John Basilone: Machine Gun Man

Nathan Chandler

Image: Wiki Commons

About This Quiz

Every conflict sees many men and women held up as examples of bravery under fire. But John Basilone was the real deal. He found a brotherhood with his men -- and he led them to blood-stained glory. How much do you know about Basilone and his wartime feats?

John Basilone is best known as a hero in which war?

Basilone fought in World War II and left a legacy as one of America's bravest -- and most tragic -- heroes of combat.

He is still one of America's most-loved soldiers. In which branch of the military did Basilone serve?

Basilone signed up for the Marines and embraced the Corps fundamental philosophies. He believed in fighting for something bigger than himself.

Basilone is one of the country's most famous soldiers. Where did he grow up?

He was a kid from Buffalo, New York. John was the sixth of 10 children.

He enlisted in the Army long before the war. Where was he deployed?

In the mid-1930s, Basilone joined the Army and served in the Philippines. When his enlistment was up, he headed home for Maryland.

He left behind military life. What occupation did Basilone take up in Maryland?

Basilone gave up the Army for truck driving and almost immediately was bored out of his mind. He decided to enlist again, but this time, with the Marines.

What was Basilone's nickname?

Basilone waxed poetic about his experiences in Manila, so much so that other soldiers associated him with the city in the Philippines. They called him Manila John.

Basilone was a competent leader who worked his way up the ranks. Which rank did he achieve?

Basilone was a Gunnery Sgt. It's the seventh enlisted rank in the Marine Corps. These men are often nicknamed "gunny."

What level of education did Basilone achieve?

Basilone wasn't a particularly enthusiastic student. He finished middle school but then left the system before even starting high school classes.

When he was serving with the Army in the Philippines, Basilone became known for his prowess in which sport?

Even in peacetime, Basilone liked gritty physical challenges. He became a standout boxer during his service in the Philippines.

Basilone enlisted with the Marines in large part because he wanted to get back to the Philippines. When his training was over, where did the Marines actually deploy him?

Well, Cuba is nice, too, right? Manila John did not exactly get his desired destination. But it wasn't long before he'd again see the west side of the Pacific … whether he wanted to or not.

The Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in December of 1941. Where was Basilone sent to fight?

The Marines needed all the men they could get their hands on to roll back Japanese intrusions in the West Pacific. John was sent to the Pacific theater to help push the men of the Rising Sun back to Tokyo.

The Marines launched Operation Watchtower, which was meant to attack the Japanese at which place?

On August 7, 1942, the Marines launched an assault on Guadalcanal, in an effort to stymie Japanese attempts to gain air superiority in the area. Guadalcanal is legendary for being a bloody, awful mess.

In October, Basilone was a key part of a Guadalcanal battle in which the Japanese were attempting to do what?

The Japanese had no intentions of giving up the Guadalcanal area. They struck back in October in an effort to take Henderson Airfield from the Americans.

About how many Japanese soldiers were sent to capture the airfield?

The Japanese sent 3,000 battle-hardened soldiers to take the airfield. They took heavy losses but inflicted the same on the Americans.

What was John Basilone doing during the hard-fought battle?

Basilone took charge of a heavy machine and directed his men to turn back the Japanese assaults. For about three days, the men desperately tried to hold on in spite of little rest, food or water.

As the battle wore on, how many Marines were left standing with Basilone?

Three Marines, including Basilone, where all that was left as the Japanese finally retreated. They left behind more than 1,000 dead, many of whom had fallen prey to Basilone's ceaseless barrage of machine gun fire.

During the battle, his machine guns jammed or ran out of ammo. Then what did Basilone do?

When the machine gun became impossible to use, Basilone had no intention of retreating. He drew his .45 pistol and shot the enemy at close range.

Following his heroics at Guadalcanal, Basilone was promoted to Gunnery Sgt. Then what happened?

The military brass promoted Basilone, gave him the Medal of Honor, and then sent him back to the United States. The turn of events took him and his men by surprise.

Why did the military send one of its experienced combat veterans back to America?

For Basilone, it was a mind-warping turn of events. He was whisked from a bloody jungle to upscale events in America where he was tasked with selling war bonds.

How did Basilone feel about selling war bonds for the military?

Basilone felt out of place as a pitchman for the military. He asked for reassignment several times but was denied.

Once his time as a bond salesman was up, what did Basilone decide to do?

Basilone's request for a transfer was finally granted. He was sent to Camp Pendleton to begin a new round of training.

During his time at Camp Pendleton, what happened to Basilone?

He met a female Marine named Lena and couldn't get her out of his mind. Within months, the two decided to have an abrupt wedding ceremony.

While at Camp Pendleton, Basilone asked to be deployed to a combat zone. Where was he sent?

His commanders were a bit taken aback that Basilone wanted to go back into the hellhole that was the Pacific theater. But they agreed to send him to the area again … and an epic clash was brewing.

Basilone was sent onto the beaches during the very first day of the invasion of Iwo Jima.

He wanted combat, and he got it. He was sent with other Marines to find a foothold on the beaches of Iwo Jima. The Japanese were prepared for the American attack.

What was Basilone's last act as a Marine?

An American tank was under heavy fire and unable to navigate a safe passing through a minefield. Basilone escorted the tank through the mines in spite of whizzing bullets and bombs.

Basilone was killed in a battle on which island?

In 1945, the Japanese had no chance to win the war, but they fought on in places like Iwo Jima. That's where Basilone died from a Japanese mortar blast.

His wife, Lena, got the news of Basilone's death on which day?

Lena received word of John's death on March 7, 1945. It was her 32nd birthday.

Lena was a smart, pretty woman. How long after Basilone's death did she wait to remarry?

Lena never remarried. She lived until 1999 and refused to be buried next to her husband in Arlington National Cemetery because she didn't want to be an inconvenience to anyone.

Basilone was the only enlisted Marine during World War II to receive both the Medal of Honor and the Navy Cross.

Basilone was indeed the only enlisted Marine in the war to receive both of the military's highest honors, the Medal of Honor and Navy Cross. Of course, he had a Purple Heart, too.

How old was Basilone when he was killed in action?

After multiple enlistments and numerous deployments, he was still just 28 years old when he died. He was mourned as a hero, and Lena never removed her wedding band from her finger.

About HowStuffWorks Play

How much do you know about dinosaurs? What is an octane rating? And how do you use a proper noun? Lucky for you, HowStuffWorks Play is here to help. Our award-winning website offers reliable, easy-to-understand explanations about how the world works. From fun quizzes that bring joy to your day, to compelling photography and fascinating lists, HowStuffWorks Play offers something for everyone. Sometimes we explain how stuff works, other times, we ask you, but we’re always exploring in the name of fun! Because learning is fun, so stick with us!

Explore More Quizzes