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 Dreux, France.
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 Cadet years 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 respect.
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 faithfully,
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.