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The President of the United States of America, in the name of Congress, takes pride in presenting the Medal of Honor (Posthumously) to Sergeant Sylvester Antolak (ASN: 35035020), United States Army, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action above and beyond the call of duty on 24 May 1944, while serving with Company B, 15th Infantry Regiment, 3d Infantry Division, near Cisterna di Littoria, Italy. Sergeant Antolak charged 200 yards over flat, coverless terrain to destroy an enemy machinegun 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 machinegun, 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 two Germans and forcing the remaining ten to surrender. He reorganized his men and, refusing to seek medical attention 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 had stormed ahead nearly three-fourths of the space between strong points when 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, Sergeant Antolak was directly responsible for eliminating 20 Germans, capturing an enemy machinegun, and clearing the path for his company to advance.
The fight to liberate Italy was as fierce and heroic as any seen in the war. The dangers to each adversary -- the danger was such that the outcome of the war itself seemed to hang at that moment on the valor and vigor of each man who struggled near the water's edge. One such soldier was Sergeant Sylvester Antolak, an Ohio farmboy, the youngest son of Polish immigrants. On a drizzly morning some 45 years ago this week, he led Sergeant Audie Murphy and others in a bold charge through the rain and the ruin near Cisterna, one man against a machinegun nest that blocked the road to Rome. And three times he was cut down by fire; three times he got back up, tucking his gun under his shattered arm. And by the time he disabled the gunners, 10 enemy soldiers surrendered to this man whom their bullets could not stop. Sergeant Antolak fell near Cisterna that same day. He rests here beneath the pines of Nettuno with nearly 8,000 soldiers, his grave one of two marked with our Congressional Medal of Honor. Joined by the names of another 3,000 missing etched in the white marble of the chapel, they come from every American State from Texas to Maine, Alaska to Florida, New York to California. And these white crosses and Stars of David ring the world -- across the battlefields of Europe and the jungles of Asia, the deserts of North Africa and the hillsides of our homeland -- in silent tribute to America's battles for freedom in this century.