A Record of Action,” an in-depth account of the 15th Tank Battalion's fighting in August 1944 at Lesquern. This is where Technical Sergeant Fourth Class Paul Denitti lost his life with others of the U.S. 3rd Army, 6th Armored Division, 15th Tank Battalion.
The gas dump at Lesquern was attacked on Aug. 9 by a company of German paratroopers, and 5,000 gallons of fuel was destroyed.
“The guard consisted of four light tanks and 20 men from the division band,” he wrote. “Apparently a disloyal Frenchman tipped off some Germans from the 2nd Paratroop Division. One bandsman, Sergeant Murray, heard a noise on the other side of a hedge, looked over and said, ‘Who's there?' A German shot him in the stomach. Then the Germans fired a bazooka at an M5 parked in the corner of a field, setting it on fire. Two men came bailing out of the tank while the Germans rushed it, but it was too late. One tanker was shot, and the other had his throat cut. The other two crew members who were sleeping on the ground near the tank were wounded.”
The second tank moved but did not get into action because they were afraid of hitting their own men.
“The band leader, W.O. Thompson, and the rest of the men opened fire and after a short engagement drove off the German paratroopers,”
The battalion remained in bivouac in the vicinity of Le Miniby reservicing, refitting and preparing for future operations. According to Byrd's accounts, the 2nd Section, 3rd Platoon, Company D remained at St. Gildas assisting in protecting another gas dump.
During the night of Aug. 10, he said, “a group of enemy attacked, destroying one light tank by burning and killing two enlisted men and wounding two others.” There is no official verification of the identify of the two men who were killed, but it is believed they were Denitti and Joseph Wagner, who also is buried at St. James.
Denitti's parents, the late Matteo (Mathew) Giglietti Denitti and Antonia (Antoinette) Abatantuono Denitti, were initially notified of their son's death by way of a telegram from the U.S. War Department a short time after he was killed. The family lived at 948 Lookout Ave., Monessen, at the time.
“I was only 9 years old when it happened,” said Josephine “Jo” Baluch of Perryopolis, one of Denitti's six surviving siblings. “Needless to say, my mother was devastated. My father was working at the mill when the telegram arrived. My mother knew right away what it said, she became crying and screaming even before she opened it. What parent would not react in a similar manner after learning that one her children was gone?”
Major Gen. J.A. Ulio, Adjutant General at the War Department in Washington, DC, sent a formal letter dated Aug. 27, 1944, to Mrs. Denitti validating Paul's death.
“It is with regret that I am writing to confirm the recent telegram informing you of the death of your son, Technician Fourth Grade Paul Denitti, Infantry, who was killed in action in France on 10 August 1944,” Ulio wrote.
“I fully understand your desire to learn as much as possible regarding the circumstances leading to his death and I wish that there were more information available to give you. Unfortunately, reports of this nature contain only the briefest details as they are prepared under battle conditions and means of transmission are limited.
“I know the sorrow this message has brought you and it is my hope that in time the knowledge of his heroic service to his country, even unto death, may be of sustaining comfort to you.”
“Paul was committed to serving his country and enlisted in the Army in 1942,” Josephine Baluch said. “Our parents weren't very happy with his decision, but there was nothing that could change his mind. There were so many other Monessen men who entered the service after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, and Paul felt it was his obligation to join them.”
Paul Denitti of Monessen is shown aboard an American tank in France sometime in the summer of 1944
Technician Fourth Class, U.S. Army
15th Tank Battalion, 6th Armored Division
Entered the Service From: Pennsylvania
Service #: 33167228
Date of Death: August 10, 1944
Buried: Plot K Row 2 Grave 7
Brittany American Cemetery
St. James, France