Golden Gate Wing Guest Speaker Archive

Presentation Date: January 28, 2016

John S. Tounger, United States Army

John Socrates Tounger was born in Fresno, CA in 1925. His family moved to San Francisco in 1937.

Drafted into the US Army out of high school in 1943, he completed basic training in South Carolina. Assigned as a heavy machine gunner to the Weapons Platoon, Company D, 1st Battalion, 271st Regiment, 69th Infantry Division in Mississippi, John left New Jersey via troop ship in a large convoy to England in November 1944. En route, an adjacent ship was sunk by a German U-Boat.

On arrival in England, his division was sent to Winchester where it prepared for shipment to Europe. Although initially scheduled to fly to France, his unit departed Southhampton via ship for Le Havre in Normandy. On arrival, they were loaded into 4 x 8s and trucked across Belgium to the Battle of the Bulge. After five weeks in foxholes, the unit moved out and covered some 400 miles of Belgian and German terrain on foot. His unit took Leipzig and Eilenburg and then met the Russians at Torgau on the Elbe River on 25 April 1945.

During a jeep patrol near Torgau, with the help of a young Jewish boy John and three other soldiers took the surrender of more than 2,000 German Army troops.

In Bremen, he served one year on occupation duty with an ordnance unit where he learned to drive a truck hauling engines to Brussels where they were rebuilt.

Following his discharge as a truck driver, John came home and married his wife, Dena. He hired on with De Salvo Trucking, a startup company with only five employees. As the business grew to more than 700 workers, he was promoted to dock foreman, dispatcher, terminal manager, and vice president for personnel and compliance with government trucking regulations. He implemented a company safety program that pioneered:
-- the requirement to display reflective tape which you see on all trucks today
-- implementation of a drug testing program nationwide. This gained him national recognition; his efforts led to the adoption of the program by the Department of Transportation.

-- is a registered safety engineer with the State of California
-- was elected Safety Chairman for the California Trucking Association
-- was recognized as Safety Director of the Year in 1984 by the American Trucking Association
-- served as the National Chairman for the Safety Management Council of the American Trucking Association from 1986-87
-- has addressed many forums including one at Northwestern University attended by Elizabeth Dole, Secretary of Transportation.

He became very active as a Webelos Boy Scout Leader; nine of his ten scouts achieved Eagle rank.

John and Dena had two children and currently have four grandchildren. They moved to Oakland in 1964. He helped build his home there and vacation homes for his family. They have made many ski trips throughout the world.

Back at Torgau 50 years later, he met the same Russian that he had encountered at the end of the war. He has a plethora of pictures to accompany his presentation.