Tag: Medal of Honor

Retired Marine John Canley to Receive Medal of Honor 50 years after his Heroics During Vietnam War

Retired Sgt. Major John Canley (photo via stripes.com)

via stripes.com

A Marine credited with saving the lives of countless members of his company during one of the bloodiest battles of the Vietnam War will receive the Medal of Honor, thanks to the efforts of a congresswoman and a group of Marines who witnessed his heroics.

Retired Sgt. Maj. John Canley, who lives in the coastal community of Oxnard, California, will receive the nation’s highest military honor. An official announcement from the White House is expected once a date for the presentation is confirmed. Canley initially received the Navy Cross, as well as two Bronze Stars and a Purple Heart, for his actions overseas.

According to his Navy Cross citation, Canley — then a gunnery sergeant with 1st Battalion, 1st Marines — displayed extraordinary leadership and selflessness during the Battle of Hue in early 1968.

After his company’s commander was seriously wounded, Canley sprang into action and immediately took control of his fellow Marines. Over the course of the weeklong siege, Canley successfully neutralized enemy combatants and brought injured Marines to safety, despite sustaining several shrapnel injuries. “Gunnery Sergeant Canley lent words of encouragement to his men,” the citation reads. “And [he] exhorted them to greater efforts as they drove the enemy from its fortified emplacement.”

John Ligato, one of the Marines who fought alongside Canley in Vietnam, called him “totally fearless.” “You followed him because he was a true leader — something you need in life-and-death situations.”

Canley’s road to the Medal of Honor was a long one, requiring the intervention of several dedicated Marines and Rep. Julia Brownley, D-Calif. Ligato and his fellow 1st Battalion Marines spent nearly 15 years pushing for Canley to be recognized with the honor, only to see the effort met with more than 10 rejections.

“There were times I gave up,” Ligato told military.com. “But the irony is he’s one of the most deserved Medal of Honor recipients ever in the history of our country.”

In 2014, one of the Marines reached out to Brownley, who represents Canley’s district, and it was with her help that the Department of Defense offered to review the recommendation to upgrade Canley’s Navy Cross.

“Sergeant Major Canley truly exemplifies the kind of courage and bravery for which this honor is awarded,” Brownley said in a written statement. “He is a true American hero and a shining example of the kind of gallantry and humility that makes our Armed Forces the best military in the world.”

To read more: https://www.stripes.com/news/us/marine-to-receive-medal-of-honor-50-years-after-battle-of-hue-heroics-1.538583

Obama To Posthumously Award “Harlem Hellfighter” Henry Johnson With Medal Of Honor For Heroism

Harlem Hellfighter Henry Johnson
Harlem Hellfighter Henry Johnson

A member of the best-known African-American unit of World War I, popularly known as the “Harlem Hellfighters,” is scheduled to receive a posthumous Medal of Honor on Friday from President Barack Obama for heroism during combat.

The Medal of Honor will be bestowed upon Private Henry Johnson for his actions while serving as a member of Company C, 369th Infantry Regiment, 93rd Division, American Expeditionary Forces, according to a White House news release.

Command Sergeant Major Louis Wilson, New York National Guard, will join the president at the White House to accept the Medal of Honor on Private Johnson’s behalf. Army Sgt. William Shemin, who was Jewish and from the Bronx, NYC, is also scheduled to be honored for rushing three times across a battlefield to pull wounded comrades to safety in August 1918.

Nearly 100 years ago, then-Private Johnson, a train station porter from Albany, distinguished himself during combat near the Tourbe and Aisne Rivers, northwest of Saint Menehoul, France, on May 15, 1918.

From the White House:

While on night sentry duty on May 15, 1918, Private Johnson and a fellow Soldier received a surprise attack by a German raiding party consisting of at least 12 soldiers.

While under intense enemy fire and despite receiving significant wounds, Johnson mounted a brave retaliation resulting in several enemy casualties. When his fellow soldier was badly wounded, Private Johnson prevented him from being taken prisoner by German forces. 

