PFC John Chichilla
3rd Army, 5th Division, 10th Infantry Regiment, C Company
KIA 28 Jan, 1945 at Putscheid, Luxembourg
Buried at Hamm, Luxembourg
-- Sandra Chichilla MacDuffee --
His name was PFC John Chichilla. John was born on June 22, 1912 in Pittston PA, a small mining community outside Scranton PA. John was the only boy of five children, he was
the baby. His parents, Ciprian and Mary came to America from Russia and lived their entire lives in Pittston.
As was true of so many others during the depression, John quit school to go to work to help support his family. He met my Mom, Helen Krutulis, at a high school basketball game
and from what I was told, it was love at first sight for both of them. They were married on April 29, 1939 and I was born January 31, 1943.
When John and Helen were first married, they lived in Old Forge, PA and Dad worked odd jobs to make ends meet. For a time he worked in the coal mines but after an accident in
which he broke his leg, Dad said that he would never go back into the mines. Helen's sister Eve and brother-in-law Charlie had previously moved to Hillside, NJ where Charlie
worked for the Bristol Myers Company. He was able to secure a job for John and he and Helen moved to Hillside, NJ. I was born in Elizabeth, NJ. They were happy in New Jersey
and were building a life together and when I came along, a family.
John received his Order to Report for Induction October 1943 but he wasn't inducted until May 3, 1944 in Clark Summit, PA when his order number was reached after the supply of
registrants under the age of 26 who had been examined had been depleted. John was sworn into the US Army at Tobyhanna, PA and was sent to Camp Blanding, FL in May 1944 to start
his basic training. After seventeen weeks he received his certificate of completion. At the end of seventeen weeks, he was sent to Fort George Meade, MD to await further orders.
While reading Dad's letters, I learned that after he had received his orders for overseas, he went AWOL from Fort Meade to come home to see my Mom and me one last time before
shipping out. I love that about him, he risked everything to be with us for one last goodbye. In October, 1944 he sailed for England where he was eventually assigned to the 3rd
Army under General Patton. He was assigned to the 5th Division, the 10th Infantry regiment, "C" company, 1st Battalion.
John's first taste of battle was during the Battle for Metz France, a difficult and very hard fought battle. John traveled across Europe with the 3rd Army and was in Luxembourg
on R & R when the Battle of the Bulge began in December 1944. John and his fellow soldiers fought long and hard through some of the worst winter weather that Europe had seen in
a very long time. At times the soldiers walked through mud in the cold rain and then knee and waist-high snow. The ground was so frozen that it was difficult to dig fox holes
and even when they were able to, the fox holes were very cold and filled with water during the rains. In one of John's letters home, he said that he and his buddies were sleeping
in a barn and it was warm because they were sleeping in the hay. He spoke often of missing me and my Mom and the "good ole USA." He couldn't wait to get home to his family and
his country. But it was not to be. John was killed on January 28, 1945, three days before my 2nd birthday in a battle in the small village of Putscheid in the northeast corner
of Luxembourg. It was the end of the Battle of the Bulge and the Germans were trying desperately to keep this escape route open so they could get back to Germany; the border was
close to Putscheid.
John is buried in the military cemetery at Hamm, Luxembourg. My husband and I were able to visit this beautiful country for Memorial Day 2001 and again in 2009; it was wonderful
to be able to spend time with my Dad at his gravesite. It was a life-long dream for me and I am so happy and grateful to have been able to make the trip. The people of Luxembourg
honored my Dad in so many ways while we were there and they continue to do so for Dad and all the other soldiers who helped liberate their tiny country, not once, but twice. The
people of Luxembourg have not forgotten what the allies did for them and they are passing that message on to their children so that the memory of my Dad and his fellow soldiers
will be kept alive for many generations to come.
I don't remember my Dad, but I have pictures of him and his letters home. Along with these things, my Mom and our extended family have told me stories of Dad and through reading
his letters, I have come to know my father and love him even more. I am very proud of what he did during the war and although I miss him very much and wish he had come home safe,
I will never forget him and I won't let his memory fade.
I Speak His Name!