Corzine and Pascrell Push for Commemorative Stamp Honoring New Jersey World War II Hero John Basilone
BELLEVILLE - United States Senator Jon S. Corzine and Representative Bill Pascrell, Jr. today announced plans to reintroduce resolutions in the Senate and House that call on the U.S. Postal Service to issue a commemorative postage stamp honoring Gunnery Sergeant John Basilone, the only person in American history to be awarded both the Congressional Medal of Honor and the Navy Cross.
Senator Corzine and Congressman Pascrell spoke about Basilone's extraordinary bravery to veterans and others who assembled at the Belleville Veterans Memorial. They were joined by Belleville Mayor Gerry Digori; Robert Swain, commandant of the New Jersey Marine Corps League; and Peter Ippolito of Union Township, the coordinator of a petition drive seeking a stamp to honor Basilone's memory.
"Sergeant Basilone's heroism during the Second World War is legendary and he was profoundly patriotic,'' Senator Corzine said. "He was the first enlisted Marine to be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor because of his bravery and courage at Guadalcanal. But after returning home, he quickly demanded a return to the frontlines. His duty to country is what we have seen in the last month from our military men and women who stepped in front of harm's way in Iraq.''
"It is the kind of sacrifice, for which we as Americans must be forever grateful and never forget. It is also the kind of sacrifice we should honor,'' he said. "Sergeant Basilone is a true American patriot whose legacy should be preserved.''
Congressman Pascrell declared, "As our thoughts are with our troops overseas, we gather here today to rededicate ourselves to our quest to honor one of America's greatest heroes, Marine Sergeant John Basilone."
"John Basilone's unprecedented heroics in the Pacific Theater during World War II are part of Marine Corps lore. It is time to make his gallantry part of everyday American lore," the congressman added. "By immortalizing John Basilone with a postage stamp, we send a message to all our servicemen, past and present, that their courageous efforts will not go unnoticed."
Basilone enlisted in the US Army at the age of 18, earning the nickname "Manila John" while overseas in the Philippines. After enlisting again in July 1940, this time with the United States Marine Corps, Basilone was sent to a position on the Tenaru River at Guadalcanal and placed in command of two sections of heavy machine guns. Sergeant Basilone and his men were charged with defending Henderson Airfield, an important American foothold on the island. Although outnumbered and short on support, Basilone and his men successfully repelled a 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.
For his courage under fire and profound patriotism, Basilone was the first enlisted Marine to be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor in World War II.
When the Marine Corps offered to commission him as an officer, 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 in Washington, DC.
In December 1944, Basilone returned to the front lines. On February 19, 1945 at Iwo Jima, the man General Douglas MacArthur called the "one-man army" destroyed an enemy stronghold and commanded his troops to move the heavy guns off the beach. Unfortunately, less than two hours into the assault, Basilone and four of his fellow marines were killed when an enemy mortar shell exploded nearby.
When Gunnery Sergeant John Basilone died he was only 27, but he had already earned the Congressional Medal of Honor, the Navy Cross, the Purple Heart, and the appreciation of his nation.
The resolutions sponsored by Congressman Pascrell and Senator Corzine declare it is the sense of the Congress that a commemorative postage stamp should be issued by the U.S. Postal Service honoring Basilone, and that the Citizens' Stamp Advisory Committee recommend to the Postmaster General that such a stamp be issued.