Paul Van Riper

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Paul K. Van Riper
PKVanRiper USMC.jpg
Born (1938-07-05) July 5, 1938 (age 84)
Brownsville, Pennsylvania
AllegianceUnited States of America
Service/branch United States Marine Corps
Years of service1956–1997
RankUS Marine O9 shoulderboard.svg Lieutenant general
Commands held
Other workMarine Corps Heritage Foundation

Paul K. Van Riper (born July 5, 1938) is a retired United States Marine lieutenant general. Van Riper was a combat veteran—twice receiving the Silver Star Medal for his heroic actions during the Vietnam War. At the time of his retirement, Van Riper was serving as the Commanding General, 2nd Marine Division and Marine Corps Combat Development Command, Quantico, Virginia. 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.

Early life[edit]

Paul K. Van Riper was born on July 5, 1938 in Brownsville, Pennsylvania. He has a twin brother, James.[1]

Marine Corps career[edit]

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. He completed the Basic School at MCB Quantico and received his first assignment to 1st Battalion, 8th Marines, 2nd Marine Division where he served as platoon commander and company executive officer.[2]

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. Van Riper served as an instructor at the Basic school then was a student in the Amphibious Warfare School. He was next assigned back to the Republic of Vietnam as a company commander and an assistant operations officer with the 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines, 1st Marine Division. He commanded 3rd Battalion, Seventh Marines, First Marine Division (Mike Company) in South Vietnam during 1968.[3]

As a lieutenant colonel, Van Riper was a student in the College of Naval Command and Staff, Naval War College from August 1977 until June 1978 earning a Master's degree. He later served in Egypt, Israel, Lebanon and Okinawa. Van Riper assumed duties of Commanding Officer, Marine Barracks, Naval Air Station, Cecil Field, Florida from 1979 to 1981. As a colonel, Van Riper attended the Army War College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania from August 1981 until June 1982. Van Riper assumed command of 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment from May 1983 to August 1984 and later commanded the 4th Marines from June 1985 to 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. Van Riper served as Commanding General, 2nd Marine Division at Camp Lejeune from 25 June 1991 to 3 April 1993.[4] Van Riper relinquished his command to major general Richard I. Neal.

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 across MCB Quantico.[citation needed] Lieutenant General Van Riper retired on 1 October 1997, after more than 41 years of service. He was decorated with Navy Distinguished Service Medal at his retirement ceremony.[5]


Van Riper played the Red Team opposing force commander in the Millennium Challenge 2002 wargame. He easily sank a whole carrier battle group in the simulation with an inferior Middle-Eastern "red" team in the first two days.[6]

Van Riper adopted an asymmetric strategy. In particular, he used old methods to evade his opponent's sophisticated electronic surveillance network, using motorcycle messengers to transmit orders to front-line troops, and World War II light signals to launch airplanes without radio communications. He 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.

Such defeat can be attributed to various shortfall in simulation capabilities and design that significantly hindered Blueforce fighting and command capabilities. Examples include: a time lag in intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance information being forwarded to the Blueforce by the simulation master, various glitches that limited Blue ships point-defense capabilities and error in the simulation which placed ships unrealistically close to Red assets.[7][8]

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.[9] He is also critical of plans for the occupation of Iraq and their implementation following the Iraq War. On April 24, 2006, he joined several other retired generals in calling for then-US Secretary of Defense and Iraq War architect Donald Rumsfeld's resignation.[10]

Van Riper currently resides in Williamsburg, Virginia in the Ford's Colony community.

Decorations and awards[edit]

General Van Ripers's military awards include:[11]

Gold star
Gold star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Silver star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Gold star
Navy and Marine Corps Parachutist Insignia
1st Row Navy Distinguished Service Medal 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 to 1963 before it officially became the Navy and Marine Corps Parachutist insignia on 12 July 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. ^ Gladwell, Malcolm (2006). Blink: The Power of Thinking without Thinking. Great Britain: Penguin. p. 144. ISBN 978-0-14102-204-8.
  2. ^ "Lieutenant General Paul K. Van Riper". Archived from the original on 2020-11-01. Retrieved 2019-08-09.
  3. ^ Gal Perl Finkel, The IDF that Eisenkot leaves behind is ready, The Jerusalem Post, January 1, 2019.
  4. ^ "2ND MARINE DIVISION AND ITS REGIMENTS" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2020-10-26. Retrieved 2017-05-06.
  5. ^ "Valor awards for Paul K. Van Riper". Military Times. Retrieved 19 January 2018.
  6. ^ Gladwell, Malcolm (2006). Blink: The Power of Thinking without Thinking. Great Britain: Penguin. p. 99. ISBN 978-0-14102-204-8.
  7. ^ U.S. Joint Forces Command Millennium Challenge 2002: Experiment Report (PDF). pp. 59–60.
  8. ^ "Gen. Kernan And Maj. Gen. Cash Discuss Millennium Challenge's Lessons Learned". September 17, 2002.
  9. ^ Borger, Julian (21 August 2002). "War game was fixed to ensure American victory, claims general". The Guardian. Retrieved 2009-03-07.
  10. ^ Shakir, Faiz (2006-04-24). "VIDEO: 8th General Calls For Rumsfeld's Resignation". ThinkProgress. Retrieved 2013-02-24.
  11. ^ SECNAVINST 1650.1H, 2006, Navy-Marine Awards Manual, P. 1-22, "Silver Star Medal"...

Public Domain This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the United States Marine Corps.

External links[edit]