Private Johnson [put] himself [in] grave danger by advancing from his position to engage an enemy soldier in hand-to-hand combat. Displaying great courage, Private Johnson held back the enemy force until they retreated.

The “Harlem Hellfighters” were a group of brothers serving as U.S. soldiers amid intense racism. “The French called them the Men of Bronze out of respect, and the Germans called them the Harlem Hellfighters out of fear,”according to NPR.

From BlackPast:

Dubbing themselves “Men of Bronze,” the soldiers of the 369th were lucky in many ways compared to other African American military units in France in 1918.  They enjoyed a continuity of leadership, commanded throughout the war by one of their original organizers and proponents, Colonel William Hayward.  Unlike many white officers serving in the black regiments, Colonel Hayward respected his troops, dedicated himself to their well-being, and leveraged his political connections to secure support from New Yorkers.  Whereas African American valor usually went unrecognized, well over one hundred members of the regiment received American and/or French medals, including the first two Americans – Corporal Henry Johnson and Private Needham Roberts – to be awarded the coveted French Croix de Guerre.

 Spending over six months in combat, perhaps the longest of any American unit in the war, the 369th suffered approximately fifteen hundred casualties but received only nine hundred replacements.  Unit histories claimed they were the first unit to cross the Rhine into Germany; they performed well at Chateau-Thierry and Belleau Wood, earning the epithet “Hell Fighters” from their enemies.  Nevertheless, the poor replacement system coupled with no respite from the line took its toll, leaving the unit exhausted by the armistice in November. Although the 369th could boast of a fine combat record and a regimental Croix de Guerre, the unit was plagued by acute discipline problems resulting from disproportionate casualties among the unit’s longest-serving members and related failures to assimilate new soldiers. After considerable effort by Colonel Hayward, the 369th was welcomed home with a parade in February 1919 and reabsorbed into the National Guard.

Congratulations, Private Johnson, and thanks to President Obama for recognizing a brave solider.

article by Lynette Holloway via newsone.com

President Obama Awards Medal of Honor to 24 Overlooked Minority Veterans

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President Barack Obama presents the Medal of Honor to U.S. Army Staff Sgt. (Ret.) Melvin Morris, a Vietnam War veteran, during a ceremony in the White House. (JOE RAEDLE/GETTY IMAGES)

On Tuesday, President Barack Obama awarded 24 minority U.S. soldiers, who collectively served in three of the nation’s wars and were never rewarded for their courage, with the Medal of Honor, reports the Associated Press.  Only three of the 24 were alive for President Barack Obama to drape the medals and ribbons around their necks; the others were awarded the honor posthumously.

“Today we have the chance to set the record straight,” Obama said. “No nation is perfect, but here in America we confront our imperfections and face a sometimes painful past, including the truth that some of these soldiers fought and died for a country that did not always see them as equal.”

The three surviving recipients—Vietnam veterans Jose Rodela, Melvin Morris and Santiago Erevia—received a prolonged standing ovation as the stood by the president’s side.

According to AP, Tuesday’s ceremony is the largest since World War II, and issued by Congress in the 2002 National Defense Authorization Act issue and conducted under Army review. The law required the Army to go through all of the records of each Jewish-American and Hispanic-American veteran who received a Distinguished Service Cross during or after World War II to determine if they could be upgraded to the Medal of Honor. From this review some the Army found 6,505 recipients and narrowed that field to an eligible pool of 600 soldiers who may have been Jewish or Hispanic, AP reports.  Of the two-dozen men honored, 18 are Latinos.

At the end of the ceremony, after a brief biography of each recipient had been recited and each medal accepted of behalf of those who had passed away, the president thanked their families for their service.  “We are so grateful to them. We are so grateful to their families. It makes us proud and it makes us inspired,” he said.

Read more at the Associated Press.

article by Stephen A. Crockett Jr. via theroot.com