Thursday, October 7, 2010


(November 4, 1916 – February 19, 1945) was a United States Marine Gunnery Sergeant 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 both the Medal of Honor and the Navy Cross.

Basilone worked as a golf caddy for the local country club before joining the military. He enlisted in the United States Army 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. 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.

While on Guadalcanal, his fellow Marines gave him the nickname "Manila John" due to his former service in the Philippines and how much he talked about it. During the Battle for Henderson Field, his unit came under attack by a regiment of approximately 3,000 soldiers from the Japanese Sendai Division. On October 24, 1942, Japanese forces began a frontal attack using machine guns, grenades, and mortars against the American heavy machine guns. Basilone commanded two sections of machine guns that fought for the next two days until only Basilone and two other Marines continued fighting.  Basilone moved an extra gun into position and maintained continual fire against the incoming Japanese forces. He then repaired and manned another machine gun, holding the defensive line until replacements arrived. As battle raged, ammunition became critically low. With supply lines cut off, Basilone fought through hostile ground to resupply his gunners with urgently needed ammunition. 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.

Afterwards, Private First Class Nash W. Phillips, of Fayetteville, North Carolina, recalled 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 Japanese lots of trouble, not only firing his machine gun, but also using his pistol."

After his request to return to the fleet was approved, he was assigned to Charlie Company, 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 Americans 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 strongpoint and its defending garrison. He then fought his way toward Airfield Number 1 and aided an American tank that 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. As he moved along the edge of the airfield, he was killed by Japanese mortar shrapnel. His actions helped Marines penetrate the Japanese defense and get off the landing beach during the critical early stages of the invasion. For his valor during the battle of Iwo Jima, he was posthumously approved for the Marine Corps' second highest decoration for bravery, the Navy Cross.

He was interred in Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia and his grave can be found in Section 12, Grave 384, grid Y/Z 23.5. Lena M Basilone died June 11, 1999 at the age of 86 and was buried at Riverside National Cemetery. Lena's obituary notes that she never remarried.


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:



for service as set forth in the following CITATION:
Medal of Honour

    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.

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


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.


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;

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"; The new Bridge  that crosses the Raritan River in Raritan at First Avenue and Canal Street; a memorial statue featuring him holding a water-cooled Browning machine gun is located at the intersections of Old York Road and Canal Street in Raritan, New Jersey. Childhood friend Phillip Orlando sculpted it; a plaque at the United States Navy Memorial in Washington, D.C.;  A bust in Little Italy San Diego at Fir and India Streets. The war memorial is dedicated to residents of Little Italy who served in WWII and Korea. The area is called Piazza Basilone;[21] Order Sons of Italy In America Lodge #2442 is named in honor of Basilone in Bohemia, New York.[22] The Raritan Public Library has the Basilone Room where they keep memorabilia about him.  In 1944, Army Barracks from Washington State were moved to a site in front of Hansen Dam in Pacoima, California and rebuilt as 1500 apartments for returning GI's. This development was named the Basilone Homes and was used until about 1955. The site is now a golf course.


Heart2Heart said...


As always I enjoy your Thankful Thursday posts because you always bring a piece of history along with your post. I love how you research these and bring us back into remembrance of people we all owe a gratitude of thanks for.

Love and Hugs ~ Kat

Lynn said...

Thank you for stopping by my blog.. I came across your blog by one of my other blogs that I read.. I can't remember the name of that particular blog now, as it's been quite a while ago.. and I have so many that I enjoy reading at different times.


red.neck chic said...

love it - i'm always thankful, but your posts remind me to be even more so...

;-D xoxo