If your wife has ever asked you, “Do these pants make me look fat?” then you know the feeling of not having the perfect answer. When I looked at the bracket this afternoon and saw Sgt. Maj. Dan Daly and Gunnery Sgt. John Basilone, I had that exact feeling.
Daly was dubbed “the fightin’est Marine I ever knew” by Maj. Gen. Smedley Butler and it suits him well. He’s fought in three conflicts, lending his deadly arts to the most brutal fighting in all three.
First, there was the Boxer Rebellion in China in 1900. Standing a mere 5’6” and weighing only 132 pounds, Daly laid waste to more than 200 enemy attackers single-handedly, earning his first Medal of Honor.
Then, during the Haitian campaign, at 42 years old, Daly led three Marine squads to victory against 400 Haitian insurgents in an intense all-night firefight.
Finally, three years later in World War I, Daly would earn the Distinguished Service Star, the Navy Cross and a Silver Star medal for a slew of heroic actions. In one day of the war alone, Daly captured a machinegun emplacement, unassisted, with a pistol and hand grenades and saved wounded men from the battlefield under intense enemy fire.
Daly kicked more ass in his forties than most Marines during their entire career! And he only lived to be 63, so that’s saying something.
Basilone is no stranger to intense fighting himself. He’s most notably known for his actions on Guadalcanal in 1942, where he and his two machinegun sections crushed a Japanese regiment. Through a trifecta of machinegun fire, mortar and grenades, Basilone rearmed one his disabled sections with a new gun. He then repaired another gun, manned it with deadly effect and repelled the enemy until reinforcements arrived. Later that day, Basilone ran through enemy lines to retrieve ammunition for his Marines. All in a day’s work for ol’ Manila John.
Basilone’s life was cut short later in the war during the battle on Iwo Jima. He kept up his recently established tradition of cramming more heroic acts into one day than most do in a lifetime. While earning the Navy Cross, Basilone destroyed an enemy blockhouse, then the supporting enemy strong point and eventually the entire garrison. That was all before freakin’ breakfast. Then, for lunch, he fought with Marines up a sloping, machinegun-riddled hill to reach an airfield. Later, he led a tank through an enemy minefield. He was finally killed assaulting toward the edge of the airfield by a nearby mortar shell. Once again, all in a day’s work.
When I read Basilone’s citations, I feel that even if you could schedule out a day of war, and perform at 100 percent efficiency, a normal man could never accomplish the heroics Basilone did in just one day. It’s astonishing.
These men represent the Marines’ stouthearted, fighting spirit and that’s why they both continue to be honored through multiple rounds of the bracket. But one must move on.
As far as fighting and winning goes, Daly wrote the book, not to mention most of his medals were earned at an age when many are becoming grandpas. For that, he takes the service category.
However, legacy goes the other way. Although Daly lived longer, fought in more wars and even had a Navy destroyer named after him, his legacy in today’s culture doesn’t match up to Basilone’s.
Those of you who have done the Basilone Challenge during The Crucible at boot camp know what I’m talking about. There’s something about the legacy of Basilone that embeds itself that everything Marines do. Manila John comes up in conversation nearly as often as Chesty.
His legacy lead to the christening of the USS Basilone Destroyer in 1949. The memory of Basilone has fostered more recent traditions like the 22-year-running Basilone memorial parade in his hometown and the release of the “Distinguished Marines” stamps by the U.S. Postal Service in 2005.
Basilone was also the focus of the 2010 HBO Series, “The Pacific.”
Although Basilone keeps appearing, every few years, in things from stamps to TV shows, Daly keeps his legacy eternally relevant with one of the Corps’ most famous quotes.
“Come on, you sons of bitches, Do you want to live forever?”
I’d like to think Basilone heard that quote a time or two coming up as a Marine because he followed it to his death. His tenacious spirit has allowed his legacy to live on for generations, and I think that would make Daly proud.
Legacy goes to Basilone.
Both of these Marines motivate everyone who knows about them, but there are some little-known details about the two that set them apart.
If you’ve ever been a Marine, then you know about Oceanside, Calif. outside of Camp Pendleton (AKA Marine Town). Basilone knew about it too. In fact, he was married in Oceanside to a Marine by the name of Sgt. Lena Mae Riggi. He took his new bride to honeymoon at an onion farm in Oregon.
Almost immediately after the festivities, he requested to go back overseas to continue fighting.
Pretty motivating trash, right?
Daly does him one better.
Supposedly, Daly was offered a commission twice, to which Daly said he would rather be, “an outstanding sergeant than just another officer.” He didn’t like medals either, saying that they are, “a lot of foolishness.”
In addition to combat in China, Haiti and France, he served in Panama, Cuba, Mexico and Puerto Rico.
In all, Daly fought against more than five different nations, making him probably the most wanted man in the world at his time.
After his Marine Corps career, Daly served as a bank guard on Wall Street, New York City. It was known as the most dangerous bank in the world, not really, but I’d be scared to look at someone wrong with Daly on guard.
Although it won’t please everyone, I have to give the round to Sgt. Maj. Dan Daly. As an older man of smaller stature, he proved there is no job too big and no enemy too strong for a fighting Marine.
— — — — — —
Daly vs Lejeune
Foss vs Hulbert
Diamond vs Gray
Basilone vs Johnson
Puller vs Barnum
Hathcock vs Mawhinney
Vittori vs Glenn
Butler vs Davis
Daly vs Foss
Diamond vs Basilone
Puller vs Hathcock
Glenn vs Butler
Daly vs Basilone
Puller vs Butler
The Ultimate Marine’s Marine
Daly vs Puller
— — — — — —
Ultimate Marine (Daly vs Puller)
April 11th, 2013 // By Marine Corps Social Media
It’s ironic that two of the Marine Corps’ biggest legends are some of its smaller statured men. Sgt. Maj. Dan Daly stood a mere 5’6” at 132 pounds and Lt. Gen. Lewis “Chesty” Puller wasn’t [Read more…]
Ultimate Marine (Puller vs Butler)
April 10th, 2013 // By Marine Corps Social Media
Honestly, I wouldn’t bet nicknames like “Old Gimlet Eye,” “The Fighting Quaker,” and “Old Duckboard” would strike fear in the hearts of the enemy or reverence in the hearts of U.S. Marines. “Chesty,” on the [Read more…]
Ultimate Marine (Puller vs Hathcock)
April 7th, 2013 // By Bing West
This round is being judged by Bing West. West served in Marine infantry in Vietnam and has written eight books about Marines in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. Basically, you cannot compare these two; you can only [Read more…]
Ultimate Marine (Diamond vs Basilone)
April 6th, 2013 // By Colonel Walt Ford, USMC (Ret)
This round is being judged by Colonel Walt Ford, USMC (Ret), the publisher for Marine Corps Association periodicals and editor of Leatherneck Magazine. Leatherneck, started by then-Brigadier General John A. Lejeune in 1917 as the Marine [Read more…]
Ultimate Marine (Butler vs Davis)
April 4th, 2013 // By Marine Corps Social Media
Comparing Maj. Gen. Smedley Darlington Butler to Gen. Ray Gilbert Davis is like comparing the Sloppy Joe MRE to the Chili Mac MRE. The main meals are frickin’ delicious, but it’s the extra goodies you [Read more…]