John Basilone was a United States Marine Corps Gunnery Sergeant and a proud American of Italian descent who was killed in action in 1945 during WWII. He received the Medal of Honor for heroism above and beyond the call of duty during the Battle for Henderson Field in the Guadalcanal Campaign and the Navy Cross posthumously for extraordinary heroism during the Battle of Iwo Jima. He was the only enlisted Marine to receive both decorations in WWII.
Basilone was born on November 4, 1916 in Buffalo, NY. His family moved to Raritan, NJ when John was 2-years-old. His father, Salvatore Basilone, immigrated from Colle Sannita in the region of Benevento, Italy in 1903. His mother, Theadora Bencivenga, was born in 1889. She grew up in Manville, NJ, but her parents, Carlo and Catrina, also came from Benevento. Basilone's parents met at a church gathering and married three years later.
After finishing high school, Basilone briefly served in the U.S. Army, but only for 2 years. He worked as a golf caddy for the local country club after getting out of the Army in 1936. That was before he decided to become a truck driver. After driving trucks for a few years, he decided to become a Marine.
He enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1940 from Baltimore. 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 Guantanamo Bay, Cuba for his next assignment and then to Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands.
He has received many honors including being the namesake for streets, military locations and two United States Navy destroyers. He was a true American hero. There is also a statue of Basilone in his hometown of Raritan, NJ.