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Paul K. Van Riper
PKVanRiper USMC.jpg
Born July 5, 1938(1938-07-05) (age 81)
Place of birth Brownsville, Pennsylvania
Allegiance Flag of the United States.svg United States
Service/branch United States Marine Corps
Years of service 1956–1997
Rank US Marine O9 shoulderboard Lieutenant general
Commands held
Other work Marine Corps Heritage Foundation

Paul K. Van Riper (born July 5, 1938) is a retired United States Marine Corps officer. Since his 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, was wounded while attacking a NVA machine gun in a rice paddy outside Saigon, and evacuated on February 7, 1966. He later served in Egypt, Israel, Lebanon and Okinawa. He commanded 3rd Battalion, Seventh Marines, First Marine Division (Mike Company) in South Vietnam during 1968, the Battalion Commander of the 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment from 1983 to 1985, and later 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 Marshal 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 gained notoriety after the Millennium Challenge 2002 wargame. He played the Red Team opposing force commander, and easily sank 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 ribbon.svg Meritorious Service Medal 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
United States Navy Presidential Unit Citation ribbon.svg 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
Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal ribbon.svg
Silver star
Bronze star
Vietnam Service Medal ribbon.svg
Bronze star
Bronze star
Southwest Asia Service Medal ribbon (1991–2016).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 Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal ribbon, with 60- clasp.svg Kuwait Liberation Medal (Saudi Arabia) ribbon.svg
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.

  • Note: The gold US Navy Parachute Rigger badge was worn unofficially by USMC personnel in place of US Army parachutist badge from 1942-1963 before it officially became the Navy and Marine Corps Parachutist insignia on July 12, 1963 per BuPers Notice 1020. Members of the Marine Corps who attended jump school before 1963 were issued the silver Army parachutist badge but may be depicted wearing the gold Navy Parachute Rigger badge as it was common practice during this time period.


  1. Borger, Julian (21 August 2002). "War game was fixed to ensure American victory, claims general". The Guardian. 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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