John B. DeValles

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Father John B. DeValles (1879 - 1920) founded the first Portuguese parochial school at Espirito Santo Church in Fall River, Massachusetts. In 1918 he was appointed a chaplain in the regular army with the rank of first lieutenant and administered to the needs of both Allied and German soldiers. His exploits became legendary with many published accounts of his deeds. He died in 1920 of complications caused by injuries sustained serving in World War I two years prior.

Early life[edit]

John B. DeValles was born Joao Baptista DeValles of Azorean and Cape Verdean parentage in St. Miquel, Azores in 1879 before moving to New Bedford, Massachusetts with his family at the age of two. He attended local schools before studying for the priesthood where he became fluent in six languages.[1]

New Bedford[edit]

DeValles served at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church in New Bedford and before serving as pastor of St. John the Baptist Church. he opened the first Portuguese parochial school in the United States at Espirito Santo Church in Fall River.[1]

Army Chaplain[edit]

He was appointed Knights of Columbus chaplain attached to the 104th Regiment of the 26th Division of the United States Infantry in 1917. A year later, he was appointed a chaplain in the regular Army with the rank of First Lieutenant.[1]

Father DeValles served 18 months in World War I and often entered No-Man's Land to search for wounded and dying Allied and German soldiers.[1] Father John, as he was known to the troops, risked his life on many occasions and his exploits became legendary. On one occasion, he did not return to the trenches and searchers found him unconscious and wounded next to a dead soldier that he was trying to aid.[1] Although his injuries caused his health to deteriorate, he continued to serve. Father John returned to the United States in 1919 and spent the remaining months of his life in and out of hospitals until his death in May 1920. He was 41.[1]

Awards and honors[edit]

John B. DeValles was awarded France's Croix de Guerre and Legion of Honor as well as the United States Army's Distinguished Service Cross in addition to other awards.[1]

A funeral was held on May 15, 1920, at St. John the Baptist Church which was led by Right Rev. Mgr. James E. Cassidy.[2] Soldiers, Clergy, and Citizens attended and General Clarence R. Edwards placed the Distinguished Service Cross on DeValles' chest as the medal had not arrived from Washington before his death. Flags were at half-staff and stores closed for half an hour in tribute. Following the ceremony, a military and civil procession escorted his body to the cemetery where he was interred with full military honors.[2]

In October 1920 the Katherine Street School of New Bedford, Massachusetts was renamed in Father DeValles' honor. The ceremonies were attended by a large cross section of the community.[3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Administrator (August 22, 2008). "Chaplain John B. DeValles, Angel of the trenches". Catholics in the Military. Retrieved April 3, 2009. 
  2. ^ a b "Mourn Father DeValles.; General Edwards Pins D.S.C. on hero chaplain's breast at funeral..". The New York Times. May 16, 1920. 
  3. ^ "Our Name". Devalles Day Care. 2005. Retrieved April 4, 2009.