March 01, 2012

Gillibrand Secures Posthumous Bronze Star, Purple Heart for Buffalo Family Member of World War II Veteran

Gillibrand: “This is a long overdue tribute”

Buffalo, NY – Sixty-seven years after a World War II veteran died in combat in the Philippines, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, successfully secured posthumous Bronze Star and Purple Heart for Private First Class Raymond Dopakowski. The Buffalo native was awarded high honors for his bravery during combat in the Solomon Islands in September 1943 but never lived to receive these decorations. The soldier’s nephew, Randolph Dittmar, a Vietnam veteran, sought to obtain the medals in memory of his uncle. 

Senator Gillibrand helped secure the following medals:  

  • Bronze Star Medal
  • Purple Heart
  • Good Conduct Medal
  • Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal & Bronze Star Attachment
  • WWII Victory Medal
  • Combat Infantryman Badge
  • Philippine Liberation Ribbon & Bronze Star
  • Gold Star Label Button 

Randolph Dittmar, 63, PFC Dopakowski’s nephew said, “This is an important part of my family’s history. I grew up not knowing what happened to my uncle. It was important to me honor him for this sacrifice he made for our country.  I would like to thank Senator Gillibrand, State Senator Maziarz’s office and the Military History Institute at the U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center, who went above and beyond for my family.” 

“This is a long overdue tribute,” said Senator Gillibrand. “We remember a young man who proudly wore the uniform of his country and courageously made the ultimate sacrifice for our nation. The medals honoring this brave Buffalo soldier can be passed on to future generations.” 

“When Mr. Dittmar contacted me about the courageous acts of his uncle, it was an honor for me to help his uncle receive the honor that he deserves” said  State Senator George Maziarz.  “I am proud to say that we were able to secure PFC Dopakowski New York State’s Conspicuous Service Cross-the State’s highest honor for a veteran.  This award is rightfully earned and deserved.” 

In 1942, the Buffalo native who was a musician and whose parents immigrated from Austria and Poland, enlisted in the Army in 1942, joining E Company, 2nd Battalion, 103rd Regiment, 43rd Infantry Division. During World War II, PFC Dopakowski served in New Zealand, New Caledonia, Guadal Canal, Russell Islands, New Georgia, New Guinea and the Philippines. In January 1945, PFC Dopakowski, 25, was killed during battle in the Philippines. 

Dittmar, a Vietnam veteran who served in Fort Drum’s 10th Mountain Division, grew up hearing stories about his uncle. Using evidence he had acquired from the Army, Dittmar sought to get a replacement Purple Heart and a Bronze Star posthumously issued. After the Army refused to issue the medals to Dittmar since he was not part of the soldier’s nuclear family, Dittmar reached out to Senator Gillibrand for help. Senator Gillibrand’s office urged the Army to issue the medals to his closest living relative, Randolph Dittmar. The Dittmar family, currently residing in North Tonawanda, is set to receive the medals this week.    

Attached is a photo of World War II veteran PFC Raymond Dopakowski.