New Somerset County K9 Named After Raritan’s John Basilone

New Somerset County K9 Named After Raritan’s John Basilone.

RARITAN, NJ – After undergoing 17 weeks of training, a German Shepard named after Raritan’s own World War II veteran, Sgt. John Basilone, has been welcomed to the Somerset County Sheriff’s K-9 Unit.

Sheriff Frank Provenzano introduced Bas at a recent Raritan Borough Council meeting.

“We thought that we’d like to name the dog after Raritan’s favorite son, Gunnery Sgt. John Basilone,” Provenzano said. “Since Basilone is a three syllable word and most K-9s’ names are one or two syllables, we’ve decided to name the dog Bas.”

A long-time resident of Raritan, Basilone was killed while serving in World War II at the age of 28.

“I feel very honored tonight because Raritan is my hometown for many, many years and he is our local hero,” Provenzano said. “You can mention his name anywhere and any Marine will know who you’re talking about.”

Bas was trained at the Union County K-9 Academy, where he was taught how to detect narcotics, explosives and arsons as well as how to track humans. Replacing Wildman, a recently retired German Shepard, Bas will be partnered with Officer Shannon Dinella.

Basilone’s niece Kim Van Note — who co-founded the Basilone Memorial Foundation with Raritan resident Don Tozzi – attended the meeting with her granddaughter and was happy to see the dog for the first time.

“My uncle would be honored having such an amazing dog named after him,” Van Note said after the meeting. “The Basilone Memorial Foundation is also very proud of the K-9 being named in his honor. We want to thank Sheriff Provenzano and all the officers.”

Although it is not common to name a police dog after a hero, Provenzano said it is just another way to remember the borough’s well-known war veteran.

“The way we see it is that they’ve named roads, bridges, overpasses, battleships and even a room at the Somerville Elks in John’s honor,” Provenzano said.

To give the sergeant even more recognition, Tozzi announced that after working with Rep. Leonard Lance for the past eight months, he has gotten the support of all the delegates to rename Raritan’s post office “Sgt. John Basilone Post Office.”

“Words cannot describe what an honor it will be to have the Raritan post office named after him,” Van Note said.

2nd Navy ship to be named for N.J. war hero John Basilone

SOMERSET — A Navy ship will soon bear the name of John Basilone, a local New Jersey war hero and World War II Medal of Honor recipient, again. 

Gunnery Sgt. Basilone was born in Buffalo, N.Y., but was raised in Raritan Borough. Basilone received the Medal of Honor for his heroism during the Battle of Guadalcanal. He was the only enlisted United States Marine to be award the Medal of Honor, a Purple Heart and the Navy Cross for his service during WWII. 

The Arleigh Burke-class destroyer will be the second ship named for Basilone. The first ship, the USS Basilone, was decommissioned in 1977. The new 509-foot destroyer is expected to enter the Navy fleet in 2022. 

The announcement came Tuesday from Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus during a ceremony at the Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif.

“It is a great honor to name this ship in recognition of John Basilone,” said Mabus in a release. “I have no doubt that all who serve aboard her will carry on the legacy of service and commitment exemplified by this Marine Corps hero.”

After the Battle of Guadalcanal, Basilone returned home and received the Medal of Honor. He returned to combat in 1945 and was killed in Iowa Jima at the age of 28. 

Basilone’s story was featured in the HBO mini-series “The Pacific.” Each year, he is honored during the John Basilone Memorial Parade, which ends at a statue of the Marine.

Craig McCarthy may be reached at Follow him on Twitter @createcraig. Find on Facebook.    

An undated copy photo of the Navy ship USS Basilone named after US Marine Gunnery Sgt. John Basilone. (NJNP COPY PHOTO)

An undated copy photo of the Navy ship USS Basilone named after US Marine Gunnery Sgt. John Basilone. (NJNP COPY PHOTO)

Warship to Be Named for Fabled Marine John Basilone

The San Diego Union-Tribune | Aug 12, 2016 |  by

A new Arleigh Burke Class Destroyer (DDG-122) will be named in honor of Gunnery Sgt. John Basilone, Aug. 16.


A legendary and much honored figure in Marine Corps history is slated to receive another tribute next week at Camp Pendleton.

Navy Secretary Ray Mabus is scheduled to visit the base Tuesday to speak about a future destroyer being named after the late Marine Gunnery Sgt. John Basilone.

Later that same day, he’s expected to travel to Treasure Island to announce that an upcoming Navy replenishment oiler will be named for another departed leader — gay rights activist Harvey Milk.

Basilone already had a warship named in his honor; it was an older-generation destroyer that was decommissioned in 1977.

In addition, city leaders in Raritan, N.J., erected a statue of their hometown hero in 1948. To this day, the borough holds a parade in his honor each September.

Business owners in San Diego’s Little Italy neighborhood dedicated Piazza Basilone in 2003, a public square that memorializes Basilone in a sculpted bust and pays homage to other Italian-Americans who gave their lives defending the United States.

