BY DUANE A. VACHON, PH.D.
George Ham Cannon was born November 5, 1915, in Webster Groves, Missouri. His family moved to Detroit, and Cannon graduated from Southeastern High School in Detroit. He spent some time at the Culver Military Academy in Culver, Indiana, before enrolling at the University of Michigan. While he was at university, he was active in the Reserve Officers Training Corps. In 1938 Cannon graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering.
He was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Engineer Reserve, U.S. Army during his last year at the University of Michigan. However, he resigned upon graduation 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. Cannon began studies on July 18 that year.
Cannon’s first tour of duty as a U.S. Marine was as a “sea soldier” on board the USS Boise. After further training and short term postings he was assigned to the Marine Corps Base in San Diego, California, in December 1940. He joined Battery H, 2d Defense Battalion on 16 February 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 25 June 1941.
1st. Lieutenant Cannon reported to Midway Island on September 7, 1941, as a platoon leader and member of the Battalion Coding Board. He was killed in action on the first day of World War II, December 7, 1941, during the sneak attack by Japanese forces.
Cannon 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.
Medal of Honor citation
The President of the United States takes pleasure in presenting the Congressional MEDAL OF HONOR posthumously to
FIRST LIEUTENANT GEORGE H. CANNON
UNITED STATES MARINE CORPS
for service during an attack on the United States Fleet in Midway Islands as set forth in the following CITATION:
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.
1st Lt. George H Cannon is buried at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in section C grave 1644.
The information in this article was sourced from a variety of sources both internal and external. Every effort was made to ensure that the information is current and correct. These articles are presented to honor the heroes they are written about.
This will be our last article for 2011. Heroes.of the Pacific will return early in 2012. I would like to take this opportunity to wish everyone a safe and merry Christmas
Mele Kalikimaka me ka Hau’oli Makahiki Hou