WWII Navy vet awarded medals 75 years after service

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Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer awards retired Aviation Machinist's Mate 1st Class Bernard B. Bartusiak, 95, with two Distinguished Flying Cross medals and the Air Medal (Strike/Flight), 2nd-8th awards, for meritorious service during World War II involving aerial flight from April 20, 1943 to Aug. 26, 1944. (Navy photograph by PO1 Paul L. Archer)

Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer awarded a World War II Sailor two high-level combat decorations in recognition of his meritorious service as an aircrewman in the European theater, in a Sept. 10, 2019, Pentagon ceremony.

Bernard Bartusiak of Chicago, now 95, joined the Navy in May of 1941, at age 17. He eventually served as an aviation machinist’s mate 1st class on the aircrew of a PB4Y Liberator in the European theater. After the war, Bartusiak became a corporate accountant and married Dolores, his wife of 65 years.

Spencer presented Bartusiak the Distinguished Flying Cross with gold star (in lieu of second award) and the Air Medal, second through eight strike flight awards, in recognition of 20 combat missions Bartusiak completed from April 1943 to August 1944.

Retired Aviation Machinist’s Mate 1st Class Bernard B. Bartusiak, 95, listens to Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer before being awarded with two Distinguished Flying Cross medals and the Air Medal (Strike/Flight), 2nd-8th awards, for meritorious service during World War II involving aerial flight from April 20, 1943 to Aug. 26, 1944. (Navy photograph by PO1 Paul L. Archer)

The Distinguished Flying Cross was awarded for Bartusiak’s “extraordinary achievement while participating in aerial flight.” The Air Medal recognizes “single acts of heroism or meritorious achievement” in flight.

“This honor may be overdue, but I am humbled by the opportunity to present it,” Spencer said to the audience, which included Bartusiak’s two daughters, as well as U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski, who represents Bartusiak’s district in Illinois.

Reflecting on the contributions of Navy aviators to the Allied victory, Spencer quoted late Prime Minister Winston Churchill: “Never was so much owed by so many, to so few.”