In August of 1942, (10 months into World War II for the U.S.) his group was sent to the island of Guadalcanal. The U.S. and Japanese were battling for the island. The U.S. had secured Henderson Field, an important airstrip which the Japanese were determined to take. The Marines had only a fraction of the troops compared to the Japanese. Only a single U.S. Battalion stood between the readying Japanese Division and Henderson field. John Basilone was in charge of 16 men. They set up a defensive position with 4 heavy machine guns in front of Henderson Field.
On October 24th, the Japanese launched a massive attack. John set the strategy for his unit. He told his men to let the enemy get within 30 yards and then "let them have it." They fired at the first group of attacking Japanese, successfully wiping them out.
This first charge was only the beginning of the overall enemy attack. They charged several more times. Eventually this attack took it's toll. John, while manning the left two machine guns, heard a loud explosion come from the right setup of the machine guns. Moments later, one soldier from the right side crawled over and informed him that both right guns were knocked out and that the crew was all dead or injured.
John knew he had to get to the knocked out guns to see if he could get them working. The first gun was beyond repair, but the second gun had a chance. There was no light to aid in examining the damaged gun. John would have to troubleshoot the problem in the dark, by feeling the parts to find out what was causing the gun not to fire. John quickly had the gun working again. As soon as it was back in action, the enemy charged. With the extra gun now working, Basilone and his unit easily beat back the Japanese attack.
The attacks kept coming. John told two of his remaining soldiers to keep the heavy machine guns loaded. John would roll to one machine gun and fire until it was empty, then roll over to the other one that had been loaded while he was firing the first one. At about 3 AM they were almost out of ammunition. The Marines had stored ammunition about 100 yards away. However, this would be a difficult 100 yards as there were enemy troops on both the sides and behind their position.
John ran and crawled through the jungle. Bullets flew off over his head and grenades exploded around him, but he continued and made it to the ammo dump. John threw six heavy cartridge belts over his soldier. As he started back to his men, bullets were whizzing all around him again. But he made it back and soon he found another challenge. One machine gun had been smashed. John took parts from another knocked out gun and fixed it quickly. Later in the night, the ammunition ran low again. John would need to go for more, but this time it would be to another ammunition dump, 600 yards away. Once again the Japanese threw everything at him, but he snaked through the grass well enough so that the Japanese could not find a clear target. John made it back with the much needed ammunition which held off the enemy attacks. Finally the attacks ended around sunrise.
The daylight revealed a scene of utter carnage on the ground. Hundreds of bodies lay dead in front of the American positions, In fact, the entire Japanese regiment, around 3000 men, had been "annihilated". On this night of October 24th, and 25th the U.S. had turned the tide of the war and the previously undefeated Japanese were on their way to defeat. For his heroics that night John was awarded The Congressional Medal of Honor.