Frank Peter Witek was born on December 10, 1921 in Derby, Connecticut. He moved as a child with his family to Chicago, Illinois, and it was from there that he enlisted in the United States Marine Corps Reserve on January 20, 1942.
After training, Witek was assigned to the active Marine Corps as an automatic rifleman armed with an M1918 BAR with the 1st Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment as a component of the 3rd Marine Division. He fought with 1/9 on Bougainville, and then landed with them on Guam on July 21, 1944.
In action against the Japanese on August 3, 1944, Witek’s individual courage saved his platoon comrades from death or destruction. His valor cost him his life, and months later on May 20, 1945, 50,000 people gathered in Chicago’s Soldier Field to honor his memory as he was posthumously decorated with the Medal of Honor.
*WITEK, FRANK PETER
Rank and organization: Private First Class, U.S. Marine Corps Reserve
Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving with the 1st Battalion, 9th Marines, 3d Marine Division, during the Battle of Finegayen at Guam, Marianas, on 3 August 1944. When his rifle platoon was halted by heavy surprise fire from well-camouflaged enemy positions, Pfc. Witek daringly remained standing to fire a full magazine from his automatic at point-blank range into a depression housing Japanese troops, killing 8 of the enemy and enabling the greater part of his platoon to take cover. During his platoon’s withdrawal for consolidation of lines, he remained to safeguard a severely wounded comrade, courageously returning the enemy’s fire until the arrival of stretcher bearers, and then covering the evacuation by sustained fire as he moved backward toward his own lines. With his platoon again pinned down by a hostile machinegun, Pfc. Witek, on his own initiative, moved forward boldly to the reinforcing tanks and infantry, alternately throwing handgrenades and firing as he advanced to within 5 to 10 yards of the enemy position, and destroying the hostile machinegun emplacement and an additional 8 Japanese before he himself was struck down by an enemy rifleman. His valiant and inspiring action effectively reduced the enemy’s firepower, thereby enabling his platoon to attain its objective, and reflects the highest credit upon Pfc. Witek and the U.S. Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his country.
Witek’s remains were initially buried in a military cemetery on Guam. His body was repatriated to the United States in 1949 and he today rests in peace in the Rock Island National Cemetery in Illinois.
The United States Navy honored their fallen Marine comrade by naming the Gearing-class destroyer USS Witek (DD-848) for him. The ship served with the Atlantic Fleet from 1946 to 1968 and was sunk as a target in 1969.
1st Battalion 9th Marines is presently active as a reinforcement battalion for the 8th Marine Regiment. They are part of the 2nd Marine Division and their home station is Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.