RARITAN, NJ - With the pandemic canceling the annual John Basilone Memorial Parade, Raritan Borough hosted a motorcade Sunday instead to celebrate veterans and honor Raritan's own World War II hero.

The motorcade ended with a ceremony at the John Basilone statue.

Basilone was a United States Marine Corps Gunnery Sergeant who received the Medal of Honor for heroism above and beyond the call of duty during the Battle for Henderson Field in the Guadalcanal Campaign in 1942, and the Navy Cross posthumously for extraordinary heroism during the Battle of Iwo Jima in 1945. He was the only enlisted Marine to receive both of these decorations in World War II.

Sign Up for Somerville Newsletter
Our newsletter delivers the local news that you can trust.

He enlisted in the Marine Corps on June 3, 1940, after serving three years in the United States Army with duty in the Philippines.

He was deployed to Guantánamo BayCuba, and in August 1942, he took part in the invasion of Guadalcanal. In October, he and two other Marines used machine guns to hold off an attack by a far numerically superior Japanese force.

In February 1945, he was killed in action on the first day of the invasion of Iwo Jima, after he single-handedly destroyed an enemy blockhouse and led a Marine tank under fire safely through a minefield.

The Raritan Post Office is named in his honor, as is the Raritan River bridge that connects Raritan and Hillsborough; a stretch of Interstate-4 in California is named in his honor. The United States Navy has also named several ships in his honor.

Raritan's annual salute to Basilone's heroism, held over a 40-year period, is one of the largest of its kind in the nation, drawing Marines and participants from throughout the country.