Grunt Padre Honored in Vietnam




As faithful readers of this blog know, I have many times had posts about heroic Catholic Chaplains serving in our military.  A man whose courage beggared description is Servant of God and Medal of Honor recipient Vincent J. Capodanno, known as the Grunt Padre.  I am not ready yet to do a full post on him, wishing to do him justice, but a recent news story in The National Catholic Register caught my eye:


DA NANG, Vietnam — Bishop Joseph Chau Ngoc Tri of Da Nang recently said Mass  in honor of Father Vincent Capodanno, a U.S. chaplain killed during the Vietnam  War, and he encouraged his people to ask the priest’s intercession.

Ted Bronson, a retired Navy Captain, told Catholic News Agency June 26 that  Bishop Tri “is a brave bishop, fostering Capodanno under the umbrella” of  Vietnamese communism.

The Mass, said on June 14, marked the 55th anniversary of Father Capodanno’s  priestly ordination. Father  Capodanno was ordained for the Maryknoll Missionary order, and he later  became a chaplain for the U.S. Navy.

While with Maryknoll, Father Capodanno served in Taiwan and Hong Kong, and  then he requested to be reassigned as a chaplain with the Marines. He was sent  to Vietnam in 1966 and requested an extension to his tour of duty when it was  up.

On Sept. 4, 1967, his unit was in the Que Son Valley near Da Nang, and they  became outnumbered by North Vietnamese forces. As American soldiers were being  gunned down, Father Capodanno went about giving viaticum and anointing  to the dying, as well as medical aid to the wounded.

Shortly after reassuring a wounded Marine, Father Capodanno went to another  soldier who had called out for help. Both he and the solider were shot and died.  He was awarded the Medal of Honor in 1969.

His citation for the Medal of Honor says he “left the relative safety of the  company command post and ran through an open area raked with fire. …  Disregarding the intense enemy small arms, automatic weapons and mortar fire, he  moved about the battlefield administering last rites to the dying and giving  medical aid to the wounded.

Go here to read the rest.  There will come a day when Vietnam will be free.  Let us pray to Our Lady of La Vang and Servant of God Vincent Capodanno to intercede with God that this day will come soon.

Our Lady of LaVang


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Donald R. McClarey

Cradle Catholic. Active in the pro-life movement since 1973. Father of three and happily married for 35 years. Small town lawyer and amateur historian. Former president of the board of directors of the local crisis pregnancy center for a decade.


  1. God bless Father Capodanno!

    I wonder if the good Padre would have a chance for a Medal of Honor, these days, were he to do the dame things now, he did then. I doubt it. He lived in a different world back then. Wonderful man and priest.

  2. Good story. A Vietnamese bishop saying a Mass in DaNang for an American GI Chaplain.

    Go tell the New York Times.

    For several years, our parish had with us a Vietnamese priest. I would often think I would go to him and tell him how sorry I am we didn’t save his country.

    I never did it. It would not have done either of us any good.

  3. I have often wondered if Vietnam could be considered a protracted battle from which we retreated while on the way to winning the Cold War. If the country had stayed truly Communist, it would much more resemble North Korea or Cuba than it does. There are high-end luxury hotels in Saigon (it’s only officially called “Ho Chi Minh City”) and shops to go with them, a thriving textile industry and there’s even a McDonalds slated to come in soon. This is not the legacy of a Soviet-style “liberation.” In an almost laughable twist, the largest stock exchange in Vietnam is named after Ho Chi Minh.

    If one must still refer to Vietnam as a “communist” nation, then it is a Chinese-style communism, which isn’t really communism at all as much as it is fascism; a system much more suited to the current American landscape.

  4. So long as the U.S. maintained pressure for reform on Ha Noi, Viet Nam steadily eased the repression and opened up. Ha Noi looked to the US as a bulwark against China and was ready to do anything the US desired short of the rulers losing their jobs i.e. real elections and the like. Clinton and Bush maintained that pressure (restrictions against Catholics were lifted in 2005) and even speech became much freer in ups and downs.With the current President the pressure to reform is gone. The repression is settling back in though Catholics are fighting back and winning sometimes. The Cardinal is a brave man and respected by Buddhists and Christians alike.

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