American Portraits

John Basilone’s Sacrifice

In this lesson, students will learn about the actions of John Basilone during World War II. They will explore how his actions helped advanced the allied cause. They will also understand his motivations for returning to combat. Through his example, they will learn how they can act selflessly in their own lives.

Founding Principles

Civic Virtue image

Civic Virtue

A set of actions and habits necessary for the safe, effective, and mutually beneficial participation in a society.

Individual Responsibility image

Individual Responsibility

Individuals must take care of themselves and their families and be vigilant to preserve their liberty.

Narrative

John Basilone was born in 1916 and grew up in New Jersey. The son of an Italian immigrant, he was the sixth of ten children. He joined the peacetime military in 1934, first serving in the Army. It was during this time that John first was shipped to the Pacific when he was stationed in the Philippines for three years. While there, he gained a reputation as a boxer and a rabble-rouser….

Narrative PDF

Compelling Question

How can John Basilone’s commitment to his purpose inspire you to be selfless in pursuit of your own purpose?

Virtue Defined

Self-sacrifice is purposeful action exchanging personal loss for the good of others.

Lesson Overview

In this lesson, students will learn about the actions of John Basilone during World War II. They will explore how his actions helped advanced the allied cause. They will also understand his motivations for returning to combat. Through his example, they will learn how they can act selflessly in their own lives.

Objectives

  • Students will analyze John Basilone’s actions during World War II.
  • Students will understand how acting selflessly can benefit others.
  • Students will understand how they can act more selflessly in their own lives.

Background

On December 7, 1941, the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor and brought the United States into the Second World War. The war was divided into two fronts. In Europe, the United States and its allies fought against Adolf Hitler and his Nazi regime. In the Pacific, the United States engaged in a brutal island-hopping campaign, inching ever closer to the Japanese mainland. One of the first major conflicts in this latter theater was on Guadalcanal. The United States Marine Corps led the brunt of the fighting for this small island in the Solomon Island chain. After six months of intense combat, the United States finally prevailed, but not until after suffering over 7,000 casualties. One Marine who set himself apart in this horrific fight was John Basilone.

Vocabulary

  • Theater
  • Front
  • Campaign
  • Perimeter
  • Heroism
  • Valor
  • Rabble-rouser
  • Allies
  • Contested
  • Annihilated
  • Gallantry
  • War bonds
  • Haranguing

Introduce Text

Have students read the background and narrative, keeping the Compelling Question in mind as they read. Then have them answer the remaining questions below.

For more robust lesson treatment, check out our partners at the Character Formation Project

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Questions

Walk-In-The-Shoes Questions
As you read, imagine you are the protagonist.

  • What challenges are you facing?
  • What fears or concerns might you have?
  • What may prevent you from acting in the way you ought?

Observation Questions

  • Who was John Basilone?
  • Why did John return to the Pacific after being shipped home?
  • How did John Basilone’s actions help to shape his identity?

Discussion Questions
Discuss the following questions with your students.

  • What is the historical context of the narrative?
  • What historical circumstances presented a challenge to the protagonist?
  • How and why did the individual exhibit a moral and/or civic virtue in facing and overcoming the challenge?
  • How did the exercise of the virtue benefit civil society?
  • How might exercise of the virtue benefit the protagonist?
  • What might the exercise of the virtue cost the protagonist?
  • Would you react the same under similar circumstances? Why or why not?
  • How can you act similarly in your own life? What obstacles must you overcome in order to do so?

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