Last weekend, Col. John Ripley, USMC passed away. He was a remarkable man, and I paid tribute to him today at National Review Online.
During the North Vietnamese Easter Offensive of spring, 1972, John, an advisor to the South Vietnamese Marines, performed a feat of extraordinary heroism that made him a legend in the Marine Corps. I’m sure that when Peter’s son was going through Marine Boot Camp, he heard about "Ripley at the Bridge."
As part of the offensive, a North Vietnamese division of 20,000 soldiers and 200 tanks was pushing south from the Demilitarized Zone intent on capturing the provincial capital of Quang Tri. To do so, the communists had to cross the Cua Viet River and the best place to do so was via a bridge at Dong Ha.
Repeatedly exposing himslef to enemy fire, John emplaced 500 pounds of explosives under the bridge, often swinging hand over hand under the bridge with heavy loads of explosives slung over his shoulders. The bridge went down, and the NVA offensive was slowed.
In recognition of his incredible feat, John received the Navy Cross. There’s certainly nothing wrong with a Navy Cross, but many believe it should have been a Medal of Honor.
The Marine Corps celebrates its 233 birthday on Monday, 10 November. In Newport, we will hold our birthday ball on Saturday, 8 November. That evening, I’ll be drinking a toast to John Ripley. Semper Fi.