Congressman Higgins is Seeking the Community’s Help to Find the Family of Late Purple Heart Recipient Henry Mazurkiewicz
Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-26) is looking for the community’s help in identifying the family of the late Corporal Henry Mazurkiewicz, who served in the United States Army during World War II.
Mazurkiewicz enlisted into the United States Army in 1940 at the age of 23 in Buffalo, New York. On April 9, 1942, Corporal Henry Mazurkiewicz, alongside roughly 1,600 other members of the 31st Infantry Regiment, surrendered to the Japanese as part of the Bataan Defense Force in the Philippines during World War II. Shortly after surrender, the Japanese forced over 60,000 captives to march 68 miles under harsh conditions, known as the Bataan Death March, to various prison locations, largely including Camp O’Donnell. Corporal Mazurkiewicz, then deemed a Prisoner of War, was one of many casualties resulting from the Death March.
Corporal Mazurkiewicz was among those who endured the brutality of the Death March in which prisoners were denied relief stops and water and were subjected to physical violence by Japanese guards. Those who survived were often sent to work in slave labor camps, which encompassed severe physical ruthlessness by guards, including death. Survivors also greatly suffered from malnutrition and diseases, such as Malaria. As recorded in 1944, about 1155 men died in captivity, including Corporal Henry Mazurkiewicz who died on May 8, 1944. The death count surpassed the 31st Regiment’s number of casualties recorded during actual combat.
In recognition of his service and sacrifice, the U.S. Department of War, today known as the Department of Defense, awarded Corporal Mazurkiewicz with the Purple Heart. The Purple Heart certificate was originally addressed to Jennie Shultz, living in Buffalo, New York, in 1944. The original certificate was recently provided to Congressman Higgins’ office in hopes of finding a rightful home. Despite intensive research, Congressman Higgins’ office has been unable to locate the relatives of Corporal Mazurkiewicz.
Higgins said, “These original documents are meaningful pieces of American history and family keepsakes that help to tell the story of the incredible bravery and sacrifices made by Corporal Mazurkiewicz. We hope to hand these over to his family who can appreciate and carry forward these records as a lasting legacy of his service to this nation.”
Higgins issued the request for help on National Purple Heart Day which is observed on August 7th marking the anniversary of the day in 1982 when General George Washington created the Badge of Military Merit, the predecessor to the modern-day Purple Heart Medal. The Purple Heart is presented to service members of the U.S. armed forces who have been wounded or killed as a direct result of enemy action and is the oldest American military award.
Congressman Higgins is asking community members with information about Corporal Mazurkiewicz to contact the Buffalo office at 716-852-3501.