Former World War II POW saluted: Chair of Honor ceremony recognizes Harvey Boswell, 96

Korean War veteran Walter Koopman, right, chats with 96-year-old World War II veteran Harvey Boswell during the Rolling Thunder Chair of Honor dedication Friday at American Legion Post 28. Ms. Boswell was a prisoner of war, held in captivity by the Germans for about nine months during WWII. Delaware State News/Glenn Rolfe

In observance of National POW-MIA Recognition Day, the post dedicated a Rolling Thunder Chair of Honor in the presence of U.S. military veterans from the Korean and Vietnam wars and conflicts since, as well as elected officials and members of the Post 28 family.

Also on hand was Harvey Boswell, a 96-year-old Angola Estates resident who was held in captivity as a prisoner of war by German forces for nine months during World War II.

“When we were liberated, the Russians came in,” said Mr. Boswell. “Some girl, she was in charge of a damn tank. She is the one that broke us loose.”

Mr. Boswell was invited as the special VIP guest Friday.

“This chair will remain perpetually empty to show that even though they are not here, we always keep a place for them, not just in our hearts but here among us,” said Cindy Phillips, Legion Auxiliary national security chair, who moderated the ceremony. “We remember, when war ends, not everyone comes home. This chair is dedicated to them, those that were held in captivity and those that have not come home.”

Due to restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic, final preparations for the chair’s placement have not yet been completed but should be soon, Ms. Phillips said.

Military veterans, family members, elected officials and others stand to recite the Pledge of Allegiance during the Chair of Honor Dedication at American Legion Post 28 Friday. In front are state officials Rep. Ruth Briggs King, Sen. Ernesto Lopez and Sen. Brian Pettyjohn.

The Chair of Honor will be permanently installed between the tank out front of the post and the flagpole.

“I hope that every time you see it, you remember all of those that did not come home, and all those that spent their time as prisoners during war,” said Ms. Phillips.

Advances in DNA technology, increased access to crash sites or battlegrounds in territory once hostile to Americans and ongoing international negotiations have helped bring more and more open MIA cases to a close, she added.

Still, the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency responsible for tracking down “missing in action” service members reports that, as of May 2020, there are 81,900 Americans still considered MIA.

The bulk, 72,598, are from World War II. The list also includes the Korean War (7,580), the Vietnam War (1,587), the Cold War (126) and conflicts since 1991 (six).

Rich Jones of Milford, left, shakes hands with Harvey Boswell, a 96-year-old World War II veteran who was a prisoner of war for about nine months in Germany. Waiting to join the conversation is Rick Queitsch, center, from Long Neck. Mr. Boswell was the special guest Friday at the American Legion Post 28 Family’s Chair of Honor dedication on National POW-MIA Recognition Day.

Mr. Boswell, who served with the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division, was one of the unlucky ones to be imprisoned.

Part of the Allies’ massive D-Day Invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944, Mr. Boswell and other soldiers on his plane were accidentally dropped off target, well behind enemy lines, he said. Several days later they were captured by German troops.

He was held in a POW camp deep in Germany.

“It was back off the main drag. I can’t think of the damn area right now,” he said.

Mr. Boswell said treatment by the Germans fluctuated.

“Starting out, I think they (the German forces) were on the verge of understanding they were going to get throwed out of the damn place. So that was fairly decent. But it was kind of come and go,” he said. “They were feeding us at first, and then, it just dropped off.”

The Red Army liberated Mr. Boswell and his comrades.

World War II prisoner of war Harvey Boswell of Angola gets a close look at the POW-MIA Chair of Honor during the dedication ceremony Friday at Ameircan Legion Post 28. Mr. Boswell, who turned 96 earlier this September, assisted Cindy Phillips, National Security Chair, with the unveiling.

“Russians, they liberated us. After that, we got on a train. We were being taken care of, then we went to some place in the boondocks. We were there for like two weeks,” said Mr. Boswell. “Then, the Americans, … they came in. We went over to Naples, Italy, and stayed there a week or so. Then, we got on a ship that came back to the United States. We come back into Boston. And I got back to my home, in Maryland.”

Post 28’s Rolling Thunder Chair of Honor was provided by Hussey Seating Inc. in North Berwick, Maine. Transportation was provided free of charge by TJ Distributors Inc. of Maryland, with shipping cost waived.

Inscribed on a plaque that will accompany the Chair of Honor will be: “Chair of Honor for Prisoners of War-Missing in Action: For those who answered the call to duty or have yet to return to family and home, who are listed among the Prisoners of War (POW) and those Missing in Action (MIA), this chair is reserved as a seat of honor that they are not forgotten.”

Mr. Boswell, who resides with his wife, Elizabeth — also 96 and whom he calls “the boss” — was presented a POW-MIA flag by June Jones, Unit 28 Auxiliary vice president, on behalf of all the American Legion Post 28 family, including the members of Post 28, Auxiliary Unit 28, Sons of American Legion, the Legion Riders, the Honor Guard and the Unit 28 Color Guard.