A Marine's Story: Gunnery Sergeant John Basilone


Gunnery Sergeant John Basilone was born on November 4, 1916, in Buffalo, New York. His family relocated to Raritan, New Jersey, and he attended the St Bernard's Parochial School through middle school. Gunnery Sergeant John Basilone worked as a golf caddy for the local country club before enlisting in the US  Army in 1934. 

During his US Army career, he was assigned to the 31st Infantry, and his duty station was in the Philippines. Gunnery Sergeant John Basilone was also an interunit boxing champion. He left the US Army at the end of his three-year contract, returned to New Jersey, and briefly worked as a truck driver.

Unhappy with civilian life, Gunnery Sergeant John Basilone wanted to return to the Philippines, and so, in 1940, he enlisted in the US Marine Corps.

Gunnery Sergeant John Basilone was first assigned to Guantanamo Bay until the attack on Pearl Harbor and the US entry into World War II when Gunnery Sergeant John Basilone was deployed to Guadalcanal with the 7th Marine Division.

On October 24, 1942, Gunnery Sergeant John Basilone earned a Congressional Medal of Honor during the Battle for Henderson Field when his unit came under attack by a force of more than 3,000 enemy soldiers. Gunnery Sergeant John Basilone commanded two sections of machine guns for two days repelling enemy soldiers. He also found his way through enemy lines to secure provisions and additional ammunition for his team. Finally, out of machine gun ammunition, Gunnery Sergeant John Basilone held the enemy at bay with his side arm and a machete. The force of enemy soldiers was almost completely annihilated. Gunnery Sergeant John Basilone and two other US Marines remained.

He returned stateside. Raritan New Jersey held a parade in his honor, which was featured in Life magazine and Fox's Movietone News, and toured the country selling war bonds. Gunnery Sergeant applied several times for a return to operational status but was denied hazardous duty until July 3, 1944, when he was assigned to the 5th Marine Division. He deployed to Iwo Jima.

Gunnery Sergeant John Basilone died during his service on February 19, 1945, when, as a machine gun section leader, enemy forces struck Red Beach. He positioned himself atop a garrison blockhouse, attacking the enemy with grenades and bombs. Gunnery Sergeant John Basilone then fought his way to Airfield Number One, where a US tank was trapped in an enemy minefield and under fire. He guided the tank to safety and, as they reached the end of the airfield, was killed by enemy shrapnel.

He rests at Arlington.


a.d. elliott is a wanderer, writer, and photographer currently living in Salem, Virginia. 

In addition to the travel writings at www.takethebackroads.com, you can also read her book reviews at www.riteoffancy.com and US military biographies at www.everydaypatriot.com

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