Congressman Bill Pascrell

Representing the 9th District of NEW JERSEY

Rep. Pascrell Heralds Posthumous Medal Of Honor For U.S. Army Pfc. Henry Svehla

May 2, 2011
Press Release

WASHINGTON – A day after Osama bin Laden was killed by U.S. Navy Seals in Pakistan, U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-NJ-8) joined President Barack Obama at the White House for the Medal of Honor ceremony commemorating U.S. Private First Class Henry Svehla. The honor marks the end of a 10-year effort by Rep. 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 battle in the Korean War.


“This is a very proud day to be an American. A day after our Special Forces vanquished our greatest enemy, we pause to remember a humble young man from Belleville who embodied our greatest characteristic as Americans,” said Pascrell. “It is because of Private Svehla’s quick, decisive action, embedded in his selfless courage, which we inherited the great nation we live in today. So on a day when many Americans are asking what the future brings in a world without bin Laden, Private Svehla’s legacy reminds us that our future depends on all of us. God bless Private Svehla for his sacrifice for all of us. God bless America as we walk forward together as one great nation that he helped provide.” 


But it is important that as we remember Henry Svehla, and recognize his valor and patriotism, we also remember the power of the love of a brother who spent almost six decades ensuring that the world would never forget those heroic actions. 


Pfc. Svehla was honored for his heroic actions in combat on 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, Pfc. 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 extreme danger, he threw himself on the grenade.  During this action, Pfc. Svehla was mortally wounded.


The President’s awarding the Medal of Honor to Pfc. Svehla today is a tremendous accomplishment for the Svehla family -- especially for his recently deceased brother John Svehla.  John, a lifelong resident of Belleville, NJ, and his nephew Anthony, persistently and diligently worked with Rep. Pascrell’s office to ensure Svehla’s case was re-examined. 


Almost 50 years after his brother was killed in action, John Svehla believed that his brother’s actions to save his fellow soldiers were deserving of the Medal of Honor.  Rep. Pascrell and his staff worked closely with John and Anthony Svehla to see that the service records were uncovered and were given to the U.S. Department of Defense for reexamination. 


Sadly, John Svehla passed away in 2010, just a few months from achieving his dream. 

In February 2011 – almost sixty years since he was killed in action -- the White House announced that Pfc. Svehla would receive the medal. Anthony Svehla was present at today’s ceremony at the White House, as were Pfc. Svehla’s sisters, Dorothy Mathews and Sylvia Svehla, both of Texas.


Private First Class Anthony T. Kaho’ohanohano, U.S. Army, also received a posthumous Medal of Honor today.  Kaho’ohanohano's sister, Elaine Kaho’ohanohano, and brother, Eugene Kaho’ohanohano, joined the President at today’s Medal of Honor ceremony.  The late U.S. Rep. Patsy Mink, followed by U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka, took up this case over the years. 


On Sept. 1, 1951, PFC Kaho’ohanohano led a machine-gun squad with Company H, 17th Infantry Regiment, 7th Infantry Division. When faced by an enemy with overwhelming numbers, he ordered his squad to take up more defensible positions and provide covering fire for the withdrawing friendly force. He then gathered a supply of grenades and ammunition and returned to his original position to face the enemy alone - delivering deadly accurate fire into the ranks of the onrushing enemy. When his ammunition was depleted, he engaged the enemy in hand-to-hand combat until he was killed.  His stand inspired his comrades to launch a counterattack that completely repulsed the enemy.




The Medal of Honor is awarded to a member of the Armed Forces who distinguishes themselves conspicuously by gallantry above and beyond the call of duty while:


•           engaged in an action against an enemy of the United States;

•           engaged in military operations involving conflict with an opposing foreign force; or

•           serving with friendly foreign forces engaged in an armed conflict against an opposing armed force in which the United States is not a belligerent party.


The meritorious conduct must involve great personal bravery or self-sacrifice so conspicuous as to clearly distinguish the individual above his or her comrades and must have involved risk of life. There must be incontestable proof of the performance of the meritorious conduct, and each recommendation for the award must be considered on the standard of extraordinary merit.




PFC Henry Svehla, Belleville, NJ - Medal of Honor Case



1/30/02      Letter to Teresa Ray (Team II Chief of Army Legislative Liaison) from U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell asking the U.S. Army to consider issuing a Medal of Honor for PFC Henry Svehla.


2/25/02      Letter to Modern Military Archives from Rep. Pascrell askin