Nearly one hundred members, supporters and friends gathered at the American TFP offices in Spring Grove, Penn., on October 10 to give an enthusiastic welcome to Colonel Gerald H. Turley, USMC, Retired.
Over his long Marine career, Col. Turley has performed many functions in defense of the nation: former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense and Special Consultant to the Undersecretary of Defense, the Secretary of the Navy, the Commandant of the Marine Corps and the Chief of Naval Research.
However Col. Turley will always stand out for his heroic action during the 1972 Easter Offensive in South Vietnam. It was during his second tour of duty in Vietnam as Senior Military Advisor that Col. Turley directed battlefield operations to repulse an invasion of South Vietnam by the communist North Vietnamese Army.
In addition to numerous combat decorations, including the Purple Heart, Col. Turley was awarded the Secretary of Defense’s Meritorious Medal for his extensive, post-Marine Corps service in the Pentagon’s Senior Executive Service. A well-known military author, Col. Turley has written several books on modern warfare. But, he is perhaps best known for his first, The Easter Offensive: The Last American Advisors, a detailed account of the 1972 failed invasion of South Vietnam.
He has served on a number of service-related Boards, including the Naval War College, the Naval, Marine, Coast Guard Resident Foundation, the Marine Historical Foundation, the Marine Corps Heritage Center, the national Marine Corps Association and President of the Marine Corps Advisors Association.
Colonel Turley, 84, told the riveting story of this battle to a standing-room-only auditorium. He detailed the desperate situation he faced when tens of thousands of well-equipped,
North Vietnamese Army regulars poured across the DMZ separating North and South Vietnam. With less than a week in his new command, Col. Turley directed U.S. ground, air and naval fire in support of South Vietnam’s embattled Marine and Army units stationed along the DMZ. As result, the communist invasion was halted.
He is well known as the man who ordered Col. John Ripley to blow up the Dong Ha Bridge and thus break the momentum of the offensive. The decision countermanded orders given by higher command and could have resulted in an end to his career and even court-martial. Col. Turley took the risk in face of the situation and thus showed great moral courage.
Norman Fulkerson, author of the book, An American Knight, invited Colonel Turley for the event. Attending the lecture were students from the TFP-staffed Saint Louis de Montfort Academy.
At the reception following the talk, the crowd was treated to two prepared paellas, a Spanish dish of rice and meats made in special four-foot wide dishes over an outdoor fire.
The TFP’s Holy Choirs of Angels band also performed a medley of patriotic and military hymns finishing with the playing of Taps for all the brave soldiers who fought in the Easter Offensive.
The whole evening was a fitting tribute for a real hero.