Sgt. Maj. John Canley was given the Medal of Honor by President Trump in 2018 for his heroism during the Tet Offensive in Vietnam. While it may have taken 50 years for his actions to be recognized, the Marines he helped never forgot.
In 1968, Canley was a gunnery sergeant with Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, when his team entered Hue City. From January 31 to February 6, the men faced heavy fire heading toward the city.
According to Canley’s Medal of Honor citation, “Despite being wounded in these engagements, Gunnery Sergeant Canley repeatedly rushed across fire-swept terrain to carry his wounded Marines to safety.”
Canley took over command of his unit when his commanding officer was injured. Canley took charge, leading from the front, without regard to his safety.
“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.”Medal of Honor Citation
Honored For His Bravery
The ever-humble Canley stated that he would accept the award on behalf of those he served with. In a statement, he said, “Their bravery and sacrifice is unparalleled.”
Pat Fraleigh said, “I spent nine months in the St. Alban hospital, required numerous surgeries, and am disabled, but I would have died if [Canley] had not risked his life for mine.”
Canley also was awarded the Bronze Star Medal with “V,” the Purple Heart, the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal, and the Combat Action Ribbon.
Canley passed away on May 11th, at the age of 84, after a lengthy battle with cancer. He will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors.