A Night Attack
The defense of Henderson Field was essential and Basilone commanded two machine gun sections on the front lines of that defense. On October 24th, 3,000 members of the Japanese Sendai Division would launch a major assault on the American lines that would last for two days.
Basilone’s men had good defensive positions with well-defined fields of fire. But the sheer number of Japanese throwing themselves at the lines would push these machine guns to their mechanical limits.
The worst of the attacks would come at night as the Japanese would emerge from the pitch black jungle, throw themselves at the wire, and charge the American positions. During the night fighting, one of Basilone’s machine gun positions was overrun.
John quickly picked up a machine gun and repositioned it amongst heavy fight to fill the gap in the line. As the team began to run low on ammunition, Gunny Basilone would brave the overrun supply lines to retrieve more ammunition often killing multiple Japanese at point blank range with his .45.
Over the next two days, without sleep or food, Basilone’s men would testify to the fighting spirit and gallantry displayed by Basilone whom they credited for their continued will to fight.
Whether it was repairing downed machine guns under heavy fire or running out to clear a field of fire by pushing over the piled up Japanese bodies that obstructed his guns view, Basilone represented the best traditions of the Marine Corps and set the tone for Marine victories throughout the Pacific.
Fighting Till the End
When the late October Japanese offensive was over, an entire regiment of Japanese would be virtually annihilated by Basilone and his men and the Japanese would never seriously challenge Henderson field again. For his actions that day, Gunnery Sergeant John Basilone would be awarded the Medal of Honor.
Welcomed home as a celebrity, the Marines would assign John Basilone the role of selling war bonds at home. Extremely discontented with his new role, Basilone pleaded for a return to the fleet. He turned down a commission and offers to become a trainer stateside.
He was finally granted his wish and transferred to 1st Battalion 27th Marines in preparation for the upcoming invasion of Iwo Jima. Once thrown back into the fire of combat, Basilone would prove that he had not lost his edge or willingness to fight.
With his unit pinned down by heavily fortified blockhouses, he moved around the Japanese positions and single-handedly destroyed them with demolitions and grenades. Not yet done, he later helped a Marine tank through an enemy mine field before being mortally wounded by Japanese mortar and small arms fire.
Gunnery Sergeant John Basilone died on February 19th, 1945 on the volcanic rock of Iwo Jima. For his actions that day, this Medal of Honor recipient was awarded the Navy Cross.
He was the only enlisted Marine to receive both the Medal of Honor and Navy Cross during World War 2 as he valiantly earned the respect of his men, the admiration of the entire Marine Corps, and a well-deserved place in warfighter history.