Four Distinguished Marines - 2005

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Distinguished Marines Backgrounder from the USPS

Gunnery Sergeant Sgt. John Basilone

Famous for his heroism during World War II, John Basilone (1916-1945) was a Congressional Medal of Honor recipient whose name and reputation are synonymous with the sacrifices and sense of duty shared by generations of enlisted Marines. Born in Buffalo, NY, and raised in Raritan, NJ, Basilone enlisted in the Army at 18, serving from 1934 until 1937 in the Philippines and earning the nickname "Manila John." Basilone enlisted in the Marine Corps in July 1940. In October 1942, while serving as a sergeant with the 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division at Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands, he was in charge of two sections of heavy machine guns during a fierce assault by a Japanese regiment. With one of his gun crews out of action, he helped repel and defeat the Japanese forces. He moved an extra gun into position and repaired and manned another until help arrived. He later he risked his life providing ammunition to his gunners. Following the grueling battle, Basilone was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor "for extraordinary heroism and conspicuous gallantry in action against enemy forces, above and beyond the call of duty." Basilone returned to the home front, where he was hailed as a hero and appeared at hugely successful war-bond rallies. He asked to return to combat to "be with my boys." As a gunnery sergeant he participated in the invasion of Iwo Jima with the 1st Battalion, 27th Marines, 5th Marine Division. After distinguishing himself by single-handedly destroying an enemy blockhouse and helping to guide a friendly tank out of a minefield, he was killed in action Feb. 19, 1945. For his heroism at Iwo Jima, Basilone was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross. In July 1949, a destroyer, the USS Basilone, was named for him, and today a statue of him stands in Raritan, NJ, where a parade has been held in honor of the hometown hero every September since 1981.
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Sgt. Major Daniel "Dan" Joseph Daly

A highly decorated Marine, Daniel J. Daly (1873-1937) was one of only two Marines to be awarded two Medals of Honor for separate acts of heroism. The 1954 Marine Corps Gazette remembers Daly as "a sort of legendary figure in his own time," and the Historical Dictionary of the United States Marine Corps states that "his record as a fighting man remains unequalled in the annals of Marine Corps history." Born in Glen Cove, NY, Daly enlisted in the Marines in 1899. In 1900 he was sent to China, where he earned his first Medal of Honor after defending the American embassy during the Boxer Rebellion, fiercely fighting off attackers while a barricade was repaired. Daly later served aboard several ships and locations such as Puerto Rico, Cuba, and Mexico. In 1915 he was sent to Haiti, where he earned his second Medal of Honor for helping to defend 38 Marines against approximately 400 bandits. Daly saw combat as a gunnery sergeant throughout France during World War I. Numerous acts of his heroism have been chronicled to him. Daly extinguished an ammunition-dump fire, single-handedly captured an enemy machine-gun emplacement with only hand grenades and a pistol, and he brought in wounded while under fire. He is best remembered for rallying his men at Belleau Wood in June 1918 during a bleak moment when his men were facing heavy German machine-gun fire. Daly ordered an attack, leaping forward and encouraging his men.

For his bravery in 1918, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, and he received prominent decorations from the French government as well, including the Croix de Guerre with Palm. Daly returned to the United States shortly after World War I. He retired as a sergeant major in 1929 and died in 1937. During the 1940s the Navy named a destroyer, the USS Daly, in his honor. Daly's heroism during World War I and his years of distinguished service have made him one of the enduring legends of the Marine Corps.
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Lt. Gen. John A. Lejeune

John A. Lejeune (1867-1942) made history during World War I as the first Marine to command an Army division. Remembered for his professionalism and dedication, Lejeune is often referred to as "the greatest of all leathernecks," and his leadership and foresight helped prepare the Marine Corps for the amphibious assaults of World War II. Born in Pointe Coupée Parish, LA, Lejeune attended Louisiana State University and the U.S. Naval Academy. After serving in the South Pacific as a naval cadet from 1888 to 1890, he was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Marine Corps. Prior to World War I, he served in Panama, the Philippines, Cuba, and Mexico. In 1909 and 1910 Lejeune attended the Army War College. In 1914 he was promoted to colonel and in 1916 became a brigadier general. During World War I, Lejeune led the 64th Army Brigade and the 4th Marine Brigade. Beginning in July 1918, he was promoted to major general and became the first Marine to command an Army division. He led the Army's 2nd Infantry Division, which included the 4th Marine Brigade, through victories at St. Mihiel and Blanc Mont and through the Meuse-Argonne offensive, which helped to end the war. For his service, Lejeune was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal from both the Army and the Navy; the French Legion of Honor; and the Croix de Guerre with Palm. From 1920 until 1929, while serving as Commandant, Lejeune was determined to keep the Marine Corps from becoming antiquated. He foresaw the need for specialized amphibious assault capabilities and prepared the Marine Corps for island invasions in the Pacific during World War II. From his retirement from the Marine Corps in 1929 until 1937, Lejeune served as superintendent of the Virginia Military Institute, where he refurbished and expanded the campus and reversed a trend of declining enrollment. Lejeune was promoted to lieutenant general in 1942. Following his death later that year, an important training base in North Carolina was renamed Camp Lejeune in his honor. Today, in keeping with an order issued by Lejeune in 1921, an annual message that summarizes the history, mission, and traditions of the Marine Corps is published each November during the Marine Corps birthday celebration. Additional Lejeune information: and

Lt. Gen. Lewis "Chesty" Puller

Nicknamed "Chesty" for his physique as well as for his aggressiveness, Lewis B. Puller (1898-1971) had a reputation for incredible toughness. Renowned for his leadership during crucial battles in World War II and the Korean War, Puller became one of the most highly decorated Marines, rising through the ranks from private to general and receiving the Navy Cross five times. Born in West Point, Virginia, Puller attended the Virginia Military Institute in 1917 and enlisted in the Marine Corps the following year. Although a second lieutenant, he was placed on the inactive list due to cutbacks after World War I. In response, he reenlisted in the Marine Corps and distinguished himself in fighting against rebels in Haiti from 1919 until 1924, when he again became a second lieutenant. Between 1928 and 1933 he fought in Nicaragua, where he earned his first two Navy Crosses. He then served for nearly two years at the American legation in China, where his duties included command of the famous Horse Marines. Puller's early years with the Marine Corps provided him with practical combat experience that was vital to his later command successes in World War II and Korea. During World War II, Puller played a key role in the Pacific, first as a battalion commander and later as a regimental commander. In 1942, after training the 1st Marine Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, Puller led his Marines through fierce combat at Guadalcanal, where the Marines' defense of the airstrip at Henderson Field earned Puller his third Navy Cross. In late 1943 and early 1944, the 7th Marines also took part in the invasion of the island of New Britain, where Puller received his fourth Navy Cross following combat at Cape Gloucester. In 1944, Puller took command of the 1st Marines and led them in bloody fighting against the Japanese to capture the island of Peleliu. During the Korean War, Puller again commanded the 1st Marines during the risky U.S. landing at Inchon in 1950. In December that year, when U.S. forces were surrounded by Chinese troops, Puller's 1st Marines tenaciously held the village of Koto-ri, allowing the 5th and 7th Marines to withdraw from the Chosin Reservoir area. For his service in Korea, Puller earned his fifth Navy Cross and a promotion to brigadier general. Puller retired as a lieutenant general in 1955 and died in 1971. Today he is remembered for his courage in combat, which inspired confidence and loyalty in those who served under him, and for the attention and respect he extended to enlisted men under his command.
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Contributed by Len Shurtleff

November 2005