RIP Col. John Ripley, USMC Ret.

A couple weeks ago I was at the US Naval Academy at Anapolis.  While there, I learned about John W. Ripley, USMC Ret.

My host at the Academy spoke about Col. Ripley, who lived nearby and came to Mass there.

Now I understand from the site of talk radio host Hugh Hewitt that Col. Ripley died recently.

Here is the diorama at the Academy of what Col. Ripely did.

During the Easter Offensive of 1972, he dangled for three hours under a bridge near the South Vietnamese city of Dong Ha in order to attach 500 pounds of explosives to the span, ultimately destroying it. His action, under fire while going back and forth for materials, is thought to have thwarted an onslaught by 20,000 enemy troops.


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Tom says:

    Father, thanks for the heads-up. We have lost a genuine American Hero; may he rest in peace (he earned it!). He was a Marine’s Marine and ranks up there with Chesty Puller and Dan Daly in the scope of his influence on future generations of Marine leaders. Would that we had more priests and bishops that approached their duties with as much zeal as Col. Ripley discharged his! (Incidentally, I think we are getting them now & their ranks are growing….)

    More info may be found at,0,1985920.story

    Semper Fidelis!

    BT// MENTAL sends//

  2. Woody Jones says:

    As an old Army man, I can only second what Tom says above, and take this occasion to thank all Marines for their service.

    I don’t know if COL Ripley ever got a chance to return to the territory of the late Republic, but Her Honor finally dragged me back over there last February, and the funny thing is that although we are the “bad guys” in their foundational myth (and more than half of the population of the you should pardon the expression, Socialist Republic of Vietnam, are too young to have been alive during that time, so they know about it only through the government histories and the tales of their elders, for good or for bad), they are very glad to see us, very friendly and are in a very free market mode, in terms of the economy, at the moment.

    I got to attend Mass at St Joseph’s Cathedral in Hanoi, celebrated by the archbishop, and although everything was in Vietnamese, I could feel the charisma from him, even in the rear pews. Pray for them as they continue to tangle with the government over Church property.

  3. Derik says:

    That’a a team of two heroes: Col. John Ripley and his Guardian Angel

  4. Kristen J says:

    Stories of the heroism of our servicemen always give me goosebumps! We owe more than we can ever repay to these men and women who put their lives on hold (sometimes forever) so that we may be free.

    (My father, may he rest in peace, served for 22 years in the USAF, bootstrapping from the ranks of the enlisted to captain. Due to his example and stories like this, I, too, once wanted to join the military (Navy), but was unsuitable because of a relatively minor thyroid condition. Instead, I simply pray and honor those who serve, and teach my little “army” — four babies in four years — to do the same.)

    Thanks for the much needed inspiration on a dreary election eve here in Central California.

  5. Steve K. says:

    Col. Ripley was Professor of Naval Science at Virginia Military Institute when I was a cadet there. I was in Army ROTC, so my path only crossed his when he stopped my car one day for driving too fast on post… I got chewed out bad enough that remember it vividly to this day. :)

    He was a great hero; when it was announced that he was coming to VMI to be PNS, all our Marines were seen walking around with a copy of the book detailing his heroism in Vietnam. We are fortunate as a country to have had men like him leading our troops. May God bless him and may he rest in peace.

  6. Matthew says:

    What sustained Colonel Ripley underneath that bridge was trust in the saving power of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary:


    Col. Ripley is also a man of faith. He attributes the destruction of the Dong Ha bridge to the grace of God and the Blessed Virgin Mary. He related how he felt all physical strength evaporate while placing explosives under the bridge. To continue, he composed a simple rhyming prayer: “Jesus, Mary, get me there… Jesus, Mary, get me there…” He repeatedly said this prayer on the bridge and a supernatural assistance came to his aid at a much-needed time. He stated: “This aid was tangible. It was all-consuming.” His mission would have been impossible without it.

  7. jarhead462 says:

    Rest In Peace, and Semper Fi, Brother Marine

  8. Bill says:

    I am very proud to say I was a classmate of John Ripley’s in the same Naval Academy company and new him well (between the ages of 18 and 22). I knew he would be an excellent Marine, but never imagined just how well he would serve. “Rip” was one of the most personable men I ever met, with an outstanding sense of humor, yet ferocious in the boxing ring and tenacious in any sport or PT event; he was near the bottom of his USNA class academically yet at the top in courage, patriotism and committment. I was at his retiement ceremony at Quantico a few years back and was imprssed the most by two comments, one by the Commandant, whose name I forget, and the other by John whose name I will never forget. The General told the audience that aside from all the heroic acts of Colonel Ripley, his single biggest contribution was the number of young officers he recruited for the Marine Corps (over 500) while an NROTC instructor at the U. of Oregon, a department head at the Naval Academy, and as CO of the NROTC unit at VMI. John’s final remark in his retirement speech was that we should never forget that no matter what great technology the modern Marine Corps had, nothing matched the importance of the Marine rifleman. It never ceases to amaze me that John’s heroism at Dong Ha did not earn him the Medal of Honor, and that his amazing accomplishments throughout his career did not warrant his being made a general!

  9. Antiquarian says:

    It’s my understanding that Colonel Ripley was not awarded the Medal of Honor, which he richly deserved, because there were no American witnesses to his heroism. Apparently the testimony of his Vietnamese companions was enough for the Navy Cross (itself a great honor), but not the MoH.

  10. Tony Kaiser says:

    Col. Ripley was recently (June 11th) inducted into the Ranger Hall of Fame. Col. Ripley graduated from U.S. Army Ranger School prior to going to VN. He credited this training with teaching him how to cut steel with small explosive charges, among other things. It’s likely that very few of the Vietnamese Marines that witnessed his feat survived to tell of it. Out of some 750, only around 50 survived the onslaught. Something tells me Col. Ripley is paying St. Michael a courtesy call.

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