John R. Simonetti, An American Hero

May 24, 1918 to June 16, 1944

The Story

On June 16, 1944, Staff Sgt. John Simonetti, 23 years old, gave his life in the fight for freedom, in the fields of St. Germain d'Elle, France. So proud of their soldier, the Simonetti family was devasted by this loss of their youngest son - a loss compounded by the fact that his body was not recovered from the battlefield where died. It was a tragedy that the family lived with for generations, all the while they prayed and hoped that one day, Uncle John might be found. In the years that followed his death, the family was in contact with the Army and pursued various paths to determine what had happened to their hero on that fateful day with no leads ever coming to fruition. On the occasion of the 50th Anniversary of D-Day, Fred Salerno '61 and his wife, traveled to Normandy to honor his uncle's memory. They visited the American Cemetery and viewed the Wall of the Missing where the name of John Simonetti was engraved. Moved by the experience, they then visited the small town of St. Germain d'Elle to trace the path that John had traversed on his final days. The people of St. Germain welcomed Fred and his wife with open arms and introduced them to a farmer upon whose farm John's final battle took place. Departing the town, Fred left his business card on the off chance that new information might someday come to light.

In May 2009, while doing some minor excavation work, the skeletal remains of an American soldier, with his dog tags still around his neck, was unearthed in the center of the town. Remembering the business card that had been left by an American tourist 15 years earlier, a town official reached out to a relative in the United States who in turn contacted Fred. That moment began the amazing, miraculous and heart warming journey that would forge a friendship between the small French town where he was found and a grateful American family that was finally able to bring Johnny home and lay him to rest in Arlington National Cemetery. The opportunity to honor a young American hero and to heal the hearts of a family after almost 60 years is a wonderful story that is memorialized by this website.

We also hope that this website will serve to remind those who read this that although his life was cut short, Staff Sgt. John Simonetti's values of courage and dedication to country are values that we should all strive to emulate. And equally important, this website should remind us all that miracles can happen and that the power of prayer is strong.

John Simonetti, The Hero

2nd Division at War

John Simonetti, The Journey Home