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First Name: Sylvester

Last Name: Antolak

Birthplace: St. Clairsville, OH, USA

Gender: Male

Branch: Army (1784 - present)

Home of Record: St. Clairsville, OH

Date of Birth: 10 September 1916

Date of Death: 24 May 1944

Rank: Sergeant

Years Served: 1941 - 1944
Sylvester Antolak

•  World War II (1941 - 1945)


Sylvester Antolak
Sergeant, U.S. Army
Medal of Honor Recipient
World War II

Sergeant Sylvester Antolak (10 September 1916 - 24 May 1944) was a U.S. Army soldier who was posthumously awarded the U.S. military's highest award for valor, the Medal of Honor, for his heroic actions during World War II.

Sylvester Antolak was born on 10 September 1916 in St. Clairsville, OH; he also entered the service from that town. Antolak was a Polish-American.

In a battle on 24 May 1944, near Cisterna di Littoria, Italy, Sergeant Antolak was directly responsible for killing 20 Germans, capturing an enemy machinegun, and clearing the path for his company to advance. His actions cost him his life and he was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.

Medal of Honor

Rank and organization: Sergeant, U.S. Army, Company B, 15th Infantry, 3rd Infantry Division.

Place and date: Near Cisterna di Littoria, Italy, 24 May 1944.

Citation: Near Cisterna di Littoria, Italy, he 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 2 Germans and forcing the remaining 10 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, Sgt. Antolak was directly responsible for eliminating 20 Germans, capturing an enemy machinegun, and clearing the path for his company to advance.

Sergeant Sylvester Antolak's Medal of Honor was awarded to his family on 19 October 1945. 

"To Hell and Back"

In his acclaimed 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."

Medals and Awards

Medal of Honor
Purple Heart


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

Death and Burial

Sergeant Sylvester Antolak was killed in action on 24 May 1944. He is buried at Sicily-Rome American Cemetery and Memorial in Nettuno, Lazio, Italy, in Plot C, Row 12, Grave 13.

Honoree ID: 1271   Created by: MHOH




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