Thursday, March 11, 2010

Jersey War Hero JOHN BASILONE- His Story To Be Told in HBO's THE PACIFIC

When you read of the World War II exploits of United States Marine Gunnery Sergeant John Basilone it seems like something as impossible as a scene from a RAMBO man leading two other survivors of a squad that was wiped out, fighting off and all but annihilating about 3,000 enemy Japanese in the Battle of Guadalcanal over October 24 and 25th, 1942.

He was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his heroics. Basilone went on a successful bond tour to raise money for the war effort. He was initially denied his requests to be sent back into combat, and was offered an officer's commission...which he refused.

John Basilone rejoined the Marines for the assault of Iwo was time for some additional acts of heroism from "Manila John"

On Sunday night,March 14th at 9:00PM HBO will debut the story of Basilone in The Pacific, a 10 part mini-series. Jon Seda, (left) who formerly starred in the crime drama Homicide; Life on the Street as well as many other television and film roles, plays John Basilone. I won't go into details about what happens to Basilone at Iwo Jima....if you are of a certain age or live in Central New Jersey, you know the outcome (Buffalo native Basilone was raised in Raritan, New Jersey). For more information on Basilone, it can be found at the John Basilone Parade website.

The Pacific also has two other main characters- Robert Leckie, Philadelphia born but also New Jersey raised, who became a reporter and author after the war; and Alabama native Eugene Sledge, who went on to be an author and a professor of sciences at various universities in a long and distinguished career. The memoirs of Leckie and Sledge, Helmet For My Pillow and With The Old Breed, respectively, formed the source material for much of The Pacific. James Badge Dale plays Leckie, and Joe Mazello portrays Eugene Sledge in the series.

Star-Ledger television columnist Alan Sepinwall has written a very positive review of the series, and it does seem like it is indeed, a must see, like its companion piece, 2001's Band Of Brothers. The series is executive produced by Steven Spielberg, Gary Goetzman and Tom Hanks, and co-executive produced and directed by Tony To.

I'm looking forward to seeing the series- I've always had a special place in my heart for the Greatest Generation in general, but also for those who served in the Pacific theater- my Dad was one of those who was there, on the USS Mt. McKinley as the war was winding down. And, like many families, we lost someone there; I had a cousin who died at Iwo Jima; I was years away from birth.

When I put on the news and I see self proclaimed "patriots" protesting perceived socialism, taxes, or the legitimacy of the current President of the United States, I always have this thought...they have no clue.

Men like Basilone, Leckie, and Sledge were patriots...their country called and they did their jobs. And they went back for more.

When the job was completed, those who came back ushered us into a modern age of a new America. They were raised during a depression and fought in the most destructive war in history. And they went on with their lives....brave men and women who sacrificed more of themselves than anyone in subsequent generations can imagine.

Maybe a history lesson on Sunday nights is in order for a large segment of our population.

I'll be watching.


Linda said...

I've got to get HBO. Until then, I'm going to have to try perch myself in my sister's house to watch this. It sounds like it is going to be great.

And why not? Jon Seda is from Clifton.

Hugh Jee From Jersey said...

Linda- I didn't know Jon Seda was from Clifton until I read today's print edition of the STAR-LEDGER....another great interview by Alan Sepinwall with Seda, Hanks, and Spielberg.

If you get a chance at your sister's, check out the features with HBO ON DEMAND...background on the war in the Pacific, on how it differed from the war in Europe, and interviews with the actors who portrayed the main characters, as well as with some of the real individuals portrayed and their families.

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