John L. Canley

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John Canley
John L. Canley.jpg
Canley in 2018
Born(1937-12-20)December 20, 1937
Caledonia, Arkansas, U.S.
DiedMay 11, 2022(2022-05-11) (aged 84)
Bend, Oregon, U.S.
AllegianceUnited States
Service/branchUnited States Marine Corps
Years of service1953–1981
RankSergeant major
Unit1st Battalion, 1st Marines
AwardsMedal of Honor
Bronze Star Medal with "V" device
Purple Heart

John Lee Canley (December 20, 1937 – May 11, 2022) was a United States Marine and a recipient of the United States military's highest award for valor, the Medal of Honor, for his actions in January/February 1968 during the Battle of Huế. At the time of this action Canley was a gunnery sergeant with Company A, 1st Battalion, 1st Marines. Canley was originally awarded the Navy Cross but this was upgraded to the Medal of Honor, which was presented on October 17, 2018.

Early life

Canley was born in Caledonia, Arkansas, on December 20, 1937.[1] His father was employed at a chemical plant; his mother worked as a restaurant manager. Canley was raised in nearby El Dorado.[1] In 1953, he enlisted in the United States Marine Corps from Little Rock, Arkansas and retired in 1981.[2][3]

Military career

On the morning of January 31, 1968, Company A, 1st Battalion, 1st Marines was loaded onto trucks and sent to reinforce United States and South Vietnamese forces under siege in Huế.[4] As the convoy approached the southern suburbs of the city, they began to come under increased sniper fire.[5] In one village, the troops dismounted and cleared the houses on either side of the main street before proceeding. The Marine convoy stopped several times to eliminate resistance in heavy house-to-house[6] and street-to-street fighting before proceeding again. During this fighting the company commander, Captain Gordon Batcheller, was wounded and Gunnery Sergeant Canley assumed command of the company, and he and Sergeant Alfredo Cantu Gonzalez led the Marines in the defense of the convoy, actions for which Gonzalez would later be posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.[6] At about 15:15 after bloody fighting the Marines managed to make their way toward the besieged Military Assistance Command Vietnam (MACV) compound (16°27′58″N 107°35′31″E / 16.466°N 107.592°E / 16.466; 107.592).[7] Canley was awarded the Navy Cross in 1970.[1]

Sergeant Major Canley retired from the Marine Corps on October 23, 1981.[2]

Medal of Honor

Representative Julia Brownley sponsored a private bill in Congress for Canley's Navy Cross to be upgraded to the Medal of Honor. On December 21, 2017, the House of Representatives waived the five year time limit for the award of the Medal of Honor and the Senate later took similar action. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis recommended the upgrade to President Donald Trump, who approved the award in July 2018.[8][9] On Wednesday, October 17, 2018, President Trump awarded the Medal of Honor to Sergeant Major John L. Canley, United States Marine Corps (Retired), for conspicuous gallantry.[2][10]

President Trump presenting the Medal of Honor to Canley

Personal life

Canley was married to Viktoria Fenech. Together, they had one child (Patricia), as well as a stepson (David) from Fenech's previous relationship. They eventually divorced. He also had two children with Toyo Adaniya Russeau: Ricky and Yukari. After retiring from the Marine Corps, Canley resided in Oxnard, California.[1]

Canley died on May 11, 2022, at his daughter's home in Bend, Oregon. He was 84, and suffered from cancer prior to his death.[1][11]

Medal of Honor citation


The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, March 3, 1863, has awarded in the name of Congress the Medal of Honor to


For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty in action against the enemy while serving as Company Gunnery Sergeant, Company A, First Battalion, First Marines, First Marine Division from 31 January to 6 February 1968, in the Republic of Vietnam. Company A fought off multiple vicious attacks as it rapidly moved along the highway toward Hue City to relieve friendly forces that were surrounded by enemy forces. Despite being wounded in these engagements, Gunnery Sergeant Canley repeatedly rushed across fire-swept terrain to carry his wounded Marines to safety. After his commanding officer was severely wounded, Gunnery Sergeant Canley took command and led the company into Hue City. At Hue City, caught in deadly crossfire from enemy machine gun positions, he set up a base of fire and maneuvered with a platoon in a flanking attack that eliminated several enemy positions. Retaining command of the company for three days, he led attacks against multiple enemy fortified positions while routinely braving enemy fire to carry wounded Marines to safety. On 4 February, he led a group of Marines into an enemy-occupied building in Hue City. He moved into the open to draw fire, located the enemy, eliminated the threat, and expanded the company’s hold on the building room by room. Gunnery Sergeant Canley then gained position above the enemy strongpoint and dropped in a large satchel charge that forced the enemy to withdraw. On 6 February, during a fierce firefight at a hospital compound, Gunnery Sergeant Canley twice scaled a wall in full view of the enemy to carry wounded Marines to safety. By his undaunted courage, selfless sacrifice, and unwavering devotion to duty, Gunnery Sergeant Canley reflected great credit upon himself and upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service.[12]

