It's Official: John Canley Will Be 300th Marine to Receive Medal of Honor

  • Marine "Gunny" John Canley, originally from Arkansas, now lives in Oxnard, Calif. (Photo courtesy Congresswoman Julia Brownley’s office)
    Marine "Gunny" John Canley, originally from Arkansas, now lives in Oxnard, Calif. (Photo courtesy Congresswoman Julia Brownley’s office)
  • Marine Gunnery Sgt. John Canley, who has received a recommendation from Congress to receive a Medal of Honor for his actions in the Battle of Hue City in 1968. (Image: Alpha Company web site)
    Marine Gunnery Sgt. John Canley, who has received a recommendation from Congress to receive a Medal of Honor for his actions in the Battle of Hue City in 1968. (Image: Alpha Company web site)
  • Marine "Gunny" John Canley today (Photo courtesy Congresswoman Julia Brownley’s office)
    Marine "Gunny" John Canley today (Photo courtesy Congresswoman Julia Brownley’s office)
  • Retired U.S. Marine Corps, retired, Sgt. Maj. John Canley, left, and a local citizen pose for a photo after a physical training session during Marine Week in Charlotte, N.C., Sept. 7 2018. (U.S. Marine Corps/ Cpl. Careaf Henson)
    Retired U.S. Marine Corps, retired, Sgt. Maj. John Canley, left, and a local citizen pose for a photo after a physical training session during Marine Week in Charlotte, N.C., Sept. 7 2018. (U.S. Marine Corps/ Cpl. Careaf Henson)

President Donald Trump next month will award the Medal of Honor to retired Sergeant Major John L. Canley, credited with saving hundreds of fellow Marines during the Battle of Hue, the White House said Tuesday.

Trump will present the award to Canley, 80, for his actions during the Vietnam War in a ceremony on Oct. 17, the White House said in a statement.

During the mission, the former gunnery sergeant, assigned to Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 1st Marines, was tasked with leading more than 140 men through an intense week-long battle to retake Hue City from Jan. 31 to Feb. 6, 1968.

Military.com first reported in July that Canley, of Oxnard, California, was in line to receive the Medal of Honor, an upgrade from his Navy Cross, and that he had received a phone call of congratulation from Trump.

The Marine Corps said Tuesday that Canley would be the 300th Marine to receive the nation's highest military medal.

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"When his company came under a heavy volume of enemy fire near the city of Hue [on Jan. 31], Gunnery Sergeant Canley rushed across the fire-swept terrain and carried several wounded Marines to safety," his Navy Cross citation states.

With his company commander seriously wounded, Canley assumed command and led the Marines while taking on heavy enemy fire.

For three days, "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," the citation states.

"On two occasions he leaped a wall in full view of the enemy, picked up casualties, and carried them to covered positions," the citation reads.

It was Canley's words of encouragement that kept the Marines pressing on, despite sustaining casualties and having multiple team members wounded. Canley himself sustained shrapnel and other wounds during the days-long siege, the citation said.

The fight to see Canley's Navy Cross upgraded to the Medal of Honor has been a years-long effort. Former Pfc. John Ligato, one of the men who fought alongside Canley, has spent the last 15 years making calls, taking Marines' statements and writing letters to see his gunny get the recognition he deserved.

"The Medal of Honor was rejected 10 times -- never on the merits of what he did, it was always procedural," Ligato told Military.com in July. "There were times I gave up. ... But the irony is he's one of the most deserved Medal of Honor recipients ever in the history of our country."

"He told me that it was OK to let my Marines know that I would be receiving the Medal of Honor," Canley told Military.com at the time. "He thanked me for my service and also wanted to thank my Marines for their service."

The story was first reported by the Ventura County Star.

Ligato said Canley's actions far exceeded expectations. There were 147 Marines facing off against about 10,000 North Vietnamese troops. Canley not only led them from the front, but also with love, he said.

"I know this sounds strange, but he wasn't one of these gruff, screaming guys. You did stuff for him because you didn't want to disappoint him," he said. "You followed him because he was a true leader -- something you need in life-and-death situations.

"He was totally fearless," Ligato added. "He loved his Marines, and we loved him back."

Canley said he was grateful for the opportunity to lead the men during an enduring time.

"I'm just happy that I could provide that," Canley said. "It was an honor."

Editor's Note: The original story gave an incorrect age for Canley at the time of the battle.

-- Gina Harkins contributed to this report.

-- Oriana Pawlyk can be reached at oriana.pawlyk@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @oriana0214.

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