The day John Basilone earned his Medal of Honor
Staff Sergeant John Basilone, of Raritan, is one of the most famous Marines in history and he earned his Medal of Honor with his actions on October 24, 1942. Fighting on the island of Guadalcanal in World War II, Sgt. Basilone was commanding two .30 caliber machine guns that were guarding a narrow pass against a Japanese onslaught of 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. He was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his heroism and a huge parade was held for him in Raritan upon his return in 1943.
The Marine Corps Times says he was offered a commission but he declined; he chose to go back to combat. He was part of the first wave of the invasion of Iwo Jima, leading his machine gun squad on the beach, coming under heavy fire from the Japanese who were entrenched in blockhouses. Despite the heavy fire, Sgt. Basilone made his way to one of the blockhouses and took it out of service with grenades and demolitions thereby allowing the Marines to get off the beach. As he guided a tank out of a minefield, Sgt. Basilone was killed by an enemy artillery shell.
He was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross for his bravery as well as a Purple Heart. 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. He was inducted into the New Jersey Hall of Fame in 2011.
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