This painting by Charles Waterhouse honors the bravery of Marine Capt. John W. Ripley, who braved enemy fireplace for more than three hrs planting explosives on the Dong Ha Bridge on April 2, 1972. Ripley played a key role in halting North Vietnam’s Easter Offensive. (Picture courtesy of the Waterhouse household.).

This 7 days marks 52 decades considering that one Marine stopped 20,000 North Vietnamese troops and 200 enemy tanks by climbing hand-about-hand beneath a important bridge to plant explosives.

In the spring of 1972, the North Vietnamese Army introduced the so-referred to as Easter Offensive, its greatest assault of the war and the to start with main assault considering that the Tet Offensive 4 many years previously. On April 2,the communist forces attained the Dong Ha Bridge above the Cua Viet River in Quang Tri Province, South Vietnam

Marine Capt. John Walter Ripley, the Senior Advisor to the 3rd Vietnamese Marine Battalion, was on the south aspect of the bridge. His orders had been blunt, “Hold and die.”

Ripley, who had been wounded during his prior tour in Vietnam, saw that South Vietnamese engineers experienced not thoroughly established explosives on the bridge. He understood the only possibility at stopping the enemy offensive was to ruin the bridge. And he was certain that doing so would price him his lifetime.

“The thought that I would be ready even end the job prior to the enemy got me was ludicrous,” Ripley later on advised the U.S. Naval Institute in 2007, “When you know you’re not heading to make it, a fantastic thing occurs: You halt being cluttered by the sensation that you are going to conserve your butt.”

Ripley slice himself severely as he climbed over a fence topped with razor wire to get to the bridge.

“I’m dangling beneath the bridge and hanging by my arms with a total load of explosive,” he instructed the U.S. Naval Institute. “I would fall down out of the metal, grabbing the flanges of the I-beam swing sideways, and leap in excess of to hand walk all the way out in excess of the river.”

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He put in a lot more than a few hrs swinging hand around hand on the bridge’s I-beams to position 500 pounds of explosives, all although becoming shot at by enemy smaller arms and device guns.

To stave off exhaustion, he regularly recited a straightforward prayer: “Jesus, Mary, get me there get me there,” he later explained to The American Culture for the Defense of Custom, Spouse and children and Assets in a 2008 interview.

Marine Capt. John W. Ripley
The “Ripley at the Bridge” diorama at the U.S. Naval Academy’s Memorial Corridor commemorates Marine Capt. John W. Ripley’s bravery on April 2, 1972. Ripley was afterwards awarded the Navy Cross. (Image courtesy of the U.S. Naval Institute.)

But the get the job done was so arduous that he briefly handed out. When he regained consciousness, a North Vietnamese tank opened fire at him.

The tank round hit the bridge, ricocheted, and exploded on the riverbank, Ripley stated in 2008 when he was inducted into the U. S. Army Ranger Corridor of Fame.

“Boy, when that 100mm spherical went off with me in the steel of the bridge, what a racket,” Ripley mentioned.

Ripley experienced graduated from Airborne, Scuba, Ranger, and Jumpmaster courses to serve with the 2nd Power Reconnaissance Business, in accordance to his Maritime Corps biography. He had also attended the Maritime Commando Program at Lympstone, England he campaigned with the Royal Gurkha Rifles for quite a few months and he finished the Joint Warfare Study course at Previous Sarum, England.

He essential all his specific warfare teaching to choose the bridge down.

“I learned how to place rates on opposite sides of a rail so the blast twisted a vital support,” Ripley recalled in 2008. “It would have never been successful had I not recognized that. I have to credit score my Ranger schooling and also my British Royal Maritime commando coaching.”

Following Ripley put the explosives on to the bridge, he started out biting down on blasting caps to attach them to the fuses, John Girder, writer of The Bridge at Dong Ha, informed the New York Periods in 2008.

“If he bit much too small on the blasting cap, it could occur loose,” Girder claimed. “If he bit way too superior, it could blow his head apart.”

Ripley connected the blasting caps to a time-fused wire and then hurried off the bridge in advance of the explosives detonated.

He designed it to basic safety just a several times right before a enormous explosion that blew him via the air.

“I’m lying on my back again, searching skyward, and I can see massive chunks of this bridge going by way of the air,” Ripley informed the U.S. Naval Institute. “It was a large emotion.”

By destroying the bridge, Ripley made a logjam of North Vietnamese tanks that U.S. bombers and warships were capable to hammer. The Easter Offensive unsuccessful and Võ Nguyên Giáp, who had led the Vietnamese communists to victory more than the French decades previously, was replaced as the commander of North Vietnamese armed forces.

Ripley was awarded the Navy Cross for his bravery at the Dong Ha Bridge. His award citation credits him with “saving an untold variety of lives.”

He retired as a colonel in 1992 and died in Oct 2008. He is buried at the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland, which has immortalized his bravery with the sensible diorama “Ripley at the Bridge” in Memorial Corridor.

Approximately a month following he ruined the Dong Ha Bridge, Ripley obtained a “bill” for the destruction he induced. The letter, which was intended to surface as if it came from the North Vietnamese governing administration, was despatched to Ripley’s commanding officer and the officer in charge of the Ranger College at Fort Benning, Ga.

Ripley was instructed he owed 40 million Piasters to mend the bridge.

“Also, on behalf of Basic GIAP, it is asked for that you depart Quang Tri Province promptly and do not ever, repeat ever, return,” the letter read through.

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