A U.S. Marine who received the Medal of Honor after carrying wounded Marines through enemy gunfire in Vietnam has died in Bend. Sgt. Maj. John L. Canley was 84.
The Marine Corps said Canley died Wednesday after a decades-long battle with cancer. His family was at his bedside.
Canley was awarded with the Medal of Honor in 2018 for his actions during battle in Hue City, Vietnam in February 1968. The Corps said Canley was a company gunnery sergeant for Alpha Company, 1st Battallion, 1st Marine Regiment who fought off multiple attacks as they patrolled city streets to relieve another company.
“Sgt. Maj. Canley repeatedly rushed across gunfire-swept terrain to carry wounded Marines to safety during firefights with the enemy forces,” the award citation read, according to the Marines. “After his company commander was severely wounded during a fight, Sgt. Maj. Canley took command of his company for three days and led the Marines through battle in Hue City.”
To help his company take out an enemy-occupied stronghold, Canley moved into an open area and was exposed to machine gun fire, the Marines said. His company was able to eliminate the threat.
Two days later, Canley twice scaled a wall at a hospital compound while in full view of enemy troops so that he could carry wounded Marines to safety, the Marines said.
“The actions in the face of danger Sgt. Maj. Canley took are incredible and remarkable,” said Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps Troy Black in a statement. “Sgt. Maj. Canley was a leader and a warfighter who undoubtedly contributed to the battles won in Vietnam. His first priority was and has always been his Marines – a true example of Semper Fidelis. I’m saddened by the loss of such a great Marine, yet I’m grateful for the legacy he established for generations of warriors.”
Canley, born Dec. 20, 1937 in Caledonia, Arkansas, served three tours in Vietnam. In addition to the Medal of Honor, Canley also received the Bronze Star with Combat “V,” the Purple Heart, the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal with Combat “V,” and the Combat Action Ribbon.
He will be buried with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery.
Canley’s name will live on in the U.S. military. The USS John L. Canley, a 90,000-ton expeditionary sea-base, is set for christening on June 25 in San Diego. It will be forward deployed in the Western Pacific, the Marines said.