Carl J. DePanicis
Biography: Carl Joseph DePanicis was born on January 22, 1919, in Saratoga Springs, New York. He was the son of Felix and Ester DePanicis who moved to Ashland, Virginia, in 1934, after a fire destroyed their home. He graduated five years later from Henry Clay High School. While in school, he was a starter on the basketball team and maintained an “A” grade point average. After school, Carl found work at Randolph-Macon College, which was also located in Ashland.
Service Time: Carl entered the service on April 8, 1941, and was one of the earliest draftees from the town. After basic training, he was assigned to C Company of the 629th Tank Destroyer Battalion, which saw action throughout Europe. They landed at Omaha Beach and performed artillery missions in the Caumont Sector before joining the 30th Infantry Division at Mortain. They supported the reduction of the Falaise Pocket before joining the V Corps, in August, for their parade through Paris. Advancing into Luxembourg, in early September, they supported operations against the Siegfried Line and then in January, 1945, moved into the Ardennes for the Battle of the Bulge. They continued their assault against the Siegfried Line and crossed the Rhine, at the Remagen Bridgehead, in March. In April, they joined operations against the Ruhr pocket. The 629th received credit for five campaigns including Normandy, Northern France, Rhineland, Ardennes-Alsace and Central Europe.
During some of the unit’s worst fighting, in January, 1945, Carl received a battlefield commission from Master Sergeant to 2nd Lieutenant, after which he was transferred to Headquarters Company. On June 1, 1945, he was promoted again to 1st Lieutenant. Additionally, he received two Purple Hearts for wounds he sustained and awards from both the French and Belgium governments for Meritorious Service. He was offered a promotion to Captain if he would re-enlist, but turned it down stating “I’ve seen enough combat for a lifetime”.
Once back in the U.S., Carl married the former Kathleen Valentine in 1946. The couple had two children, Mary Catherine and Carl Jr., and made their home in Virginia. He started his own masonry business in 1964 and retired in 1984 after 20 years. His interests included gardening and helping in his community. It was this desire to help others that led him to be a part of the Independence Ruritan Club and serve as its President in 1960 & 1961. He was an active member of the St. Annes’s Catholic Church and worked tirelessly in the church’s fundraising efforts at the Virginia State Fair. The church had a pavillion there where Carl did the cooking.
Carl had the opportunity to return to France for the 50th Anniversary of D-Day. He was startled by the contrast from when he was there before. He told his son that when they fired on one of the German Tiger Tanks, if they didn’t hit the tracks, the shells would bounce off its armor plating, which was twice the armor of their TDs. When the Tiger’s 88mm gun began to draw them into range, the only option was to run and try to maneuver so they would not be hit. They would then call in air support to dive bomb them.
Carl passed away on February 24, 2005, and was buried in the Independence Christian Church Cemetery, in Ashland. I want to thank Carl’s son, Carl Jr., for his assistance with this tribute.