I’ve been sitting here for maybe three hours staring into my computer screen at a new blank document wondering what I’m going to write. My topic is the stuff of literal legends, some say he’s holy, some consider him a God among men, how the fuck does one even begin...you know? I keep looking over to this gigantic framed piece of art hanging in my house for motivation. The man standing there, machine gun resting on his forearm standing around broken palms and high grass, a slight smile creases in his face. I have this image next to my bedroom for daily inspiration, for my son to see every day, for anyone who visits me they see the Italian Gun God blessing my living space.
Saint Basilone, aka John Basilone was born November 4th, 1916 the same exact year the United States entered world war one and two years seven days later that war would end, coincidence? I think not. Manila John was born in wartime, he was born a Violent soul, only knowing and wanting to do his savage part in this world. He enlisted into the United States Army in 1934 where he broke mother fucking jaws for sport in the Philippines but was discharged after a few years. He stayed away from violence, but it was in his DNA and he couldn’t help that deep yearning. In 1940 when he couldn’t hold it in any longer, he knew the only guaranteed way to stack souls was to become a United States Marine. By 1941 the Japanese wanted to play war chicken with us so bad they attacked the beautiful pearl harbor, within a year our president deployed St. Basilone with the Marines to Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands. In October 1942 St. Basilone’s unit 1stBattalion, 7thMarines, 1stMarine Division came under a wildly heavy attack by the Japanese Sendai Division of roughly 3,000 troops.
St. Basilone being the fucking unstoppable Gun-God he was commanded two sections of machine guns for three straight days, repairing guns, moving extra guns in, all while maintaining continuous deadly fire. When people make the joke “stack bodies”, its origins come from Saint Basilone stacking bodies on his way to immortality. Within these 72 hours, Manila John was faced with immeasurable odds and almost certain death on multiple occasions, but never faltered. He did the exact fucking opposite, he rose the occasion and made sure the enemy would not break that line. When his men ran out of ammunition, he risked his own life numerous times running back to resupply the line, engaging and killing multiple Japanese enemy combatants along the way. Talk about fuck you dude! Imagine being one of those Japanese soldiers, you just broke through the resupply lines and you’re thinking you’re going to win the battle, then this Italian Stallion bursts through the bushes with a fucking M1917 Browning machine gun on his arm, then he hip fires and chops you in half. Fuck that… I digress.
“Basilone had a machine gun on the go for three days and nights without sleep, rest, or food. He was in a good emplacement and causing the Japanese lots of trouble, not only firing his machine gun, but also using his pistol”- PFC Nash W. Phillips
Have you ever been up for three days straight? Once or, twice right? imagine this shit… countless Japanese soldier bombarding your position for 72 fucking hours nonstop. Do you understand how fucking violent you must be to the core to run around and hip fire a M1917 Browning machine gun, maintain the defensive position, repair guns, resupply ammunition, lead the fucking troops and somehow stay alive? I’ve been in some hairy situations overseas and back in the states, but holy fuck I have a hard imagining 3000 fucking Japanese soldiers charging me on some remote island.
St. Basilone would survive this battle and would be put in for the Medal of Honor, the highest award given to a servicemember, for being an absolute savage in the field. The world was in complete and utter shock with the story of St. Basilone on Guadalcanal, that higher ups would delay his violence for the next year by having him sell war bonds back in the states. To say that he was a celebrity would be an understatement, the man was the most famous person in whatever room he was in. Everyone wanted him, ladies chased him, and men wished to be him. He was everywhere, traveling with actresses, meeting politicians, but mainly he felt as if he was going in a certain direction... which was the opposite of violence. By the end of 1943 he requested orders back to the fleet, and by December he was approved and sent to Camp Pendleton, CA.
After many months of harnessing his violence, preparing to be sent back out to the front lines he met his soon to be wife, Lena Mea Riggi, who was also a leatherneck sergeant in the Marine Corps Women’s Reserve. You can watch this beautiful romance unfold in ‘The Pacific’, an HBO Mini-Series about the most violent savages within the Corps during world war two. St. Basilone and Sergeant Riggi were married at St. Mary’s Star of the Sea Church in Oceanside, CA on July 10th, 1944. (Also, my son’s birthday 74 years later). By early 1945 he was on a Navy ship headed for the fight.
February 19th, 1945 St. Basilone landed on red beach II, being the fucking animal, he was, he analyzed the battlespace and knew what needed to be done. The Japanese were concentrating their fire on the incoming waves of troops landing on the beaches from inside their fortified blockhouse positions. St. Basilone noticed this tactic and reacted the only way he knew how, he flanked a blockhouse positioning himself directly on top of the bunker. Taking grenades and demolition he destroyed the enemy bunker, clearing a path for his junior marines to move up the beach. Knowing the Marines needed to get up the beach and push forward to the airfield, St. Basilone again, analyzed the battlespace, and noticed a Tank trapped in a mine field. Being it under intense and heavy enemy fire, it couldn’t maneuver effectively and would eventually get destroyed only to block incoming forces. Unacceptable in the eyes of the Gun-God, he made his way to the tank, he then guided the tank to safety, all under the most intense heavy weapons fire. In this very moment it is said that John Basilone was struck by shrapnel, but others say he was shot twice, one round almost severing his arm, regardless of the ‘how’ he succumbed to his wounds on that island. For his gallant actions that day the Marine Corps awarded the Navy Cross to St. Basilone.
The Marine Corps can be compared to religion. We have Samuel Nicholas the 1stCommandant of the Marine Corps and Founder, then we have our saints, Saint Henderson, Saint Daley, Saint Butler, Saint Basilone, Saint Leckie, Saint Sledge, Saint Carlson, Saint Puller, Saint Glenn, Saint Hathcock, and Saint Mattis. We undergo a 90-day initiation phase and at the end you receive your blessing to preach the violent word in the form of an Eagle, Globe, and Anchor. Every single Marine who passes through those doors on Parris Island or San Diego is dedicating their lives to an organization with rich, beautiful history, the most valiant legends to draw inspiration from, and a legacy as old as this nation. Every Marine is a fighting marine, so every marine has a little bit of St. Basilone within them. John Basilone immortalizes the very spirit of the Fighting Marine, he is the reference point for greatness in gunning, he was and will always be the embodiment of the violent nature the Marine Corps was created to uphold.
Semper Fidelis Marines, Stay Frosty, Stay Violent.
Justin Eggen is a Father, Award-Winning Poet, 2x Combat Veteran, Student and a native to Palm Beach County FL, who served in the United States Marine Corps from 2008-2012 as a Combat Engineer with 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion, 2nd Marine Division. See his other content at www.jtecollection.com