John Basilone – only enlisted man to receive both WWII Medal of Honor & Navy Cross

John Basilone – only enlisted man to receive both WWII Medal of Honor & Navy Cross -

John Basilone was born in his parents’ home on November 4, 1916 in Buffalo, New York, the sixth of 10 children. His father, Salvatore Basilone, emigrated from Benevento, Italy in 1903 and settled in Raritan, New Jersey. His mother, Dora Bencivenga, was born in 1889 and grew up in Manville, but her parents, Carlo and Catrina, also came from Benevento. His parents met at a church gathering and married three years later. Basilone grew up in the nearby Raritan Town (now Borough of Raritan) where he attended St. Bernard Parochial School. After completing middle school at the age of 15, he dropped out prior to attending high school.

John Basilone was a United States Marine Gunnery Sergeant who received the nation’s highest military award for valor, the Medal of Honor, for heroism during the Battle of Guadalcanal in World War II. He was the only Marine enlisted man to receive both the Medal of Honor and the Navy Cross in World War II.

He served three years in the United States Army with duty in the Philippines. He enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1940, claiming that the army “wasn’t tough enough” and was deployed to Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and then to Guadalcanal where he held off 3,000 Japanese troops after his 15-member unit was reduced to two other men. On the first day of the Battle of Iwo Jima, he was killed in action, after which he was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross for extraordinary heroism. He has received many honors including being the namesake for streets, military locations, and a United States Navy destroyer.

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