BY DUANE A. VACHON, PH.D. A native New Yorker, Casamento was born in Manhattan on November 16, 1920. Casamento’s parents were like most immigrants at that time, poor but hard workers. His dad was a tailor and his mother a homemaker. Most of Casamento’s education came from the streets of Manhattan where he grew up.
He enlisted in the Marine Corps on August 19, 1940. After his initial training, Casamento was posted to the 5th Marines, 1st Marine Division.
Less than six months after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Casamento along with the rest of the 5th Marines found himself on the way to the southwest Pacific to take part in the initial invasion of Japanese-held territory as part of the 1st Marine Division. The Marine landing on Guadalcanal began in August 1942, and Casamento made the assault with Company D, 1st Battalion, 5th Marines.
In early November 1942, Casamento was serving as the leader of a machine gun squad. During an attack by the squad on Japanese positions, Casamento’s squad came under heavy enemy fire near the Matanikau River. In the ensuing battle, every member of the unit was either killed or severely wounded. In spite of his own multiple wounds, Casamento continued to provide supporting fire and heroically held the enemy at bay, thereby protecting the flanks of adjoining companies until he was physically unable to continue.
Corporal Casamento was treated at a medical aid station, then shipped back to the United States and admitted to the naval hospital in Oakland, California. As a result of his many wounds Casamento remained totally disabled after being sent back to the States from Guadalcanal. Because all the witnesses to Casamento’s action were thought to have died in combat, he received no decoration until 1965, when a Navy Cross was finally awarded.
He refused it, seeking instead the honor that he said his commanding officer felt he had deserved. In 1979, Casamento maintained a 51-day vigil outside the White House in his wheelchair.
The next year, President Carter presented him with the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest award.
Medal of Honor citation
The President of the United States in the name of The Congress takes pleasure in presenting the MEDAL OF HONOR to
CORPORAL ANTHONY CASAMENTO
UNITED STATES MARINE CORPS
for service as set forth in the following CITATION:
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving with Company “D”, First Battalion, Fifth Marines, First Marine Division on Guadalcanal, British Solomon Islands, in action against the enemy Japanese forces on November 1, 1942. Serving as a leader of a machine gun section, Corporal Casamento directed his unit to advance along a ridge near the Matanikau River where they engaged the enemy. He positioned his section to provide covering fire for two flanking units and to provide direct support for the main force of his company which was behind him. During the course of this engagement, all members of his section were either killed or severely wounded and he himself suffered multiple, grievous wounds. Nonetheless, Corporal Casamento continued to provide critical supporting fire for the attack and in defense of his position. Following the loss of all effective personnel, he set up, loaded, and manned his unit’s machine gun, tenaciously holding the enemy forces at bay. Corporal Casamento single-handedly engaged and destroyed one machine gun emplacement to his front and took under fire the other emplacement on the flank. Despite the heat and ferocity of the engagement, he continued to man his own weapon and repeatedly repulsed multiple assaults by the enemy forces, thereby protecting the flanks of the adjoining companies and holding his position until the arrival of his main attacking force. Corporal Casamento’s courageous fighting spirit, heroic conduct, and unwavering dedication to duty reflected great credit upon himself and were in keeping with the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service.
/S/ JIMMY CARTER
In addition to the Medal of Honor, Casamento’s awards include the Purple Heart, the Presidential Unit Citation, the American Defense Service Medal, the American Campaign Medal, the Asiatic-Pacific Medal with two bronze stars, and the World War II Victory Medal
Casamento died July 27, 1987 in the VA hospital in Northport, New York, after a long illness. Corporal Anthony Casamento is buried at the Long Island National Cemetery in Farmingdale New York (Section DSS, Grave 79A).