About John Basilone
John A. Basilone
4 November 1916 – 19 February 1945
John Basilone, born in Buffalo, New York, one of ten children Salvatore and Dora Basilone, grew up and attended school in Raritan. New Jersey. Adventurous by nature, John enlisted in the Army at eighteen and was assigned to garrison duty in the Philippines.
After his honorable discharge from the Army, Basilone returned to Raritan. As the clouds of war gathered, John Basilone knew that he belonged with the armed services. In July 1940 he enlisted in the Marine Corps and trained at Parris Island, Quantico, New River, and Guantanamo Bay before sailing to the Pacific Theater in World War II.
It was during the campaign for Guadalcanal that Sergeant Basilone forever achieved his place in Marine Corps history, becoming the first enlisted Marine in World War II to be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for extraordinary heroism and conspicuous gallantry in combat. Sergeant Basilone earned his great honor during the battle of Bloody Ridge” fought in defense of Henderson Field, the battle that was a key turning point in the Pacific Theater.
Ordered to duty in the United States following his heroic exploits on Guadalcanal, Manila John” Basilone, as he was then known to the American public, was honored by his friends and neighbors in the Raritan Valley and across the United States as he toured in support of the War Bond Drive. During this time, Basilone met Lena Riggi, a Sergeant in the Marine Corps Women’s Reserve, and they were married in July 1944. By December of that year, the fierce fighting in the Pacific prompted Basilone to seek orders to rejoin his fellow Marines. Volunteering for a combat assignment, he was ordered to Company C. First Battalion, Twenty-seventh Marines and he joined them as a newly promoted Gunnery Sergeant.
It was D-Day on Iwo Jima, February 19, 1945, when Gunnery Sergeant Basilone again distinguished himself. His unit was charged with seizing Airfield One. but the advance was being held up by withering fire from a fortified blockhouse. Gunnery Sergeant Basilone, repeatedly exposing himself to enemy fire, single handedly attacked it with grenades and his weapon and destroyed the blockhouse, allowing his unit to proceed to capture the airfield. Shortly thereafter, he was killed by an exploding artillery shell. Gunnery Sergeant Basilone was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross, our nation’s second-highest award for heroism in battle, for his intrepid and inspirational actions during the early critical period of the assault.
In 1949, a grateful nation commissioned a destroyer, the USS. Basilone, in his honor, and in 1951, Governor Alfred F. Driscoll of New Jersey awarded Basilone the state’s highest decoration. The New Jersey Turnpike Bridge across the Raritan River is also named in his honor, as are numerous American Legion and Marine Corps League Posts. ”Basilone Day” continues to be celebrated annually in Raritan, New Jersey, with a parade and a concert on the last weekend in September. and a statue in his memory has been erected in the town.
Following World War II, Gunnery Sergeant Basilone’s remains were reentered with full military honors in Arlington National Cemetery His widow. Lena, died in 1999. Gunnery Sergeant Basilone exemplifies the courageous actions of our Marines in battle, and he has become one of the legends of the Corps.