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Biography of John Joe Zhanel

Ennis, Texas

John Joe Zhanel was a private first class in the U.S. Army. He enlisted in the Army in January of 1941, and received basic training at Camp Bowie south of Brownwood, Texas. He was assigned to Company K, 141st Infantry Regiment, 36th Infantry Division, which was a Texas Nation Guard division known as the "Lone Star Division." 

On April 13, 1943 Zhanel landed with the 36th Infantry Division in North Africa. The division trained at Arzew and Rabat, Morocco. And on September 9 the 141st and 142nd Infantry Regiments led the division's invasion of Italy. They landed in the Paestum area on the Gulf of Salerno, which is south of Salerno in southern Italy. They repulsed four strong German counterattacks, and advanced slowly against prepared German positions. On September 20, after the 36th Division had secured the Salerno Plain from Agropoli to Altavilla, it moved into reserve. 

On November 16 the division moved to the Mignano Gap, and relieved the 3rd Infantry Division. Despite severe winter weather and strong opposition, the 36th Division captured Mt. Maggiore on December 3, but Zhanel had been seriously wounded on November 20, and evacuated to the States and to Cleveland General Hospital in Cleveland, Ohio. And after months in the hospital, on Friday, April 21, 1944, he died from his wounds. 

John was the son of Anton and Mary (Dlabaj) Zhanel. He was born on June 24, 1916. He attended the Creechville School, and worked on the family farm until enlisting in the army. 

Solemn High Mass was observed on Tuesday, April 25, 1944 at Saint John Catholic Church. Zhanel was buried with full military honors in Saint Joseph Cemetery in Ennis. He was the first soldier buried at St. Joseph. 

Zhanel was awarded the Good Conduct Ribbon and the Purple Heart Medals. He is listed on the Memorial Monument to Ennis War Dead and the Ellis County Veterans Memorial. 


Jack Lummus Memorial Park   Ellis County Veterans Memorial


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