Table of Contents
Also by James Brady
The Coldest War: A Memoir of Korea
Why Marines Fight
The Scariest Place in the World: A Marine Returns to North Korea
The Marines of Au tumn: A Novel of the Korean War
The Marine: A Novel of War from Guadalcanal to Korea
Warning of War: A Novel of the North China Marines
The Press Lord
Fashion Show, or The Adventures of Bingo Marsh
The Hamptons Novels
The House That Ate the Hamptons
A Hamptons Christmas
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Copyright Â© 2010 by James Brady. All rights reserved
Published by John Wiley & Sons, Inc., Hoboken, New Jersey
Published simultaneously in Canada
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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data:
Brady, James, date.
Hero of the Pacific : the life of Marine legend John Basilone / James Brady. p. cm.
Includes bibliographical references and index.
eISBN : 978-0-470-53555-4
1. Basilone, John, 1916-1945. 2. Medal of HonorâBiography. 3. United States. Marine CorpsâBiography. 4. Guadalcanal, Battle of, Solomon Islands, 1942-1943. 5. Iwo Jima, Battle of, Japan, 1945. 6. World War, 1939-1945âBiography. 7. MarinesâNew JerseyâBiography. 8. SoldiersâNew JerseyâBiography. 9. Raritan (N.J.)âBiography. I. Title.
To all who put themselves in harm's way, especially the men and women of the United States Marine Corpsâthen, now, always.
To absent friends and family, who are loved so well.
And for Sarah, Joe, Nick, and Matthewâyour Pop Pop loves you so much!
The day after completing this book, Jim Brady died, suddenly and unexpectedly. Because he had not yet written the acknowledgments, we, his daughters, have done so for him.
Near the end of this book, our dad describes himself as “neither a scholar nor a historian, just another old newspaperman who once fought in a war.” This is true enough, and yet the statement is not entirely genuine. Jim Brady was a man fiercely proud of his bond with the Marine Corps and of the extraordinary experiences and friendships that he amassed over those six decades. He was also unabashedly delighted at having made a success in journalism. He grew up wanting to write and was a working writer to the last. As difficult as his loss has been for those of us left behind, there is a true sense of joy in knowing that he was doing what he absolutely loved right up to the end.
While our dad did not have the opportunity to compose his own thank-you list, he left stacks of notes and references. Clearly, a great many people gave generously of their time, knowledge, and insights. Some are mentioned in the text, while others remain unsung. Among those we would especially like to recognize are Stephen S. Power of John Wiley & Sons, who first proposed the idea of doing the book; USMC historian Robert Aquilina, who provided what our dad called a “Rosetta Stone of sorts” in primary-source materials from within the Corps' History Division at Quantico;
magazine's executive editor, Colonel Walt Ford, USMC (Ret.); Colonel John Keenan, USMC (Ret.), editor of the
Marine Corps Gazette
; Colonel Bill White, USMC (Ret.); Raritan's John Pacifico, for his invaluable ad hoc reporting skills; the
Vinessa Ermino and Jeanette Rundquist; Marine Lou Piantadosi; and Marine Clinton Watters, John Basilone's best man. Sincere thanks to
who contributed to the making of this book.
Fiona Brady and Susan Konig
Marine platoon sergeant “Manila John” Basilone of Raritan, New Jersey, proudly wears the Congressional Medal of Honor, May 21, 1943.
Whatever the century, whatever the war, machine gunners have always been a different military breed, focused and lethal warriors armed with and operating a terrible weapon in a risky trade, very competent at killing en masse, pretty good at getting killed themselves.
F. Scott Fitzgerald, who came of age in the appalling slaughter that was then called the Great War, understood this, which may be why he made his iconic hero Jay Gatsby a machine gunner. We first learn about Gatsby's war as the mysterious but glamorous bootlegger reveals himself bit by tantalizing bit to narrator Nick Carraway while the two young men speed toward Manhattan in Gatsby's cream-colored roadster. Nick listens, fascinated, not sure just how to respond or what to believe, as Jay goes on in his strange, mannered style of speech:
“Then came the war, old sport.
“In the Argonne Forest I took two machine gun detachments so far forward that there was a half mile gap on either side of us where the infantry couldn't advance.
We stayed there two days and two nights, a hundred and thirty men and sixteen Lewis guns, and when the infantry came up at last they found the insignia of three German divisions among the piles of dead.
“I was promoted to be major and every Allied government gave me a decorationâeven Montenegro, little Montenegro down on the Adriatic Sea.”
A generation and a world war later, in the 1940s, another young roughneck of a machine gunner, not a character in a book but an actual Marine from Raritan, New Jersey, was similarly piling up the dead of famous enemy divisions before his guns. He would be awarded the most illustrious decoration for gallantry that we haveâthe Congressional Medal of Honorâfor what he did in the historic battle for Guadalcanal, and later, posthumously, the prized and nearly as rare Navy Cross, for his actions on the first day ashore at Iwo Jima. This man was Sergeant John Basilone.
Basilone was for several years during World War II one of the most recognizable celebrities in the country, a national hero and quite a famous manâyoung, laughing and roistering, unmarried and, in contemporary terms, quite sexy. Yet today, except among the hard men of the Marine Corps, which so reveres tradition, and in blue-collar, Italo-American Raritan, where the people of his hometown still tend the flame, few Americans could tell you who Basilone was or what he did in our desperate war against the Japanese in the Pacific.