On the morning of January 31, 1968, Company A, 1st Battalion, 1st Marines, was loaded onto trucks and sent to reinforce U.S. and South Vietnamese forces under siege in Hue.  Approaching the city, the troops found it necessary several times to dismount and clear houses before proceeding.  When their Captain was seriously wounded, Gunnery Sergeant John L. Canley assumed command of the company and led the Marines into a furious battle against several thousand enemy troops.  During the effort, Canley exposed himself to direct enemy fire and reportedly successfully rescued at least twenty of his troops from annihilation.  For his heroism in Hue, Canley was awarded the Navy Cross, two Bronze Stars and the Purple Heart.  However, his fellow Marines in Alpha Company led an effort to have his actions reviewed as they sincerely felt he merited the Medal of Honor.  After an exhaustive review the Navy Cross award was finally upgraded in 2018 to the Medal of Honor which was presented to SGTMAJ Canley, USMC (Ret), by President Donald Trump on October 17, 2018 with several of his former Marines present at the White House ceremony.


The President of the United States of America takes pleasure in presenting the Medal of Honor 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 enemies 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.

President Trump said, "In one harrowing engagement after another John risked his own life to save the lives of those under his command.”  A member of the House of Representatives who sponsored legislation concerning the matter said, “SGTMAJ Canley is an extraordinarily humble man and he never talks about his role.  He always talks about his Marines, his Marines that he loved then, and he loves now, and when they speak of him, some have called him a giant of a man, that he was invincible, that he was a Marine’s Marine.”  SGTMAJ Canley retired from the Marine Corps in 1981 after serving 28 years as a Marine.  He reportedly enlisted at the age of 15, using his older brother’s paperwork to join the Marine Corps.

Submitted by CDR Roy A. Mosteller, USNR (Ret)