|Medal of Honor Recipient plaques stolen|
Police in Derby, CT are investigating the theft of bronze plaques dedicated to Private First Class Frank P. Witek, a U.S. Marine who killed 16 Japanese soldiers before dying in a hellish battle on Guam during World War II.
The plaques — which were on a large memorial dedicated in Witek’s honor on May 29, 1999 — were apparently stolen sometime between late Monday and Tuesday morning, according to Bernard Williamson, a Derby resident and fellow Marine who helped convince city fathers to name the park in Witek’s honor.
Williamson said the theft was discovered Tuesday at about 10:30 a.m. by Leonard Witek, who lives nearby and often walks past the monument. Leonard Witek’s friend had informed him of the theft at about 9 a.m.
Leonard Witek can’t believe someone would do this to his cousin’s memorial.
“Didn’t you read what it was for? What the honor is? A person got killed for this and you’re taking it away?” Witek said.
Authorities said they were unsure how much the plaques are worth, but the Catholic War Veterans, a group chartered in Derby, estimates the value of the plaques as high as $10,000.
Leonard said to see someone do this to a hometown memorial for a Medal of Honor recipient is just inexcusable.
He assumed someone stole them with the intent of selling them for scrap metal. He hopes any scrap metal merchant will realize the items are stolen, given the inscription which details Witek’s extraordinary actions during World War II.
Police are asking anyone with information on the theft to come forward.
|PFC Frank Witek|
Private First Class, Frank Peter Witek was a United States Marine who was killed in action on August 3, 1944, in the Battle of Finegayan, Guam.
On January 20, 1942, he left for recruit training after enlisting in the United States Marine Corps. He left almost immediately for Pearl Harbor and in January 1943, his family heard from him while he was in New Zealand. From there he went to Bougainville where he fought in three major battles. Then he went to Guadalcanal for a rest. On July 21, 1944, the 3rd Marine Division invaded Guam. PFC Witek was a Browning automatic rifleman and scout behind the Japanese lines.
On September 8, 1944, his mother received a telegram from Washington informing her that her son had been killed on August 3,. According to a combat correspondent’s release, he was slain at the battle of the Mount Santa Rosa road block. He had only eight cartridges left on an original 240 rounds when he was found.
On Sunday, May 20, 1945, 50,000 people, including his mother and Gen Alexander A. Vandegrift, Commandant of the Marine Corps, met in Soldier Field, Chicago, to do honor to his memory. PFC Frank Peter Witek, 23 years old, had earned the highest military award his country could give him — the Medal of Honor.