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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

Navy Cross
Silver Star Medal
Legion of Merit (2 Awards)
Bronze Star Medal (2 Awards)
Purple Heart

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.

Honoree ID: 3005   Created by: MHOH




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