Sylvester Antolak

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Sylvester Antolak
Antolak grave.JPEG   Cmoh army.jpg
Antolak's grave marker at the Sicily-Rome American Cemetery and Memorial
Born September 10, 1916
St. Clairsville, Ohio
Died May 24, 1944(1944-05-24) (aged 27)
Cisterna di Littoria, Italy
Allegiance Flag of the United States.svg United States of America
Service/branch United States Department of the Army Seal.svgUnited States Army
Years of service 1941 - 1944
Rank US Army WWII SGT.svgSergeant
Unit 3 Infantry Div Patch.svgCompany B, 15th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division
Battles/wars World War II
Awards Medal of Honor ribbon.svg Medal of Honor
Purple Heart BAR.svgPurple Heart

Sylvester Antolak (September 10, 1916 St. Clairsville, Ohio – May 24, 1944 Cisterna di Littoria, Italy) was a United States Army Sergeant who posthumously received the Medal of Honor for actions on May 24, 1944. Sergeant Antolak was an American of Polish descent. He joined the army from his hometown in July 1941.[1]

Medal of Honor citation[edit]

Near Cisterna di Littoria, Italy, he charged 200 yards over flat, coverless terrain to destroy an enemy machine gun nest during the second day of the offensive which broke through the German cordon of steel around the Anzio beachhead. Fully 30 yards in advance of his squad, he ran into withering enemy machine gun, machine-pistol and rifle fire. Three times he was struck by bullets and knocked to the ground, but each time, he struggled to his feet to continue his relentless advance. With one shoulder deeply gashed and his right arm shattered, he continued to rush directly into the enemy fire concentration with his submachine gun wedged under his uninjured arm until within 15 yards of the enemy strong point, where he opened fire at deadly close range, killing 2 Germans and forcing the remaining 10 to surrender. He reorganized his men and, refusing to seek the medical attention which was so badly needed, chose to lead the way toward another strong point 100 yards distant. Utterly disregarding the hail of bullets concentrated upon him, he stormed ahead nearly three-fourths of the space between strong points until he was instantly killed by hostile enemy fire. Inspired by his example, his squad went on to overwhelm the enemy troops. By his supreme sacrifice, superb fighting courage, and heroic devotion to the attack, Sgt. Antolak was directly responsible for eliminating 20 Germans, capturing an enemy machine gun, and clearing the path for his company to advance.

To Hell And Back[edit]

In his book, "To Hell And Back," fellow Congressional Medal of Honor awardee Audie L. Murphy refers to Antolak as "Lutsky" and provides the following account of his heroism:

“We roll over the wall and find ourselves in the range of two enemy strongpoints. But for the moment, the krauts are ignoring us. They are absorbed in trying to split the two groups of men that preceded us.

A sergeant in the first platoon senses the predicament. If his men are isolated, they will likely be destroyed. He makes his decision quickly. Motioning his men to follow, he rises and with a submachine gun charges head-on toward one of the enemy positions two hundred yards away.

On the flat, coverless terrain, his body is a perfect target. A blast of automatic fire knocks him down. He springs to his feet with a bleeding shoulder and continues his charge. The guns rattle. Again he goes down.

Fascinated, we watch as he gets up for the third time and dashes straight into the enemy fire. The Germans throw everything they have at him. He falls to the earth; and when he again pulls himself to his feet, we see that his right arm is shattered. But wedging his gun under his left armpit, he continues firing and staggers forward. Ten horrified Germans throw down their guns and yell “Kamerad”.

That is all I see. But later I learn that the sergeant, ignoring the pleas of his men to get under cover and wait for medical attention, charged the second enemy strongpoint. By sheer guts, he advanced sixty yards before being stopped by a final concentration of enemy fire. He reeled, then tottered forward another few yards before falling.

Inspired by his valor and half-insane with rage, his men took over, stormed the kraut emplacement, and captured it. When they returned to their leader, he was dead.

This was how Lutsky, the sergeant, helped buy the freedom that we cherish and abuse.”

Legacy[edit]

The USNS Sgt. Sylvester Antolak (T-AP-192) was named after Sgt. Sylvester Antolak.

See also[edit]

References[edit]