Two years later, on the 230th anniversary of the Marine Corps founding, the U.S. Postal Service released a series of Distinguished Marines commemorative postage stamps, including an image of Basilone with the insignia of the 5th Marine Division.

Today, a stretch of Interstate 5 in north San Diego County is known as the “Gunnery Sergeant John Basilone Memorial Highway.”

Nearby, Basilone Road winds from the freeway south of San Clemente to the north entrance of Camp Pendleton.

Why all the attention paid to Basilone over the decades? He’s the only enlisted Marine to have receive both the Medal of Honor and the Navy Cross, the nation’s top two medals for combat valor.

Basilone was awarded the Medal of Honor for heroism during the World War II Battle of Guadalcanal in 1942. During that fighting, he and his badly depleted unit somehow held the line against waves of Japanese soldiers.

When shells ran dangerously low, he stole past enemy lines to replenish critical ammunition supplies until help could arrive. After the fusillade of bullets and hand grenades sputtered to a close, nearly 40 dead enemies lay sprawled across Lunga Ridge, where Basilone had staked his position. Not long after, he turned up at the medical tent to check on the wounded.

Basilone’s extraordinary actions helped fend off the enemy long enough on the tiny spit of land called Henderson Field. American reinforcements swooped in, and the Japanese soon retreated.

With control of Guadalcanal and its critical airfield, the Allies were able to gain a toehold within striking distance of the Empire of Japan. Equally important, the victory prevented the Japanese from disrupting the critical supply chain between Australia and the United States.

Military brass knew what they had in “Manila” John Basilone: handsome and a ready smile, not yet 26 and so-nicknamed for his constant stories about his time in the Philippines, where he had deployed during three years in the Army and was undefeated in 19 prizefights.

Basilone was promoted to gunnery sergeant and summoned stateside. He was asked to serve his country another way: marketing war bonds. Instead of navigating firefights, Basilone’s days were filled with speeches and parades. He lingered with movie stars, gave interviews for newsreels and was featured in magazines.

But Basilone, the sixth of 10 children, was less comfortable in the limelight than others. After repeated requests, Basilone was approved for transfer to Camp Pendleton, where he would train for reassignment to the Pacific theater.

He returned to war in 1945, this time to the South Pacific island of Iwo Jima.

Within hours of landing at Red Beach II in February of that year, Basilone’s unit was pinned down by Japanese soldiers attacking from inside fortified blockhouses.

He single-handedly positioned himself atop one of the bunkers and attacked with hand grenades and other demolitions. The threat was neutralized. Basilone then made his way to a nearby airfield where an American tank was trapped under a barrage of mortar fire and artillery.

He was able to guide the vehicle through an enemy minefield to safety but was struck by shrapnel and killed in action. He was 28 years old.

Basilone received the Navy Cross and a Purple Heart posthumously.

–Staff writer Jeff McDonald contributed to this report.

In Raritan, a new effort to honor N.J. war hero John Basilone

The statue of John Basilone sits on the west end of Somerset Street in his hometown of Raritan Borough. (Jerry McCrea | The Star-Ledger)

RARITAN BOROUGH — Kids today can learn a thing or two from John Basilone, the only enlisted Marine to receive both the Medal of Honor and the Navy Cross award, 70 years after he was killed in combat in World War II.

That’s according to Don Tozzi and Kim Van Note, who together started the Basilone Memorial Foundation in September. After becoming a recognized 501c3 non-profit organization, the group booked a slew of events in 2015 to commemorate the war hero and help raise funds for veterans and cancer patients.

“I think the younger generation can learn about how important soldiers were, and how dedicated people were to our country and how less dedicated people are to our country now,” said Tozzi, a former Borough Council president.

A local and national figure, Basilone, a Raritan native, received the Medal of Honor award after the Battle of Guadalcanal, in which he and a dozen men staved off swarms of Japanese soldiers on Oct. 24-25, 1942. In the end, Basilone and two of his men survived.

He returned home and was given the Medal of Honor Award, before embarking on a war bond tour. Basilone fought with top military brass to return to war, where he eventually died, at age 29, on the first day of the Battle of Iwo Jima.

He was awarded the Navy Cross award posthumously, and is recognized by airfields, monuments and bridges across the country. Basilone’s story was also told in the 2010 HBO documentary, “The Pacifice.”

Locally, his memory lives on with an annual parade and a statue on Somerset Street. The John Basilone Bowl, featuring football players from Somerset County schools, is also played every year at Bridgewater-Raritan High School.

Van Note, who is Basilone’s niece, said she helped form the organization to help honor her uncle but to also recognize the sacrifices made by the armed forces.

“I think we have to let people understand that we wouldn’t be where we are today without our freedom,” Van Note said.

“So we need to support them back,” Tozzi added.

The first event, held on June 14, is called the Manila Madness Sniper Race and Obstacle Challenge. “Manila” was Basilone’s nickname when he was a champion boxer while stationed in the Philippines, Van Note said.

