Private First Class John C. DeVanie

Distinguished Member of the Regiment

Order of Saint Maurice

Order of Geronimo

NAME: John C. DeVanie

ASN: 38487773



DATES OF SERVICE: 00 Jun 1943 to 00 Sep 1945

UNIT ASSIGNED: A Company, 509th PIB

                                 HHC 509th PIB (Pathfinders)

CAMPAIGNS: Anzio, Rome-Arno, Southern France

AWARDS: Combat Infantryman Badge, Parachutist Badge with one Combat Jump Star, Purple Heart Medal, WWII Victory Medal, EAME Campaign Medal, Distinguished Unit Citation, Order of Saint Maurice, Order of Geronimo, French Legion of Honor


Was attending Louisiana State University for 2 1/2 years when drafted

00 Jun 1943 - Draft into the Army.  Reported to the Infantry Replacement Training Center at Camp Fannin, Tyler, TX. DaVanie thought the Infiltration Course was tough until he did the course at Fort Benning.

Recruiters for the Paratroops asked for volunteers while at Camp Fannin, DaVanie, Bob Grover, De Laca, and Everet Furr all volunteered together.

DeVanie remembers the tough infiltration course at Fort Benning, GA.  It was a muddy ditch with live fire snaping within a foot or so, when he got up at the end of the course the officer checked his muzzle, found it caked in mud so he made him do it all over again.  DeVaine also remembers the drag training for parachutes where they would put you in a harness with a parachute and have you lay down in front of a fan.  You were then expected to roll up on your feet and collapse your canopy.  He spent Christmas 1943 at Fort Benning, GA.

00 Jan 1944 - DeVanie was sent to Fort Meade, MD for two to three days then went to Newport News, VA to board ships at the POE.  There were about 100 ships in the convoy. DeVanie was on a Merchant Marine Ship with 500 on board, seas were rough and there were many practice drills.  The ship behind them was dive bombed, all were called to prepare to abandon ship and then stood down after the attack was over. 

The ship docked late in the late afternoon in Naples, Italy.  DeVanie was sent to Piscinola, Italy and reported in.  That night he and others were trucked to Anzio, Italy along the beach.  There he was assigned to A Co 509th PIB and was trucked forward and assigned to a foxhole.  A week later DeVanie was wounded in the leg while crossing a field.  Joe Hogan, a Medic, took him to the Battalion Aid Station where Doc Alden told him "hell you ain't hurt"

17-Jul 1944 - SO #51 Pvt. John C. DeVanie 38487773 Placed on Temporary Duty with Radar School (Pathfinder)

Lt. Dan DeLeo was the Pathfinder Leader, they performed several practice jumps then went to Palermo, Sicily to recieve training on Pathfinder equipment and how to jump it.  They performed three to four jumps a day.  A Lt. Jackson while going through the training decided that he would try to jump the 6V battery that was used to power the Holiphane Lamps by tieing a rope to it wrapping it around his hand and dragging the battery out the door.  Naturally the weight of the battery caused the rope to cinch around his hand and strip the flesh and muscle from his hand.  The Lt. was taken to the medics and never seen again.  After training was complete they returned to areas around Rome, Italy for final preparations for the invasion of Southern France.

15 Aug 1944 - Pvt. John DeVanie and Pathfinder Team jumped into Southern France from Pathfinder Plane 1. Listed on page 77 in the book "American Airborne Pathfinders in World War II" by Jeff Moran

Pvt. John DeVanie HHC 509th PIBPathfinder jumped into Southern France.  Listed on page 11 in the book "First Airborne Task Force" by Michel De Trez

15 Aug 1944 - (Monday) Pathfinder Teams boarded aircraft around midnight and jumped around 0400 in the morning from Battalion Pathfinder Plane 1.

