John Basilone was a United States Marine Gunnery Sergeant who served during World War II. He enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1940 and was sent to the Pacific Theater of Operations.
In 1942, he fought in the Battle of Guadalcanal, where he was credited with single-handedly holding off a Japanese attack and saving the lives of his fellow Marines. For his actions, he was awarded the Medal of Honor.
In 1944, he was killed in action during the Battle of Iwo Jima. He was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross for his actions during the battle.
Basilone is remembered for his heroism and bravery in the face of enemy fire, and he is considered a Marine Corps legend.
Life Leading up to Service in the Marines
John Basilone was born on November 4, 1916, in Buffalo, New York.
He was one of ten children in a working-class family and grew up in Raritan, New Jersey. He attended Raritan High School but dropped out before graduation to help support his family.
After leaving school, he worked a variety of jobs, including as a truck driver, a metal worker, and a factory laborer.
In 1934, he joined the Civilian Conservation Corps, a federal program that put unemployed young men to work on public projects. He enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1940, after spending some time in the United States Army. He completed his basic training at Parris Island, South Carolina and went on to become an American hero.
Battle of Guadalcanal
During the Battle of Guadalcanal, John Basilone served as a machine gun section leader with the 1st Battalion, 7th Marines, 1st Marine Division.
On the night of October 24-25, 1942, his unit was attacked by a large Japanese force. Basilone manned a .50 caliber machine gun and held off the attack, allowing his fellow Marines to retreat to a more defensible position.
Despite being outnumbered and outgunned, he continued to fire at the enemy until his gun jammed. He then repaired it under heavy fire, and continued to hold off the enemy until they were forced to retreat.
Basilone's actions that night were credited with saving the lives of his fellow Marines and preventing the Japanese from overrunning the American position.
For his heroism, he was awarded the Medal of Honor, the nation's highest military decoration for valor in combat. His citation for the medal cited his "outstanding bravery and leadership" and his "dauntless determination and extreme fortitude in the face of overwhelming odds."
Basilone's actions during the Battle of Guadalcanal made him a national hero, and he was given a hero's welcome when he returned to the United States.
He was given a ticker-tape parade in New York City and was invited to the White House to meet President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Despite his newfound fame, Basilone was eager to return to the fight and requested to be sent back to the Pacific Theater.
Battle of Iwo Jima
At the Battle of Iwo Jima, John Basilone was serving as a Gunnery Sergeant with the 5th Marine Division. The battle was fought between February and March of 1945, and was a critical campaign in the Pacific Theater of World War II.
The objective of the battle was to capture the island of Iwo Jima, which was heavily fortified by the Japanese and had an important airfield that could be used to support the planned invasion of the Japanese mainland.
During the battle, Basilone's unit was tasked with capturing and securing a strategic hill known as "Sugar Loaf". The hill was heavily defended by the Japanese and was a key objective for both sides.
On February 19, Basilone's unit came under heavy fire from the enemy, and he quickly organized his men to set up a defense and return fire. Despite being outnumbered, he led his unit in a fierce fight, and they were able to hold off the Japanese attack.
During the fighting, Basilone was killed by enemy fire. His actions during the battle were credited with saving the lives of his fellow Marines, and he was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross, the second-highest military decoration in the United States.
His citation for the award cited his "extraordinary heroism and indomitable leadership" and his "gallant fighting spirit".
Basilone's actions at the Battle of Iwo Jima were an example of his bravery and leadership under fire, and he is remembered as a hero and a Marine Corps legend. He was the only enlisted Marine to receive both the Medal of Honor and the Navy Cross during World War II.
Check out this video to learn more about the legendary John Basilone: