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Local veteran part of three new projects

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Shelly Birkelo
October 22, 2012

— Stephen Manthei is passionate about educating Americans about Ripcord, the last big battle of the Vietnam War.

He was interviewed for the book "Siege of Firebase Ripcord" by author Keith Nolan, who learned about the bloody battle in the 1990s.

He also was among Wisconsin Vietnam veterans in a three-hour documentary "Wisconsin Vietnam War Stories" for Wisconsin Public Television.

Plus he provided photos and information for "War Stories" with Oliver North during a one-hour documentary on Fox News Channel.

The 63-year-old Janesville man now is involved in three new projects about Ripcord, an operation that lasted more than four months and cost 248 American lives.

The projectsóa movie, a documentary and a university veteran's history projectówill be "histories of the great, last, big battle of the Vietnam War and the men who fought it with honor, courage and duty," Manthei said.

The projects are:

-- The big-screen movie "The Battle of Ripcord" is in early stages, and no release date is yet set, Manthei said.

According to Dark Ronin Films and the movie's website, the film will tell the true and untold story of the soldiers of Ripcord from their perspectives as the events of the 23-day siege unfolded in July 1970, leading up to the final battle and extraction of the last soldiers from Firebase Ripcord in the Ashau valley.

The intent of the film is to put faces on a few of the names carved into the Wall that Heals and those who live with the memories of their fallen comrades.

"The producers promised us facts, no fiction, which we are very happy about," Manthei said.

He will be interviewed, along with other Ripcord veterans.

-- The documentary "Ghost of Ripcord," which is due out in early 2013. Negotiations are under way to decide whether it will be aired on PBS or HBO.

Manthei already has been interviewed and submitted written information and photos for this project.

-- Grand Valley State University in Michigan conducted a veteran's history project and recorded interviews with Ripcord veterans, Manthei said.

"They wanted to hear these veteran's history of before, during and after the battle of Ripcord. It's very educational and well worth viewing," he said.

The university is sharing the interviews with the Library of Congress, he said.

Manthei said all three of the projects contain powerful stories that people should hear to know what Ripcord is all about.

"These stories that need to be told, and knowing I'm not alone helps me and them," he said.



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