(Presented here is the next installment in a continuing series of the Fontana Honor Roll’s recognition and appreciation for the 44 men from Fontana who gave their lives in service to their country in foreign wars. Beginning publication on Memorial Day weekend and ending on Veterans Day, we extend our thanks and appreciation to the families of these men, our true Fontana heroes.)
Joe J. Plese (Croation, pronounced Plesha) was one of the most difficult World War II casualties for me to research. Military records confused him with Joe Matt Plese, a relative of his, and each record contained conflicting and/or confusing information.
Fortunately, Fontanan Joanna Farrage, a second cousin to Joe J., responded to my request in the Herald News for help in providing information about any of the 44 Fontana men killed in WWII, clearing up the confusion. Joe Matt Plese was her father and did not serve in WWII, leaving Joe J. Plese as our veteran KIA. Still, it is my hope I got it right and the information is correct.
U.S. Army Air Corps 2nd Lt. Joe J. Plese was born in Gallup, New Mexico or in one of the nearby mining towns in 1915 but lived in Fontana at 16389 Randall Avenue when WWII started for the U.S. in December, 1941. His parents, Matt and Marcia Plese, were immigrants from the former Yugoslavia. He had three brothers and one sister. Joe was a member of St. Joseph Catholic Church here in Fontana. He was also a member of the SNPJ Lodge 723, commonly known as Slovene Hall.
Lt. Plese served as a tail gunner in the Army Air Corps. He lost his life on a mission on Nov. 8, 1942. His body was lost at sea and never recovered.
Plese was awarded the Purple Heart, the World War II Victory Medal, the American Campaign Medal, an Army Presidential Unit Citation, the Army Good Conduct Medal and the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal. Plese is memorialized at the Tablets of the Missing at the Honolulu Memorial in Hawaii and with a memorial plaque in the historical room at the SNPJ Lodge.
(As always, Bill Freeman would appreciate hearing from you if you have more information regarding any of the Fontanans killed in WWII, the Korean War, Vietnam War or War on Terror. He may be contacted at email@example.com.)