‘The Only Thing I Was Doing Was Taking Care of Troops:’ Medal of Honor Recipient John Canley Dies at 84

The Marine Corps announced Thursday the death of "Gunny" John L. Canley, a legendary warrior in Vietnam and recipient of a Medal of Honor held in awe by other Marine legends.
84-year-old Canley, who retired as a sergeant major in 1981, died Wednesday with his family at his bedside in Bend, Oregon, after a decade-long battle with cancer, the Marine Corps said in a news release.
He leaves behind several siblings, three children, a stepson and two grandchildren. With his death, there are now 64 surviving recipients of the nation's highest award for bravery, according to the Congressional Medal of Honor Society.
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"The most impressive combat Navy I've ever known," said retired Maj. Gen. Ray Smith, himself a Navy legend who received the Navy Cross, two Silver Stars, one Bronze Star and three Purple Hearts, in an interview with Military 2018 about Canley .com
As a lieutenant, Smith fought alongside Canley in the brutal 1968 Battle of Hue. Those who served with Canley "revered the ground that guy walked on," Smith said. "Throughout my career, whenever I had to make a decision that would affect Marines, I thought, 'What would Canley tell me to do?'"
Smith was speaking after the announcement that then-President Donald Trump had signed into law a bill passed by Congress to remove the five-year limit on Medal of Honor recommendations and make Canley's Navy Cross a Medal of Honor 50 years after the Battle of Hue.
"This honor goes out to every Marine I've served with," Canley said in an interview with Military.com at the time. “All I did was take care of the troops as best I could. Do that and everything else will take care of itself. You are an inspiration to me to this day.”
Trump presented Canley with the Medal of Honor at a White House ceremony on Oct. 17, 2018, citing Canley's unflinching bravery and calm under fire during one of Vietnam's bloodiest battles.
"John and his company of fewer than 150 Marines had entered the city, which was occupied by at least 6,000 Communist fighters," Trump said. "In the days that followed, John led his company through fog and rain and from house to house in very vicious, very hard fighting."
Canley was born December 20, 1937 in Caledonia, Arkansas and enlisted in the Marines in 1953, although he was a minor. "John used his brother's paperwork to recruit himself," Trump said at the White House ceremony.
On his second of three tours in Vietnam, Canley, then a gunnery sergeant, assumed the position of company commander of Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment when Captain Gordon Batcheller was wounded and evacuated during the battle to retake Hue from the North Vietnamese Army and the Viet Cong during the Tet Offensive in late January and February 1968.
In the ensuing battle, Canley repeatedly exposed himself to the enemy in order to draw his fire and reveal his positions to his troops. Twice he jumped over a wall to pick up wounded Marines and carry them to safety under fire, according to his medal citation.
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