America’s highest honor for military service, the Medal of Honor, has been awarded to Canadian-born service members 61 times — but only four times since 1900. These four Canadians saved American lives in battles from the Occupation of Veracruz to the Vietnam War.
1. Specialist Peter C. Lemon
Then-Spc. Peter C. Lemon helped beat back a Vietnamese assault that broke into his fire base. (Photo: U.S. Army).
Army Spc. Peter C. Lemon was born in Toronto, Canada, in 1950 but moved to America as a child and later joined the Army. When he was 19, he was serving as an assistant machine gunner at a fire support base in Vietnam near the border with Cambodia.
The base was overrun in the early hours of April 1, 1970, when North Vietnamese soldiers managed to breach the perimeter, triggering hand-to-hand fighting. Lemon fired his machine gun until it malfunctioned, then did the same with his rifle before lobbing grenade after grenade into the oncoming Vietnamese.
He killed the final enemy in his area with his bare hands before running to another section and engaging with more grenades. Severely wounded, he refused medical evacuation until those more seriously wounded were all flown out.
2. Sergeant Charles A. MacGillivary
During the Battle of the Bulge, the 71st Infantry Regiment, 44th Infantry Division was one of the units hard pressed by German forces. After the death of the company commander, some soldiers began talking of surrender. That’s when Sgt. Charles MacGillivary assumed command and slipped off into the forest on his own.
He slowly made his way around one of the machine gun positions that targeted his company and got within three feet before firing on the two gunners, killing both. He returned to base but went back to the forest the following afternoon.
Once again, he snuck up on a machine gun nest and took it out with a single grenade. He then grabbed a submachine gun from the ground and crept close to a third nest, killing the attackers as they tried to swing their own gun onto him. Finally, he hit a fourth machine gun nest and took it out with a grenade and close fighting. He lost his left arm in this final engagement, but survived the war.
3. Signalman 1st Class Douglas A. Munro
The only Coast Guardsman to receive the Medal of Honor, Signalman 1st Class Douglas A. Munro was part of the task force that assaulted Guadalcanal during World War II. On Sept. 27, 1942, he commanded a group of landing craft that carried Marines from one section of the island to another in order to bypass a Japanese defensive line.
Munro dropped the Marines without incident and returned to base only to learn that, soon after the boats left, the Marines were ambushed. They had fought their way back to the base, but were under heavy assault and needed evacuation.
His landing craft were made of wood and filled with fuel, but Munro took his boats back and piloted his own craft into the thick of the fighting as the other crews embarked Marines and began their withdrawal. The boats made it out, but one was stuck on a sandbar. Munro used his ship to help pull it off, but was shot through the head just as the job was finished.
4. Lieutenant John Grady
On April 22, 1914, Navy Lt. John Grady was leading an artillery regiment at the Battle of Vera Cruz. He deployed his artillery in exposed positions that gave his crews the ability to rain steel on the enemy, but also left them susceptible to counter artillery.
Despite the risk, Grady led from the front, ignoring enemy fire to keep the enemy in his crosshairs, helping bring about the American victory.
Grady later commanded a U.S. ship and led it through mine and submarine-infested waters to reach European ports in World War I, leading to the award of a Navy Cross.