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World War II vet finally gets Bronze Star

By Randy Kraft, WFMZ.com Reporter, RKraft@wfmz.com
Published On: Jul 25 2013 03:18:11 PM CDT
Updated On: Jul 26 2013 05:48:13 AM CDT

WWII vet receives long overdue medals

MACUNGIE, Pa. -

A 90-year-old World War II veteran finally was presented with a Bronze Star during a ceremony in Macungie Thursday morning.

Bertram Winzer of Lower Macungie Township earned but never received the medal while serving in  the famed Devil's Brigade, an elite commando unit comprised of American and Canadian forces.

The Devil’s Brigade, formally known as 1st Special Service Force, is one of the forerunners of  special operations units such as the Army’s Delta Force or the Navy’s SEALs.

Winzer received the Bronze Star and other awards he earned but never obtained after Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa) asked the Army to provide the recognition of his service as a young soldier 69 years ago.

Winzer served in the Army from December 1942 to September 1945.

The Bronze Star is the 10th-highest U.S. military award. The absence of Mr. Winzer’s Bronze Star was brought to Toomey’s attention during a military appreciation ceremony in May.

With the help of his constituent advocate, Deacon Steel, Toomey contacted the Army. Several weeks later,  Winzer’s Bronze Star was approved and an award order was cut.

“Mr. Winzer served our country with distinction in World War II,” said Toomey in a statement. “I am overjoyed that we were able to help him receive the Bronze Star that he earned.

"For more than half a century, Mr. Winzer has been an unsung hero. World War II veterans are humble and often reluctant to accept recognition. I am honored to help Mr. Winzer and his family finally get the credit and gratitude they are due.”

The Bronze Star was presented to the veteran at  Macungie Veterans Association,  VFW Post 9264.

Doing the honors were Toomey’s state director, Bob DeSousa -- a lieutenant colonel in the Judge Advocate General’s Corps of the Pennsylvania Army National Guard -- and State Rep. Ryan Mackenzie.

As a result of his service,  Winzer was awarded, among other things, both the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star. While Winzer was presented his Purple Heart during the war, the Bronze Star was never formally awarded. 

The Devil’s Brigade first saw action at Monte la Difensa, an attack  later chronicled in the 1968 film, “The Devil’s Brigade.” By early 1944, the Devil’s Brigade continued operations in Italy where it conducted missions which included reconnaissance patrols of patrolling German forces entrenched along the Mussolini Canal and securing bridges over the Tiber River.

On September 26, 1944, the Devil’s Brigade was securing an area in the mountains that border Italy and France when they took on enemy fire.

During this engagement,  Winzer was wounded in the shoulder. The Army doctors removed the round and Winzer was back with his unit 10 days later.

When the Devil’s Brigade was disbanded in 1944, Winzer was reassigned to the 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division and was stationed in Belgium during the Battle of the Bulge.

After the war, Winzer married and raised two children. He worked in the automotive industry until his retirement in 1984. He belongs to the Lehigh Valley Chapter 109, Military Order of the Purple Heart; VFW Post 8282; and the 1st Special Service Association.