First Lt George Cannon, MOH Recipient

 In History

There are those who become heroes late in their careers, and those who start off with the bittersweet honor. First Lt George Cannon became the first US Marine to be awarded the Medal of Honor in WWII at the attack on Sand Island in the Midway Atoll, December 7, 1941. The honor was bestowed posthumously.

George Cannon was first commissioned as a 2nd Lt in the US Army Engineers while he was at the University of Michigan. But upon graduation, he resigned that commission and accepted a commission as a 2nd Lt in the US Marine Corps.

After assignments in various areas, he was ordered to the 6th Defense Battalion. The unit set sail for Pearl Harbor in September. He was promoted at that time to 1st Lieutenant. He reported to Sand Island on September 7, 1941 as a member of the Battalion Coding Board. He was killed in action on December 7, 1941 during the sneak attack by Japanese forces. Sand Island is off the northwestern end of the Hawaiian archipelago.

Few people realize the Pearl Harbor was not the only place to be attacked that day. The bombardment at Sand Island in the Midway Atoll is not the same as the more well known Battle of Midway in  June of 1942.

1st Lt George Cannon’s MOH citation reads,

For distinguished conduct in the line of his profession, extraordinary courage, and disregard of his own condition during the bombardment of Sand Island, Midway Islands, by Japanese forces on December 7, 1941. Lieutenant Cannon, Battery Commander of Battery “H”, Sixth Defense Battalion, Fleet Marine Force, U. S. Marine Corps, was at his Command Post when he was mortally wounded by enemy shell fire. He refused to be evacuated from his post until after his men, who had been wounded by the same shell were evacuated, and directed the reorganization of his Command Post until forcibly removed, and as a result of his utter disregard of his own condition he died from loss of blood.

He is buried in Honolulu, Hawaii  in the National Cemetery of the Pacific (Punchbowl).

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