Often described as the turning point for the Pacific in World War 2, the Battle of Guadalcanal represented the moment that Japanese expansion in the Pacific would cease and the Marines would take the offensive. But to call it a moment doesn’t do the six-month long struggle for the island justice. For the Japanese were not accustomed to losing and they would not give up the island quickly.
Fortunately for the United States, men like Gunnery Sergeant John Basilone and the United States Marine Corps were ready for a fight. Gunny Basilone holds a place of lore in Marine Corps history as his actions during the struggle for Guadalcanal would earn him the Medal of Honor while setting the tone for what the Japanese could expect from American Marines.
Always Looking for a Fight
John Basilone was born in Buffalo, New York in 1916. Remarkably, this Marine Corps legend would actually begin his career as a warrior with the United States Army. He enlisted in 1934 and served for several years in the Philippines. While stationed in Manila, he would prove his ability to fight in peacetime through boxing where he would earn a championship.
After his time on active duty was over, John was discharged and worked for a time as a truck driver. Not content with his new role in life, John longed to go back to Manilla and believed he could get there faster if he were in the Marines. John enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1940 and within 2 years would take his place in Marine Corps history.
Despite his initial motivations for joining the Marines, John’s desire to be stationed in Manilla would be interrupted by the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and America’s entrance into the war. For Basilone, his return to the Pacific would take him to Guadalcanal with Dog Company, 1st Battalion 7th Marines.
Despite not being fully prepared to take back the island from the Japanese, the construction of a Japanese airfield on Guadalcanal that could threaten Australia pushed the issue. The Marines landed on August 7th, 1942 and secured the partially constructed airfield.
The Navy Seabees would begin to finish the airfield and renamed it Henderson Field after a Marine pilot who was killed during the Battle of Midway. But the Japanese would not give up the island that easily and the Marines on Guadalcanal would be in for 6 months of brutal night attacks and Banzai charges.
It would be one such attack in late October of 1942 that Gunnery Sergeant Basilone and his machine gun sections would virtually annihilate an entire Japanese Regiment.
A Night Attack
The defense of Henderson Field was essential and Basilone commanded two machine gun sections on the front lines of that defense. On October 24th, 3,000 members of the Japanese Sendai Division would launch a major assault on the American lines that would last for two days.
Basilone’s men had good defensive positions with well-defined fields of fire. But the sheer number of Japanese throwing themselves at the lines would push these machine guns to their mechanical limits.
The worst of the attacks would come at night as the Japanese would emerge from the pitch black jungle, throw themselves at the wire, and charge the American positions. During the night fighting, one of Basilone’s machine gun positions was overrun.
John quickly picked up a machine gun and repositioned it amongst heavy fight to fill the gap in the line. As the team began to run low on ammunition, Gunny Basilone would brave the overrun supply lines to retrieve more ammunition often killing multiple Japanese at point blank range with his .45.
Over the next two days, without sleep or food, Basilone’s men would testify to the fighting spirit and gallantry displayed by Basilone whom they credited for their continued will to fight.
Whether it was repairing downed machine guns under heavy fire or running out to clear a field of fire by pushing over the piled up Japanese bodies that obstructed his guns view, Basilone represented the best traditions of the Marine Corps and set the tone for Marine victories throughout the Pacific.
Fighting Till the End
When the late October Japanese offensive was over, an entire regiment of Japanese would be virtually annihilated by Basilone and his men and the Japanese would never seriously challenge Henderson field again. For his actions that day, Gunnery Sergeant John Basilone would be awarded the Medal of Honor.
Welcomed home as a celebrity, the Marines would assign John Basilone the role of selling war bonds at home. Extremely discontented with his new role, Basilone pleaded for a return to the fleet. He turned down a commission and offers to become a trainer stateside.
He was finally granted his wish and transferred to 1st Battalion 27th Marines in preparation for the upcoming invasion of Iwo Jima. Once thrown back into the fire of combat, Basilone would prove that he had not lost his edge or willingness to fight.
With his unit pinned down by heavily fortified blockhouses, he moved around the Japanese positions and single-handedly destroyed them with demolitions and grenades. Not yet done, he later helped a Marine tank through an enemy mine field before being mortally wounded by Japanese mortar and small arms fire.
Gunnery Sergeant John Basilone died on February 19th, 1945 on the volcanic rock of Iwo Jima. For his actions that day, this Medal of Honor recipient was awarded the Navy Cross.
He was the only enlisted Marine to receive both the Medal of Honor and Navy Cross during World War 2 as he valiantly earned the respect of his men, the admiration of the entire Marine Corps, and a well-deserved place in military history.
Many humans worldwide fear to go to the Dentist for all the reasons we would expect. Too much pain worried they will have to get a cavity filled, and just the general discomfort of having someone put their hands in your mouth. But for the Japanese forces during the Battle of Saipan, one such trip to the see the Dentist would prove quite deadly.
