Remembering John Basilone, a true New Jersey hero
A true New Jersey legend, one of the most famous fighting men of the US Marine Corps and a hero of World War II, John Basilone, was born on Nov. 4, 1916.
Basilone grew up in Raritan and after two stints in the US Army, he joined the Marines. In 1942, on the island of Guadalcanal, he showed his bravery. Sgt. Basilone was commanding two .30 caliber machine guns against a Japanese onslaught, estimated to be 3,000 men. According to the Marine Corps Times, one of the guns was disabled by the attack, so Sgt. Basilone carried 90 pounds of ammunition 200 yards to the position, shooting Japanese soldiers with is pistol as he went. He kept running back and forth between the two guns ferrying ammunition and clearing jams. At some point, he lost his asbestos gloves resulting in him burning his arms and hands as he continued to swap out the red hot barrels and ammunition of the guns.
Legend has it that he had to leave his position to clear the line of fire of all the dead Japanese soldiers so they could continue firing. The Marines successfully held off the regiment, but by the time reinforcements arrived only Sgt. Basilone and two other Marines were alive. Sgt. Basilone manned the guns for three days and nights without sleep or food and is credited with killing 38 enemy soldiers himself with the machine guns, pistol, and machete. For this heroism he was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.
He was sent back to the Pacific Theater and fought in the Battle of Iwo Jima; he was part of the first wave during the invasion, coming under heavy fire on the beach from the entrenched Japanese forces. He single handedly took out one of the blockhouses which allowed the Marines to clear the beach. As he was helping a tank navigate a minefield he was struck by an enemy artillery shell and was killed. He was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross for his actions that day. His memory is kept alive in New Jersey; a parade is still held in his honor every year in his hometown of Raritan and there is a bridge named for him that spans the Raritan River among many honors.
The Basilone charity high school all-star football game is played each year on Basilone Field in Bridgewater. He was inducted into the New Jersey Hall of Fame in 2011.
The post above reflects the thoughts and observations of New Jersey 101.5 talk show host Bill Doyle. Any opinions expressed are Bill Doyle's own.