Two weeks ago, I took part in the John Basilode Day Parade to commemorate and honor the life of a Marine legend. A man whose actions epitomize the highest degree of combat valor.
During the battle for Guadalcanal in World War II, Gunnery Sergeant John Basilone received the Medal of Honor for holding the line and fighting off an entire Japanese regiment. He returned to the United States a hero and was subsequently put to work on war-bond tours to raise funds for the war efforts. But Basilone craved to be back with his men. Unsatisfied with working as a “museum piece,” he refused a commission and volunteered to return to the front lines.
“I’m a plain soldier. I want to stay one,” he said.
On 19 February, 1945, John Basilone died while leading a charge in the battle that perhaps symbolizes the Marine Corps, the Battle for Iwo Jima. For his actions that day, he posthumously received the Navy Cross, the nations second highest award for bravery.
Following are John Basilone’s Medal of Honor and Navy Cross citations. On Wednesday, I will delve deeper into my experience in the parade and the impact this man has had on my life as a Marine:
Medal of Honor 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 in the Lunga Area, Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands, on 24 and 25 of October 1942. While the enemy was hammering at the Marines defensive positions, Sgt. Basilone, in charge of 2 sections of heavy machine guns, 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 “gun crews”, 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 arrives. A little later, with ammunition critically low and the supply lines cut off, Sgt. Basilone, at great risk to his own 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.”
Navy Cross Citation
“For extraordinary heroism while serving as a leader of a Machine-Gun Section of Company C, First Battalion, Twenty-Seventh Marines, Fifth Marine Division, in Action against enemy Japanese forces on Iwo Jima in the Volcano Islands, 19 February 1945. Shrewdly gauging the tactical situation shortly after landing when his company’s advance was held up by the concentrated fire of heavily fortified Japanese blockhouse, Gunnery Sergeant Basilone boldly defied The smashing bombardment of heavy caliber fire to work his way around the flank and up to a position directly on top of the blockhouse and then, attacking With grenades and demolitions, single-handedly destroyed the entire hostile strongpoint and its defending garrison. Consistently daring and aggressive as he fought his way over the battle-torn beach and up the sloping, gun-studded terraces toward Airfield Number One, he repeatedly exposed himself to the blasting fury of exploding shells and later in the day coolly proceeded to the aid of a friendly tank which had been trapped in an enemy mine field under intense mortar and artillery Barrages, skillfully guiding the heavy vehicle over the hazardous terrain to safety, despite the overwhelming volume of hostile fire. In the forefront of the assault at all times, he pushed forward with dauntless courage and iron determination until, moving upon the edge of the airfield, he fell, instantly by a bursting mortar shell. Stout-hearted and indomitable, Gunnery Sergeant Basilone by his intrepid initiative, outstanding professional skill and valiant spirit of self-sacrifice in the face of fanatic opposition, contributed materially to the advance of his company during the early critical period of the assault, and his unwavering devotion to his comrades and reflects the highest credit upon Gunnery Sergeant Basilone and the United States Naval Service.”