November 10, 2020, marked the 245th birthday of the United States Marine Corps. One of the events that took place that day is not widely known, but it is exceptionally important to Marines of the past, the present, and the future.
The United States Navy announced that day that its newest expeditionary sea base ship will be named after retired Sgt. Maj. John L. Canley, a hero of the Battle for Hue City during the Tet Offensive of 1968.
First, Canley’s story. I wrote about him back in 2018 when the long, hard effort of Canley’s Marine battle buddies finally accomplished getting Canley’s Navy Cross upgraded to the Medal of Honor. At the time, then Gunnery Sgt. Canley led his company of Marines over a week-long period during the battle to retake Hue City from North Vietnamese forces.
During the battle, Canley’s company of 1st Bn, 1st Marines’ company commander was severely wounded. Canley took over the command of the company and led his 140 men over the next seven days against far superior numbers of the enemy. On several occasions he went out into the open, under fierce enemy small arms and machine gun fire, to recover and carry one of his wounded Marines back to more safe and secure positions where they could be taken care of by the company’s Corpsmen. Over the course of those next days, he assessed the battlefield and advised and reorganized his men making their efforts against the enemy more precise and successful, even though they were fighting against the greater numbers of well entrenched, well trained and well armed enemy forces.
Canley’s heroism and leadership skills kept his men inspired and effective as they fought with determination throughout those bitterly fought days in those up-close-and-personal conditions that are common to street by street, building by building, urban warfare.
Canley’s actions in leading his Marines through some of the most bitterly fought events of the Battle of Hue City were recognized by his superiors at the time and he was awarded the Navy Cross, the country’s second highest medal for valor.
Canley’s Marine brothers felt that what he did for them over those many days deserved more than that. They undertook a decades long effort to get that Navy Cross upgraded to the Medal of Honor, which was finally awarded to retired Sgt. Major Canley in 2018, 50 years after that intense and fiercely fought battle at Hue.
It is a very rare thing that a new warship is named after a still living hero, but the newest expeditionary ship, ESB-6, will be known as the USS John L. Canley. Canley told Military.com that he was surprised that this new ship would be named after him. He said that he had “spent considerable time at sea during his career” and felt honored that this particular ship would bear his name. He is the 4th Marine hero to be so honored.
The video below shows what the expeditionary sea base ships look like and what they do. The ship in this video is named after the famous Marine icon, “Chesty” Puller.
This is appropriate as these expeditionary sea bases are used to support a variety of missions involving Marines, including special operations missions. The 785 foot ships include a 4 spot flight deck as well as marine launch capabilities for landing operations. They carry a crew of 150 sailors.
Learn more about the USS John L. Canley in the video below.
The Veterans Site wishes to send its congratulations to retired Sgt. Major John L. Canley on the occasion of the Navy’s announcement about the naming of this newest ESB in his honor. We thank him for his long service to the nation in the United States Marine Corps and we honor him for his courage, grace and leadership under fire in the Battle for Hue City. Semper Fi, Sgt. Major Canley! OoRah!
Dan Doyle is a husband, father, grandfather, Vietnam veteran, and retired professor of Humanities at Seattle University. He taught 13 years at the high school level and 22 years at the university level. He spends his time now babysitting his granddaughter. He is a poet and a blogger as well. Dan holds an AA degree in English Literature, a BA in Comparative Literature, and an MA in Theology, and writes regularly for The Veterans Site Blog.