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Munro and Basilone – Equal to their Gift

Posted on Monday, November 27, 2023
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by AMAC, Robert B. Charles
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20 Comments
John Basilone (US Marine) & Doug Munro (US Coast Guard)
John Basilone (Left) & Doug Munro (Right)

Are we equal to those to those who came before, who gave us the life we enjoy? Now 107 years ago, in November 1916, John Basilone was born to a big Catholic family, no idea the war just ending would be followed by another, his war.

Three years later, another boy came into the world, Doug Munro. Like John, Doug had no idea what lay ahead. With love of country, John and Doug rose to defend America when the “gathering storm” broke over their youth, World War II.

Basilone joined the Marines, Munro the Coast Guard. On December 7, 1941, both knew – like everyone else – the world was on fire, their service needed. They stepped up.

In September 1942, not a year later, both were in the Pacific, caught in the swirl and horror of Japan’s aggression, smack in the middle of Guadalcanal’s Campaign.

In the Second Battle of Matanakau, part of Guadalcanal, their lives unexpectedly met, the way lives sometimes do, God’s direction, no warning, tremendous import.

Basilone was part of three US Marine companies being overrun by a larger Japanese force. Munro led a covey of small Higgins boats, realized what was happening, swept in under withering fire, worked intensely to get the Marines out, Basilone among them.

To execute that rescue, Munro – just 22 – positioned his boat between the Japanese and loading Marines. In that process, he drew heavy fire, allowing boats to load.

With the Marines nearly done, Higgins boats now departing, Munro used his boat as a shield, until the three companies – including Basilone – looked like they were off.

At the last minute, a bullet found Munro. He died beside shipmate Ray Evans. Evans reported Munro’s last words were, “Did they get off?”

As Evans wrote, “… seeing my affirmative nod, he smiled that smile I knew and liked so well, and then…was gone.”

For “extraordinary heroism,” Doug Munro was posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, the only US Coast Guard member ever to win that coveted honor.

Munro’s citation, in part, reads: “For extraordinary heroism and conspicuous gallantry in action, above and beyond the call of duty as Officer-in-Charge of a group of Higgins boats, engaged in the evacuation of a Battalion of Marines trapped by enemy Japanese forces…on September 27, 1942…under constant risk of his life…He valiantly placed his craft with its two small guns as a shield between the beachhead and the Japanese” and “undoubtedly saved the lives of many who otherwise would have perished…gave up his life in defense of his country.”

God has a way of making high sacrifice meaningful. He did for Doug Munro. One of those saved by Munro was John. And you know about John Basilone, right?

John Basilone, a Marine Gunnery Sergeant, was soon in another battle, same campaign, Battle of Henderson Field, his unit under attack by 3000 Japanese soldiers.

Somehow Basilone held on, constantly aiding other Marines on the front lines, until there were just…three left. He held the position, never gave it up.

Basilone killed countless enemy attackers with his overheated machine gun, changing barrels with burned hands, and killed 38 who charged him, using just a knife and sidearm. He did not sleep for three days or nights.

For his heroism, made possible by Munro’s heroism, Basilone received the Congressional Medal of Honor. In part, his citation reads: “For extraordinary heroism and conspicuous gallantry in action against enemy Japanese forces, above and beyond the call of duty…While the enemy was hammering at the Marines’ defensive positions…fought valiantly to check the savage and determined assault…in a fierce frontal attack with the Japanese blasting…” he showed “great personal valor and courageous initiative…”

One can never do justice to a Medal of Honor citation without the full text, but you get it. Love of country and brothers in arms led these men to do the unthinkable.

Basilone came home, fell in love, got married, was given the chance to stay stateside, but wanted to serve, and returned to the front. At Iwo Jima, he saved more men, and died in the process. He received the Navy Cross, the only enlisted Marine to receive both awards in World War II.

John’s widow, Lena, never remarried, and died in 1999. His last brother, who also served, died in 2022.

The question is this – pointedly, poignantly, and importantly: Knowing every life counts, that freedom depends on courage of Doug Munro’s and John Basilone’s kind, that we depend on each other across and within generations, do we still have it in us? I think so. I pray so.

Those who go before teach us, including about sacrifice. Their sacrifice makes our lives possible. The question, if we look inward and outward, is whether we are working hard enough to be worthy, to be equal to their gift. That is the task.

Robert Charles is a former Assistant Secretary of State under Colin Powell, former Reagan and Bush 41 White House staffer, attorney, and naval intelligence officer (USNR). He wrote “Narcotics and Terrorism” (2003), “Eagles and Evergreens” (2018), and is National Spokesman for AMAC.

