COL Albert Svihra (1898–1944) COL Albert Svihra (1898–1944)

Albert Svihra was killed in action when the Japanese ship on which he was being transported as a prisoner of war was sunk by an American submarine in the South China Sea on October 24, 1944.

Born in 1898, Svihra served as a private, Students' Army Training Corps in 1918 before entering the US Military Academy. Upon graduating in 1922, he was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Signal Corps. Svihra transferred to the Field Artillery in 1926, and was detailed to the Judge Advocate General's Department in 1935. He attended law school at the University of Virginia and graduated with high honors in 1939. He then formally transferred to the Department in 1939 and was promoted to major the following year.

When World War II broke out, Maj. Svihra was serving as the Staff Judge Advocate for the Philippine 1st Regular Division commanded by Maj. Gen. Wainwright; he was the only Army lawyer on the division staff. He was promoted to lieutenant colonel on December 19, 1942.

On May 6, 1942, Gen. Wainwright surrendered all American forces on Corregidor, and Svihra and more than 10,000 other American soldiers became a prisoner of war.

 

On May 23, 1942, Svihra boarded the Japanese freighter Hakko Maru and sailed for Manila, where he was imprisoned in Bilibid Prison. He subsequently moved to a POW camp in Cabanatuan, where he was appointed the camp judge advocate by the American POW commander. In this capacity, he advised on the provisions of the Geneva Convention of 1929 with respect to the treatment of POWs and the wounded and sick. As Japan had not ratified the Convention, however, its compliance was infrequent at best.

On October 24, 1944, he and other POWs were aboard the Japanese ship Arisan Maru and were being transported to another camp when it was torpedoed by a U.S. Navy submarine.

On June 2, 2008, COL Svihra's stained glass pane was dedicated in the Hall of Heroes.