Last Known Activity|
John Thomas Corley, Jr.
Killed in Action in Vietnam, 8 September 1968
Interment: Greenlawn Memorial Park, Columbia, SC
JOHN THOMAS CORLEY,
Jr., was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on 7 December 1945 while his
father (USMA ’38) was serving in Europe with the 1st Infantry Division. The oldest of seven children in a devoted Army family, John lived most of his life on Army posts.
John’s fi rst home was the
Quarters next to the Catholic Chapel at West Point. From there he
traveled to Fort Leavenworth and Governor’s Island. When his father was
ordered to Korea at the beginning of the Korean War, the family moved to
Cape Cod where John assumed responsibility far beyond his five years
in caring for his four younger brothers and sisters. From this early age
John knew the meaning of “Duty First.”
On subsequent tours John
saw much of the United States and Europe, but his home in the Army was
Fort Benning. It was here while his father was commanding the Rangers
that John formed his impressions of the professional Army that caused him to choose Infantry as his branch of service.
John spent his
freshman and senior years at Pacelli High School, Columbus, Georgia.
During the interim years, he attended Schools in Wiesbaden, Germany, and
His great interest during
his high school years was sports. His big six foot-four, 200 plus frame
together with the red-headed determination of a fighting Irishman earned
him letters each year in football and basketball. As a senior he was
named a “Georgia All-State Tackle.”
John received his
appointment to West Point from Congressman John Rooney, Brooklyn, New
York, and stepped into Beast Barracks determined to stay. His years at
West Point were not easy. Academics he managed in stride, but he soon
became a familiar figure on the area. A classmate wrote of John’s
in the HOWITZER: “He should be a candidate for the Olympic Walking Team
if what they want is experience. But his determination has won him much
John’s interests are divided between girls and golf, not necessarily in that order.
He has always been a
tough competitor, being a top contender among the Brigade Heavyweight
Boxers and always ready to accept a duel to the death be it with
lacrosse stick or golf club. He was the man to see when you needed a
friendly word. His drive and perseverance in seeing a job through will
certainly make him an asset to the Officer Corp.”
It was indeed a proud and
memorable moment on Graduation Day when John’s father swore him in as a
Second Lieutenant, United States Army. His orders to Fort Benning for
Ranger and Airborne School were like going home. After proudly
qualifying for the Ranger Tab and Parachute Badge, John was assigned to
the 82d Airborne Division at Fort Bragg. Three months later be was on
orders for Vietnam. There he joined Company D, 1st Battalion, 27th Infantry, 25th Division which he described as “the best unit over there.”
From his arrival in Vietnam on 9 May 1968 until his death on 8 September, John gave his country the best that was in him.
As a platoon leader, he
spent four months in the fi eld making daily sweeps and nightly ambushes
in the fifty-mile radius around Saigon. He was commanding the 1st
Battalion Reconnaissance Platoon when he was killed. His citation
accompanying the Silver Star reads:
“While on a reconnaissance
in force operations, Lieutenant Corley’s platoon came under intense
small arms fire from two well concealed bunkers. With complete disregard
for his own safety, Lieutenant Corley moved forward to investigate the
situation and found the point man critically wounded. Despite heavy
communist fire, he rushed forward and threw a grenade into one of the
bunkers. As Lieutenant Corley raised up to throw another grenade he was
fatally wounded by hostile fire. First Lieutenant Corley’s personal
bravery, aggressiveness, and devotion to duty are in keeping with the
highest traditions of the military service.”
His other decorations include the Bronze Star Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster and “V” device.
A West Point roommate
wrote: “When I think of John, I think of all the good things of life.
John was one of the good people of the world. He loved life and helped
others to enjoy it. His positive, optimistic attitude helped him make
the most of any bad situation. He was always ready to lead, to lend a
hand or to talk. He was compatible with life in a very particular way
that was noted and envied by all who were privileged to know him.”
Though John seemed to live
with a youthful passion for the moment, his letters home were filled
with his dreams and ambitions for the future. He was very much a part of
the great humanism of his generation. But to John love and duty were
one total commitment. “To love life and live it joyfully, bravely and
Surely, this is the way to eternity.”
– The Family
1LT John Thomas Corley, Jr. was the son of BG John Thomas Corley, who is
considered by some to be the fourth highest decorated soldier in WWII .
Very little information is available about John Jr.