's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2006

  13. #28

    Farewell to a Legend
    Written by Norman Fulkerson

    The family and friends of Col. John Walter Ripley said their final goodbyes during a moving funeral ceremony on November 7, 2008 at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. He was laid to rest with full military honors in a ceremony that left most attendees either teary eyed or speechless.

    Among the honorary pall bearers was Lt. Col. Le Ba Binh who fought with Col. Ripley in Vietnam and actually witnessed the destruction of the Dong Ha bridge; the 30th Commandant of the Marine Corps, General Carl E. Mundy; Lt. Gen. Sir Henry Beverly of the British Royal Marines, a long time friend of the deceased; and Congressional Medal of Honor recipient Col. Wesley Fox.

    As the polished black hearse carrying the body of Col. Ripley approached the steps of the main chapel two Marine infantry platoons in dress blue uniforms with rifles and fixed bayonets snapped to attention. The seriousness of their demeanor was a clear indicator that they were just as capable of fighting a battle as they were of paying tribute to a war hero. Moments later, six more Marines, looking like they were carved out of marble, approached the hearse in a slow cadence and solemnly removed the casket. They then carried it up several flights of steps and gently placed it on the bier in the back of the chapel.

    “Out of the Depths I Cry to Thee”
    The afternoon sun filtering through the stained glass windows illuminated the incense that wafted through the air, creating a blue haze that seemed to hover over the top of the flag-draped coffin. All of this created an ethereal ambiance that was truly unique.

    The people I met on the previous night at the wake made up part of the crowd who packed the chapel to say farewell. As I entered that blue haze, I saw a sea of 2500 mourners, many of whom were forced to stand for the entire mass. Row after row of academy cadets, dressed in formal attire filled the balconies above, while military officers, adorned with medals of gold and silver, sat in the pews below. As the coffin was brought forward, the Naval Academy choir intoned the mournful and soul stirring lines of the De Profundis; “Out of the depths I cry unto thee, O Lord.” The plaintive chant was originally composed as an appeal on the part of the disincarnate soul pleading for mercy before the throne of God. On this day, it produced an atmosphere of added grandeur considering the stature of the man whose funeral mass we were now witnessing.

    Funeral Eulogies
    In his homily, Fr. Peter McGeory chose to bypass the stories of “Col. Ripley at the bridge.” He preferred to focus his words instead on the personal and religious side of the man. Col. Ripley was a Marine who went to mass on a daily basis when he was in town and did so with humility.

    “He was living proof that serving both God and country can be done with equal fidelity,” he said.

    His faithfulness to his wife Moline, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, was equally intense. Moline was an archetypal Southern lady who had been reduced to a wheel chair because of her illness. Father McGeory told of witnessing Col. Ripley at an Academy event one day kneeling on one knee next to his wife’s chair, gently speaking to Moline as he spoon fed her. Seeing his wife reduced to such a state caused Col. Ripley more suffering and required more strength of will than his superhuman efforts in the destruction of the Dong Ha Bridge. It would be one of the last bitter gulps from his chalice of suffering.

    Captain Tom Ripley gave an equally stirring eulogy of his father after mass and also touched on his father’s religious side. He surprised the audience by telling them the proper way to use a kneeler during mass. You should not let your bottom touch the seat. “If you are going to sit, sit” he quoted his father saying. “If you are going to kneel, kneel, but don’t do both.”

    He then outlined some of the essential qualities of a Marine Corps leader. He must have the spirit of the attack, boldness and a receptiveness for risk taking. “If you are not comfortable operating with risk,” Col. Ripley would say, “then you need to get into a new line of work.”

    Academy midshipmen leaned with elbows against the pew in front of them soaking in every word as Captain Ripley finished with an anecdote that illustrated the loyalty of his father. In 1985, Col. Ripley lost a good friend when the commandant of the Naval Academy, Leslie Palmer died. When Col. Ripley went to pay his final respects to his friend, he was shocked to find there was no honor guard. He remedied the situation with a sacrifice that was as noble as it was arduous.

    “As the Senior Marine at the Naval Academy,” Capt. Ripley said, “our father stood at parade rest by Capt. Palmer’s body for ten hours. It was only after our mother called another Marine to replace him that our father would leave his friend's side.”

    A Legendary Marine
    The Commandant of the Marine Corps, General James Conway began his eulogy with a reference to the long history of the Marine Corps and legends such as Joe Foss and Chesty Puller.

    "We read about their stories," he said, "but we did not have the chance to know them."

    “We were honored to know an authentic Marine Corps legend,” he said, “John Walter Ripley.” General Conway knew him for over 30 years and defined Col. Ripley as “a commander, a mentor, a friend” and “a consummate Southern gentleman.” A man who never got angry and the closest he ever came to using a bad word was “dog-gonnit.”

    “John was direct,” he said, “and you didn’t need to ask him something if you couldn’t stand the answer.” A good example of this was the heroic and politically incorrect testimony Col. Ripley gave against women in the military in June of 1992.

