RIDE THE THUNDER: A Vietnam War Story of Honor and Triumph.

In the early part of the 1970s, Marine combat fighting formations received their orders and departed South Vietnam, but the ruthless war raged on. At this time, South Vietnam was undergoing President Richard Nixon’s “Vietnamization” program—turning of the war over to South Vietnam. Recognizing an opportunity, the North Vietnamese launched their boldest offensive of the war on Easter 1972. The massive attack seemed unstoppable, steam­rolling south, through the Demilitarized Zone into Quang Tri, the northernmost province of South Vietnam.

There, the seemingly unstoppable waves hit an immovable force. When the North Viet­namese Army reached the bridge at Dong Ha, the invasion was abruptly blunted, halted in its tracks, by a small force of Vietnamese Marines supported by their very capable U.S. military advisors.

In “Ride the Thunder,” Marine infantry veteran Richard Botkin tells of the last days of the Vietnam War, the military and political climate and, importantly, the families of those involved in this latter stage of the war. Botkin focuses on three Marines and their families: then-Lieutenant Col­onel Gerry Turley, USMCR, a senior advisor in Military Region 1; Major Le Ba Binh, commanding 3d Battalion, Vietna­mese Marine Corps; and then-Captain John Ripley, an advisor to 3d Bn.

As the South Vietnamese army unceremoniously “bugged-out” in the face of the advancing hordes, LtCol Turley discovered that his advisory role significant­ly changed. One after another, firebases reported being abandoned, or overrun. Fleets of Soviet T-54 tanks sped south as a desperate and disintegrating situation became grimmer by the hour. If the NVA tanks and other forces crossed the Dong Ha Bridge spanning the Cam Lo River, the effect might indeed crumble the already struggling South Vietnamese Republic. With NVA tanks fast approaching this vital bridge crossing, LtCol Turley gave the order, “The bridge at Dong Ha must be destroyed.” A decision, he was fully aware, he’d have to justify to higher headquarters and one that he knew to surely be a death sentence for South Vietnamese Marines and their advisors.

At his command center at Ai Tu, Turley had at his direction a full assortment of U.S. military weaponry, but the key to halting the rapid NVA advance lay with the 3d Bn, Vietnamese Marine Corps, com­manded by Maj Le Ba Binh at Dong Ha. As luck would have it, Binh’s U.S. Ma­rine advisor was a combat veteran named Capt John Ripley. Back in 1967, Ripley had won his spurs as the “Skipper” of Company L, 3d Bn, 3d Marines—“Ripley’s Raiders”— and he knew the ground in I Corps. The tale of the action that followed is aptly told in Col John Grider Mil­ler’s exceptional book, “The Bridge at Dong Ha.”

Botkin’s “Ride the Thunder” is a well-crafted masterpiece of military history, human endurance and commitment. This story of the brave Vietnamese Marines and their advisors is little known in the American public. In their 18 years of existence, the Viet-Marine Corps was shaped and shepherded by their U.S. Marine Corps comrades-in-arms. The ties between the two organizations were strong. After the fall of Saigon, Binh and other officers were destined to spend long years at hard labor in “re-education camps.” But finally, the communists allowed him, and his family, to immigrate to the United States.

Turley went on to command the Second Marine Regiment and was later appointed by President Ronald Reagan as Assistant Secretary of Defense for Readiness and Training. Ripley was awarded the Navy Cross for his actions at Dong Ha, retired from active duty in 1972 and, until his death, was a driving force in the development of the National Museum of the Marine Corps near Quantico, Va. He is the first Marine to be honored as a “Distinguished Graduate” by the United States Naval Academy.

This exceptional book is a tribute to the memories of our brother Vietnamese Ma­rines, their “Always Faithful” advisors, as well as their families whose support never flagged. As you add this extraordinary volume to your collection, be advised: the profits from this book’s sale will directly be donated to the Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund. Ahoy Marines! Order your “first edition” copy; do it today.

Editor’s note: Rich Botkin did a book signing here in Quantico, and author-autographed copies are available while supplies last. Also, if you have not read “The Bridge at Dong Ha,” it remains available. Call toll-free (888) 237-7683, or go online at: www. marineshop.net

 


 

RIDE THE THUNDER: A Vietnam War Story of Honor and Triumph.
By Richard Botkin. Published by World Net Daily.
650 pages. Stock #193507105X.
$26.96 MCA Members. $29.95 Regular Price.

 

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