Nov 11th, 1918, the 11th hour the Armistice with German ended the Great War, the war many today know as World War One. Today we use the day to remember the brave men and women who fought in all conflicts both past and present, and hope for the day when war is no longer needed to work out our differences.
Until that day I will continue to remember them. So today I will give you two photos and two stories. Tales of two men, branded hereos by their respective nations and awarded the highest honour for their action.
If any of you have watched the HBO mini-series “The Pacific” you have probably heard of John Basilone. John, having already served three years in the US Army and saw action in the Philippines joined the United States Marine Corps in 1940. After the deadly attack at Pearl Harbour in 1941, the US Marines, including Basilone landed on Guadalcanal, a small island near Australia that had been seized by the Japanese. During the battle for Henderson Field 3000 troops from Japan assaulted Basilone’s unit. Basilone, a gunnery seargent commanded a couple machine gun squads, and soon found himself under attack from Japanese mortars. Over the next two days Basilone was reduced to himself and two other marines, yet they still maintained a constant fire, causing a lot of havoc to the Japanese attackers. And even as ammunition became low, and supply lines cut, Basilone using a pistol and machete, fought his way through the attackers to get the much needed supplies back to his crew. His actions at Guadalcanal earned him the US Medal of Honour. Basilone was held up as a poster child, and returned to the US. His hometown of Raritan even held a parade in 1943 for his homecomming. But Basilone was a Marine, and he wanted to get back into the fight. The Marine Corps wanted him on the homefront, offering him both a commission and instructors role Stateside. He refused both. His second request to rejoin the war was approved and he shipped out to Camp Pendleton. It was during his station there that he met his wife, and shortly after they were married he returned to duty in the Pacific theater. Iwo Jima. On Feb 19th, 1945 on the inital assault on Iwo Jima, Gunnery Sargent Basilone was in charge of a machine gun section, he fought his way through and destroyed enemy blockhouses, aided an American tank trapped in a minefield while fighting through to Airfield No. 1. As he moved along the airfield he was killed by mortar shrapnel. He was awarded the Navy Cross for his actions at Iwo Jima.
If I have ever cornered you with this photo, of if you have a print of it hanging on your wall, you have probably heard me talk about one Canadian man. Sargent Aubery Cosens, a native of Latchford Ontairo and former railway worker for Temiskaming & Northern Ontario Railway joined up with the Canadian Army during the Second World War. Feburary 25th, 1945, Cosens was a member of the Queens Own Rifles, his platoon along with some tanks were ordered to take the Germany Crossroads village of Mooshof near Uedem. The units defending the village easily held back the initial attack, then launched one of their own. Leaving Cosens, two tanks, and four other soldiers left. With the officer commanding the platoon dead, Cosens did what any good Sargent would, take command, and held back a second counter attack before leading his own. Taking up a position on one of the surviving tanks he orders it to ram the nearest farm house while he proceeded to flush out the defenders, then using the other tank for cover fire along with the other four survivors proceeds to move through the rest of the village, killing twenty and taking at least that many prisoners. Single-Handedly. After ensuring the prisoners were secure he started to make his way back to the Company Headquaters to report the nights actions. On the way, he was shot and killed by a sniper. He was awarded the Victoria Cross.
Two men who proved that one man can make a difference. So today, take time, two minutes, and remember them.