November 4, 1916 - February 19, 1945
— Piazza Basilone —
Sergeant John Basilone was one of the first enlisted Marines to be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor of World War II. He was also posthumously awarded the Navy Cross.
He was born to Italian immigrants, Salvatore and Dora Basilone, in Buffalo, New York. He and his ten brothers and sisters grew up in Raritan, New Jersey. Restless and adventurous by nature, John enlisted in the Army at the age of eighteen and was assigned to garrison service in the Philippines.
After his honorable discharge from the Army, Basilone returned to Raritan. As the storm clouds of war gathered, John believed his place was with the fighting forces. In July 1940 he enlisted in the Marine Corps.
It was on Guadalcanal that Sergeant Basilone achieved his place in Marine Corps history, becoming one of the first enlisted Marines to be awarded the Medal of Honor of World War II, the nation's highest award for extraordinary heroism and conspicuous gallantry in action.
Ordered to duty in the United States following his heroic exploits of Guadalcanal, "Manila John" Basilone was honored everywhere in the country as he toured in aid of the War Bond drive. He was back at Camp Pendleton in California, where he met and married Lena Riggi, a fellow USMC Sergeant, on July 10, 1944.
In December 1944, Sergeant Basilone became restless to rejoin his fellow Marines, volunteering for combat. Before Christmas he kissed his new bride goodbye and shipped out. It was D-Day on Iwo Jima, February 19, 1945 when Gunnery Sergeant Basilone again distinguished himself, single-handedly destroying a Japanese blockhouse while braving a bombardment of heavy enemy fire. Hours later his fighting heart was stilled by a Japanese artillery shell. For his exploits that day he was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross. Gunnery Sergeant Basilone exemplifies the courageous action of Marines in battle and has become one of the legends of the Corps. With this Piazze, we pay tribute to John Basilone in honor of the patriotism displayed by the boys of Little Italy who never came back and to Italian Americans in the military throughout United States history.