(This list of Pathfinders may or may not be correct.  Numbers indicate stick order if known)


1 - 1st Lt. Dan A. DeLeo             Pathfinder Team Team Leader
2 - Pvt. Charles MacDonald       Eureka Operator
3 - Pvt. John C. DeVanie
Pvt. Charles A. Petty
Pvt. Armstad
Pvt. Charles O. Baum
Pvt. Culture
Pvt. Theodore R. Houghton
Sgt. Steve Justice
Pvt. Warren McGee
Pvt. Sweetitz
Pvt. Victor F. Trzesckowski
Pvt. Anthony Saiz

Pvt. Vincent Klubster 

Pvt. Roland Rondeau - could speak French
1st Sgt. James Prettyman    Stowaway
Sgt. Manuel Serrano             Stowaway

Bob Erikson                           Stowaway

Lt. Dan DeLeo was concerned with the Troop Carrier pilots not being able to drop the Pathfinder Team on the designated DZ so he bet them a case of scotch on it.  The Troop Carrier pilots still owe the Pathfinders a case, they landed about 15 miles off.  When the aircraft reached the coast flak hit the right side, the aircraft turned right then went back in and recieved more fire then turned right again.  DeVanie was third in the stick when he jumped he noticed the plane had not slowed down and he lost his helmet.  Once clear of the aircraft it was quiet, no one was firing, he landed and rolled down hill becoming wrapped up in his canopy and lines in the dark, he cut his way out.  DeVanie climbed a hill to get oriented and as dawn was breaking he observed a German trucks in the distance.  Rondeau approached DeVanie who had has Thompson at the ready.  They went off to the left and found the rest of the Pathfinder Team and Lt. DeLeo stuck in a tree.  They had no idea where they were so they went to a home nearby and Rondeau found that they were 15 miles east of intended DZ, fortunately the owner was with the resistance and led them back.

16 Aug 1944 - (Tuesday) They encountered a German Patrol passing by Serrano got instantly got up and initiated an ambush, Serrano was immediately shot in the knee.  The Pathfinders encountered two more German Patrols on their way back. 

18 Aug 1944 - Encountered a German Patrol coming up a trail.  The Pathfinders positioned on either side of the trail, as the Germans came into the kill zone Lt. DeLeo stood up with weapon at the ready.  The Germans surrendered several spoke good english and told them how to sneak into the American lines.   That night Lt. DeLeo snuck into the friendly lines to get the current challenge and password and returned.

19 Aug 1944 - (Friday) The Pathfinders linked up with the rest of the 509th and turned over 10 German prisoners.

21 Aug 1944 - (Sunday) 509th was attacking Cannes when C CO 509th PIB got pinned down by fire. 5 or 6 guys were sent up to the castle with wire, field phone and binoculars.  From the hill position they were able to see to German rail guns that would fire then draw back into the hide position to reload.  A call for fire was relayed to Naval Guns offshore.  Unfortunately, Germans had also spotted their position and as the fire naval round hit one of the two German guns, a German mortar crew scored a direct hit on their observation post.  John DeVanie was seriously wounded in leg, left arm and head, Marion McGee was even more seriously wounded and the third was killed. 

DeVanie and McGee were evacuated to Naples and then flew out a day later.  DeVanie arrived at Kennedy General Hospital in Memphis, TN where he spent 13 months in the hospital.  He still has shrapnel from the mortar.

00 Sep 1945 - Discharged from the Army

1997 - 1ST Vice President of 509th Parachute Infantry Association.

2001 to 2007 - Served as President of 509th Parachute Infantry Association

20 May 2011 - National Infantry Association awards the Order of Saint Maurice CIVIS - S00616 to John DeVanie

To learn more about the Order of Saint Maurice:


left to right - Mike Monroe, incoming President of the Association; Tryggvi Larum, Association artist and recipient of the OSM from earlier this year; John DeVanie, WWII Veteran and Past 509th PIA President; SFC Frank Notaro, 1-509th PIR; and Barry Simpson, 509th PIA Treasurer



LATEST NEWS - John DeVanie to be presented the French Legion of Honor on 01 Feburary 2013, 1:30pm. Ellington Air Force Base, 10949 Aerospace Ave, Houston, TX 77034


Click here to see video about French Legion of Honor Ceremony

27 Feb 2017 - John Devanie passed away.



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