Rev. John B. DeValles was a man of peace in a time of war. A chaplain with the Yankee Division, he was known as the "Angel of the Trenches" for his valiant deeds in caring for the wounded and dying on the battlefields of France during World War I.
He was born in St. Miquel, Azores and was brought to New Bedford by his family when he was two years old. Lieutenant DeValles attended local schools before studying for the priesthood.
In New Bedford he served at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church and was later pastor of St. John the Baptist Church. A master of six languages, he opened the first Portuguese parochial school in the United States. He was known for his interest in education and radiated human kindness in all his endeavors.
In 1917 he was appointed as a Knights of Columbus chaplain attached to the 104th Regiment of the 26th Division of the United States Infantry. In 1918 he was appointed a chaplain in the regular Army with the rank of First Lieutenant.
John B. DeValles served 18 months in the war and spent much of that time in No-Man's Land searching for wounded and dying soldiers. He administered to the needs of both Allied and German soldiers. Father John, as he was known to the troops, risked his life many times. His exploits became legendary with many published accounts of his deeds. When he did not return to the trenches on one occasion, searchers found him unconscious and wounded next to a dead soldier that he was trying to help. Father DeValles continued to serve well even though his injuries caused his health to deteriorate. In 1919 Father John returned to the United States and spent the remaining months of his life in and out of hospitals until his death in May of 1920 at the age of 41.
John B. DeValles earned France's Croux de Guerre and Legion of Honor as well as the United States Army's Distinguished Service Cross among other awards.
Father John was given full military honors at his funeral with an outpouring of tributes from national leaders and local people who were touched by his presence.
In October of 1920 the relatively new Katherine Street School was renamed in his honor. The ceremonies were attended by a large cross section of the community showing his influence on people of diverse backgrounds.
John Baptista DeValles loved his country and the country loved him. He was a man of kindness, a man of education, and a man of peace. His ideals should be an example for the students of the DeValles school and the surrounding community to emulate.
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