Seventy years after earning the Bronze Star Medal, one San Diego-based World War II veteran finally officially received the meritorious medal for his service to our nation.
On Monday, 49th District of California Congressman Darrell Issa presented the Bronze Star to 89-year-old WWII vet Captain Robert A. Sulit, a Del Mar resident.
Sulit, USNR Retired, earned the prestigious award in May 1945 for his achievement in active ground combat against the enemy while serving in support of allied operations to liberate Central Europe as a member of Company A, 69th Armored Infantry Battalion, 16th Armored Division.
The captain earned the Combat of Infantry Badge, which also entitled him to a Bronze Star that he had not physically received.
Capt. Sulit’s wife, Shelley, reached out to Issa’s office for help in getting the medal to the veteran.
In researching Capt. Sulit’s case, Issa – also a U.S. military veteran – said he learned every recipient of the Combat of Infantry Badge during this period of WWII was entitled to the Bronze Star Medal, per a declaration by General Omar Bradley.
Issa assisted the veteran in securing the medal earned seven decades ago.
“Capt. Sulit’s award should be a wake-up call to families out there. If your father served in World War II and earned a Combat Infantry Badge or was a medic during the war, he is likely to be eligible for the Bronze Star,” Issa explained.
“That can be awarded, as it was today, with a very healthy Navy captain retired, or posthumously,” the Congressman added.
Issa said it’s important to honor “America’s Finest Generation,” and the sacrifices of service members, even 70 years later.
“As that generation is coming to a close, it really is important to remember World War II,” Issa said. "They were tough birds, who survived a tough war."
At the ceremony in Vista, Capt. Sulit stood proudly as Issa pinned the medal on him. The vet said he was grateful for the honor.
“I was really surprised when we got the call for this award. I didn’t expect it and it’s nice to receive it,” said Capt. Sulit. “It was a long time, but it’s finally here.”
And, 70 years later, Capt. Sulit said his patriotism for the U.S. is as strong as ever.
“Gee, I’d do anything for the country that I can. Even go to war again,” he added.
Capt. Sulit was drafted into the U.S. Army at the age of 18 and served from 1944 to 1946, when he was sent to fight in the European Campaign.
His first job was to clear mines atop the cliffs at the Atlantic Wall. His first combat experience came when he traveled to Frankfurt, Germany, as he went through a village where snipers were shooting down at him and fellow servicemen.
Capt. Sulit served as a machine gunner on a half-track and has vivid memories of aiming his machine gun and battling with the enemy.
“We were going through town – people were shooting at us. It’s kind of dangerous,” he recalled. “I crunched back down so I could angle up and shoot my machine gun, and I think I got somebody. After that, we went further into the action.”
After WWII, Capt. Sulit served in the U.S. Army Reserves from 1946 until 1950.
In 1957, he was commission as LT. JG, Engineering Duty Officer in the Unites States Navy Reserves. After 40 years of service, Capt. Sulit retired in 1985.
The Bronze Star Medal is the fourth highest individual award in the U.S. military given to those distinguished by heroic service while serving in the U.S. Army after Dec. 6, 1941.