Thousands Honor John Basilone During 35th Annual Memorial Parade In New Jersey

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The Raritan, New Jersey borough’s favorite son, John Basilone, was honored on Sunday again during the 35th Annual John Basilone Memorial Parade.

Basilone, whose historic statue sits on Somerset Street, is the pride of this tiny borough, and is considered one of the most patriotic small towns in the nation because of its devotion to Basilone.

Last month, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus said that a destroyer is being named after “Manila John” Basilone, the second ship with his name. The first ship, the USS Basilone, was deactivated in 1977. The new destroyer with a length of 509-foot is scheduled to join the Navy fleet in about five years.

Retired Lt. General Richard C. Zilmer stationed at Quantico, Va., as Deputy Commandant, Manpower and Reserve Affairs at Quantico, Va., was the guest speaker.

The Grand Marshall was World War II Air Force bombardier/gunner John Sturges, 98. A Flemington native, he now lives in Somerset with his wife, Bella, to whom he has been married for 61 years, reported.

During the war, Sturges was assigned to the Ninth Air Force -322nd Bombardment Group during the war and flew 65 missions, including D-Day, June 6, 1944, bombing German coastal defensive positions.

Banners lined the street during the parade, hanging from streetlights honoring borough residents who died in the Second World War.

Basilone, whose story was featured by HBO’s mini-series “The Pacific” in 2010, became a national hero during the war by leading over a dozen gunners against a Japanese force at Guadalcanal in 1942.

He was the first enlisted Marine in the war awarded the Medal of Honour. In 1945 he returned to combat and was killed in action in February at Iwo Jima. He was 28. Basilone is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

Basilone was born in Buffalo, N.Y. but grew up in Raritan, he also received the Navy Cross and the Purple Heart.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE