EAST GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A World War II hero from West Michigan is sharing his story about the life-saving role he played in one of the most successful military operations in U.S. history, which earned him the Silver Star.
Frank Krhovsky of Ionia was 19 in early 1945. A paratrooper with the 11th Airborne, he would embark on a bold rescue mission.
“There was a prison camp south of Manila about 50 miles, and the name of it was Los Banos. The Japanese were going to kill all of the prisoners very soon,” recalled Krhovsky.
With the lives of over 2,000 allied detainees at stake, the generals drew up a risky plan to attack Los Banos by land and by air. The odds of success were so low, a priest administered last rites before the troops flew out.
“They expected over half of us would be killed,” remembered Krhovsky.
At dawn from an airbase south of Manila, Frank and the other members of the 511th Parachute Infantry Regiment jumped at low altitude, dropping fast into an armed garrison. It was over in 30 minutes.
“You don’t have time to be afraid. It happened so fast. A big number of us jumped in with Tommy guns. I went in with 200 rounds of ammo and wound up with 60,” said Krhovsky. “We never lost a man and we never lost a prisoner.”
The raid on Los Banos would go down as the textbook airborne operation, still used as an example today.
But it was another risky mission, on a forgotten hill in a forgotten place that still evokes emotions more than 70 years later.
“The scout that we had, his name was Tennessee and he was pinned down by gunfire,” recalled Krhovsky.
The unit Army scout was stuck on a hill, trapped between two machine gun nests.
“My only thoughts were getting up there, knocking out those nests and getting Tennessee out of there,” said the veteran.
Krhovsky crawled on his stomach and back up the hill for an hour under machine gunfire.
“You know when you’re doing all of this, you’re never afraid for some reason or another. There’s no fear. I got up there, got within a short distance of those machine gunners, and I threw a grenade. And lo and behold, I killed both men in the pit,” said Krhovsky.
Four machine gunners in two nests neutralized by one gutsy kid from Ionia. The Army calls it valor in combat. And for that they award the Silver Star.
Krhovsky would come home after the war, go to school, became a doctor and raise a family in East Grand Rapids. More than seven decades later, he sees his time in the 11th Airborne as an opportunity to give of himself during World War II, part of a generation that came together to sacrifice what they could to make the world a better place.