Marines Magazine

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Marines of the Pacific

On February 23, 1945, Joe Rosenthal captured this photograph of five Marines and a corpsman raising the flag atop Mt. Suribachi during the Battle of Iwo Jima in World War II.

Come on you guys, we got to get these guns off the beach,” were the last words of Gunnery Sgt. John Basilone, according to his niece, Diane Hawkins. Moments later, he was struck by enemy fire and fell on the beach of Iwo Jima, Japan. Still, he made an effort to pick himself up and continue his attack before he succumbed to his wounds seconds later.

This act was just that of a Medal of Honor Marine, but nonetheless, a common virtue of all Marines during the Battle
of Iwo Jima.

Just two years earlier and several islands south on Guadalcanal is where Basilone faced a full on attack from the Japanese while he was manning a machine gun with his fellow Marines from 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment. With his machine gun and pistol, Basilone’s gallantry was a major part of smothering the attack, killing 38 Japanese soldiers.

Today, Marines embrace these stories of their predecessors, instilling the legacies as a motive to live and serve by. America honors the men who fought these battles. But the Second World War was just another milestone for the Marine Corps and the Marine legacy.

Marines are met with rough water as they debark landing ships at Cape Gloucester, New Britain.

The history is still among us. The men who fought these legendary battles are still reminiscing of the days they faced the enemy with their M1 service rifles and bayonets.

Sgt. Cyril O’Brien, a combat correspondent who was attached to 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, told his stories by way of ink and paper of the Marines and sailors who fought “some of the bitterest battles” during the Pacific Campaign.

“I was a boot and I was on patrol every day,” said O’Brien, a native of Camden, N.J., remembering his days on Guam. “With each new position we took on the island, the closer to the enemy we were – until one day we were pretty much on top of them.

“The aggression was high during these fights. I saw some of the bitterest battles unfold in front of me.”

His first landing was on Guam, July 21, 1944. Though his landing on Iwo Jima was not on D-Day, he was able to see the American flag rise on Mount Suribachi.

“It’s important that our children and grandchildren know these stories. If it weren’t for the Marines who faced these horrific battles and enduring times in the Pacific, things would be a lot different today – a lot different,” said O’Brien. “We have to let people know what the [those] young men did to honor our country.”

Former Marine Pfc. Lawrence Michael Pinto, an intelligence clerk who was deployed to Iwo Jima in 1945, said it’s important that Americans, especially military, recognize the history of the nation and honor her veterans.

“Our history dating back to the revolution were men and women who fought for the freedom that we all enjoy today,” said Pinto, who also served in the Army and retired as a command sergeant major. “This freedom has to be preserved. As veterans, we try to sound the importance of our history through our communities honoring veterans, walls of honor at our parks, visiting national cemeteries, and lecturing at schools.”

Pinto, a West Hempstead, N.Y., native, said he does his part to continue the legacy of the Marines and can always recall his memories of the sands of Iwo Jima – “black sand that you sink into, smelly sulfur rising from the beach, the night artillery landing on ammunition.”

Pinto said there was nothing the Marines could do but to but to dig deeper into the smelly sand and immerse yourself in these elements.

“But it all started to look a little better the day the flag was raised at the top of Mt. Suribachi,” said Pinto.

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9 Responses

  1. PhotoDesigner says:

    If we can’t be sure of how a WWII Marine hero died how can anyone know what his last words were.
    I would suggest what we should consider is that these young men, many of whom have never left their home towns prior to the war, travelled to the other side of the world and fought the most tenacious enemy the United States has ever encountered in its history.

    These young Marines (and soldiers) fought this dedicated, committed, and well trained foe without body armor, knee pads, gloves, or even protective eye wear. They only had their dungarees to protect their vital organs.

    The Japanese owned the night, and malaria ridden mosquitos the day.
    The Japanese soldier had known nothing but victory.
    And they showed little respect for the fighting spirit of the “soft” American fighting man,
    until they encountered the U.S. Marines.

    These young men learned in the ’40s what a fanatical suicide bomber was.
    The Japanese fought viciously and were proud to die for their “living god” – their emperor.
    This was a Jihad long before we knew what a Jihad was.

    Our military today, god bless them, has every reason to pay homage to these men.
    If you have an interest in the Pacific War or in commemorating those who served, visit

  2. maria beatrice corato says:

    I would remember the Greatest “Media Operation” with U.S. Government made, using this mythical photo of Marines at Iwo Jima. At half WWII, the United States need great money to continue & finish the war. And with this U.S. ICONA OF MARINES the People of United States given 26 mld of dollars, taking it by his same poverty. I want never forget the Real Solidariety with American People helped us, the Europeans, also with his Greatest economic efforce! We, in Europe, always forget the American Soldiers who sacrificed thier lives for us. And always we forget the great money spend by the U.S.A for FREE ALL US BY NAZI NIGHTMARE!. No word it’ is enough to THANKS U.S. MARINES, no word it’is enough to THANKS U.S. ARMY! I take Marines photo at Iwo Jima inside my most precious net-jewels. And one day I only would have live: the Day of D-Day & the Day of Marines at Iwo Jima. Because I not was yet born, I re-live these Finest Day every day with all You on internet. Thanks Beautiful America, God of Justice & Freedom may bless all YOU today and forever. Thanks & HONOR, FEW & PROUD!!!

  3. USMC Poolee says:

    I was given an assignment and it was based on this. All I had to do was read it and give a small speech based on what I have learned and read. From what I read he also held off about 300 enemy soldiers from a small spot on the beach along with a fellow Marine by his side until more Marines came ashore. I also read he was killed by a mortar.

  4. Bert says:

    If only someone who was with him knew what Manilla John said. I’d think his family would know. This story serves well.. we should never stop telling our new generation of the island hopping US Marines from WW2. Semper Fi. RIP Marines.

  5. Tony says:

    And to add to my last comment about the mortar round, I suggest anybody interested in John Basilone read ‘Hero of the Pacific: The life of Marine legend John Basilone’. It talks about the false stories and brings most likely scenarios he really went through to the surface.

  6. Tont says:

    GySgt. Basoline was killed by a mortar round along with 4 or 5 other guys as he gave the hand signal to regroup right in front of his first objective, Motoyama No. 1. There is no way his last words were on that beach.

  7. PFC RL FORBES says:

    If it weren’t for those brave men and women who faught for America in World War II everything would be completely different I agree with the article.

    Oooorah! Semper Fidelis

    6th ESB 4th MLG
    “1371’s we lead the way!”

  8. Michael Basilone says:

    Do you really think that GySgt Manila John Basilone would say, “Come on guys…” I think not.
    The information form John’s Niece is inaccurate, made for drama BS. John Basilone was already well inland when he was killed; why would he be telling Marines to get off the beach?

  9. Charles M. herbek says:

    There is no greater gift than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends, even those “you know not and that know not you.”