In September 1943, John Basilone returned from the Battle of Guadalcanal to his hometown of Raritan, New Jersey, to a hero’s welcome. Basilone was a United States Marine Corps sergeant who had recently been awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his actions at Guadalcanal in October of 1942 and the people of Raritan were thrilled to honor their local war hero.

The U.S. Marine Corps had ordered Basilone back to the “home front” for a bond tour, but before the tour began he was sent to Raritan so his grateful town could throw a parade in his honor.

According to a piece written by a Raritan historian Bruce Doorly, more than 30,000 people — far more than Raritan’s population — attended the homecoming parade and subsequent rally. The parade was also covered by Life magazine and movie newsreels of the time. It was a true red carpet event.

Sgt. John Basilone’s “Welcome Home” Parade. (


Tempered Joy

Basilone returns home to Raritan to great appreciation and fanfare. (

Unfortunately for those close to John Basilone, however, that patriotic homecoming would be short-lived. Following his short bond tour, Basilone was placed on desk duty to honor his MOH actions, but he nevertheless asked to return to the war. Basilone was shipped to Iwo Jima and was killed during a direct-action combat assault mission on the invasion’s first day. For his gallantry on Iwo Jima, Basilone was awarded the Navy Cross, becoming the only Marine to have received both the Medal of Honor and the Navy Cross.

His Navy Cross citation reads:

“In the forefront of the assault at all times, [Basilone] pushed forward with dauntless courage and iron determination until, moving upon the edge of the airfield, he fell, instantly killed by a bursting mortar shell.”

Now, 78 years later, the quaint town of Raritan still chooses to honor Basilone’s incredible actions at Guadalcanal and his selfless sacrifice on Iwo Jima. On September 19, 2021, the town held its 40th annual parade in his honor. Thousands of people from the area flocked to participate. The ceremony included a military color guard, numerous local organizations and teams, and the Grand Marshal, a Korean War veteran named Fred Plushanski.