Joao Baptista DeValles was born in 1879 in Saint Miquel in the Azores. At the age of 2 his family moved to New Bedford, Massachusetts. His first name anglicized to John, he quickly proved himself a brilliant student, eventually being fluent in six languages. Ordained a priest in 1906 he served at Falls River at Espirito Santo Church, founding the first Portuguese language parochial school in the United States while he was there. He later served at Our Lady of Mount Carmel in New Bedford and was pastor at Saint John the Baptist Church, also in New Bedford.
After the entry of the US into World War I, he joined the Army as a chaplain, serving with the 104th regiment, a Massachusetts National Guard outfit, part of the Yankee (26th) Division, made up of National Guard units from New England. The Yankee Division arrived in France in September 1917, the second American division to arrive “Over There”.
The 104th was a hard fighting outfit, serving in all of the major campaigns of the American Expeditionary Force. For heroic fighting at Bois Brule in April, 1918 the French government awarded the regiment a collective Croix de Guerre, an unprecedented honor for an American military unit. There were quite a few very brave men in the 104th, and among the bravest of the brave was Chaplain DeValles. For his heroism in rescuing wounded, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, the second highest decoration for valor in the United States Army. Here is the text of the citation:
104th Infantry Regiment, 26th Division, A.E.F. Date of Action: April 10 – 13, 1918 Citation: The Distinguished Service Cross is presented to John B. De Valles, Chaplain, U.S. Army, for extraordinary heroism in action near Apremont, Toul sector, France, April 10 to 13, 1918. Chaplain De Valles repeatedly exposed himself to heavy artillery and machine-gun fire in order to assist in the removal of the wounded from exposed points in advance of the lines. He worked for long periods of time with stretcher bearers in carrying wounded men to safety. Chaplain De Valles previously rendered gallant service in the Chemin des Dames sector, March 11, 1918, by remaining with a group of wounded during a heavy enemy bombardment. General Orders No. No. 35, W.D., 1920