George H. Cannon, USMC
First Medal of Honor of World War II
First Lieutenant George Ham Cannon, USMC, (November 5, 1915 - December 7, 1941) was the first U.S. Marine in World War II to receive the nation's highest military award - the Medal of Honor. He posthumously received the medal for "distinguished conduct in the line of his profession, extraordinary courage, and disregard of his own condition" during the bombardment of Midway Island by Japanese forces on December 7, 1941. He remained at his Command Post despite being mortally wounded by enemy shell fire. He refused to be evacuated until his men who had been wounded by the same shell were evacuated, and he continued to direct the reorganization of his Command Post until forcibly removed. He refused medical attention until he was assured communications were restored to his Command Post. As a result of his utter disregard of his own condition, he later died from loss of blood.
He was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Engineer Reserve, U.S. Army during his last year in the University of Michigan. While at the University of Michigan he became a member of the Sigma Chi fraternity. He resigned his commission in the army upon graduation, in order to accept a commission as second lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps. Commissioned on June 25, 1938, he was ordered to duty on July 5, 1938, at the Philadelphia Navy Yard to await assignment to the next class of Basic School. He began studies on July 18, that year.
His first tour of duty as a U.S. Marine was on board the USS Boise, following the completion of his schooling May 20, 1939. He was assigned to the Post Service Battalion at the Marine Barracks, Quantico, Virginia, on July 10, 1940, and two weeks later entered the Base Defense Weapons Course at the Marine Corps Schools.
Ordered to the Marine Corps Base in San Diego, California, in December 1940, he joined Battery H, 2d Defense Battalion on February 16, 1941. In March 1941, the battery joined the 6th Defense Battalion and in July the unit sailed for Pearl Harbor. In August 1941, he was promoted to first lieutenant with the rank dating back to from June 25, 1941.
On September 7, 1941, 1stLt Cannon reported to Midway Island as a platoon leader and member of the Battalion Coding Board. He was killed in action on the same day the Japanese drew the United States into World War II, December 7, 1941, during the sneak attack by Japanese forces.
A destroyer was named in honor of 1stLt Cannon, sponsored by his mother, and launched at the Drave Corporation, Wilmington, Delaware, on May 25, 1943.
In addition to the Medal of Honor, 1stLt Cannon was awarded the Purple Heart; American Defense Service Medal with Base Clasp; Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal; and the World War II Victory Medal posthumously.
Medal of Honor citation
The President of the United
States takes pleasure in presenting the Congressional MEDAL OF HONOR posthumously to
UNITED STATES MARINE CORPS