Sgt. Maj. John Canley to receive Medal of Honor for Hue heroics

| July 20, 2018

Retired Marine Sgt. Maj. John Canley was told by the President that his Navy Cross is being upgraded to the Medal of Honor as soon as the White House can decide when the ceremony will occur.

It happened 31 January to 6 February 1968 in the ancient Vietnamese City of Hue, when he was Gunnery Sergeant Canley. His Navy Cross citation;

The President of the United States of America takes pleasure in presenting the Navy Cross to Gunnery Sergeant John L. Canley (MCSN: 1455946), United States Marine Corps, for extraordinary heroism while serving as Company Gunnery Sergeant of Company A, First Battalion, First Marines, FIRST Marine Division (Reinforced), Fleet Marine Force, during operations against the enemy in the Republic of Vietnam from 31 January to 6 February 1968.

On 31 January, when his company came under a heavy volume of enemy fire near the city of Hue, Gunnery Sergeant Canley rushed across the fire-swept terrain and carried several wounded Marines to safety. Later, with the company commander seriously wounded, Gunnery Sergeant Canley assumed command and immediately reorganized his scattered Marines, moving from one group to another to advise and encourage his men.

Although sustaining shrapnel wounds during this period, he nonetheless established a base of fire which subsequently allowed the company to break through the enemy strongpoint. Retaining command of the company for the following three days, Gunnery Sergeant Canley on 4 February led his men into an enemy-occupied building in Hue. Despite fierce enemy resistance, he succeeded in gaining a position immediately above the enemy strongpoint and dropped a large satchel charge into the position, personally accounting for numerous enemy killed, and forcing the others to vacate the building. On 6 February, when his unit sustained numerous casualties while attempting to capture a government building, Gunnery Sergeant Canley lent words of encouragement to his men and exhorted them to greater efforts as they drove the enemy from its fortified emplacement. Although wounded once again during this action, on two occasions he leaped a wall in full view of the enemy, picked up casualties, and carried them to covered positions.

By his dynamic leadership, courage, and selfless dedication, Gunnery Sergeant Canley contributed greatly to the accomplishment of his company’s mission and upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and of the United States Naval Service.

From Stars & Stripes;

John Ligato, one of the Marines who fought alongside Canley in Vietnam, called him “totally fearless.”

“You followed him because he was a true leader — something you need in life-and-death situations.”

Canley’s road to the Medal of Honor was a long one, requiring the intervention of several dedicated Marines and Rep. Julia Brownley, D-Calif.

Ligato and his fellow 1st Battalion Marines spent nearly 15 years pushing for Canley to be recognized with the honor, only to see the effort met with more than 10 rejections.

“There were times I gave up,” Ligato told “But the irony is he’s one of the most deserved Medal of Honor recipients ever in the history of our country.”

Category: Marine Corps

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2/17 Air Cav

When your own men, and not some critter or relative, is pushing for years for the upgrade, well, this is one upgrade I will salute.


In reading the citation, I wonder just what more he could have done at the time to warrant the Medal of Honor? Seems as if it’s a slam dunk. And, as above, if those with him, with their feet to the fire, felt he should have gotten the Medal of Honor, how can I believe differently?

I’m humbled by your actions, Sir.

Wilted Willy

BZ Marine! You truly deserve this medal! I’m surprised a D-rat is supporting this? He should have got this a long time ago!


Semper Fi, Gunny!


6 Days.

God. Bless. Him. And. All. His. Men.


7 Days. Sorry.


This was Tet ’68. Bad juju times, especially in Hue where the Marines were. The Brigade I was in (1/101 (ABN)(SEP) was moved near there to Phu Bai to reinforce the Marines. They had already taken a beaten. Glad he’s still around to be at the award ceremony. Salute Marine!


After reading the Navy Cross citation I also wonder what else he needed to to do be honored with the Medal of Honor! His actions are what movies are made of.

I’m glad to read that he is still living, that this will not be a posthumous award to relatives.

…In a battle outside Hue, 120 Marines were pinned by machine gun fire in a muddy ditch. Canley, the gunnery sergeant, assumed control after the company captain suffered life-threatening wounds. Canley ran into a blizzard of enemy fire and pulled a wounded Marine into a thatched hut.

“He was all over the place,” said Herbert Watkins, one of the Marines who was there, in a January story in The Star. “He was charging machine gun nests, him and (Sgt. Alfredo) Gonzalez. He was directing fire, dragging people off the street and he was always so calm.”

He led his battered Alpha Company, First Battalion, First Marine Regiment into Hue. It took three days before new officers arrived.

When John Ligato [an FBI agent after the war and the man spearheading the upgrade], then a private first class, thinks of his sergeant, he pictures him with an M16 in hand walking directly into enemy fire.

“It was amazing. I don’t know how the bullets didn’t hit him,” he said Monday, noting that such actions defined Canley, an Arkansas native who served Vietnam tours each year from 1965 to 1970.

“I was always convinced that he deserved the Medal of Honor,” Ligato said. “In fact, he probably deserved two or three.”

…In the January article in The Star, Canley was reluctant to talk about himself, preferring to focus on the men he served with during his 28 years in the Marines.

How do I feel about them?” he said. “I love them.”

In a phone interview Friday, Canley reiterated that the medal, in his eyes, was being given in recognition of his men’s efforts.

2/17 Air Cav

Google him. Take a look at him today, at 80. You won’t believe he’s 80. SOB looks too damn good. He lives in Oxnard, CA.


A quiet man.

Glad this is happening for him.


I recently read the book Hue 1968 by Mark Bowden (author of Blackhawk Down. Canley is mentioned multiple times in the book, and comes across as a genuine American badass.


Obviously the characterization was right on the money.
What a brave man.
Yep, served in the company of heroes !!!


Now that was a nice read.

BlueCord Dad



I so wish he had been able to have had the nearly 50 years of accolades associated with receipt of the Medal of Honor. It’s nice he gets it now, but he’s 80. A man of his caliber shouldn’t have to wait 50 years to be recognized for such awe inspiring heroism.


Agreed, HMC. BZ, Sergeant Major.

tsg annabelle

that and you get a monthly monetary stipend. this great warrior and leader of DEVIL DOGS should have been awarded the MOH right then.
Well Done, Leatherneck!


“Reluctant to talk about himself”…..a true leader among men. Show me a politician who would not only seek the limelight, but embellish it by the sentence for personal gain and recognition. Well done Sgt. Major.


He must have road guards to help him with that huge brass pair he’s sporting. Bravo Zulu, Devil Dog.