John Basilone: Wikis

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John Basilone
November 4, 1916(1916-11-04) – February 19, 1945 (aged 28)
BasiloneUSMC.jpg A light blue neck ribbon with a gold star shaped medallion hanging from it. The ribbon is similar in shape to a bowtie with 13 white stars in the center of the ribbon.
John Basilone in his Marine Corps uniform wearing his Medal of Honor
Nickname "Manila John"
Place of birth Buffalo, New York
Place of death Iwo Jima, KIA
Place of burial Arlington National Cemetery
Allegiance  United States
Service/branch United States Marine Corps
United States Army
Years of service 1934-1937 (U.S. Army)
1940-1945 (USMC)
Rank USMC-E7.svg Gunnery Sergeant
Unit 1st Battalion, 7th Marines
Battles/wars World War II
*Battle of Guadalcanal
*Battle of Iwo Jima
Awards Medal of Honor
Navy Cross
Purple Heart

Gunnery Sergeant John Basilone (November 4, 1916 – February 19, 1945) was a United States Marine who received the Medal of Honor for his actions at the Battle of Guadalcanal during World War II. He was the only enlisted Marine in World War II to receive the Medal of Honor and the Navy Cross.

He served three years in the United States Army with duty in the Philippines before joining the Marine Corps. In 1940 he joined the Marine Corps and after attending training was sent to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the Solomon Islands and eventually to Guadalcanal where he held off 3,000 Japanese troops after his 15-member unit was reduced to two men. He was killed in action on the first day of the Battle of Iwo Jima, after which he was posthumously honored with the Navy Cross. He has received many honors including being the namesake for streets, military locations and a United States Navy destroyer.

Contents

Biography

Basilone was born at home on November 4, 1916 in Buffalo, New York, the sixth of ten children. His father, Salvatore Basilone emigrated from just outside Naples, Italy in 1903, when he was 19 and settled in Manville, New Jersey. His mother Dora Bengivenga was born in 1889 and grew up in Manville but her parents, Carlo and Catrina also came from Naples. His parents met at a church gathering and after dating for three years they got married and lived with Dora's parents while saving money to get their own place. He went to St. Bernard Parochial School in Raritan and after completing school when he was fifteen he dropped out prior to attending high school.[1]

Military service

He worked as a golf caddy for the local country club before joining the military. He enlisted in the United States Army[2] and completed his three-year enlistment with service in the Philippines, where he was a champion boxer. Upon returning home he worked as a truck driver in Reisterstown, Maryland.[3] After driving trucks for a few months he wanted to go back to Manila and believed he could get there faster as a Marine than in the army. He enlisted in the Marines in July 1940 from Baltimore, Maryland and went to recruit training at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island followed by training at Marine Corps Base Quantico and New River. The Corps sent him to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba for his next assignment and then to Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands as a member of 1st Battalion, 7th Marines, 1st Marine Division.[3]

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Guadalcanal

Basilone with his machinegun at Guadalcanal

While on Guadalcanal his fellow Marines gave him the nickname "Manila John" due to his former service in the Philippines.[3] On October 24, 1942 his unit engaged the Japanese in the Lunga area when their position came under attack by a regiment of approximately 3000 soldiers. The Japanese forces began a frontal attack using machine-guns, grenades and mortars against the American heavy machine-guns. The American forces fought for the next 48 hours until only Basilone and two other men from his squad were still able to continue fighting. Basilone moved an extra gun into position and maintained continual fire against the incoming Japanese forces. He repaired another machine-gun and personally manned it, holding the defensive line until replacements arrived. With the continuous fighting, ammunition became critically low and supply lines were cut off. Basilone fought through hostile lines and returned with urgently needed ammunition for his gunners. By the end of the battle, the Japanese regiment was virtually annihilated. For his actions during this battle he received the United States military's highest award for bravery, the Medal of Honor.[4]

Afterwards Private First Class Nash W. Phillips, of Fayetteville, North Carolina, recalled him from the battle for Guadalcanal: "Basilone had a machine gun on the go for three days and nights without sleep, rest or food". "He was in a good emplacement, and causing the Japs lots of trouble, not only firing his machine gun but also using his pistol."[3]