Participants ages 16 and up will run through a military-inspired obstacle race while avoiding more than 50 “snipers,” or people armed with water guns. The race will be held at Bridgewater’s Duke Island Park.

A month later, on July 11, the Manila Madness Throw Down competition offers participants a chance to win cash prizes in a crossfit challenge, held at CrossFit Toy Box on Johnson Drive in Raritan.

Three events will be held in September, starting with the Parachute Drop at TD Bank Ballpark in Bridgewater. Before the Somerset Patriots start their game on Sept. 13, a Marine paratrooper will jump towards a bull’s-eye target located in center field, and release 1,000 toy GI Joes with numbers on them. If the toy soldier with your number on it is one of three closest to the bull’s-eye, you win a prize.

The foundation will hold the annual Basilone 5K Walk/Run on Sept. 19, a day before the 34th annual Basilone Parade.

Proceeds raised during these events go to the Steeplechase Cancer Center at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital – Somerset in Somerville and the Fischer House Foundation, a group dedicated to providing military families with free housing while their loved ones receive treatment.

Tozzi said the group is “thrilled about” partnering with the Fischer House Foundation, partly because you have to be accepted by them.

“We’re very, very happy to have them as charity partners because their rating is A+ on any charity website you look at,” he said.

The Fischer House has benefited more than 220,000 military families since it started in 1990, Tozzi said.

For more information and further details on the upcoming events, please visit the Basilone Memorial Foundation website at,

Alex Napoliello may be reached at Follow him on Twitter @alexnapoNJ. Find on Facebook.

New group wants to preserve heritage of John Basilone

Basilone Memorial Foundation also wants to come to aid of forgotten and neglected veterans

RARITAN BOROUGH – John Basilone, the only enlisted Marine to receive the Medal of Honor and Navy Cross in World II, was killed in combat on Iwo Jima 70 years ago in February.

And though he is remembered in his hometown by a statue at the west end of Somerset Street and an annual parade that draws thousands, there is a new nonprofit organization that wants to the keep alive the memory of the hero and to remind younger generations of the sacrifices made by all members of the armed forces in World War II and conflicts since then.

One of the primary missions of the Basilone Memorial Foundation, which gained its tax-exempt status earlier this year, is to help veterans who have been forgotten or neglected, said Don Tozzi, a former borough council president who is one of the organizers.

Basilone would not “appreciate” the way veterans are treated today, said Kim Van Note, another organizer of the foundation, who is Basilone’s niece (he was her mother’s brother.)

Growing up, Van Note said, she was amazed at how much Marines and other military people across the country revered her uncle, who earned the Medal of Honor for his bravery on Guadalcanal. Many had learned of his exploits in the Pacific in school, she said.

Van Note said she hopes the values and spirit exemplified by her uncle will be passed to younger generations.

As an example, she said, her son, Cory Fandel, has written and performed a song to honor his great uncle, “In My Life.”

The foundation, which has launched its website,, will hold a series of events this year that Tozzi and Van Note hope will raise not only funds, but raise consciousness of the sacrifices performed by members of the military.

The first event is the Manila Madness Sniper Race and Obstacle Challenge at Duke Island Park in Bridgewater on June 14. Basilone was known as “Manila John” because that was his nickname as a champion boxer while he was stationed in the Philippines before World War II.

Participants, aged 16 and older, can find out how tough they are by running an obstacle course with more than 50 snipers armed with “Super Soakers” hidden throughout the course. Marines and veterans will also direct participants through 10 obstacles, plus other challenges.

A month later, on July 11, the Manila Madness Thrown Down will be held at CrossFit Toy Box on Johnson Drive where both men and women will compete in a fitness and strength competition.

On Sept. 13, the foundation will hold a parachute drop at the TD Bank Ballpark in Bridgewater, home of the Somerset Patriots.

At this event, a Marine paratrooper will jump out of a helicopter hovering over the outfield and release 1,000 toy GI Joes with parachutes at a bullseye target in center field. Participants will have a chance to sponsor the GI Joes, and those that land closest to the target will have a chance to win prizes.

The foundation will hold the annual Basilone 5K Walk/Run on Sept. 19, the day before the Basilone parade. The race will have a new course starting at the Nevius Street Bridge and will go through Duke Farms in Hillsborough before returning to the bridge.

Proceeds of the event will benefit the Raritan Basilone Parade Committee.

Tozzi and Van Note said they hope the foundation can bring fresh energy to the parade.

The funds raised by the foundation will be distributed to the Fisher House Foundation, a national organization which has created a network of “comfort homes,” where military and veterans’ families can stay at no cost while their loved ones are receiving medical treatment.

Since 1990, the Fisher House Foundation has served more than 220,000 families and provided more than 5.2 million days of lodging, saving them more than $200 million in lodging and transportation costs.

Another beneficiary of the Basilone Memorial Foundation is the Steeplechase Cancer Center at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Somerset in Somerville.

Van Note emphasized that 100 percent of the proceeds of the foundation’s events will be distributed to charitable causes.

Staff Writer Mike Deak: 908-243-6607;