Navy Sec. Ray Mabus announced the service would name its next Arleigh-Burke class destroyer (DDG 122) after a Marine gunnery sergeant who held off a fierce assault by as many as 3,000 Japanese troops during the Battle of Guadalcanal and was later awarded the Navy Cross and Medal of Honor.
Gunnery Sgt. John Basilone was in charge of two machine gun sections during the Battle of Guadalcanal in October 1942 when the Japanese attacked his lines, cutting him off from resupply and killing or wounding all but two of his remaining machinegunners. Basilone repaired and manned another machine gun and fought off a Japanese regiment for nearly three days and nights until the enemy capitulated.
“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,” his Medal of Honor citation reads. “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.”
Basilone later fought in the Battle of Iwo Jima where he was killed by mortar fire trying to help a stranded tank navigate a Japanese minefield.
“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,” his Navy Cross citation read. “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.”
Basilone is the only enlisted Marine to receive both the Medal of Honor and the Navy Cross in World War II, the Navy says.
An iconic Marine, his name has been attached to several landmarks on Marine bases, including a section of highway and a drop zone at Camp Pendleton in California. The Navy previously named a Gearing class destroyer after the gunnery sergeant, but that ship was decommissioned in 1977.
“It is a great honor to name this ship in recognition of John Basilone,” Mabus said at the naming ceremony August 16. “I have no doubt that all who serve aboard her will carry on the legacy of service and commitment exemplified by this Marine Corps hero.”
This is the seventh ship that Secretary Mabus has named honoring a Medal of Honor recipient. Others have included Harvey C. Barnum Jr. (DDG 124) John Finn (DDG 113), Ralph Johnson (DDG 114), Thomas Hudner (DDG 116), Daniel Inouye (DDG 118), and Woody Williams (T-ESB 4).