John P. Fondale
Biography: John Paul Fondale was born on July 15, 1922, in Mabscott, West Virginia. He was the son of Phillip Fondale and Domonica Guliata and graduated from Woodrow Wilson High School, in Beckley, WV, in 1940. He then worked as a printer.
Service Time: John entered the service on January 2, 1943, at Huntington, WV. He was assigned to Company B of the 808th Tank Destroyer Battalion and served as a TD Commander.
They shipped out from the New York port on August 11, 1944, arriving in England on the 22nd. The 808th remained in England for just over a month, training and preparing for operations in France. They then loaded transports and shipped to France, landing at Utah Beach on September 19th. The unit entered the line east of the Moselle River six days later, where they remained until transferring to the Ardennes on December 21st. They protected the XII Corps flank through January, 1945, and then converted to the M36 tank destroyer in February.
The 808th supported the drive to the Rhine River in March and the river crossings south of Boppard, Germany, late in the month. The unit then joined Third Army’s drive through Erfurt, Nürnberg, and finally turned south into Bavaria, advancing to Linz, Austria, in early May. John and his crew were involved in heavy fighting around Strüth, Germany, with the 65th Infantry Division. They had been attached to the Division since April 5th and the town fell two days later on the 7th. John identified that he and his crew had knocked out three German tanks and that the fighting at Strüth was the worst they had encountered. One of the tanks they had destroyed was making an attack on the CP (Command Post) of the 3rd Battalion of the 261st Infantry Battalion. In a letter John wrote in 1984, he mentions that they were forced to rotate the turret directly rearward to make the shot, and that the tank was only 8 yards away. Their actions were critical in saving the CP and made newspaper headlines back at Camp Rucker, Alabama.
The photo at left shows John in his TD, soon after the actions at Strüth.
The 808th received credit for campaigns of the Rhineland, Ardennes-Alsace and Central Europe. John was awarded the Bronze Star and Good Conduct Medals. He left the service at the rank of Staff Sergeant.
Now home in the U.S., John went back to work as a printer. On April 3, 1948, he married the former Santa M. Coponiti, who was born in Sullivan, WV, and was the daughter of Dominick Coponiti and Mary Gregoria. The new couple would have three children, Philip, born in 1949, Annette in 1952, and John in 1965. In his spare time, John enjoyed woodworking and was also a member of the VFW and Knights of Columbus.
John passed away on May 31, 2007, and was buried in the Calvary Catholic Cemetery in Sacramento, California. I want to thank John’s son, Philip, for providing the information and photos for this tribute. I also want to thank Find A Grave contributor, MockingbirdTales, for the use of the grave marker photo.