Three Vietnam War veterans received the Bronze Star Medal Friday, June 24 on the parade deck aboard Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, following the graduation ceremony. Veterans were recognized fifty-four years after their valiant actions during the war.
John Ligato III and Larry D. Lewis, who served as riflemen, and Michael B. Ker, who served as a corpsman with Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 1st Marine Division, received the awards for their heroic achievements at combat during the Battle of Hue City from January 31 to February 5, 1968. In the battle, now considered the longest and bloodiest of the Vietnam War, the three men showed great courage under the fire and unwavering devotion to duty as they fought from house to house in the streets. of the city of Hue. Award citations give all three men credit for placing themselves in the enemy line of fire to complete their mission and save their fallen comrades.
“When the company column was attacked en route to Hue, he repeatedly crossed open ground under heavy enemy fire to rescue the wounded Marines,” states Ker’s quote, “A short time afterwards, his company commander suffered a life-threatening wound to the femur. Using an entrenchment tool as a splint, Hospital Corpsman Second Class Ker and two Marines lifted the wounded commander onto a poncho and carried him to safety amid small arms, rocket and automatic weapon fire .
After their commander was wounded in action, the men followed the lead of their company’s Gunnery Sergeant, Gunnery Sergeant John L. Canley. Tasked with attacking an enemy-controlled compound, the company followed Canley as she cleared the building from room to room engaging in close combat with the enemy.
“When the attack stalled due to fierce resistance, another Marine maneuvered amidst enemy rocket and automatic weapon fire to use an explosive charge. Private First Class Ligato exposed himself to enemy fire in order to provide cover for the Marine, thereby enabling mission success.
“Mainly for my Marines because we had to wait over 50 years to get any recognition. It’s not about me. It’s about the Marines who didn’t get the proper recognition when we got home. Gunnery Sergeant John Canley
Gunnery Sergeant Canley received a Silver Star in 1970 for his actions in the city of Hue. Fifty years after the battle, and after more than a decade of campaigning led by John Ligato, Sergeant Major Canley’s Silver Star was historically elevated to the Congressional Medal of Honor in 2018. Canley was the first African Marine American to receive the nation’s highest military honor. Despite his own recognition, Canley was a strong advocate for the recognition of his junior Marines for their contributions to the war.
“It means a lot to me,” Canley said in a 2018 interview about his Medal of Honor, “Primarily to my Marines because we’ve had to wait over 50 years to get any recognition. It’s not about me. It’s about the Marines who didn’t get the proper recognition when we got home.
Sergeant Major Canley died on May 22 this year at the age of 84.
The Bronze Star Awards were presented to Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego Commanding General, Brigadier General Jason L. Morris, along with Major General Ray L. Smith, who relieved Gunnery Sergeant Canley of his brief command during the Battle of Hue City. In attendance were 12 other Alpha 1/1 veterans as well as the Canley family.
“Amazingly, no one wanted this,” Ligato said after the ceremony, “It was Sergeant Major Canley who was most angry that his junior enlisted Marines got nothing and he was the instigator. He put the packages.
Following the ceremony, members of Alpha 1/1 witnessed the christening of the newest US Navy Expeditionary Sea Base-class ship, USS John L. Canley. The ship, officially named in Canley’s honor in November 2020, began service just thirty-four days after the death of its namesake.