President to Award Medal of Honor to Catholic Priest:
Korean War Chaplain Honored at White House Today
President Barack Obama presented the Medal of Honor this afternoon to the relatives of Captain Emil Kapaun for his valor during the Korean War. Kapaun, a Roman Catholic priest, was serving as a chaplain with the 1st Cavalry Division in November 1950 when he chose to remain behind with wounded American soldiers after his position was overrun by the Communists. He was taken prisoner, and the events of Nov. 1-2, 1950, provide the acts of valor for which he is being honored. Kapaun has previously received the Bronze Star for Valor and the Distinguished Service Cross for his actions prior to these event.
Acts of valor
With his unit under heavy Chinese attack, Kapaun moved through the shelling and gunfire to provide aid and comfort to the wounded. As his unit attempted to break out from the surrounding Communists, he chose to remain behind with the wounded who could not be moved. Kapaun was instrumental in negotiating the peaceful surrender of the wounded. He also intervened, at the risk of his own life, to prevent the execution of a wounded American, Sgt. Herbert Miller .
Prisoner of war
Kapaun was a prisoner of the Chinese from Nov. 2, 1950, until his death in a prison hospital on May 23, 1951. In a May 2012 story in the Saturday Evening Post, the details of his captivity are described. During his imprisonment he continued to say Mass and act as a priest and chaplain. He would sneak out of barracks to steal food from the guards for his fellow POWs. He made clean bandages for wounded prisoners and picked lice from those too sick to groom themselves. He finally became ill from the lack of food and medical attention and was moved to a prison hospital where the prisoners knew that he would die from the lack of care.
The North Korean soldiers let this heroic priest die intentionally by not giving him the medication he needed because he was a threat to their authority.
The Association of the United States Army provides a biography of Kapaun . Born in Pilsen, Kan., he was ordained just before World War II and served as a chaplain for American troops in the India-Burma Theater. Returning to serve a parish in Kansas after the war, he felt called to return to the military and did so in 1948. He was stationed at Fort Bliss and then sent to Japan in 1950. With his fellow soldiers of the 8th Cavalry Regiment, he was deployed to Korea after the North Korean invasion in June.
Kapaun was honored today for his valor as a soldier on Nov. 1-2, 1952. The Roman Catholic Church has already honored him with the title “Servant of God” which is the first step in the sainthood process. The Diocese of Wichita is actively pursuing the cause of sainthood for Father Kapaun. Many witnesses to his heroism during the Korean War and in the prisoner of war camp are still alive and able to testify to his selfless actions.
Father Kapaun will also being honored in heaven as well as on earth. The Vatican is considering beatifying him. He certainly deserves it.
It is gratifying to be able to write about someone so gallant and courageous. He should be an inspiration for all of us to lend a helping hand and respect others.
Father Kapaun was a warrior, hero, Chaplin, solider and a great America hero. It is too bad that it took 60 years to give this man the recognition he deserves.
He wore both the Cross and his Captains bars with the utmost dignity and honor. He served his God and his country at the highest level possible.
From his country he has received the highest award/medal possible; the Congressional Medal of Honor and from his church he will eventually be made a saint.