Marine Gunny Gets Medal Of Honor Nod For Actions In Vietnam

Leadership
Alpha Company 1st Bn 1st Marines website

Editor’s Note: This article by Richard Sisk originally appeared on Military.com, the premier source of information for the military and veteran community.


With backing from Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, paperwork to upgrade the Navy Cross awarded to then-Marine Gunnery Sgt. John Canley to the Medal of Honor for his actions in the Battle of Hue City in 1968 was forwarded to President Donald Trump on Friday.

"After giving careful consideration to the nomination, I agree that then-Gunnery Sergeant Canley's actions merit the award of the Medal of Honor," Mattis said last month in a letter to Rep. Julia Brownley, D-California, Canley's chief sponsor in Congress.

Mattis noted that Congress would first have to waive the five-year limit for recommending the Medal of Honor, but once that happened, "I will provide my endorsement to the president."

In a statement Friday, Brownley said the House waived the time limit on Dec. 21 and the Senate took similar action Thursday.

All that is needed now is Trump's signature to give the nation's highest award for valor to the 80-year-old Canley, of Oxnard, California, who retired as a sergeant major and is reportedly battling cancer, Brownley said.

In the brutal battle to retake Hue City in 1968, Canley's "valorous actions and unwavering dedication to his fellow service members is the reason so many of the men who support his nomination are alive today to testify on his behalf. His incredible gallantry and selflessness is an inspiration to us all," Brownley said.

In his account published last year -- "Hue 1968: A Turning Point of the American War in Vietnam," Mark Bowden, author of "Black Hawk Down" about the Battle of Mogadishu, cited Canley's actions in the house-to-house fighting more than 30 times.

In a statement to Brownley on the MoH recommendation, Canley said, "I want to profusely thank Congresswoman Brownley for her continued work helping me with this honor."

"The credit for this award really should go to all the young Marines in Vietnam who inspired me every day. Most of them didn't receive any recognition, but they were the foundation of every battle in the Vietnam War," he said.

John Ligato, who served as a private first class under Canley in Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, in Hue, said the Medal of Honor was long overdue.

Canley served several tours in Vietnam from 1965 to 1970. "The sheer cumulative effect of Gunny Canley's actions and deeds over this continued period rank with the acts of America's greatest heroes from the Revolutionary War to this present day," Ligato said. "This man is the epitome of a Marine warrior."

Others agreed. "I spent nine months in the St. Albans hospital, required numerous surgeries and am disabled, but I would have died if [Canley] had not risked his life for mine," said Pat Fraleigh, another Marine who served under him.

The battle of Hue "was not the first time I saw Gunny Canley act heroically," Fraleigh said.

In previous fighting at the Con Thien Marine base near the demilitarized zone, Canley "not only carried Marines to safety, but also exposed himself to enemy fire. He was always leading and attacking the enemy and always standing up and encouraging us," he said.

Canley's Navy Cross cites his actions from Jan.31 to Feb. 6, 1968, during which he took command of Alpha Company when the company commander was wounded.

"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," the citation states.

Canley then "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."

On Feb. 4, "despite fierce enemy resistance," Canley managed to get into the top floor of a building held by the enemy. He then "dropped a large satchel charge into the position, personally accounting for numerous enemy killed, and forcing the others to vacate the building," the citation states.

The battle raged on. Canley went into action again on Feb. 6 as the company took more casualties in an assault on another enemy-held 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," the citation reads. "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," the citation states.

More from Military.com:

Photo: US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia

A former sailor who was busted buying firearms with his military discount and then reselling some of them to criminals is proving to be a wealth of information for federal investigators.

Julio Pino used his iPhone to record most, if not all, of his sales, court documents said. He even went so far as to review the buyers' driver's license on camera.

It is unclear how many of Pino's customer's now face criminal charges of their own. Federal indictments generally don't provide that level of detail and Assistant U.S. Attorney William B. Jackson declined to comment.

Read More Show Less
Photo illustration by Paul Szoldra/Task & Purpose

It all began with a medical check.

Carson Thomas, a healthy and fit 20-year-old infantryman who had joined the Army after a brief stint in college, figured he should tell the medics about the pain in his groin he had been feeling. It was Feb. 12, 2012, and the senior medic looked him over and decided to send him to sick call at the base hospital.

It seemed almost routine, something the Army doctors would be able to diagnose and fix so he could get back to being a grunt.

Now looking back on what happened some seven years later, it was anything but routine.

Read More Show Less
U.S. Army Cpt. Katrina Hopkins and Chief Warrant Officer 2 James Rogers, assigned to Task Force Warhorse, pilot a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter during a medical evacuation (MEDEVAC) operation at Camp Taji, Iraq, Dec. 18, 2018. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Javion Siders)

U.S. forces must now ask the Iraqi military for permission to fly in Iraqi airspace before coming to the aid of U.S. troops under fire, a top military spokesman said.

However, the mandatory approval process is not expected to slow down the time it takes the U.S. military to launch close air support and casualty evacuation missions for troops in the middle of a fight, said Army Col. James Rawlinson, a spokesman for Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve.

Read More Show Less
Army Spc. Clayton James Horne

Army Spc. Clayton James Horne died in Saudi Arabia on Aug. 17, making him the eighth non-combat fatality for Operation Inherent Resolve so far this year, defense officials have announced.

Horne, 23, was assigned to the 351st Military Police Company, 160th Military Police Battalion, an Army Reserve unit based in Ocala, Florida, a Pentagon news release says.

Read More Show Less
Joshua Yabut/Twitter

The soldier who was arrested for taking an armored personnel carrier on a slow-speed police chase through Virginia has been found not guilty by reason of insanity on two charges, according to The Richmond-Times Dispatch.

Joshua Phillip Yabut, 30, entered a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity for unauthorized use of a motor vehicle — in this case, a 12-ton APC taken from Fort Pickett in June 2018 — and violating the terms of his bond, which stemmed from a trip to Iraq he took in March 2019 (which was not a military deployment).

Read More Show Less