Heroic priest, Fr. Emil Kapaun, to receive Medal of Honor
Official date of honor released today by White House
WHAT – President Barack Obama will award Chaplain (Captain) Emil J. Kapaun, U.S. Army, the Medal of Honor posthumously for conspicuous gallantry.
WHEN – The event will be held Thursday, April 11. A second ceremony will occur the next day, April 12 at the Pentagon.
WHERE – The award ceremony will occur at the White House in Washington, D.C. A second ceremony will occur the next day, April 12, at the Pentagon.
WHY – Fr. Kapaun died as a prisoner of war, and the Korean War veterans who served with him, who were saved by him, have lobbied the Army for more than 60 years to award Kapaun the Medal of Honor for his acts of bravery.
Roy Wenzl and Travis Heying, the authors of “The Miracle of Father Kapaun,” interviewed the dozens of men who survived the POW camp because of the courageous acts of this young priest. “They said he repeatedly ran through machine gun fire, dragging wounded soldiers to safety. In the prison camp, he shaped roofing tin into cooking pots so prisoners could boil water, which prevented dysentery. He picked lice off sick prisoners. He stole food from his captors and shared it with his starving comrades. Most of all, Kapaun rallied all of them, as they starved during subzero temperatures, to stay alive. When their future seemed hopeless, he persuaded them to hope. Hundreds died in the camps, but hundreds more survived,” recounts Wenzl and Heying.
According to the press release distributed by the White House , Fr. Kapaun is being given this honor because he displayed extraordinary heroism while serving as a military chaplain during combat, and as a prisoner of war from November 2, 1950 – May 23, 1951.
“When Chinese Communist Forces viciously attacked friendly elements, Fr. Kapaun calmly walked through withering enemy fire in order to provide comfort and medical aid to his comrades. When they found themselves surrounded by the enemy, the able-bodied men were ordered to evacuate. Fr. Kapaun, fully aware of his certain capture, elected to stay behind with the wounded. As hand-to-hand combat ensued, he continued to make rounds. As enemy forces approached the American position, Fr. Kapaun noticed an injured Chinese officer amongst the wounded and convinced him to negotiate the safe surrender of the American forces. Shortly after his capture, Fr. Kapaun bravely pushed aside an enemy soldier preparing to execute a comrade, thus saving a life and inspiring all those present to remain and fight the enemy until captured.”
ABOUT Fr. Kapaun – He was born in Pilsen, Kansas, in the Diocese of Wichita, Kansas, on Holy Thursday, April 20, 1916. He was ordained as a Priest for the Diocese on June 9, 1940, and entered the U.S. Army Chaplain Corps in 1944. Separated from the service in 1946, he re-entered the Army in 1948 and was sent to Japan the following year. In July of 1950, Fr. Kapaun was ordered to Korea. On November 2 of that same year, he was taken as a prisoner of war. In the seven months in prison, Fr. Kapaun spent himself in heroic service to his fellow prisoners without regard for race, color or creed, according to testimony of men of all faiths. Ignoring his own ill health, he nursed the sick and wounded until a blood clot in his leg prevented his daily rounds. Moved to a so-called hospital but denied medical assistance, his death soon followed on May 23, 1951. The Diocese of Wichita and the Vatican have begun the formal process that could lead to Fr. Kapaun’s canonization. It was announced in 1993 that Fr. Kapaun would receive the title of “Servant of God.”
See The Wichita Eagle’s story on Fr. Kapaun and the Medal of Honor announcement for more information: http://www.kansas.com/2013/03/11/2711367/white-house-kapaun-to-get-medal.html.
Posted on March 12, 2013, in Christian Service and tagged Army Chaplains, Chaplain (Captain) Emil J. Kapaun, Diocese of Wichita Kansas, Korean War, Medal of Honor, POW, Prisoner of War. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.