Awards and decorations

Medal of Honor ribbon.svg
Bronze-service-star-3d-vector.svgBronze-service-star-3d-vector.svgBronze-service-star-3d-vector.svg Bronze-service-star-3d-vector.svgSilver-service-star-3d.svgBronze-service-star-3d-vector.svg
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze-service-star-3d-vector.svgBronze-service-star-3d-vector.svgSilver-service-star-3d.svgBronze-service-star-3d-vector.svgBronze-service-star-3d-vector.svg Korea Defense Service Medal ribbon.svg Bronze-service-star-3d-vector.svgBronze-service-star-3d-vector.svg
USMC Rifle Expert badge.png USMC Pistol Expert badge.png
1st row Medal of Honor[1]
2nd row Bronze Star Medal with Combat Distinguishing Device[13][14] Purple Heart[13][14] Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal with Combat Distinguishing Device[13][14] Combat Action Ribbon[13][14]
3rd row Navy Presidential Unit Citation with four bronze service stars[13][14] Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal with seven service stars[13][14] Marine Corps Expeditionary Medal with two service stars[13][14] National Defense Service Medal with two service stars[13][14]
4th row Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal[13][14] Vietnam Service Medal with nine service stars[13][14] Korea Defense Service Medal[13][14] Navy Sea Service Deployment Ribbon with three service stars[13][14]
5th row Vietnam Gallantry Cross with two Silver Stars[13][14] Vietnam Gallantry Cross Unit Citation[13][14] United Nations Medal[13][14] Vietnam Campaign Medal[13][14]
Badges Rifle expert marksmanship badge (11 awards)[13][14] Pistol expert marksmanship badge (16 awards)[13][14]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f Smith, Harrison (May 12, 2022). "John Canley, awarded Medal of Honor 50 years after Tet Offensive, dies at 84". The Washington Post. Retrieved May 13, 2022.
  2. ^ a b c "Medal of Honor: Sgt. Maj. John Canley" (Press release). The Official United States Marine Corps Public Website. Retrieved September 26, 2018.
  3. ^ "Vietnam vet from Arkansas awarded Medal of Honor for heroism". October 18, 2018. Retrieved October 22, 2018.
  4. ^ Olson, Wyatt (May 11, 2022). "Vietnam War gunnery sergeant awarded Medal of Honor in 2018 dies at age 84". Stars and Stripes. Retrieved May 14, 2022.
  5. ^ "Johnny Lee Canley – Vietnam War – U.S. Marine Corps". Congressional Medal of Honor Society. March 24, 2022. Retrieved May 14, 2022.
  6. ^ a b "This Hue Marine will receive the Medal of Honor after 50 years". We Are The Mighty. March 31, 2018. Retrieved May 14, 2022.
  7. ^ Shulimson, Jack; LtCol. Leonard Blasiol; Charles R. Smith; Capt. David A. Dawson (1997). U.S. Marines in Vietnam: 1968, the Defining Year. History and Museums Division, USMC. pp. 171–3. ISBN 0-16-049125-8.
  8. ^ Harkins, Gina (July 19, 2018). "Trump to Award Medal of Honor to Marine for Hue City Heroism". Retrieved July 29, 2018.
  9. ^ Jackson, Kaylah (September 25, 2018). "Marine veteran to receive Medal of Honor 50 years after his actions in Vietnam". Archived from the original on November 16, 2020. Retrieved October 22, 2018.
  10. ^ Superville, Darlene. "Retired Marine receives Medal of Honor for Vietnam actions". WIS-TV. Archived from the original on April 7, 2019. Retrieved October 22, 2018.
  11. ^ Clark, James (May 12, 2022). "Marine Sgt Maj John Canley, Medal of Honor hero of the Battle of Hue, has died".
  12. ^ "VIDEO: Marine Sgt. Maj. John Canley Receives Medal of Honor in White House Ceremony". USNI News. October 18, 2018. Retrieved May 14, 2022.
  13. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r "Medal of Honor: Sgt. Maj. John Canley". United States Marine Corps. September 25, 2018. Retrieved May 13, 2022.
  14. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r "Medal Monday: John Canley". Arlington, Texas: National Medal of Honor Museum. Retrieved May 13, 2022.

External links

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