This month, the United States Navy christened a new destroyer fittingly tied to one of the U.S. Marine Corps’ most beloved machine gunners of World War II, John Basilone. The christening comes just as the nation approaches the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Guadalcanal, where Basilone earned the Medal of Honor for his heroism during the fight for Henderson Field.

It's also not the first time that the Navy named a new destroyer after John Basilone, with the first keel being laid in 1945. In fact, Basilone’s mark on the Marine Corps extends to new recruits and graduating Marines today, with “Basilone’s Challenge” awaiting Hollywood Marines passing their way through the Crucible at Camp Pendleton, California, on the way to graduation from Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego.

That, despite the fact that the venerable machine gunner himself recruited out of Maryland in 1940 and thus passed through the prestigious gates of Parris Island in South Carolina. Perhaps more to the point, more than 1.5 million Marines have passed through MCRD San Diego since it opened, and the name Gunnery Sgt. John Basilone is well-ingrained in the memories of more than a few Leathernecks who planted their feet on the yellow footprints since his passing.

As for the Navy’s new ship, the USS Basilone joins the American fleet as a Flight IIA Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer – the original having hit the waves as a Gearing-class destroyer in 1949. 

U.S. Marine John Basilone. (USMC Photo)

Despite his status as an American war hero who had survived some of the most brutal fighting faced by Marines in the Pacific, Basilone pushed to return to the wartime Fleet Marine Forces. He once again led Marines into battle during the campaign to take Iwo Jima in 1945, where he was killed in action while helping to move his Marines through reinforced enemy positions to penetrate enemy lines and successfully move his men off the beach.

“Stouthearted and indomitable, Gunnery Sergeant BASILONE, by his intrepid initiative, outstanding skill, and valiant spirit of self-sacrifice in the face of the fanatic opposition, contributed materially to the advance of his company during the early critical period of the assault…”
- Navy Cross citation, Iwo Jima

That is about as teary-eyed as you get in a Marine Corps’ after-action report. But it rings through the Corps today as the legacy of the “I’m Staying with My Boys” Marine from the Greatest Generation is still taught every single day to the next generation of Leathernecks, regardless of what coast they land on.

Banner image: USS Basilone christening ceremony, June 18, 2022. (Photo: General Dynamics Bath Iron Works)