He held off 3,000 Japanese troops at Guadalcanal, after his 15-member unit was reduced to three men. Basilone was killed in action on the first day of the Battle of Iwo Jima, after which he was posthumously honored with the Navy Cross. He is the only enlisted Marine in World War II to have received the Medal of Honor, the Navy Cross, and a Purple Heart. Basilone is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
In April 2007, it was announced that Basilone's deeds, along with Robert Leckie's memoirs, Helmet for My Pillow, and Eugene B. Sledge's book With the Old Breed, would form the basis for the HBO series The Pacific, the successor to Band of Brothers.
In July 1940, he enlisted in the Marine Corps in Baltimore, Maryland, believing that he could return to Manila quicker with the Marines than with the Army. Before going to the Solomon Islands he saw service at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in addition to training at the Marine Corps Base Quantico, Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island and Camp Lejeune, then called New River.
Gunnery Sergeant Basilone's buddies on Guadalcanal called him "Manila John" because he had served with the Army in The Philippines before enlisting in the Marine Corps.
"Basilone had a machine gun on the go for three days and nights without sleep, rest or food," Phillips recounted. "He was in a good emplacement, and causing the Japs lots of trouble, not only firing his machine gun but also using his pistol."
Basilone was serving with the 27th Marine Regiment, 5th Marine Division during the invasion of Iwo Jima. On Red Beach II, he and his platoon were pinned down by enemy gunfire. He single-handedly destroyed an enemy blockhouse, allowing his unit to capture an airfield. Minutes later he was killed by an enemy artillery round.
John Basilone is buried in Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. His grave can be found in Section 12, Grave 384, grid Y/Z 23.5.
For extraordinary heroism and conspicuous gallantry in action against enemy Japanese forces, above and beyond the call of duty, while serving with the 1st Battalion, 7th Marines, 1st Marine Division in the Lunga Area. Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands, on 24 and 25 October 1942. While the enemy was hammering at the Marines' defensive positions, Sgt. Basilone, in charge of 2 sections of heavy machine guns, fought valiantly to check the savage and determined assault. In a fierce frontal attack with the Japanese blasting his guns with grenades and mortar fire, one of Sgt. Basilone's sections, with its guncrews, was put out of action, leaving only 2 men able to carry on. Moving an extra gun into position, he placed it in action, then, under continual fire, repaired another and personally manned it, gallantly holding his line until replacements arrived. A little later, with ammunition critically low and the supply lines cut off, Sgt. Basilone, at great risk of his life and in the face of continued enemy attack, battled his way through hostile lines with urgently needed shells for his gunners, thereby contributing in large measure to the virtual annihilation of a Japanese regiment. His great personal valor and courageous initiative were in keeping with the highest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service.
For the President,
For extraordinary heroism while serving as a Leader of a Machine-Gun Section, Company C, 1st Battalion, 27th Marines, 5th Marine Division, in action against enemy Japanese forces on Iwo Jima in the Volcano Islands, 19 February 1945. Shrewdly gauging the tactical situation shortly after landing when his company's advance was held up by the concentrated fire of a heavily fortified Japanese blockhouse, Gunnery Sergeant Basilone boldly defied the smashing bombardment of heavy caliber fire to work his way around the flank and up to a position directly on top of the blockhouse and then, attacking with grenades and demolitions, single handedly destroyed the entire hostile strong point and its defending garrison. Consistently daring and aggressive as he fought his way over the battle-torn beach and up the sloping, gun-studded terraces toward Airfield Number 1, he repeatedly exposed himself to the blasting fury of exploding shells and later in the day coolly proceeded to the aid of a friendly tank which had been trapped in an enemy mine field under intense mortar and artillery barrages, skillfully guiding the heavy vehicle over the hazardous terrain to safety, despite the overwhelming volume of hostile fire. In the forefront of the assault at all times, he pushed forward with dauntless courage and iron determination until, moving upon the edge of the airfield, he fell, instantly killed by a bursting mortar shell. Stouthearted and indomitable, Gunnery Sergeant Basilone, by his intrepid initiative, outstanding skill, and valiant spirit of self-sacrifice in the face of the fanatic opposition, contributed materially to the advance of his company during the early critical period of the assault, and his unwavering devotion to duty throughout the bitter conflict was an inspiration to his comrades and reflects the highest credit upon Gunnery Sergeant Basilone and the United States Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life in the service of his country.
His name is remembered with various honors: