RARITAN (Somerset County), NJ – USMC Gunnery Sgt. John Basilone, a local hero and true American hero, will be honored by the US Postal Service with the naming of the Raritan Post Office in his honor, 73 years after he gave his life on the beaches of Iwo Jima in the closing days of WWII.
The ceremony will be held at 10 a.m., Friday, Sept. 21 at the Church of St. Joseph, 16 East Somerset St., next door to the post office.
Basilone has long been admired by his fellow Marines nationwide. He has been honored on the local and national level with bridges, roadways and US Naval vessels that carry his name.
Basilone is the only World War II Marine to receive both the Medal of Honor and the Navy Cross for his bravey and heroism in the Battles of Guadalcanal and Iwo Jima, where he was killed in 1945.
New Jersey Rep. Leonard Lance (R-7th), whose congressional district encompasses central New Jersey, including Raritan secured passage of legislation in the U.S. House that now designates the U.S. Post Office in Raritan, New Jersey, as the "Gunnery Sergeant John Basilone Post Office."
President Trump signed the legislation in on March 23.
In a speech before colleagues in the House of Representatives last November, Lance recounted the many honors Basilone earned in service to the country and asked the House to support his measure so as to inspire future service in Basilone’s tradition.
“Gunnery Sergeant Basilone is an exemplar of brave service in our Armed Forces and a member of the greatest generation whose collective bravery and selflessness won World War II and liberated millions from oppression,” Lance told his colleagues on the House Floor. “In Congress, there are many actions we take to honor and remember those who serve our Nation. These commendations matter. Younger generations ask whose name is inscribed in monuments, at flag posts or on federal properties. And in retelling these stories we inspire young Americans to appreciate the generations that came before in public service. And Gunnery Sergeant Basilone indeed has a tremendous story.”
Lance then recounted details from Basilone’s life. Lance told the story of Basilone’s decision first to enlist in the Army and later his enlistment in the Marine Corps. Lance recited the details of Operation Watchtower, where Basilone and his fellow Marines sought to regain territory in Guadalcanal in the Pacific Theater. And Lance recounted the specific citations that earned Basilone the Medal of Honor.
Said Lance, “In a moment of selfless service to his fellow Marines, Gunnery Sergeant Basilone endured brutal enemy fire during the assault to assist nearby machine gunners in trouble. Seeing the immediate danger, Gunnery Sergeant Basilone killed eight encroaching Japanese soldiers and quickly provided aid and equipment to the pinned Marines. He saved many lives that day and in later testimony his fellow Marines credited Gunnery Sergeant Basilone’s gallantry and heroic conduct for saving their lives – actions that would earn him the Medal of Honor in recognition of his actions at Guadalcanal.”
Lance also spoke of the tour of duty where Basilone lost his life and posthumously earned the Navy Cross. “Gunnery Sergeant Basilone and his men stormed the shores of Iwo Jima with the first wave of Marines on February 19, 1945. The Japanese returned heavy fire. Gunnery Sergeant Basilone ran toward one of the blockhouses- the source of Japanese fire- and quickly destroyed it with grenades and demolitions. After this, he scrambled to rescue an American tank that was trapped in a minefield. But in a moment that will forever live on in our hearts, Gunnery Sergeant Basilone and a handful of his fellow Marines were then hit by heavy mortar fire. He died alongside the brave men who stepped forward to serve this country and the men who he wanted to return to battle to protect and defend.”
Lance will speak at the 50-minute ceremony unveiling the plaque that will be mounted on the wall at the post office.
Raritan Mayor Charles McMullin, other local officials and members of the Basilone family and Basilone Foundation, as well as the US Marines and US Postal Service will also participate. The Bridgewater-Raritan High School choir will also perform.
In 2005, the U.S. Postal Service issued the Distinguished Marines stamps honoring four Marine Corps heroes including Basilone.
In his hometown of Raritan, the high school football field is named after Basilone, as are the local Knights of Columbus Council, a bridge over the Raritan River, and a highway overpass in Somerville. There is a statue of Basilone in a memorial park holding a machine gun in Raritan, a plaque at the United States Navy Memorial in Washington, D.C., and a bust in San Diego's Little Italy (in an area called Basilone Plaza).
A stretch of Interstate Route 5 in California near Camp Pendleton is named the John Basilone Highway.
The USS John Basilone (DDG-122) is a United States Navy Arleigh Burke-class Flight IIA guided missile destroyer christened in honor of the Medal of Honor and Navy Cross recipient It is the second United States Navy vessel to be named after Basilone. The first, USS Basilone (DD-824), was a Gearing-class destroyer commissioned in 1949 and decommissioned in 1977.