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Paul K. Van Riper
PKVanRiper USMC.jpg
Lt. Gen. Paul Van Riper
Born July 5, 1938(1938-07-05) (age 81)
Place of birth Brownsville, Pennsylvania
Allegiance United States of America
Service/branch United States Marine Corps
Years of service 1956-1997
Rank Lieutenant General
Commands held
Other work Marine Corps Heritage Foundation

Lieutenant General Paul K. Van Riper (born July 5, 1938) is a retired officer of the United States Marine Corps. Since retirement Van Riper has served on several advisory boards and panels. He is currently the Chairman of the Board of Directors for the Marine Corps Heritage Foundation.

At the time of his retirement, Van Riper was serving as the Commanding General, Marine Corps Combat Development Command, Quantico, Virginia.

Early lifeEdit

Paul K. Van Riper was born on July 5, 1938 in Brownsville, Pennsylvania.

Marine Corps careerEdit

Van Riper enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserve and underwent recruit training at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, South Carolina in the fall of 1956, joined Officer Candidate Course in June 1963 and commissioned a second lieutenant in November 1963. In late 1965, Van Riper served in the Republic of Vietnam as an Advisor with the Vietnamese Marine Corps, being wounded in action and evacuated on February 7, 1966. He later served in Egypt, Israel, Lebanon and Okinawa, on the latter commanding the 4th Marines until December 1986. Van Riper served temporarily as a member of the MARCENT/I Marine Expeditionary Force staff during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm from January to March 1991.

Returning to Washington, D.C., Van Riper served as Assistant Chief of Staff, Command, Control, Communications, and Computer and as Director of Intelligence from April 1993 until July 1995. He was advanced to Lieutenant General and assumed his last post on July 13, 1995. At this post Lieutenant General Van Riper was an honorary member of the Provost Marshall Office, and spent some of his lunch breaks issuing speeding tickets all across MCB Quantico[citation needed]. Lieutenant General Van Riper retired on 1 October 1997, after more than 41 years of service.


Van Riper is critical of the current transformation efforts in the military, especially changes originating from Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. He gained notoriety after the Millennium Challenge 2002 wargame. He played the opposing force commander, and easily sunk a whole carrier battle group in the simulation with an inferior Middle-Eastern "red" team in the first two days. To do this, Van Riper adopted an asymmetric strategy. In particular, he used old methods to evade his opponent's sophisticated electronic surveillance network. Van Riper used motorcycle messengers to transmit orders to front-line troops and World War II light signals to launch airplanes without radio communications. Van Riper used a fleet of small boats to determine the position of the opponent's fleet by the second day of the exercise. In a preemptive strike, he launched a massive salvo of cruise missiles that overwhelmed the Blue forces' electronic sensors and destroyed sixteen warships. This included one aircraft carrier, ten cruisers and five of six amphibious ships. An equivalent success in a real conflict would have resulted in the deaths of over 20,000 service personnel. Soon after the cruise missile offensive, another significant portion of the opposing navy was "sunk" by an armada of small Red boats, which carried out both conventional and suicide attacks that capitalized on Blue's inability to detect them as well as expected.

After the simulation was restarted with different parameters, he claimed that the wargame had been "fixed" to falsely validate the current doctrine of the U.S. Navy.[1] He is also critical of post-war Iraq plans and implementation. On April 24, 2006, he joined several other retired generals in calling for Rumsfeld's resignation.[2]

Decorations and awardsEdit

General Van Ripers's military awards include:[3]

United States Navy Parachutist Badge
Gold star
Silver Star ribbon.svg
Legion of Merit ribbon.svg
Bronze Star ribbon.svg
Purple Heart BAR.svg Meritorious Service ribbon.svg
Joint Service Commendation ribbon.svg Army Commendation Medal ribbon.svg Navy and Marine Corps Achievement ribbon.svg
Gold star
Combat Action Ribbon.svg
US Navy Presidential Unit Citation Ribbon.png Navy Unit Commendation ribbon.svg
Bronze star
Bronze star
Navy Meritorious Unit Commendation ribbon.svg
Selected Marine Corps Reserve ribbon.svg
Bronze star
National Defense Service Medal ribbon.svg
Silver star
Bronze star
Vietnam Service Ribbon.svg
Bronze star
Bronze star
Southwest Asia Service ribbon.svg
Sea Service Deployment Ribbon.svg Navy and Marine Corps Overseas Service Ribbon.svg
Gold star
Vietnam gallantry cross-3d.svg
Vietnam gallantry cross unit award-3d.svg
VNCivilActionsRibbon-2.svg United Nations Medal ribbon.svg Vietnam Campaign Medal ribbon.png Us sa-kwlib rib.png
Navy and Marine Corps Parachutist Insignia
1st Row Silver Star Medal with 1 gold 5/16 inch star
2nd Row Legion of Merit Bronze Star Medal with Combat "V" Purple Heart Medal Meritorious Service Medal
3rd Row Joint Service Commendation Medal Army Commendation Medal Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal Combat Action Ribbon with 1 gold 5/16 inch star
4th Row Presidential Unit Citation Navy Unit Commendation Navy Meritorious Unit Commendation with 2 bronze service stars Selected Marine Corps Reserve Medal
5th Row National Defense Service Medal with 1 bronze service star Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal Vietnam Service Medal with 1 silver and 1 bronze service star Southwest Asia Service Medal with 2 bronze service stars
6th Row Navy Sea Service Deployment Ribbon Navy & Marine Corps Overseas Service Ribbon Vietnam Gallantry Cross with 1 gold star Vietnam Gallantry Cross Unit Citation with palm and frame
7th Row Vietnam Civil Actions Unit Citation with palm and frame United Nations Medal Vietnam Campaign Medal with 1960's device Kuwait Liberation Medal (Saudi Arabia)

He is a graduate of the Army's Airborne and Ranger Schools.


  1. Borger, Julian (Wednesday 21 August 2002 02.17 BST). "War game was fixed to ensure American victory, claims general". The Guardian. Guardian Media Group. Retrieved 2009-03-07. 
  2. Shakir, Faiz (2006-04-24). "VIDEO: 8th General Calls For Rumsfeld's Resignation". ThinkProgress. Retrieved 2013-02-24. 
  3. SECNAVINST 1650.1H, 2006, Navy-Marine Awards Manual, P. 1-22, "Silver Star Medal"...

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