Wednesday, February 06, 2008

An American Hero: PFC Henry Svehla: Help Bring Him Home

Note: This is the third in a series of four posts about heroic soldiers who were denied or overlooked for the Medal of Honor at the time of their extraordinary acts. Less than ten days ago, Congress authorized the award of the Medal to five of these men.

Henry Svehla was born in 1932 in Essex, New Jersey. His ancestors came from that part of the Czech Republic once known as Bohemia.

During the Korean War, Svehla served as a Private First Class with the 32nd Infantry, 7th Division. It was difficult in his case to find the "story behind the story." However, PFC Svehla was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross (DSC) for his actions on June 12, 1952. This is the same incident for which Congress has now voted to award him the Medal of Honor. A description of the incident can be found in the citation accompanying the DSC:

The President of the United States takes pride in presenting the Distinguished Service Cross (Posthumously) to Henry Svehla (RA21748254), Private First Class, U.S. 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 charged 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.

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

Thanks to the folks at Home of Heroes for the citation.

According to the Department of Defense, Henry Svehla's body was either not recovered or not positively identified. It is not clear whether his family is aware of the recent Congressional action to award him the Medal of Honor or who pressed for that action.

Efforts are ongoing to identify the remains of PFC Svehla. The identification process is being handled at the Central Identification Laboratory (CIL) of the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC) in Honolulu, Hawaii. But the CIL scientists need a "Family Reference Sample" of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) to complete their identification process for Henry Svehla. This type of DNA is only passed through the maternal line.

Your Help Needed!

PFC Henry N. Sevhla, American Hero, more than the Medal of Honor needs to come home. If you are one of PFC Svehla's family members who can provide a mtDNA sample, or if you are a genealogist interested in researching his fammily history to locate such a familly member, then youi can help bring him home. If you think you may be a suitable donor or you have any questions, all you need to do is contact a Department of Defense service casualty office for assistance. If you know people who are relatives of service members who are still missing in action, you can help by passing this information along. If you donate a sample of your mitochondrial DNA, you can rest assured that it will only be used for the purposes of assisting remains identification and will not be used for any other purpose or be released to other government agencies or any other organizations. If you donate a sample of your mitochondrial DNA to JPAC for identification purposes, you can rest assured that it will only be used for the purposes of assisting remains identification and will not be used for any other purpose or be released to other government agencies or any other organizations.

There are Svehla-surnamed folks living in New Jersey today. If you know them or are related to them, pass along this information. Please help bring this hero to his final resting place.

[By the way, you can learn if JPAC needs any other Family Reference SAmpales for other unidentified service members by going to the JPAC FRS search page.]

Here's a brochure that explains about Family Reference Samples.

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