War bond tour and marriage

After receiving the Medal of Honor he returned to the United States and participated in a war bond tour. His arrival was highly anticipated and publicized and his hometown held a parade in his honor when he returned. The homecoming parade occurred on Sunday, September 19, 1943 and drew a huge crowd with thousands of people, including politicians, celebrities, and the national press. The parade made national news in Life magazine and Fox Movietone News. After the parade he toured the country raising money for the war effort and achieved celebrity status. He appreciated the admiration but felt out of place and wanted to return to life as a Marine so he requested to go back to the war. The Marine Corps denied his request and he was told he was needed more on the home front. He was offered a commission, but he turned it down and later offered an assignment as an instructor but refused it as well. He requested again to return to the war and this time the request was approved. He left for Camp Pendleton, California for training on December 27, 1943. While stationed at Camp Pendleton he met his future wife Lena Mae Riggi, a Sergeant in the Marine Corps Women's Reserve. They were married at St. Mary's Church in Oceanside on July 10, 1944, with a reception at the Carlsbad Hotel. They honeymooned at her parents' onion farm in Portland.[5] He requested a return to the fighting in the Pacific theatre.[5]

Iwo Jima

After his request to return to the fleet was approved he was assigned to Company C, 1st Battalion, 27th Marine Regiment, 5th Marine Division during the invasion of Iwo Jima. On February 19, 1945 he was serving as a machine-gun section leader in action against Japanese forces on Red Beach II. During the battle, the Japanese concentrated their fire at the incoming American troops from heavily fortified blockhouses staged throughout the island. With his unit pinned down, Basilone made his way around the side of the Japanese positions until he was directly on top of the blockhouse. He then attacked with grenades and demolitions, single handedly destroying the entire hostile strong point and its defending garrison. He then fought his way over toward Airfield Number 1 and later aided a friendly tank which was trapped in an enemy mine field under intense mortar and artillery barrages. He guided the heavy vehicle over the hazardous terrain to safety, despite heavy weapons fire from the Japanese forces. As he moved along the edge of the airfield, an exploding mortar shell instantly killed him. For his actions during the battle of Iwo Jima he was posthumously approved for the Marine Corps' second highest decoration for bravery, the Navy Cross.[6]

His body was reinterred in Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia and his grave can be found in Section 12, Grave 384, grid Y/Z 23.5.[7]

Military honors

Medal of Honor Navy Cross Purple Heart Medal Presidential Unit Citation
American Defense Service Medal American Campaign Medal Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal World War II Victory Medal

Medal of Honor citation

His Medal of Honor citation, signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, reads:

The President of the United States in the name of The Congress takes pride in presenting the MEDAL OF HONOR to

SERGEANT

JOHN BASILONE
UNITED STATES MARINE CORPS

for service as set forth in the following CITATION:

For extraordinary heroism and conspicuous gallantry in action against enemy Japanese forces, above and beyond the call of duty, while serving with the 1st Battalion, 7th Marines, 1st Marine Division in the Lunga Area. Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands, on 24 and 25 October 1942. While the enemy was hammering at the Marines' defensive positions, Sgt. Basilone, in charge of 2 sections of heavy machine guns, fought valiantly to check the savage and determined assault. In a fierce frontal attack with the Japanese blasting his guns with grenades and mortar fire, one of Sgt. Basilone's sections, with its guncrews, was put out of action, leaving only 2 men able to carry on. Moving an extra gun into position, he placed it in action, then, under continual fire, repaired another and personally manned it, gallantly holding his line until replacements arrived. A little later, with ammunition critically low and the supply lines cut off, Sgt. Basilone, at great risk of his life and in the face of continued enemy attack, battled his way through hostile lines with urgently needed shells for his gunners, thereby contributing in large measure to the virtual annihilation of a Japanese regiment. His great personal valor and courageous initiative were in keeping with the highest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service.[4]

Navy Cross citation

The President of the United States takes pride in presenting the NAVY CROSS posthumously to

GUNNERY SERGEANT

JOHN BASILONE
UNITED STATES MARINE CORPS

for service as set forth in the following CITATION:

