First Lieutenant George Ham Cannon, USMC, (November 5, 1915 – December 7, 1941) holds the distinction of being the first U.S. Marine in World War II to receive the nation’s highest military award—the Medal of Honor.
Cannon 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. His bravery in the face of grave danger serves as an inspiration to all who have served in the United States military.
During the attack, Cannon was serving as a platoon leader and member of the Battalion Coding Board. He remained at his Command Post despite being mortally wounded by enemy shell fire. Despite his injuries, he refused to be evacuated until his men who had been wounded by the same shell were evacuated. Cannon continued to direct the reorganization of his Command Post until he was forcibly removed.
Even then, Cannon refused medical attention until he was assured that communications were restored to his Command Post. As a result of his utter disregard for his own condition, he later died from loss of blood. His actions exemplify the Marine Corps’ motto, “Semper Fidelis” (Always Faithful), and his selflessness and dedication to his fellow Marines serve as a shining example of the highest traditions of the United States military.
In addition to the Medal of Honor, Cannon’s name is memorialized on the Courts of the Missing at the Honolulu Memorial in Hawaii. The memorial commemorates those who were lost or buried at sea during the war in the Pacific. Cannon’s legacy is also honored by the George H. Cannon Memorial Scholarship Fund, which was established by his family to provide financial assistance to Utah high school students pursuing higher education.
Photo credit: USMC