- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 3, 2002

An appeal to Congress and more than 150,000 signatures have failed to persuade an advisory panel to support a postage stamp honoring a heroic Marine sergeant who died at Iwo Jima after taking out an enemy installation.
Gunnery Sgt. "Manila John" Basilone was the only enlisted Marine in World War II to receive the Purple Heart, the Navy Cross and the Medal of Honor.
"John Basilone was a hero in the truest sense of the word," said Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr., New Jersey Democrat, who convinced 29 other House members to introduce a bill pressuring the Citizens' Stamp Advisory Committee to recommend a stamp with Sgt. Basilone's picture on it.
"I can't believe that in this climate of patriotism, we can't even get recognition," said Jordan A. Jaffee, a member of the John Basilone Detachment of the Marine Corps League.
So, 57 years after the Italian-American Marine was killed on Iwo Jima, a silent vigil was held in Marine Corps League detachments and in American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars halls across the nation. Flags were lowered to half-mast in Quantico, Va., Brunswick, Ohio, and New Jersey.
On the evening of Feb. 19, U.S. representatives, senators, Rolling Thunder members, the Prince William County Board of Supervisors and Marine generals and commandants attended a ceremony at American Legion Post 139 in Arlington to honor the memory of Sgt. Basilone.
John Basilone was born in 1916 in Buffalo, N.Y., one of 10 children of Salvatore and Dora Basilone. Reared and educated in Raritan, N.J., he gained local attention as a light-heavyweight boxer.
He enlisted in the Army when he was 18 and served in the Philippines, where he picked up the nickname "Manila John." He was honorably discharged in 1937, but, anticipating World War II, he enlisted in the Marines in July 1940.
On Oct. 24-25, 1942, Sgt. Basilone was in charge of two sections of heavy machine guns defending a narrow pass to Henderson Airfield on Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands. Although vastly outnumbered, he and his fellow Marines checked the assault by the Japanese.
For that, Sgt. Basilone was awarded the Medal of Honor and sent back to the states to appear at war-bond rallies. He toured the country and met Hollywood starlets. His picture made the cover of Life magazine.
But Sgt. Basilone was unsatisfied back home and volunteered to return to combat, ending up at Iwo Jima. Under heavy artillery fire on Feb. 19, 1944, he singlehandedly took out an enemy blockhouse. Minutes later, he and four others in his platoon died in an artillery blast.
Sgt. Basilone was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross and Purple Heart, making him the only enlisted Marine in World War II to receive all three medals. His body later was reburied at Arlington National Cemetery.
A life-size bronze statue depicting him in battle dress and cradling a machine gun was erected years later in Raritan, his hometown.
A few years ago, Mr. Pascrell took up the cause, working closely with the National Italian-American Foundation, the Order of Sons of Italy of America, and veterans and Marine organizations to persuade the 13-member Citizens' Stamp Advisory Committee to issue a "Manila John" stamp.
Failing to get a positive response, Mr. Pascrell rounded up co-signers and introduced a bill last year specifying that the committee "should recommend to the postmaster general" that a commemorative stamp be issued honoring Sgt. Basilone.

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