USS John Basilone, warship named for legendary Marine, delivered to the Navy

A new warship named for John Basilone – a Marine awarded the Medal of Honor for heroism at Guadalcanal and the Navy Cross at Iwo Jima – has been delivered to the Navy, service officials announced.

The destroyer was transferred to the Navy on Monday from shipbuilder General Dynamics Bath Iron Works after the ship conducted a series of trials both at sea and pier-side, a Navy news release says. The Basilone is a Flight IIA variant of Arleigh Burke-class destroyers. As such, it is designed to carry out several missions including anti-air, anti-submarine, and anti-surface warfare.

“The future USS John Basilone will bring significant capability to the fleet and strengthen our advantage at sea,” Navy Capt. Seth Miller, DDG 51 Class program manager at Program Executive Office Ships said in a statement. “DDG 122 and all of its Sailors will be a living reminder of the perseverance and sacrifice exhibited by its remarkable namesake.”

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The John Basilone was christened in June 2022 and it is scheduled to be commissioned in November. When the ship is commissioned, it will be formally accepted into the Navy’s operating forces.

The ship is named for Marine Gunnery Sgt. John Basilone. Basilone served in the Army prior to World War II, but enlisted in the Marines with the aim of seeing combat in the Pacific where he became one of the Marine Corps’ most legendary battlefield figures. He was awarded the Medal of Honor for his bravery at Guadalcanal and posthumously received the Navy Cross for his heroism at Iwo Jima, where he was killed in battle.

During Oct. 24 and 25, 1942, he repelled a Japanese attack against U.S. troops in Guadalcanal by firing a machine gun from the hip without wearing any gloves, suffering third degree burns on both hands.

His Medal of Honor citation praises him for “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,” the citation reads.

After the battle, Basilone returned to the United States and sold war bonds. He refused the chance to become commissioned and be stationed stateside, according to the Marine Corps.

He requested to be returned to combat duty and took part in the invasion of Iwo Jima, a 36-day battle in which U.S. forces suffered 26,000 casualties including 6,800 killed, of which 5,931 were Marines, more than twice as many as the Marines killed during all of World War I. It was the highest single-action losses in the Marine Corps’ history.  

Basilone fell on Feb. 19, 1945, the first day of the invasion. With Marines pinned down on the beaches, Basilone climbed on top of a Japanese blockhouse and destroyed it using grenades and other explosives.

“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 reads.

As Basilone advanced to the edge of the airfield, he was 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,” his citation reads. “He gallantly gave his life in the service of his country.”

This is the second Navy ship to be named for Basilone. The first USS Basilone, a Gearing-class destroyer, was launched in 1949 and decommissioned in 1977.

“It is a great honor to name this ship in recognition of John Basilone,” then-Navy Secretary Ray Mabus said in 2016 when he announced the service was naming another ship for the Marine. “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.”

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Jeff Schogol

Senior Pentagon Reporter

Jeff Schogol is a senior staff writer for Task & Purpose. He reports on both the Defense Department as a whole as well as individual services, covering a variety of topics that include personnel, policy, military justice, deployments, and technology. His apartment in Alexandria, Va., has served as the Task & Purpose Pentagon bureau since the pandemic first struck in March 2020. The dwelling is now known as Forward Operating Base Schogol.

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