John Basilone died on Iwo Jima this day in 1945… Awarded the Medal of Honor for his bravery on Guadalcanal, Basilone suffered through two years of desk and recruitment duty following his decoration. The Navy saw him as a valuable propaganda asset, but Basilone was a Marine.
After tirelessly lobbying the War Department for combat duty… Basilone got his wish- he was headed for Iwo Jima. While rallying his platoon under severe artillery fire, he and his men were all killed by a bursting shell. He was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross for heroism under fire at Iwo Jima… the Citation reads-
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-highhandedly destroyed the entire hostile strong point 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 duty throughout the bitter conflict was an inspiration to his comrades and reflects the highest credit upon Gunnery Sergeant Basilone and the United States Naval Service.
He gallantly gave his life in the service of his country.