John W. Dutko was born in Dilltown, Pennsylvania on October 24, 1916. He enlisted in the United States Army on February 21, 1941 at age 24. His enlistment record shows that he never received an education after grammar school, and was working as a farm hand when he volunteered for the Army.
Dutko’s records also indicate that he was initially in the Medical Corps, but it wasn’t in medicine that he wound up serving during World War II. He was a foot soldier, an automatic rifleman armed with an M1918 Browning Automatic Rifle in the 3rd Infantry Division‘s 30th Infantry Regiment.
The motto of the 30th Infantry is “Our country, not ourselves.” On May 23, 1944, then Private First Class Dutko demonstrated exactly what that means.
On that day, the 3rd Infantry Division launched their breakout from the Anzio beachhead in Italy, part of the larger push that would see Allied armies take Rome less than two weeks later.
As Dutko’s unit, Company A-1-30, launched their attack, they came under intense Nazi artillery barrages. Completely disregarding the shells that were falling all around him, and the wounds he received from shrapnel and machine gun fires, he charged ahead alone to destroy one of the Germans’ 88mm guns and three enemy machine gun positions, falling dead upon the final one. On October 5, 1944, he was posthumously decorated with the Medal of Honor.
*DUTKO, JOHN W.
Rank and organization: Private First Class, U.S. Army, 3d Infantry Division
Place and date: Near Ponte Rotto, Italy, 23 May 1944
Entered service at: Riverside, N.J.
G.O. No.: 80, 5 October 1944
Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at risk of life above and beyond the call of duty, on 23 May 1944, near Ponte Rotto, Italy. Pfc. Dutko left the cover of an abandoned enemy trench at the height of an artillery concentration in a single-handed attack upon 3 machineguns and an 88mm. mobile gun. Despite the intense fire of these 4 weapons which were aimed directly at him, Pfc. Dutko ran 10.0 yards through the impact area, paused momentarily in a shell crater, and then continued his 1-man assault. Although machinegun bullets kicked up the dirt at his heels, and 88mm. shells exploded within 30 yards of him, Pfc. Dutko nevertheless made his way to a point within 30 yards of the first enemy machinegun and killed both gunners with a hand grenade. Although the second machinegun wounded him, knocking him to the ground, Pfc. Dutko regained his feet and advanced on the 88mm. gun, firing his Browning automatic rifle from the hip. When he came within 10 yards of this weapon he killed its 5-man crew with 1 long burst of fire. Wheeling on the machinegun which had wounded him, Pfc. Dutko killed the gunner and his assistant. The third German machinegun fired on Pfc. Dutko from a position 20 yards distant wounding him a second time as he proceeded toward the enemy weapon in a half run. He killed both members of its crew with a single burst from his Browning automatic rifle, continued toward the gun and died, his body falling across the dead German crew.
Dutko was posthumously promoted all the way to Sergeant First Class in further recognition of his heroism. His remains were repatriated to the United States, and he was laid to rest in the Beverly National Cemetery, Beverly, New Jersey.
The 1st Battalion, 30th Infantry Regiment is active today as part of the 3rd Infantry Division‘s 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team. They are a combined-arms battalion (mixed armor and mechanized infantry) and are stationed at Fort Stewart, Georgia.
Blogger’s note: this post is appearing early to prevent a bottleneck of both posts and writing for the nine Medals of Honor earned by American warriors on May 23-24, 1944. This will be done regularly in the coming days as the pace of World War II picked up considerably for the United States during the summer of 1944.