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Vietnam hero and my friend died last night

Spider7115Spider7115 Member, Moderator Posts: 29,705 ******
edited November 2008 in US Military Veteran Forum
Col. John Ripley, Navy Cross recipient and my personal friend, passed away last night. Col. Ripley was the subject of over 80 books, the most popular being "The Bridge at Dong Ha", by John Grider Miller. There is a diorama of him in Memorial Hall at the US Naval Academy in Annapolis to inspire incoming plebes (new cadets) and he was featured on the cover of "Naval History" magazine showing him single-handedly blowing up the bridge at Dong Ha on Easter Sunday in 1972 under heavy NVA gunfire. He was a humble man yet a true hero and icon in every sense of the word. I - and the world - will truly miss him.

Semper Fi and "Bravo Zulu", Colonel. [V]

RipleySattler.gif
Col. Ripley, Spider, General John Sattler at the USMC birthday

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ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) -- 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 twins spans down, said John 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, Va.

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, 67; three sons, Stephen Ripley, 43, Thomas Ripley, 38, and John Ripley, 35; a daughter, Mary Ripley, 39; and eight grandchildren.

Funeral arrangements were pending.

Comments

  • Black LabBlack Lab Member Posts: 101 ✭✭
    edited November -1
    The City of Radford was planning to honor Col. Ripley this upcoming Veteran's Day, unfortunately this will now be a posthumous ceremony.
  • Black LabBlack Lab Member Posts: 101 ✭✭
    edited November -1
  • Spider7115Spider7115 Member, Moderator Posts: 29,705 ******
    edited November -1
    quote:Originally posted by Black Lab
    Here's a follow up article:

    http://www.roanoke.com/news/nrv/radford/wb/183310


    Thank you. My daughter lives in Roanoke and I sent the link to her.
  • Jim RauJim Rau Member Posts: 3,550
    edited November -1
    Thanks, we have to keep each other informed.
    He, and all those like him, will be missed, but NEVER forgotten.[:(]
  • Black LabBlack Lab Member Posts: 101 ✭✭
    edited November -1
    I went to the ceremony yesterday, was already in town getting a new tire on my truck so I walked down to Bisset Park while the shop changed the tire. Many veterans including quite a few WWII vets were in attendance and I overheard several people talking about growing up with the Ripley family. One of Col. Ripley's sons was there representing the family although I didn't hear his first name. Also speaking was an MOH recipient, USMC Col. Wes Fox (hopefully that is accurate because with the background traffic noise I might be mistaken). Mr. Ripley was presented the key to the city and a framed decree from the Radford council declaring 11\11\2008 to be 'John Ripley Day'. This was followed by a dedication of a stone marker and then not a 21 gun salute but a 7 or 8 gun salute and then a closing with Taps.

    Overall, it was very nice ceremony and I was happy to see Radford recognize not only all veterans but one of its own.
  • Spider7115Spider7115 Member, Moderator Posts: 29,705 ******
    edited November -1
    quote:Originally posted by Black Lab
    I went to the ceremony yesterday, was already in town getting a new tire on my truck so I walked down to Bisset Park while the shop changed the tire. Many veterans including quite a few WWII vets were in attendance and I overheard several people talking about growing up with the Ripley family. One of Col. Ripley's sons was there representing the family although I didn't hear his first name. Also speaking was an MOH recipient, USMC Col. Wes Fox (hopefully that is accurate because with the background traffic noise I might be mistaken). Mr. Ripley was presented the key to the city and a framed decree from the Radford council declaring 11\11\2008 to be 'John Ripley Day'. This was followed by a dedication of a stone marker and then not a 21 gun salute but a 7 or 8 gun salute and then a closing with Taps.

    Overall, it was very nice ceremony and I was happy to see Radford recognize not only all veterans but one of its own.


    Thanks for the sitrep. I'm sure the Colonel would have been honored. FYI: a 21-gun-salute is not 21 guns. It's 7 guns fired 3 times each, so it's actually "21 shots".
  • Sparty_76Sparty_76 Member Posts: 714 ✭✭
    edited November -1
    Spider7115,

    I am sorry for your loss, and will get down on my knees tonight and thank the Lord for such men!
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