By Frederick H. Lowe
President Donald Trump on Wednesday awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor to retired Marine Gunnery Sergeant John L. Canley for his leadership and bravery in the Battle of Hue City, Vietnam, from January 31, 1968 to February 24, 1968, after lifting the five-year time limit.
“Fifty years ago, an American Marines fought with unmatched bravery in one of the longest and bloodiest battles of the Vietnam War—the Battle of Hue City during the Tet Offensive. The name of that heroic Marine is Sergeant Major John Canley. Today, we proudly award John the Congressional Medal of Honor, “ Trump said during the medal awarding ceremony attended by 250, including his children and grandchildren in the East Room of the White House.
Early in the battle of Hue, Gunnery Sergeant’s Canley’s commanding officer of Alpha Company, First Battalion, First Marine Division, was wounded so he took leadership of the 120-man company.
Sergeant Canley organized the men and led them through the fight, the White House said.
John Ligato was one of the Marines under Sergeant Canley’s command. “You followed him because he was a true leader. He was totally fearless. He loved his Marines, and we loved him back.”
In the days that followed, Marines pushed through the fog and rain in house to house battles, capturing Joan of Arc School, an enemy stronghold. Sergeant Canley fought for seven straight days, saving the lives of 20 Marines although he was seriously wounded. At the end of seven days, Marines took back the city.
On Monday, President Trump signed a bill lifting a five-year time restriction on awarding the Medal of Honor, allowing Canley to receive the medal. He is the 300th Marine awarded the Medal of Honor.
Sergeant Major Canley, who is now 80, was born in Caledonia, Arkansas. In 1953, at the age of 15, he used his older brother’s paperwork to enlist. He now lives in Oxnard, California.
William Carney was the first African-American recipient of the Medal of Honor. He was awarded the nation’s highest medal gallantry for his actions on July 18, 1863 at Fort Wagner, South Carolina, while a member of the 54th Massachusetts Regiment in the Civil War.
As 2017, 89 African Americans have been awarded the Medal of Honor.