Navy Cross

For extraordinary heroism while serving as a Leader of a Machine-Gun Section, Company C, 1st Battalion, 27th Marines, 5th Marine Division, in action against enemy Japanese forces on Iwo Jima in the Volcano Islands, 19 February 1945. Shrewdly gauging the tactical situation shortly after landing when his company's advance was held up by the concentrated fire of a heavily fortified Japanese blockhouse, Gunnery Sergeant Basilone boldly defied the smashing bombardment of heavy caliber fire to work his way around the flank and up to a position directly on top of the blockhouse and then, attacking with grenades and demolitions, single handedly destroyed the entire hostile strong point and its defending garrison. Consistently daring and aggressive as he fought his way over the battle-torn beach and up the sloping, gun-studded terraces toward Airfield Number 1, he repeatedly exposed himself to the blasting fury of exploding shells and later in the day coolly proceeded to the aid of a friendly tank which had been trapped in an enemy mine field under intense mortar and artillery barrages, skillfully guiding the heavy vehicle over the hazardous terrain to safety, despite the overwhelming volume of hostile fire. In the forefront of the assault at all times, he pushed forward with dauntless courage and iron determination until, moving upon the edge of the airfield, he fell, instantly killed by a bursting mortar shell. Stouthearted and indomitable, Gunnery Sergeant Basilone, by his intrepid initiative, outstanding skill, and valiant spirit of self-sacrifice in the face of the fanatic opposition, contributed materially to the advance of his company during the early critical period of the assault, and his unwavering devotion to duty throughout the bitter conflict was an inspiration to his comrades and reflects the highest credit upon Gunnery Sergeant Basilone and the United States Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life in the service of his country.[6]

For the President,
/s/ JAMES FORRESTAL
Secretary of the Navy

Other honors

Since his death he has been honored numerous times including being the namesake of a United States Navy destroyer, a postage stamp and several plaques, monuments and geographical landmarks.

USS Basilone

Sgt Lena Mae Basilone, USMC(WR), widow of John Basilone, prepares to christen the destroyer USS Basilone (December 21, 1945)

The United States Navy named a Gearing-class destroyer the USS Basilone in 1949. The ship was laid down on July 7, 1945 in Orange, Texas and launched on December 21, 1945. His widow, Sergeant Lena Mae Basilone sponsored the ship.[8]

Marine Corps buildings and landmarks

The Marine Corps has infrastructure named for him throughout on several the bases and stations. These include Basilone Road, an entry point into Camp Pendleton from Interstate 5;[9] A section of U.S. Interstate 5 running through Camp Pendleton, California, is named the "Gunnery Sergeant John Basilone Memorial Highway";[10] and Basilone Drop Zone on Camp Pendleton.[11]

Namesakes from outside the Marine Corps

In addition to the honors bestowed to him from the Marine Corps a wide variety of non military institutions have also chosen their name based on Basilone. Some of these include: The football field at Bridgewater-Raritan High School is called "Basilone Field", and on the wall of the fieldhouse next to the field is a mural honoring Basilone; the Knights of Columbus Council #13264 in his hometown is named in his honor;[12] An overpass at the Somerville Circle in Somerville, New Jersey on U.S. Highway 202 and 206 that goes under it; The New Jersey Turnpike bridge across the Raritan River is named the "Basilone Bridge";[13] The new Bridge that crosses the Raritan River in Raritan at First Avenue and Canal Street; A memorial statue featuring him holding a heavy machine gun is located at the intersections of Old York Road and Canal Street in Raritan, New Jersey. It was sculpted by a childhood friend, Phillip Orlando; A plaque at the United States Navy Memorial in Washington, D.C.;[14] A bust in Little Italy San Diego at Fir & India Streets. The war memorial is dedicated to residents of Little Italy who served in WWII & Korea. The area is called Piazza Basilone;[15] Order Sons of Italy In America Lodge #2442 is named in honor of Sgt. John Basilone in Bohemia, New York.[16] The Raritan Public Library has the Basilone Room where they keep memorabilia about him.[17]

In media

Basilone's service to country and Corps was recognized with the November 10, 2005 issuance "Distinguished Marines" by the U.S. Postal Service stamps honoring four Marine Corps heroes. These stamps honored Basilone, Daniel J. Daly, John A. Lejeune, and Lewis B. "Chesty" Puller.[18][19]

In April 2007, it was announced that Basilone's deeds, along with Robert Leckie's memoirs, Helmet for My Pillow, and Eugene B. Sledge's book With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa, would form the basis for the HBO series The Pacific, the successor to Band of Brothers;[20] in which Basilone is portrayed by actor Jon Seda.

