America’s first major offensive against the Japanese was on the small South Pacific island of Guadalcanal. The Marines landed and were eager to engage their fierce and fanatical enemy. Sergeant John Basilone of Raritan New Jersey was in charge of two sections of heavy machine guns (water cooled 30 caliber weapons) on the island.

On the evening of October 24, 1942 some 3000 elite Japanese troops attacked with mortars, machine guns, and a bayonet charge. John led his machine gunners to mow down the attacking Japanese. His machine gun jammed and he had to clear it in the dark. He ran out of ammo and had to run through the jungle to get more. At one point he knew another sector was about to be overrun, so he picked up the machine gun (weighing about 90 lbs) and ran through the jungle, killing Japanese troops as he ran. The barrel of the gun was searing hot, and John had lost the special glove to protect his hand. He was severely burned, but carried the gun anyway.

John Basilone and his men fought for two days. At one point, he ran out of ammo again, but fought on with a pistol and machete. At the end of the battle, only Basilone and two other Marines in his unit were still able to fight. The 3000 Japanese had been wiped out. For his actions above and beyond the call of duty, Sergeant Basilone received the Medal of Honor.

Usually Medal of Honor recipients are not allowed to go back into combat. However, he begged the Marines to let him go back and fight. After he married Lena Ricci, he was sent to fight on Iwo Jima. He landed on the first day of the battle, February 19, 1945. John Basilone heroically single handedly blew to smithereens an enemy blockhouse and cleared the way for his Marines. However, as he was fighting near the airfield, he was hit by shrapel from a mortar. John Basilone died fighting for liberty on February 19, 1945.

His statue, holding the barrel of a 30 caliber water cooled machine gun stands in Raritan, and they hold a parade every year there to honor their American hero. John Basilone… remember him this Memorial Day and thank God for real men like him.