Family History, Honor Roll - WWII, Military History


John Anthony Torchia’s story is a poignant reminder of the human cost of war and the valor of those who serve. He was born on 27 June 1922, in LaSalle, Illinois, to Anton and Angelina (Colmane) Torchia, immigrants from Parco, Sicily, Italy (now Altofonte).

John’s father, Anton, had arrived in America in 1912 at age 16, and married John’s mother, Angelina, in 1920. John’s mother Angelina made her own journey of immigration from Italy to the U.S. in 1906 at age four along with her mother and younger brother Antonio.

John’s early life was steeped in the close-knit, hardworking community of his parents and grandparents. They were the bedrock of a growing family in the LaSalle-Peru area that would come to include John, his two brothers, three sisters, and aunts, uncles, and cousins. John’s father Anton like the other men in their family worked as a coal miner. Eventually John’s parents were able to purchase a home in the southwest part of LaSalle at 209 Second street.

Current aerial map of southwest corner of LaSalle
John A. Torchia lived at 209 Second St. in LaSalle at the time he registered for the draft in 1942 (designated by the red marker on the map – map from Google Maps).

Sadly for the family, John’s maternal grandmother, Concetta Maria Colmane, passed away when he was just 9, an early encounter with loss for the young boy. Yet, amidst these familial milestones, John’s life in LaSalle was one of typical American pursuits. A student at LaSalle-Peru Township High School, John was known for his participation in the band and his fondness for mystery stories, graduating in 1940 with ambitions of finding a good job in Chicago.

However, the onset of World War II altered John’s path. At the time he registered for the draft in June 1942, he was working for Westclox, a local clock company, symbolizing the era’s industrial spirit. Then 20 years old, he stood almost 6 feet tall and weighed 145 pounds with brown hair and brown eyes.

WWII draft card for John Torchia
WWII Draft Registration Card, John Anthony Torchia

By December of the same year, John enlisted in the U.S. Army, joining the ranks of those called to serve their country in its hour of need. Assigned to Company B of the 32nd Infantry Division, John was prepared to face the challenges of warfare head-on.

The backdrop of John’s service was a time of intense global conflict. In October 1944, as Allied forces launched an assault on Leyte in the Philippines, John’s division was staged in Hollandia, awaiting transport to the combat zone. It was during this period, on 27 October 1944, that John’s life was cut tragically short when he was struck by a bullet. The details of his death remain unclear, as his unit had not yet reached Leyte. However, there is a possibility he had been sent ahead and participated in the first waves of attack as he was initially buried on Leyte.

After the war, PFC John Torchia would have been posthumously awarded the American Campaign Medal, the WWII Victory Medal, and the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal. A few years after the war, his family requested his body be returned to his hometown. In late 1948 or early 1949, PFC John Torchia was laid to rest in St. Vincent Cemetery in LaSalle, Illinois, bringing his journey full circle back home.

Tragically for John’s parents his loss was not the only one they faced the year he died. Earlier in May of 1944 they buried their 11-year-old daughter Marie Ann Torchia. She had contracted tuberculosis at least a year or so before her death, and even though the family sent her for treatment to the LaSalle County Tuberculosis Sanatorium in Ottawa, Illinois, she did not recover.

Also, John was not the only person in his family to serve during the war. At least three of his cousins enlisted: Ignatius Vicare on 24 October 1941; Joseph Anton Torchia, on 13 December 1943; and James Leo Torchia on 23 February 1943.

  LaSalle-Peru Township High SchoolWestclox ad with clocks




This story is part of the Stories Behind the Stars project (see This is a national effort of volunteers to write the stories of all 421,000+ of the US WWII fallen saved on Together We Served and Fold3. Can you help write these stories? These stories will be accessible via smartphone app at any war memorial or cemetery.

If you noticed anything erroneous in this profile or have additional information to contribute to it, please email

  • SBTS Historian: Pam Broviak
  • SBTSProject/Illinois/LaSalle






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