See also

References

 This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the United States Marine Corps.
This article includes text from the public domain Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships.
  1. ^ Brady, 2010, pp. 79-80
  2. ^ Brady, 2010, p. 80
  3. ^ a b c d "Gunnery Sergeant John Basilone, USMC". Who's Who in Marine Corps History. History Division, United States Marine Corps. http://www.tecom.usmc.mil/HD/Whos_Who/Basilone_J.htm. Retrieved October 20, 2007. 
  4. ^ a b "U.S. Army Center of Military History Medal of Honor Citations Archive". World War II (A - F). Army Medal of Honor website. June 8, 2009. http://www.army.mil/cmh/html/moh/wwII-a-f.html. Retrieved June 8, 2009. 
  5. ^ a b "The Story of Gunnery Sergeant John Basilone Part 3". John Basilone Parade Website. http://www.basiloneparade.com/. Retrieved October 5, 2005. 
  6. ^ a b John Basilone at Military Times Hall of Valor Retrieved on February 25, 2010
  7. ^ "John Basilone,Gunnery Sergeant, United States Marine Corps". Arlington National Cemetery Website. March 26, 2006. http://www.arlingtoncemetery.net/johnbasi.htm. Retrieved November 23, 2005. 
  8. ^ "Basilone". Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. Naval Historical Center, Department of the Navy. http://www.history.navy.mil/danfs/b3/basilone-i.htm. Retrieved October 21, 2007. 
  9. ^ "Camp Pendleton". GlobalSecurity.org. April 26, 2005. http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/facility/camp-pendleton.htm. Retrieved February 25, 2010. 
  10. ^ "California State Senate Legislation". SCR 25 Gunnery Sergeant John Basilone Memorial Freeway. April 6, 1999. http://www.sen.ca.gov/leginfo/bill-6-dec-1998/CURRENT/SCR/FROM0000/SCR0025/T990406.TXT. Retrieved February 25, 2010. 
  11. ^ Lance Corporal Stephen C. Benson (November 14, 2007). "Special Ops Marines conquer skies". United States Marin Corps. http://www.marsoc.usmc.mil/news/paraloft.htm. Retrieved February 25, 2010. 
  12. ^ "Knights of Columbus councils". http://www.knightsofcolumbuscouncils.com/13264%20Sgt.%20John%20Basilone%20Council/. Retrieved February 26, 2010. 
  13. ^ John Basilone at Find a Grave Retrieved on October 21, 2007
  14. ^ MacGillis, Alec (May 29, 2006). "Honoring One Marine To Remember Them All: WWII Hero Gets Plaque at Navy Memorial". Washington Post: p. B01. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/05/28/AR2006052801090.html. Retrieved February 25, 2010. 
  15. ^ "Piazza Basilone". The Little Italy Association. http://www.littleitalysd.com/PiazzaBasilone.asp. Retrieved February 26, 2010. 
  16. ^ "Sgt. John Basilone Lodge 2442 - OSIA". http://www.osia2442.org/. Retrieved February 26, 2010. 
  17. ^ Brady, 2010, p. 84
  18. ^ "Distinguished Marines". Postal Store. United States Postal Service. Archived from the original on December 20, 2005. http://web.archive.org/web/20051220102101/http://shop.usps.com/cgi-bin/vsbv/postal_store_non_ssl/browse_content/stampReleaseDisplay.jsp?OID=8610. Retrieved February 25, 2010. 
  19. ^ "John Basilone Stamp Campaign". http://www.johnbasilonestampcampaign.com/award_list.html. Retrieved February 6, 2009. 
  20. ^ "The Pacific". Home Box Office (HBO). http://www.hbo.com/the-pacific#/the-pacific/about.html/eNrjcmbOYM5nLtQsy0xJzXfMS8ypLMlMds7PK0mtKFHPz0mBCQUkpqf6JeamcjIyskknlpbkF+QkVtqWFJWmsjGyMQIAWCcXOA==. Retrieved February 25, 2010. 

External links

Further reading


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