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U.S. Postal Service to Issue Basilone Stamp

Press Contact: Kylie Cafiero, (202) 547-2900 kcafiero@osia.org

WASHINGTON, August 25, 2004 ­ World War II hero John Basilone will be honored with a commemorative postage stamp in 2005, the Order Sons of Italy in America® (OSIA) learned today from the U.S. Postal Service (USPS).

Marine Gunnery Sgt. John Basilone will be one of four Marines to be honored in a USPS Distinguished Marine stamp series that will be released sometime in 2005. The other Marines are Daniel J. Daly; John A. Lejeune and Louis B. Puller.

The design for the Basilone stamp has been approved, but the date of its unveiling has not been set, according to USPS spokesman Mark Saunders.

John Basilone was the only enlisted Marine in World War II to earn both the Medal of Honor and the Navy Cross, the nation's two highest military honors for bravery in battle. General Douglas MacArthur called him "a one-man army" for his valor in a battle with a Japanese regiment during the Battle of Guadalcanal on October 24-25, 1942.

During a fierce frontal attack with the Japanese, Sgt. Basilone was left with only two of his men. Under continual fire, he held off the enemy until replacements arrived. Later, with ammunition critically low and the supply lines cut off, Sgt. Basilone battled his way through hostile lines with urgently needed shells for his gunners, thereby contributing in large measure to the virtual annihilation of a Japanese regiment.

For his bravery, he was awarded the Medal of Honor and sent back to the U.S., where he helped raise more than $1 million in war bonds. He was offered a desk job in Washington, D.C. but preferred to return to his company.

Shortly after returning to the Pacific war zone, Sgt. Basilone was killed during the battle of Iwo Jima in 1945. He was 29 years old. For his bravery in this battle, he was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross. He also received the Purple Heart and a Bronze Star.

Italian Americans have campaigned for a Basilone stamp for nearly 15 years. Among the first was Peter Ippolito of Union, N.J. who collected more than 200,000 signatures, according to Manny Alfano of UNICO National, who also spearheaded the Basilone stamp campaign.

Soon Ippolito and Alfano were joined by OSIA under then-CSJ President John Dabbene.

OSIA lodges and members collected an estimated 60,000 signatures, petitioned the USPS and its Citizens Stamp Advisory Committee and enlisted the assistance of such political leaders as Sen. Jon Corzine and Congressman Bill Pascrell, both of New Jersey. These efforts were supported by petitions from the U.S. Marine Corp as well.

"We cannot find the words to express our immense pride that this young war hero will at last receive the official recognition he so richly earned by his courage and sacrifice," said OSIA National President Joseph Sciame.

"This is a victory and a cause for celebration for all Italian American organizations and individuals. No one person or group can claim all the credit," Sciame said. "We worked together to make this happen."

OSIA is the oldest and largest national organization for men and women of Italian descent in the United States. Established in 1905, OSIA has more than 600,000 members and supporters and a network of more than 700 chapters coast to coast

OSIA works at the community, national and international levels to promote the heritage and culture of an estimated 26 million Italian Americans, the nation's fifth largest ethnic group, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. To learn more, visit OSIA on the Web at www.osia.org