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First Name: John

Last Name: Ripley

Birthplace: Radford, VA, USA

Gender: Male

Branch: Marines (present)

Middle Name: Walter

Date of Birth: 29 June 1939

Date of Death: 28 October 2008

Rank: Colonel

Years Served:
John Walter Ripley

•  Vietnam War (1960 - 1973)


John Walter Ripley
Colonel, U.S. Marine Corps

John Walter Ripley was born on 29 June 1939 in Radford, VA. Ripley joined the U.S. Marine Corps after high school graduation and was appointed to the U.S. Naval Academy a year later. He graduated and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in 1962. His initial duty was aboard the USS Independence.

In 1965, he was assigned to the Second Force Reconnaissance Company, and deployed for his first tour in Vietnam. He commanded Lima Company, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marines, and was wounded in combat. Captain Ripley gained his place in Marine Corps legend on Easter Sunday, 2 April 1972 when, for three hours, he crawled back and forth under enemy fire placing crates containing 500 pounds of TNT on the I-beams under the Dong Ha bridge. He then ran a fuse several hundred feet in length, and blew up the bridge. His actions bottled-up 20,000 North Vietnamese troops, blunted the Easter Offensive, and earned him the Navy Cross.

He was the subject of John Grider Miller's book "The Bridge at Dong Ha" and is honored at the Naval Academy with a diorama called "Ripley at the Bridge." After Vietnam, Ripley commanded NROTC detachments at Oregon State and VMI, was an Exchange Officer with the Royal Marines; and taught English and History at the Naval Academy. He retired from the Marine Corps in 1992.

Medals and Awards (Partial List)

Navy Cross
Silver Star Medal
Legion of Merit with Gold Star
Bronze Star Medal with Valor Device and Gold Star
Purple Heart
Defense Meritorious Medal
Meritorious Service Medal
Navy & Marine Corps Commendation Medal
Vietnam Service Medal
Vietnam Campaign Medal

Navy Cross Citation

The President of the United States of America takes pleasure in presenting the Navy Cross to Captain John W. Ripley (MCSN: 0-84239), United States Marine Corps, for extraordinary heroism on 2 April 1972 while serving as the Senior Marine Advisor to the Third Vietnamese Marine Corps Infantry Battalion in the Republic of Vietnam. Upon receipt of a report that a rapidly moving, mechanized, North Vietnamese army force, estimated at reinforced divisional strength, was attacking south along Route #1, the Third Vietnamese Marine Infantry Battalion was positioned to defend a key village and the surrounding area. It became imperative that a vital river bridge be destroyed if the overall security of the northern provinces of Military Region One was to be maintained. Advancing to the bridge to personally supervise this most dangerous but vitally important assignment, Captain Ripley located a large amount of explosives which had been pre-positioned there earlier, access to which was blocked by a chain-link fence. In order to reposition the approximately 500 pounds of explosives, Captain Ripley was obliged to reach up and hand-walk along the beams while his body dangled beneath the bridge. On five separate occasions, in the face of constant enemy fire, he moved to points along the bridge and, with the aid of another advisor who pushed the explosives to him, securely emplaced them. He then detonated the charges and destroyed the bridge, thereby stopping the enemy assault. By his heroic actions and extraordinary courage, Captain Ripley undoubtedly was instrumental in saving an untold number of lives. His inspiring efforts reflected great credit upon himself, the Marine Corps, and the United States Naval Service.

Silver Star Citation

The President of the United States of America takes pleasure in presenting the Silver Star to Captain John Walter Ripley (MCSN: 0-84239/1653859), United States Marine Corps, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action while serving as Commanding Officer of Company L, Third Battalion, Third Marines, THIRD Marine Division, in connection with operations against the enemy in the Republic of Vietnam. On 21 August 1967, Company L was assigned the mission of reinforcing a convoy that had been surprised by a large enemy force and was pinned down. With one rifle platoon, a small command group, and accompanied by two M-42 dual 40-mm. anti-aircraft guns, Captain Ripley was leading the relief column when it suddenly came under intense enemy automatic weapons and recoilless rifle fire. Disregarding his own safety and the heavy volume of hostile fire, he moved to the machine gun mounted on the vehicle and opened fire, pinpointing the location of the well concealed North Vietnamese and enabling the 40-mm. guns to deliver accurate fire on the enemy positions. Directing his unit to dismount, he quickly organized a defensive perimeter while coordinating supporting artillery fire and simultaneously controlling the remainder of his company which was widely separated from his position. Repeatedly exposing himself to the hostile fire, he directed artillery fire and air strikes upon the attacking enemy force and courageously adjusted fire missions to within fifty meters of his position. Throughout the following three hours, his skillful employment of supporting arms and direction of the fire of his men repulsed the determined enemy attacks and forced the hostile units to flee in panic and confusion. His aggressiveness and outstanding professionalism were an inspiration to all who served with him and were instrumental in the successful extraction of his unit from an extremely hazardous situation. By his steadfast courage, superb leadership and unfaltering devotion to duty at great personal risk, Captain Ripley upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and of the United States Naval Service.

In Retirement

After retiring, Ripley was President of Southern Virginia University and of Hargrave Military Academy. In 1999, he was named director of the Marine Corps History and Museums Division.

Colonel Ripley achieved the rare "Quad Body" distinction, graduating from training for Marine Force Reconnaissance, Army Rangers, Army Airborne, and the British Royal Marines. He is the only Marine Corps officer in the Army Ranger Hall of Fame.

Death and Burial

Colonel John Walter Ripley died on 28 October 2008 in Annapolis, MD. He is buried at the U.S. Naval Academy Cemetery in Annapolis.

Film of Funeral: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8OGHt6xUCRM

Honoree ID: 3005   Created by: MHOH




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