Lost hero

[caption id="attachment_71469" align="aligncenter" width="600"]

The National Archives building in Washington, D.C.[/caption]

Think of the scene at the end of "Indiana Jones" where the crate is stored in a sea of crates in a warehouse the size of a small town.

Something similar has happened to Corporal Patrick Sheahan, Korean War hero, winner of the Silver Star and Bronze Star, and the subject of a years-long campaign to have his awards for bravery elevated to the Distinguished Service Cross, or perhaps even the Congressional Medal of Honor.

Sign up to The Irish Echo Newsletter

Sign up today to get daily, up-to-date news and views from Irish America.

Sheahan's heroism, which led to his death on October 4, 1951 in a God-forsaken patch of land in Korea dubbed Hill 281, is described in battlefield reports from the time, but the effort to secure Sheahan a higher award for valor has been hampered this way and that down the years.

The campaign has been led by fellow Kerry native and Korean War veteran, John Leahy, who led the successful effort to secure posthumous U.S. citizenship for Sheahan, and 27 other Irish-born American soldiers who died in the "Forgotten War."

Leahy has argued that Sheahan would have been awarded the DSC, the second highest military award for valor, or even the Medal of Honor, the highest, had he been a citizen at the time of his death.

What hasn't helped Leahy's campaign is a fire that destroyed the army's records back in 1973, and a seemingly never ending game of bureaucratic ping pong which has seen the Sheahan case bounce back and forth in Washington, D.C. and elsewhere.

And what is definitely not helping now is that the National Archives, which stores vast amounts of records on military personnel, has apparently lost track of Sheahan.

In a response to a letter from Leahy mailed just last month, the National Archives office in College Park, Maryland, said it can find no record of Sheahan in the casualty lists linked to the Irishman's final battle.

"We have examined casualty lists for Cpl. Sheahan's unit, the 7th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division, but were unable to locate any listing for him," the NA response to Leahy stated.

The archives office also said that it had examined command reports from the 7th Infantry Regiment for October 1951. "We did not locate a mention of Sheahan," the letter stated, while adding that such records rarely cite individual names.