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WASHINGTON (NNS) — Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer awarded a WWII Sailor two high-level combat decorations in recognition of his meritorious service as an aircrewman in the European theater, in a Sept. 10 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, joined by Vice Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Robert Burke, 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.

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.”