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Unknown Stories of WNY: Remembering a local hero

Buffalo native Gunnery Sergeant John Basilone is considered among the most famous U.S. Marines in history, and now the U.S. Navy has named a second ship in his honor

BUFFALO, N.Y. — John Basilone was a hero in WWII and now the Navy has christened a second ship in his name and there is also a movement to recognize him here in his hometown.

Basilone, born on the West Side of Buffalo, November 4, 1916, into an Italian-American family, the sixth of ten children. Basilone enlisted in the Army in 1934, then in the Marines in 1940. He was shipped off to the South Pacific, where he would make his mark early in the war. 

The story goes that he killed 38 Japanese soldiers with a machine gun and a pistol at Guadalcanal. Despite their supply lines having been cut off, Basilone maintained continual machine gun fire against the incoming Japanese forces. When the last of the ammunition ran out shortly before dawn on the second day, Basilone used his pistol and a machete to hold the position. Basilone was awarded the Medal of Honor.

Basilone also received the Navy Cross for his actions at Iwo Jima, the battle that took his life. The recognitions of his service and sacrifice continue to this day. Last week, the U.S. Navy christened the U.S.S. John Basilone. It is actually the second ship to bear his name. The first was christened in 1949 and decommissioned in 1977.

Buffalo attorney Joe Sedita is one of several people who believe that Basilone should also be honored here in his hometown. 

"I'd like to say beautiful statue right in Columbus Park facing the doughboy over at the (Connecticut Street) Armory so we'd have heroes of World War I and World War II paying homage to one another," Sedita said.

Sedita says the effort to honor Basilone with a statue and even renaming of Columbus Park, actually began a few years back, but was interrupted by COVID, before it could gain any traction. He has reached out to the Marines for support, but right now his push is still in it's very early stages, and we will be following it every step of the way.

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