b. 04/11/1916 Buffalo, New York. d. 19/02/1945 Iwo Jima, Japan.
DATE OF MOH ACTION: 24-25/10/1942 Guadalacanal, Solomon Islands.
Basilone was born in his parents’ home on November 4, 1916 in Buffalo, New York, the sixth of 10 children. His father, Salvatore Basilone, emigrated from Colle Sannita, in the province of Benevento, Italy in 1903 and settled in Raritan, New Jersey. His mother, Dora Bencivenga, was born in 1889 and grew up in Manville, but her parents, Carlo and Catrina, also came from Benevento. His parents met at a church gathering and married three years later. Basilone grew up in the nearby Raritan Town (now Borough 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.
He enlisted in the Marine Corps in July 1940 from Baltimore, Maryland. He went to recruit training at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, followed by training at Marine Corps Base Quantico and New River. The Marines sent him to Guantánamo 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.
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 October 24, 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 were left standing. He was awarded the Medal of Honor.
On 21 May 1943 he was presented with his Medal of Honor at Balcombe, Australia, from Major General Alexander A. Vandegrift, and shortly afterwards, he returned to the United States and participated in a War Bond Tour. 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, California, for training on December 27.
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 February 19, 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 Marines 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 strong point and its defending garrison. He then fought his way toward Airfield Number 1 and aided a Marine 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.
He was posthumously awarded the Marine Corps’ second-highest decoration for valor, the Navy Cross, for extraordinary heroism during the battle of Iwo Jima. He was the only man in WWII to receive both the Medal of Honor and Navy Cross. His body was returned to the United States, where he was interred at Arlington National Cemetery with full military honours.
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 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.
BURIAL LOCATION: ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY, ARLINGTON, VIRGINIA.
SECTION 12 GRAVE 384.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: NATIONAL MUSEUM OF THE US MARINE CORPS, QUANTICO, VIRGINIA.