"A portrait is a picture in which there is just a tiny little something not quite right about the mouth." -- John Singer Sargent

Friday, December 30, 2016

John Ripley

This 2009 painting of Col. John Ripley USMC (Ret.) (1939-2008) by H. Avery Chenoweth, Sr., Colonel USMCR Ret.hangs in Brancroft Hall at the US Naval Academy in Annapolis Maryland.

It hangs near a diorama "Ripley at the Bridge" depicting Ripleys heroic action at the Dong Ha bridge in 1972.

The accompanying plaque donated by the Naval Academy Class of 1962 reads:

"Ripley at the Bridge

Members of Naval Academy Classes from the mid-30's to the early 70's participated in America's longest war. In one sense, however, the war was unique to Class of 1962 which suffered the greatest losses. The war started when they were Ensigns and Second Lieutenants and America's involvement ended when they were senior officers.

The diorama depicts Captain John Ripley, U.S. Marine Corps, Naval Academy Class of 1962, in action at Dong Ha on Easter Sunday, April 2, 1972. Two reinforced North Vietnamese divisions (30,000 troops and over 200 tanks) were attempting to cross the Dong Ha bridge which would have given them a clear shot at the provincial capitol in Quang Tri and then, unhampered on to the ancient capitol of Hue.

Against seemingly insurmountable odds, Captain Ripley, a Force Reconnaissance officer who had earlier served as a British Royal Marine Commando company commander, singlehandedly carried over 500 lbs. of plastic explosives into the under structure of the bridge. Another army advisor on the south bank handed explosives to Ripley while he was under the bridge, Ripley, the sole Marine advisor to the 3rd Vietnamese Marine Battalion was under constant fire from numerous tanks and hundreds of North Vietnam's finest infantry men, spearheaded by the crack 308th Division of Dien Bien Phu fame, for over two hours. Completely disregarding personal safety he moved hand over hand under the bridge twelve times. On several occasions 100mm tank rounds impacted on the opposite side of an "I" Beam upon which he was working. Carefully placing the charges, Captain Ripley relied on Force Recon training to ensure completion of his task. When the charges were detonated, the bridge was completely destroyed and the remaining timbers burned for a week.

As a result of Captain Ripley's incredibly heroic act. the North Vietnamese were trapped north of the Cam Lo river and were decimated by air strikes and naval gunfire when the weather cleared. Captain Ripley, working alone, had disrupted a major North Vietnamese offensive and turned the progress of the war around. His effort to destroy the bridge was called 'the most extraordinary act of individual heroism of this war or any war.'

For his action, Captain Ripley was awarded the Navy Cross, the nation's second highest award, by Secretary of the Navy, John Warner."

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