37¢ John Basilone
Issue Date: November 10, 2005
City: Washington, DC
Printed By: Ashton-Potter (USA) Ltd
Printing Method: Lithographed
Perforations: Serpentine Die Cut 11 x 10.5
Gunnery Sergeant John Basilone (1916-45) was born in Buffalo, New York, and raised in Raritan, New Jersey. At 18, he joined the Army and served three years before being honorably discharged. In 1940, with World War II on the horizon, he joined the Marines.
In the 1942 battle of Bloody Ridge on Guadalcanal, Basilone commanded two machine-gun emplacements defending an airfield. When the Japanese attacked and one gun crew was wiped out, Basilone rolled back and forth over the ground, firing first one gun, then the other. When ammunition got low, he went back through enemy fire for more. Basilone saved Henderson Airfield by valiantly holding off an advancing Japanese regiment until reinforcements arrived.
Basilone was awarded the Medal of Honor for extraordinary heroism above and beyond the call of duty. He returned home a hero, but refused a commission and asked to return to the Pacific to rejoin his men.
When the Marines landed on Iwo Jima on February 19, 1945, Basilone single-handedly destroyed a Japanese blockhouse, allowing his unit to capture an airfield. Minutes later, an enemy shell killed him. On his left arm was a tattoo that read “Death before Dishonor.” Basilone was awarded the Navy Cross posthumously.