Author discusses writing ‘The Gunny’ - Camp Lejeune Globe: Carolina Living

Author discusses writing ‘The Gunny’

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Posted: Monday, April 15, 2019 2:04 pm

The Marine South Expo showcased all manner of new gear and information for Marines on Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, April 11 and 12.

Among the crowd filling Goettge Memorial Field House was John Ligato — retired Marine, FBI agent, educator and author. The Vietnam War veteran signed copies of his fourth book, “The Gunny,” for those in attendance.

The book profiles the 1968 TET Offensive, specifically the efforts of Marines from 1st Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment Company A to enter Hue City. At the time, those 147 Marines were unaware that about 10,000 troops from the North Vietnamese Army occupied the city. The book’s titular figure is John Canley, retired Marine sergeant major who was the company gunnery sergeant of Company A at the time of the battle. Canley received the Medal of Honor Oct. 17, 2018, for his actions during the battle.

Ligato is well acquainted with Canley and the 1968 battle. The author was a lance corporal with Company A at the time. He said that the idea for the book, as well as a campaign to get Canley recognized for his heroism, came long after the battle was over.

“We trained as a unit and went over as a unit,” Ligato said. “After the war, we went home individually. No one could really keep in touch with each other.”

The advent of social media gave members of Company A the chance to talk and get together again. As they spoke to one another, there was a similar vein in the conversation, Ligato said.

“We’d talk and it kept coming up. ‘Did you see Gunny do this? Did you see Gunny do that?’” Ligato said.

Having been in the FBI at the time, Ligato took it upon himself to compile Canley’s feats of valor. It took him 13 years. After all, the list was extensive.

Company A had no officers by the time the Marines reached Hue. That meant, per chain of command, acting commanding officer of the company was then Gunnery Sgt. Canley, who kept that title for three days.

Canley’s executive officer was Sgt. Alfredo Gonzalez, who is also a Medal of Honor recipient. Gonzalez Boulevard on Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune bears his name.

Ligato’s other books include “Dirty Boys,” “The Near Enemy” and “The Comey Gang: An Insider’s Look at an FBI in Crisis.”

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