John L. Canley (born February 1, 1938) is a retired United States Marine and recipient of the U.S. military’s highest decoration, the Medal of Honor, for actions in January/February 1968 during the Battle of Huế. At the time of this action Canley was a Gunnery sergeant with Company A 1st Battalion, 1st Marines. Canley was originally awarded the Navy Cross, but this was upgraded to the Medal of Honor which was presented on October 17, 2018. Canley was born in Caledonia, Arkansas. In 1953, Canley enlisted in the United States Marine Corps and retired in 1981. He lives in Oxnard, California.
On the morning of January 31, 1968, Company A, 1st Battalion, 1st Marines was loaded onto trucks and sent to reinforce U.S. and South Vietnamese forces under siege in Huế. As the convoy approached the southern suburbs of the city, they began to come under increased sniper fire. In one village, the troops dismounted and cleared the houses on either side of the main street before proceeding. The Marine convoy stopped several times to eliminate resistance in heavy house-to-house and street-to-street fighting before proceeding again. During this fighting the Company commander, Captain Gordon Batchellor was wounded and Gunnery Sergeant Canley assumed command of the Company and he and Sergeant Alfredo Cantu Gonzalez led the Marines in the defense of the convoy, actions for which Gonzalez would later be posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor. At about 15:15 after bloody fighting the Marines managed to make their way toward the besieged Military Assistance Command Vietnam (MACV) compound . Canley was awarded the Navy Cross. Sergeant Major Canley retired from the Marine Corps on October 23, 1981.
Representative Julia Brownley sponsored a bill in Congress for Canley’s Navy Cross to be upgraded to the Medal of Honor. On December 21, 2017 the House of Representatives waived the 5 year time limit for the award of the Medal of Honor and the Senate later took similar action. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis (a former Marine General) recommended the upgrade to President Donald Trump who approved the award in July 2018. On Wednesday, October 17, 2018, President Trump awarded the Medal of Honor to Sergeant Major John L. Canley, United States Marine Corps (Retired), for conspicuous gallantry. Sgt. Maj. John Canley will become the 300th Marine to be awarded the Medal of Honor.