USS John L. Canley (ESB 6)

The USS John L. Canley (ESB 6) is an Expeditionary Sea Base named in honor of Caledonia (Union County) native John L. Canley, who received a Medal of Honor for his actions as a U.S. Marine at Hue during the Vietnam War.

Born in 1937, John L. Canley joined the U.S. Marine Corps as a teenager and, by 1968, was a rifle platoon leader and gunnery sergeant for Alpha Company First Marine Battalion, First Marine Regiment, First Marine Division in Vietnam. As Alpha Company approached Hue during the Tet Offensive on January 31, 1968, Canley took command after the company’s captain was wounded. For the next six days, he led repeated attacks on communist positions “while routinely braving enemy fire to carry wounded Marines to safety.” He received the Navy Cross for his actions.

Canley retired as a sergeant major in 1981 and moved to California. Some of the men who had served with him in Vietnam thought his actions at Hue deserved a Medal of Honor, and while the medal usually must be awarded within five years of the time of the actions, Canley’s was approved in 2017. He received it on October 17, 2018, becoming the first living African American Marine to be so honored. He died on May 11, 2022.

On November 10, 2020, Secretary of the Navy Kenneth J. Braithwaite announced that the sixth Expeditionary Sea Base (ESB) would be named in Canley’s honor. The Lewis B. Puller–class ESBs feature flight decks for MH-53E helicopters, ordnance storage, and “enhanced command, control, communications, computers, and intelligence” to serve as mobile sea bases in support of military deployments.

The ships are built by the General Dynamics National Steel and Shipbuilding Company at San Diego, California. Powered by electric diesel engines, ESBs are 785 feet long and 164 feet wide and have a 10.5 meter draft when carrying a maximum 90,000-ton load. They can reach speeds of fifteen knots and can travel 9,500 nautical miles with a crew of forty-four Military Sealift Command members and up to 250 military personnel.

The USS John L. Canley’s keel was laid at the San Diego shipyard on April 30, 2022, and the vessel was christened on June 25, 2022, when Canley’s daughter, Patricia Sergeant, broke a bottle of sparkling wine across its bow. The U.S. Navy accepted delivery of the Canley on March 1, 2023.

For additional information:
Burford, Sarah. “The Future USS John L. Canley Is Christened.” U.S. Fleet Forces Command. (accessed September 15, 2023).

“Expeditionary Sea Base (ESB).” U.S. Navy. (accessed September 15, 2023).

“Keel Authenticated for Future USS John L. Canley.” U.S. Navy. (accessed September 15, 2023).

“SECNAV Names Future Expeditionary Sea Base USS John L. Canley.” U.S. Navy. (accessed September 15, 2023).

“Navy Accepts Delivery of USNS John L. Canley.” U.S. Navy. (accessed September 15, 2023).

“Navy to Christen Expeditionary Sea Base USS John L. Canley.” U.S. Department of Defense. (accessed September 15, 2023).

Mark K. Christ
Central Arkansas Library System


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