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This is the true story of the legendary Vietnam War hero John Ripley, who braved intense enemy fire to destroy a strategic bridge and stall a major North Vietnamese invasion into the South in April 1972. Told by a fellow Marine, the account lays bare Ripley's innermost thoughts as he rigged 500 pounds of explosives by hand-walking the beams beneath the bridge, crimped detonators with his teeth, and raced the burning fuses back to shore, thus saving his comrades from certain death.First published in 1989, the book has broad appeal as a riveting tale of adventure. But John Miller has taken this daring act of heroism beyond the specifics of time and place to provide new insights into the nature of war and warriors, characteristics that have remained unchanged for centuries and will remain valid for generations to come. It has been on the Marine Corps Commandant's recommended reading list since 1990. Newly illustrated by Col. Charles Waterhouse, USMCR (Ret.).

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Book Details

ISBN: 9781557505873
ISBN-10: 155750587X
Format: Paperback
(150mm x 227mm x 16mm)
Pages: 216
Imprint: Naval Institute Press
Publisher: Naval Institute Press
Publish Date: 15-Aug-1996
Country of Publication: United States


US Kirkus Review » Shining-hearted, blood-and-guts tale of Marine Corps captain John Ripley's heroic demolition of a strategic bridge on Easter Sunday, 1972, in Vietnam. Miller, a former Marine who also served in Vietnam, pays tribute to Ripley's incredible exploit with souped-up sentiment but also with impressively tight moment-to-moment psychic and physical detailing - no doubt enhanced by the acknowledged full cooperation of Ripley, now a Marine colonel at Camp Lejene, N.C. A relatively slow opening sets up the dramatic stage and principal players, all tough as nails and male-super-glued to each other: ARVN Major Le Ba Birth; his bodyguard Three Finger Jack, who demonstrates loyalty to Binh by lopping off that fourth digit; US Army major Jim Smock; and Birth's advisor, Ripley - elite product of American Marine, Airborne, Ranger, and Seal training, and British Royal Marine polishing. Their mission: to keep 30,000 NVA troops and 200 tanks from crossing south on a Seabees-built-to-last steel-and-timber bridge spanning the Cua Vier River - and does the narrative fly once Ripley tackles the job. Under near-constant enemy fire, he, aided by Smock, drags TNT to the bridge, climbs up, crawls in and around razor wire that slashes him to a blood mess, hand-walks beams, crimps explosive detonators with his teeth, and sets charges. And after he crawls back to safety, he decides to do it all over again to place back-up electric detonators. And after he at last dashes back behind friendly lines, he charges out again into the middle of mortar fire to save a dazed little girl. A spirited, if square-jawed and occasionally simplistic, account that does Ripley honor and that may appeal intensely to many real-life and armchair warriors. (Kirkus Reviews)

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