An American Knight by Norman Fulkerson

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Click on cover image to purchase a copy

MWSA Review

Seldom does a book's story live up to its potential; An American Knight was much more than just a true tale about an American hero. This book delivers the riveting life experiences of a real hero without any worry about being politically correct in today's world. The author Norman Fulkerson takes us right to the heart of the man and his black and white world of morals and righteousness. The author does not meekly skip past those elements that made John Ripley idolized by his fellow Marines and perhaps greatly criticized by social liberals bent on changing the traditions and standards of this national. 

No matter how one feels about women in combat, or about allowing women to attend to all-male military schools - or about his outspokenness about allowing gays to serve in the military - one has to admire Ripley's courage to say what he felt in his heart and not step aside from controversies. He was as uncompromising and courageous on and off the battlefield. His social views certainly made him very few friends on Capitol Hill, or in political circles - and surely ended his military career hopes. 

The section in the book about his heroics in Vietnam are bigger than life exploits which one would expect to see in some Rambo movie. But the key difference is that it was all for real and he risked his life and limb for the mission he was asked to carry out. If you do not understand duty and honor then you will never understand John Ripley. He was all about honor and duty and he was willing to put it all on the line. 

I did not agree with all of what John stood for with regards to his social beliefs but I have to admire his ability to cut through all the superfluous and get right to the point regardless of what the results would be to his career. He was someone that we veterans could admire. He was always true to his self and to his personal beliefs- what more can we ask of anyone. 

I personally recommend this book regardless of your political and social views - it will teach you about true courage.

Reviewed by: Bill McDonald (2010)

Author's Synopsis

This first cradle-to-grave biography of Colonel John W. Ripley provides readers with the complete story about a great man who is considered by Marines, such as General Carl Mundy, former Commandant of the Marine Corps, to be on the same level as legends Chesty Puller and Dan Daly.

Colonel Ripley is most commonly known for his heroics in Vietnam during the Easter Offensive of 1972, where Colonel Gerald Turley ordered him to hold and die, in the face of over 30,000 North Vietnamese and 200 enemy tanks. John Ripley proceeded to blow the Dong Ha bridge, preventing the enemy from crossing. He unhesitatingly obeyed and earned the nation s second highest honor, the Navy Cross.

As stunning as the Dong Ha story is, there was much more to Colonel John Ripley. An American Knight: The Life of Colonel John W. Ripley, USMC narrates his early life and the influences which shaped his personality.

In youth, he was a rambunctious Huckleberry Finn who spent his days getting into all kinds of mischief in Radford, Virginia. The stories from this time period, so well narrated in An American Knight, will leave the reader with at least a smile, if not a laugh.

After his mischievous Huckleberry Finn days in Radford, he learned to discipline his wild side and, in spite of his intellectual weaknesses, went on to graduate from the Naval Academy. The strength of will with which he accomplished this task was later applied on the battlefield, where he earned the status of legend during his first tour in Vietnam as a 28-year-old Captain.

Readers will also get to know about John Ripley, the father, but more importantly the chaste husband. When he was approached by people wanting to make a movie about his life he agreed as long as his character was not portrayed as having a romantic relationship in Vietnam. I have never been, he said, nor will I ever be unfaithful to my wife.

The final chapters narrate the struggle Colonel Ripley endured with a bad liver. He would finally undergo two liver transplants, the last one of which was defined as the most dramatic in history.

If a young officer or Marine ever asks what is the meaning of Semper Fidelis Colonel Ripley once told a friend, tell them my story.

This is his story!