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First Name: John

Last Name: Basilone

Birthplace: Buffalo, NY, USA

Gender: Male

Branch: Marines (present)

Date of Birth: 04 November 1916

Date of Death: 19 February 1945

Rank: Gunnery Sergeant

Years Served: 1936-1939 (U.S. Army), 1940-1945 (U.S. Marine
John Basilone
'Manila John'

•  World War II (1941 - 1945)


John Basilone
Gunnery Sergeant, U.S. Marine Corps
Medal of Honor Recipient
World War II

Gunnery Sergeant John Basilone (4 November 1916 - 19 February 1945) was a U.S. 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, Navy Cross and the Purple Heart.

John Basilone was born on 4 November 1916 in his home in Buffalo, NY, the sixth of 10 children. His father, Salvatore Basilone, emigrated from the Naples region of Italy in 1903 and settled in Raritan, NJ. 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 married three years later. John Basilone grew up in the nearby Boro of Raritan where he attended St. Bernard Parochial School. After completing middle school at the age of 15, he dropped out prior to attending high school. Basilone worked as a golf caddy for the local country club before joining the military.

Military Service

Basilone enlisted in the U.S. Army and completed his three-year enlistment with duty in the Philippines, where he was a champion boxer. Upon returning home, he worked as a truck driver in Reisterstown, MD. 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 U.S. Marine Corps in July 1940 from Baltimore, MD, 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 Dog Company 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment 1st Marine Division.


While on Guadalcanal, his fellow Marines gave him the nickname "Manila John" due to his prior 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 24 October 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. Toward the dawn of the battle, Basilone fought Japanese soldiers using only a .45 handgun and a machete. By the end of the battle, the Japanese regiment was virtually annihilated. Afterwards, Private First Class Nash W. Phillips, of Fayetteville, NC, 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."

For his actions during this battle, he received the U.S. military's highest award for valor, the Medal of Honor.

Medal of Honor

Rank and organization: Sergeant, U.S. Marine Corps.

Place and date: Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands, 24-25 October 1942.

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 machineguns, 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.

War Bond Tour and Marriage

After receiving the Medal of Honor, Basilone returned to the U.S. and participated in a war bond tour. His arrival was highly publicized and his hometown held a parade in his honor when he returned. The homecoming parade occurred on Sunday, 19 September 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. Although he appreciated the admiration, he felt out of place and requested to return to the operating forces fighting the war. The Marine Corps denied his request and told him he was needed more on the home front. He was offered a commission, which he turned down, and was later offered an assignment as an instructor, but refused this as well. He requested again to return to the war and this time the request was approved. He left for Camp Pendleton, CA, for training on 27 December 1943. While stationed at Camp Pendleton, he met his future wife, Lena Mae Riggi, who was a Sergeant in the U.S. Marine Corps Women's Reserve. They were married at St. Mary's Star of the Sea Church in Oceanside on 10 July 1944, with a reception at the Carlsbad Hotel (Twin Inns). They honeymooned at her parents' onion farm in Portland. He requested a return to the fighting in the Pacific Theatre.

Iwo Jima

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 19 February 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 valor, the Navy Cross.

Medals and Awards

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


USS Basilone: The U.S. Navy commissioned USSĀ Basilone, a Gearing-class destroyer, in 1949. The ship's keel was laid down on 7 July 1945 in Orange, TX, and launched on 21 December 1945. His widow, Sergeant Lena Mae Basilone, sponsored the ship.

Marine Corps Buildings and Landmarks

The Marine Corps has named infrastructure for him on Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, including an entry point onto the base from Interstate 5 called "Basilone Road;" a section of U.S. Interstate 5 running through the base called "Gunnery Sergeant John Basilone Memorial Highway;" and a parachute landing zone called "Basilone Drop Zone."

Other Namesakes

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, NJ, 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, NJ. Childhood friend Phillip Orlando sculpted it.

A plaque at the U.S. Navy Memorial in Washington, DC.

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 World War II and Korea. The area is called Piazza Basilone.

Order of Sons of Italy in America Lodge #2442 is named in honor of Basilone in Bohemia, NY.

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, CA, and rebuilt as 1,500 apartments for returning GIs. This development was named the Basilone Homes and was used until about 1955. The site is now a golf course.

A residential building at Montclair State University is named for Basilone.

In Media

On 10 November 2005, the U.S. Postal Service issued the "Distinguished Marines" stamps honoring four Marine Corps heroes including Basilone.

The Pacific (2010 Miniseries)

Basilone, along with two other Marines, became the basis of a 10-part HBO miniseries The Pacific, the successor to Band of Brothers. Actor Jon Seda stars as Basilone.

Death and Burial

Gunnery Sergeant John Basilone was killed in action on 19 February 1945. He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, VA, in Section 12, Grave 384, Grid Y/Z 23.5.

His widow, Marine Sergeant Lena Mae Basilone, died 11 June 1999 at the age of 86 and was buried at Riverside National Cemetery. Lena's obituary notes that she never remarried.


Origin of Nickname/Handle:
While on Guadalcanal, his fellow Marines gave him the nickname "Manila John" due to his prior service in the Philippines and how much he talked about it.

Honoree ID: 1280   Created by: MHOH




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