Henry Svehla

Soldier to receive Congressional Medal of Honor

CPfc. Henry Svehlaalling it long overdue, U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr. (D-NJ-8) on Thursday applauded the announcement that U.S. Army Pfc. Henry Svehla of Belleville would posthumously receive the Medal of Honor.

The award follows a 10-year effort by Pascrell's office and Anthony Svehla, the soldier's nephew, to properly honor the 19-year-old Army private, who jumped on a grenade to save his platoon during a Korean War battle.

Private Svehla will be honored for his combat actions that took place June 12, 1952, while serving as a rifleman with Company F, 32d Infantry Regiment, 7th Infantry Division in the Republic of Korea.

Coming under heavy fire and with his platoon's attack beginning to falter, Svehla leapt to his feet and charged the enemy positions, firing his weapon and throwing grenades as he advanced. Disregarding his own safety, he destroyed enemy positions and inflicted heavy casualties.

When an enemy grenade landed among a group of his comrades, without hesitation and undoubtedly aware of the danger, he threw himself on the grenade, mortally wounding him.

"This is, at once, a joyous and a solemn occasion," Pascrell said of the announcement. "There is joy that Private Svehla will receive the nation's highest honor, and that his family will receive the gratitude of a nation indebted to him for his ultimate and permanent sacrifice. But we can't help but be solemn when we reflect on the magnitude of Private Svehla's heroism.

"He saved the lives of those who fought with him on that battlefield in Korea. But, in a way, he saved all of our lives as Americans.

"Private Svehla's selfless actions represent all that is good about America, and we are blessed to have inherited his legacy as well as the freedoms of the nation for which he gave his life. It has been said that there is no greater gift than for a person to lay down their life for their friends.

"The Congressional Medal of Honor is a chance for every American to say to Private Svehla, 'Thank you, my friend.'"

Anthony Svehla of Belleville said he had started pursuing the honor by calling Rep. Pascrell's office in 2001 at the request of his uncle, John Svehla, Private Svehla's brother. John Svehla died in August after battling cancer.

"It means a lot to us. This is 59 years later" said Anthony Svehla. "I want to thank Congressman Pascrell and especially his aide, Celia. She was just fantastic to stay with me 10 years, working on this. I don't think there are many aides who would give you that much time and effort."

Celia Anderson, a constituent services representative for Pascrell, said the effort involved gathering primary sources including maps and commanding officers' "morning reports" - accounts of what happened on the day of the battle. There were also numerous phone calls and letters written to U.S. Army officials.

"I had to do a lot of research - almost reenact the case," Anderson said. "Private Svehla was so young when he passed, and it has always been clear that his family cares so much for him even after so many years. We all do.

"He gave his life for his country, and it's wonderful that the U.S. Army is finally giving Private Svehla the honor he deserves."

- The Belleville Times, April 14, 2011

Pfc. Henry Svehlo memorial, Belleville High School, Belleville, N.J.

Photos from family collection displayed at Belleville Public Library and Information Center, and by Anthony Buccino.

U.S. Army article

Henry Svehla

Essex, New Jersey

Born 1932

Private First Class, U.S. Army
Service Number 21748254
Killed in Action
Died June 12, 1952 in Korea

Private First Class Svehla was a member of Company F, 2nd Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment, 7th Infantry Division.

He was Killed in Action while fighting the enemy in North Korea on June 12, 1952.

Declared missing in action, Pfc. Svelha's remains were not recovered. His name is inscribed on the Courts of the Missing at the Honolulu Memorial.

For his leadership and valor, Private First Class Svehla was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, the Purple Heart, the Combat Infantryman's Badge, the Korean Service Medal, the United Nations Service Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Korean Presidential Unit Citation and the Republic of Korea War Service Medal.

American Battle Monuments Commission

Distinguished Service Cross

Awarded posthumously for actions during the Korean War

The President of the United States of America, under the provisions of the Act of Congress approved July 9, 1918, takes pride in presenting

the Distinguished Service Cross (Posthumously) to Private First Class Henry Svehla (ASN: RA-21748254), United States Army,

for extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations against an armed enemy of the United Nations while serving with Company F, 2d Battalion, 32d Infantry Regiment, 7th Infantry Division.

Private First Class Svehla distinguished himself by extraordinary heroism in action against enemy aggressor forces at Pyongony, Korea, on 12 June 1952.

Committed to determine enemy strength and capabilities on key terrain, Private Svehla's platoon forged up the rocky slope.

Coming under heavy automatic-weapons and small-arms fire, the troops began to falter.

Realizing the success of the mission was imperiled, Private Svehla charge forward, firing his weapon and throwing grenades.

The men, rallying to the challenge, joined in the assault against a numerically superior foe and inflicted numerous casualties.

Although wounded by a mortar burst, Private Svehla refused medical treatment and continued to lead the attack.

During the ensuing conflict, an enemy grenade fell in the midst of the group.

While attempting to dispose of the grenade to protect his comrades from injury which might result from the explosion of the grenade, Private Svehla lost his life.

General Orders: Department of the Army: General Orders No. 18 (February 18, 1953)

Action Date: 12-Jun-52

Service: Army

Rank: Private First Class

Company: Company F

Battalion: 2d Battalion

Regiment: 32d Infantry Regiment

Division: 7th Infantry Division

Source: MilitaryTimes.com


American Battle Monuments Commission



The Belleville Times, April 14, 2011

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Belleville, New Jersey

Korean War


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