Colonel John Ripley: An American Elite for Our Times

Colonel John Ripley: An American Elite for Our Times
Colonel John Ripley: An American Elite for Our Times

In the wake of the Covid-19 lockdowns and violent riots that paralyzed the nation, the incompetence and bad faith of the country’s leaders and especially of the American establishment stands out.

What is needed in times like these are good elites, who know how to represent the best of America. The book, An American Knight: The Life of Colonel John W. Ripley, USMC, by Norman Fulkerson, explores the life of one of these much-need elite figures.

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Mr. Fulkerson takes the reader on a journey to discover the life of one of the most outstanding American soldiers of the Vietnam War. He starts with the birth of John Ripley, who came from an elite soldiering family whose descendants fought in every important American conflict. He grew into a capable and daring young man, imbued with Catholic principles that he would cherish his whole life.

After studying at the United States Naval Academy, John Ripley graduated and served a tour of duty in Vietnam in 1966. In 1972, Ripley returned to Vietnam, where he performed the most extraordinary mission of his military life. While Communist forces moved towards the strategic Cua Viet River near the town of Dong Ha, in a determined effort to crush the South Vietnamese, Colonel Ripley was ordered to blow up the huge bridge there. In an epic feat of courage and endurance, Colonel Ripley climbed out hand-over-hand onto this massive bridge while under enemy fire. He put explosives under the bridge, all the while praying for strength to complete his mission with the words: “Jesus, Mary, get me there.”

Two aspects of Colonel Ripley’s life stand out. The first aspect was his strong and living Catholic Faith, which helped him through all his life struggles. He once said, “If you can be a good Catholic, you can be a good Marine.” Throughout his time of military service, the colonel would lead by example. One Marine under his charge, Don Shomette of Radford, Virginia, said, “When I think of Catholicism, I think of John Ripley… He embodied the Faith.”

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The second quality of this elite Marine was his sense of honor. This virtue manifested itself many times throughout Colonel Ripley’s military service, but especially when he testified before the Presidential Commission on the Assignment of Women in the Armed Forces in the early nineties.

Colonel Ripley fulfilled his role as a true elite by taking a stand for true femininity, declaring before the commission that “We simply do not want our women to fight. We simply do not want them to be subjugated to the indescribable… horrors of the battlefield.”

An American Knight has never been more timely because it provides an example of a good elite. He demonstrated this admirably through his commitment to fighting communism, his devotion to the Catholic faith, and his strong sense of honor. He was not afraid to go against the flow and defend morality, even when inconvenient to do so.

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This book will inspire its readers to be idealistic and live according to the Marine Corps motto  Semper Fidelis that Colonel John Ripley, so well lived and embodied.