|Passage below taken from Raritan's Hero - The John Basilone Story|
After the war ended, the John Basilone American Legion Post decided to build a memorial to honor
John Basilone. At first, there was talk of naming a library after John. Soon it was agreed that a statue would be a useful and lasting tribute. A committee was set up to raise the money necessary. Through a nation wide appeal, the money was raised. Ed Sullivan was one of the donors. To build the statue, they chose a sculptor, Philip Orlando, who had been a boyhood friend of Johnís. Philip had lived years before at the corner of Somerset and Coddington Street in Raritan. He had attended Somerville High School. Philip Orlando was a very dedicated artist, studying art at The Leonardo Da Vinci Art School in New York. To build the statue, Philip rented a studio above a bank at 110 East Front Street in Plainfield. He moved in there with his wife Novella and his kids ó spending months completing it. His son and daughter played in a sand box next to where he worked. Philip Orlando understood what it was like to be a soldier, as he served in World War II as a Sergeant. He saw the horrors of combat up close himself, earning a Bronze Star while serving in France, Belgium, and Germany.
It was decided that the statue would be life size, mounted on a four foot granite pedestal. To get started, Philip Orlando built two smaller models, first 17 inches and then 34 inches. Orlando used photographs and his own recollections of John to design it. The statue is representative of John Basilone at Guadalcanal on the night he earned The Congressional Medal of Honor. John is stripped to the waist and he is holding the Browning machine gun that he used that night. Over his shoulder is a cartridge belt of ammunition, just like the ones he had carried through the jungle in the darkness while braving enemy fire. Around his neck is a crucifix and his ďdog tagsĒ. Johnís parents came to the studio to see the work in progress, and gave it their endorsement.
Initially, the location for the statue was going to be across the street from his parentís house on First Avenue. But the final location settled on was the corner of Somerset Street and Canal Street. Upon the completion of the statue, the town scheduled a grand ceremony. On June 6th, 1948, there was a large parade through town. The estimated attendance was 15,000. After the parade, the attendees gathered around the covered statue. To start the program, the Camp Kilmer band played The National Anthem. Then, the Basilone Statue was unveiled by Johnís mother Dora as the band played The Marines Hymn. Johnís brother George, also a Marine, stood with his mother as an honor guard. Father Amedeo Russo then blessed the statue. The St. Annís choir sung Ava Maria. Then Catherine Mastice sang Manila John, just as she had done before on John Basilone Day on September 19th, 1943.
Mayor Rocky Miele spoke at the ceremony, he said ď John Basilone, our boyhood chum, stands before us immortal. He died to make democracy live and to keep us free. Let him be the inspiration for our efforts, for the preservation of peace.Ē Names of the other men from Raritan who died during the war were read as well. The statue has stood in the same location for over 55 years, serving as a lasting tribute to a great American hero.