President Barack Obama presented the nation's highest military honor to Captain William D. Swenson at a White House ceremony October 15, even as U.S. Representative Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) launched an investigation into allegations that Swenson's Medal of Honor nomination was set aside because of his vocal criticism that higher-ups had refused to respond to his desperate calls for air cover during the intense seven-hour battle, negligence which Swenson said led to needless deaths.
According to Yahoo News, the 34-year-old Swenson, a Seattle native who was on his second tour in Afghanistan, was serving as an advisor training members of the Afghan National Security Force when his team of U.S. trainers and Afghan soldiers was ambushed near the rural community of Ganjgal on the morning of September 8, 2009 by some 60 well-armed Taliban fighters. In the firefight that ensued, Swenson's team was quickly surrounded and outgunned by the Taliban, which ultimately killed five Americans and 10 Afghan soldiers, wounding 17 others. The Army said that but for Swenson's actions the bloodshed would have been far worse.
As reported in the Army's official account of the battle, over the many hours of continuous fighting, “Swenson braved intense enemy fire, and willfully put his life in danger against the enemy’s main effort, multiple times in service of his fallen and wounded comrades, his unit, his country, and his endangered Afghan partners.”
But what was not reported, noted Yahoo News, was that Swenson “also repeatedly radioed superiors at a nearby base to request air and artillery support to rescue pinned-down troops. Subsequent investigations determined that three Army officers rejected many of Swenson’s pleas and failed to notify higher commands that troops were under fire.”
Another participant in the battle that day, Marine Corps Sergeant Dakota Meyer, received the Medal of Honor last September for his actions, which included working alongside Swenson to retrieve the bodies of dead comrades from the battle site. While Meyer's medal nomination went through without a hitch, Swenson's inexplicably disappeared, Meyer and others charge, because of Swenson's bitter criticism of the military command that should have helped the soldiers surrounded in the Taliban ambush.
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Photo of Captain William D. Swenson receiving the Medal of Honor: AP Images