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Rob citizenship
Rob citizenship
3 months ago

Great that John Basilone and Doug Munro are recognized for their courage,their loyalty , to acknowledge the sense of duty ,to have an understanding of the circumstances of a battle ,it contributes to appreciation of what the principles are all about that are being defended. The history of honorable allegiance to the United States of America – stories like this are important. Well done Robert. Guadalcanal was a pivotal part of bringing about victory in the Pacific then , and this example of U.S. Coast Guard sailor Munro and U.S. Marine Basilone helps to form the knowledge that should be part of the understanding of all responsible American citizens.

Paul
Paul
3 months ago

As I have previously written, it is a disservice to each and every Medal of Honor (MOH) recipient to call the MOH a “Congressional Medal of Honor”. Congress has nothing to do with it, they don’t approve who gets it, and I’ll ask one last time that your editorial staff do its job when any article discusses the MOH. Each author needs to be corrected before citing a MOH recipient received a made up in Hollywood medal.

The term Congressional Medal of Honor which was used in the movie about Sgt. Alvin York, in the script when Gen. Pershing pins it on (Gary Cooper) Sgt. York, Hollywood snuck into the script the words: ”Congressional Medal of Honor” as this Nations highest (military) award, it is not! It is simply the Medal of Honor. It can be and is often referred to as “The Medal” by members of the US Military.

Hollywood, did it again in Frank Capra’s movie: “It’s A Wonderful Life” staring Jimmy Stewart, as George Bailey. It is mentioned in regard to George’s younger brother “Harry Bailey” a Naval Aviator (Pilot) who shot down a Kamikaze that was attacking a ship full of troops, thereby saving all of the troops lives.

Please, edit the articles that you publish in the future when it comes to the Medal of Honor, not being confused with: the Congressional Medal of Honor Society, which was created by members of Congress shortly after the American Civil War. If one does a bit of serious reading, even on Google, they will find that members of Congress created the CMOH Society, not so much to recognize the MOH recipients, but to have photo opportunities with those brave men, to help aid in the congresses reelection campaigns.

If you don’t believe me, you didn’t read far enough in your research. Once every two years, Congress would host a 3 day weekend with daily banquets, booze, and photographers to take pictures of themselves, rubbing elbows with the the MOH recipients.

At one point, a impoverished Civil War MOH recipient sent a message to congress telling them he had failed to attend any of the previous CMOH (Society) banquets due to his poverty, and requested the congress send him money to purchase train fair to make it to the upcoming bi-annual event once in his life. His representative sent a reply that his request, was out of the question.

PLEASE DON’T ASSOCIATE THE MOH by ever again calling it a CMOH.

Rob citizenship
Rob citizenship
3 months ago

Thanks for your reply message Robert , I appreciate it. The article you wrote is very respectful and I do believe of important historical significance. Praise for presenting this story as you did.

David Millikan
David Millikan
3 months ago

Excellent article about these men. Without Men like these two who stood up and acted like men and took responsibility I hate to see what would have happened if not for men like them.
I am Proud of them and thank them.

Morbious
Morbious
3 months ago

Hey all amac patriots- im recovering from surgery and rereading one of the finest pieces of literature to come out of ww2. Its called ‘With The Old Breed’ by eugene sledge. Highly recommended. It covers the authors service at Pelelieu and Okinawa. The hbo series ‘The Pacific ‘was partly based on this book. Eminently readable, it would make a great gift. Many of this generation who were labeled 4f were devastated as was the author. But he persisted….. and ended up on hell islands fighting the most ruthless foe imaginable.

Pat
Pat
3 months ago

Munro was heroic in going in to rescue Marines from Point Cruz but he took his boat in too close to shore and it was caught on the rocks. He was killed with multiple gun fire and got a lot of Marines killed while they rocked the boat to get it loose. His poor judgement cost him his life and the lives of several Marines. Chesty Puller was the one conducting the rescue from the USS Ballard and it is his quick thinking that saved the Marines from certain death as they were trapped between the Japanese Royal Marines and the sea because they were dropped by the Navy at the wrong place. How do I know all this? My Dad was there and I have been told this story many times by him and others in B17 who were there and lived through it. Munro did not do anything many others were not doing that day. Basilone was a true hero and earned his MOH. Dad was in that battle, too, so I know that story as well. Don’t believe all the stories you read about MOH awards. Some of them are just not true. Ask the guys who were in those battles and they can tell you who really earned the honor.

rodney stanton
rodney stanton
3 months ago

Thank you!

Toby
Toby
3 months ago

I think this article was well written telling the historical connection of these two incredible patriots in Service to their country and fellow brothers in arms. I do however disagree with Pat’s comments regarding Munro. Perhaps this article might clear up what truly happened. uso.org/stories/2172-the-coast-guard-s-only-medal-of-honor-recipient. Pay particular attention to whom gave Douglas Munro the citation for the MOH

michael h smith
michael h smith
3 months ago

yet somehow robert charles supports donald adolf hitler trump

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