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The Inspiring Life of Lena Riggi: The Wife of World War II Hero John Basilone

An Unforgettable Love Amidst World War: Unveiling the Tale of Lena Mae Riggi, Wife of Decorated War Hero John Basilone. Their Heartfelt Love Story Remains an Inspiring Testament to Lasting Affection.
by Rob Gillham | Jan 1 2024

As the spotlight shines on the exceptional bravery of World War II hero John Basilone, it is also worth highlighting who Lena Riggi was: his beloved wife. Lena was a love at first sight and she was much more than the spouse of a decorated war hero, but a strong woman with a unique story. 

Love on The Battlefield 

John Basilone proved his courage by battling countless Japanese troops in the Pacific. He fearlessly repaired and managed multiple machine guns during the grueling Guadalcanal battle, often risking his life for crucial ammunition.

Despite his fame and legendary status in the Marine Corps, Basilone held simple family values close to his heart.

Basilone was hailed as a war hero upon his return from Guadalcanal and achieved instant fame. Then he met Lena Mae Riggi, a Women’s Marine Corps Reserve sergeant. 

Basilone was captivated by Lena’s no-nonsense demeanor and toughness, leading to their marriage in July 1944. But only a few months later, John was assigned to participate in the invasion of Iwo Jima, and they had to separate, dreaming about their plans once the war ended.

Sadly, Lena’s happiness was tragically cut short when Basilone lost his life in Iwo Jima in February 1945, only seven months into their marriage and at the young age of 28. 

As their marriage ended only a few months later, the couple had no children. After John’s death, Lena never remarried.

She dedicated her life to serving the Marine Corps and her community and preserving John’s memory and legacy, always wearing the wedding ring John gave her.

John Basilone’s Honor: A World War II Hero

John Basilone’s bravery has made him a decorated hero. As a Marine Corps Gunnery Sergeant, he was awarded the Medal of Honor, the U.S. military’s highest award for valor, for his extraordinary heroism in action during the Battle for Henderson Field in Guadalcanal in 1942.

Furthermore, he was posthumously bestowed with the Navy Cross for his great courage during his deployment in Iwo Jima, where he met his end. As the only enlisted Marine to be awarded these prestigious medals during World War II, John Basilone’s heroism is a testament to his heroism.

If you want to discover more stories of World War II, check out the fascinating book Bloodlands on Blinkist. In this book, author Timothy Snyder tells the tragic story of the people caught in the crossfire between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union during World War II.

The victims of the “bloodlands,” as were named the territories that after the war became the Eastern Bloc, were pushed and pulled by two ruthless powers and treated like pawns both before the conflict and afterward.

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