    Regarding women in combat, the Commandant quoted Col. Ripley as saying: “There are sheep and there are wolves and the wolves always win. So in the end political correctness has no place on the battlefield. There are generations of young Marine officers out there today, defending this country with that thought process in mind.”

    After the Commandant finished his comments, the choir intoned the Marine Corps hymn. The audience joined in and the words of this song never seemed so meaningful, since they seemed to define Col. Ripley so well. “We fight our country's battles…for freedom…and to keep our honor clean.”

    Sublime Symbolism
    At the conclusion of the funeral mass, the 2500 mourners followed behind the coffin as the body of Col. Ripley made one last trip across the academy grounds to the cemetery a mile away. The Marine Corps band, playing a drum beat, and two infantry platoons led the way followed by the hearse, the immediate family and friends.

    As the coffin was put into place over its final resting place, the sorrowful crowd looked over their shoulders at what sounded like a plane taking off from a nearby airport. As the sound grew louder, four AV-B Harriers in a missing man formation flew directly over the flagged-draped-coffin. While the audience experienced a prideful chill, Captain Ripley choked back tears of gratitude for the enormous tribute on behalf of the United States Marines.

    He was unaware that his father would receive such an honor and explained for me the deeper meaning behind the gesture. Col. Ripley’s older brother Mike was a fighter pilot who flew three, thirteen-month missions in Vietnam and was considered by many to be the most tested pilot of the time. When he returned to the United States in 1971 he was asked by the Marine Corps to test fly the Harrier and was killed on one of the first runs when his plane crashed into the Chesapeake Bay. He left such a mark on the Marine Corps however that the top marine test pilot in the United States every year is presented the Mike Ripley Award in honor of him. It was one of the many symbolically beautiful gestures witnessed during the day: one Ripley hero honoring another.

    As the band played the Marine Corps hymn off in the distance, there was another symbolic gesture. In every other branch of the armed forces there are eight body bearers, who carry the coffin of the deceased. The Marines pride themselve in using only six. Unlike the others branches who carry the coffin at waist level, Marines carry their dead at chest level. After the fly over of the Harriers, we witnessed one more thing that makes a Marine burial unique. In a display of extraordinary strength, the six Marine Body Bearers raised the coffin of Col. Ripley to chin level as a symbol of the final respects being paid to a fellow Marine.

    After lowering the coffin, the body bearers slowly grasped the American flag and pulled it taut over the top of the coffin while Father McGeory said the final prayers for the soul of Col. Ripley and sprinkled the coffin with Holy Water. The grave-like silence which had descended upon the audience was briefly interrupted by the traditional 21-gun salute. The three volleys, during wartime, were a sign that the casualties were taken care of and the fighting could resume. The painfully sad conclusion to the burial was the moment when the six Marines ceremoniously folded the American flag and presented it to Col. Ripley’s only daughter Mary: yet another symbolic gesture of thanks on behalf of a grateful nation.

    Final Farewell
    At the conclusion of the ceremony, everyone was invited to a reception yet few wanted to leave. Many chose to remain close to the polished cherrywood coffin. A number of soldiers took the opportunity to give a final salute. Some kissed the eagle embedded in the top while others exhibited an almost inconsolable emotion.

    Col. Binh approached the bier and placed both hands on the coffin, as if seeking one final support from the man who fought so hard for his people. Overcome by grief, he mechanically fell to his knees, embraced the casket and wept profusely. I later had the chance to speak to Col. Binh.

    “You are no doubt moved by the remembrance of what Col. Ripley did for your country,” I asked. Being a man of few words, he simply nodded his head in mournful recognition as his eyes welled up with tears.

    Before leaving the burial, I recognized a Marine who had been at the wake the night before as I sat alone in the chapel praying for the soul of Col. Ripley. I never tire of seeing the way American soldiers do the smallest things in the grandest way. This Marine entered that night, drew near the casket, removed his hat and bowed his head in prayer. He then replaced his hat squarely on his head, stood bolt upright and executed a solemn salute. After an about face, he departed the room in a decisive military fashion. Col. Ripley would have been proud of him.

    We spoke for a moment beside the grave and he seemed to have a need to share his feelings about the man to whom we were now saying our final goodbye. His demeanor was strikingly humble yet his upright posture and the glow of admiration in his eyes seemed to indicate a firm determination to follow in the footsteps of this great man. He was not alone. I saw the exact same look on the face of Naval Academy students who attentively followed every eulogy given for a man who is truly an American legend.

    While we all mourn the passing of such a legend we are consoled by the thought that his example will inspire generations to come.

    Col. John Walter Ripley
    June 29, 1939 – November 1, 2008
    * * *
    Our sincere and heartfelt condolences go out to the family of Col. John Ripley. May he rest in peace!

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  14. #29
    In my PAO capacity at Quantico, I had to do an article on the "Advisors," including Gen. Walter Boomer and Col. Ripley. He was an amazing man. My heart goes out to us all and to his family. What a huge loss to the Corps and our Country.

    I learned a lot that day -- while they had their reunion. Much of it, I couldn't write, but if schools taught about Nam at all, they should have these men write the text books.

  15. #30
    Marine Free Member FistFu68's Avatar
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    Mar 2006

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