WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell, Jr. (NJ-09) took to the House floor Tuesday in support of H.R. 2815 (Lance, NJ-07), legislation he cosponsored to name a post office in Raritan, New Jersey, after John Basilone. In 2003, Rep. Pascrell led an effort in the House to have Basilone recognized with a postage stamp. The Postal Service announced a Distinguished Marines Stamp Series in 2005.
Rep. Pascrell’s remarks as prepared for delivery follow:
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to honor Sergeant John Basilone. Gunnery Sergeant Basilone is a native of my home state of New Jersey and a hero of our Italian-American community.
John Basilone started serving his country at the age of 18 when he enlisted in the U.S. Army. Three years later he enlisted in the United States Marine Corps where he was sent to a position on the Tenaru River at Guadalcanal and placed in command of two sections of heavy machine guns. Despite being outnumbered, Sergeant Basilone and his men successfully defended Henderson Airfield from Japanese assault. In the process, he crossed enemy lines to replenish ammunition, repaired artillery, and went several days and nights without food or sleep to lead his troops to victory.
Sergeant Basilone’s unprecedented heroics in the Pacific Theater during World War II have become part of Marine Corps lore.
For his brave service, I worked to immortalize John Basilone with a postage stamp. Thanks to our campaign that spread to Italian-American clubs and veterans halls nationwide, the United States Postal Service’s Distinguished Marines stamp series included John Basilone in 2005.
Sergeant Basilone embodied the best we could hope for in a service member and was a true New Jerseyan, a scrappy fighter who always wanted to be on the front lines.
After his first tour the Marine Corps offered to commission him as an officer, but Basilone responded, “I ain't no officer, and I ain't no museum piece. I belong back with my outfit,” opting to return to the front lines rather than ride out the war helping promote war bonds here at home.
Tragically, Sergeant John Basilone died when he returned to the front lines while fighting at Iwo Jima.
Despite only being 27, he had earned the Congressional Medal of Honor, the Navy Cross, the Purple Heart, and the appreciation of our nation.
The John Basilone story was brought to life to the masses in the 2010 award winning HBO mini-series The Pacific. Montclair State University has a Basilone dormitory, and just last year the US Navy commissioned destroyer as the USS Basilone.
Marching in the Basilone parade several years ago, I know that the people of Raritan, New Jersey have never forgotten their favorite son, and they will be honored to have a Basilone Post Office.
Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the Italian-American Congressional Delegation, I thank my colleague Leonard Lance for introducing this measure, and encourage my colleagues and all Americans to learn about the storied history of Sergeant Basilone.