Benjamin Lewis Salomon was a Dentist by trade and member of the US Army Medical Corps in World War 2. Yet, when his field aid station was being overrun by thousands of Japanese, this man threw down the surgical gloves, picked up a machine gun and told 100 plus Japanese that the Dentist would see them now.
A Slow Start to War
Salomon was born into a Jewish family in 1914 Wisconsin. Growing up like many typical American youths of his day, he was an eagle scout, played sports, and graduated from Shorewood High School in Wisconsin. He then went on to receive his undergraduate degree before graduating from the University of Southern California Dental School. He set up his dental practice and appeared to begin living the average all-American life.
As the clouds of war began to gather in the world, Salomon found himself drafted into the infantry in 1940. And while he proved himself an apt infantryman in peacetime, he was notified in 1942 that the Army would be transferring him to the US Army Medical Corps to serve as a Dentist.
Given a commission as a first Lieutenant and he appeared to be on track to ride out the war fixing teeth. In May of 1943, he was sent to be the regimental dental officer for the 105th Infantry Regiment and was later promoted to Captain in 1944.
However, in 1944, the 105th would find itself off the shores of Saipan gearing up for one of the bloodiest battles of the war. With very little dental work to be done during active combat, Captain Salomon volunteered to replace the 2nd battalion surgeon who had been previously wounded.
As such, he went ashore to set up a combat aid station extremely close to the front lines. And this is where the story takes a remarkable turn that will prevent you from ever looking at your local friendly dentist the same.
A Time and Place for Every Season
With the Americans and Japanese in a pitched back and forth battle, this particular aid station was perhaps no more than 50 yards behind the front position on July 7th, 1944 when approximately 3,000 to 5,000 Japanese soldiers attacked the American position.
The aid station quickly began to fill with the wounded and Captain Salomon was hard at work treating the wounded when he noticed a Japanese soldier bayonetting a wounded soldier next to the aid tent. Salomon quickly picked up a rifle and killed the marauding Japanese soldier.
Two more Japanese soldiers entered the tent and were struck down before he noticed four more Japanese crawling under the tent walls. Captain Salomon immediately rushed them and went into what can only be described as going beast mode.
He kicked the knife out of the hand of one, shot another, bayonetted the third, and then butted the fourth in the stomach before subsequently shooting him. At this point, it became clear that the position was being overrun, and no more work could be done here.
He then ordered all the wounded to make haste for the regimental aid station as he sought to cover their retreat. Captain Salomon grabbed a rifle lying among the wounded and headed to work. He eventually made his way to a machine gun position after the soldiers manning it had been killed, and this is the last anyone saw Captain Salomon alive.
When his body was found slumped over the machine gun a few days later, 98 dead Japanese soldiers were strewn out in front of his gun position. Salomon’s body had 76 bullet wounds in it go along with multiple bayonet strikes. For it appeared that Salomon had taken such a toll on the advancing Japanese they sought revenge on his fallen body.
Medal of Honor
If you are thinking that such action clearly warranted the Medal of Honor, you would be right. But unfortunately, such an honor would have to wait until 2002. The Army at the time was worried about presenting the Medal of Honor to Captain Salomon due to his status as a medical officer and the fact that he wore the Red Cross on his sleeve.
It was against the Geneva Conventions at the time for medical personnel to take up arms against the enemy. It was only in later interpretations that this rule was relaxed to allow medical personnel to take up individual arms such as rifles and pistols to protect the wounded. Further complicating Salomon’s case was the fact that a machine gun is technically a crew-served weapon.
Several officers over the years had taken up Captain Salomon’s nomination and pressed it forward with no result. However, in 1998, Dr. Robert West of the USC Dental School pushed the issue with a US Congressman. Taking up the case where such conspicuous gallantry was so obvious, Captain Benjamin Salomon was finally posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor in 2002 by President George W. Bush.
Some men will chase greatness while others will simply be ready when such a moment comes calling. For this particular Dentist, that just so happened to mean getting a kill count in the triple digits.
So next time you sit down in that dental chair to get a little work done, start off the conversation by asking how many men he killed in the war. You never know.
Δεν είμαστε πάντα σύμφωνοι ή αντίθετοι με όλα όσα λέει κάθε ανάρτηση, κάθε κείμενο και κάθε σχόλιο. Επίσης, δεν είμαστε αλάθητοι. Οποιοσδήποτε θελήσει για οποιονδήποτε λόγο να αφαιρεθεί ή να προστεθεί κάτι, ή έχει να κάνει κάποια κριτική ή όποιες προτάσεις, παρακαλούμε να επικοινωνήσει μαζί μας με σχόλιο ή μέιλ. Προσπαθούμε όσο μας επιτρέπει ο χρόνος και η νοημοσύνη μας να ακούσουμε κάθε φωνή. Στο χέρι όλων μας είναι μέσα από τον διάλογο να γίνουμε περισσότερο άνθρωποι και να καταφέρουμε να πολεμήσουμε την παραπολιτική και παρακρατική σήψη που σκοτώνει την Ελλάδα.