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Easter Sunday, March 25, 1951: POW Servant of God Brings the Light of Christ to his Men

 

The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, March 3, 1863, has awarded in the name of Congress the Medal of Honor to

Chaplain (Captain) Emil J. Kapaun
United States Army

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty:

Chaplain Emil J. Kapaun distinguished himself by acts of gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty while serving with the 3d Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division during combat operations against an armed enemy at Unsan, Korea, from November 1-2, 1950. On November 1, as Chinese Communist Forces viciously attacked friendly elements, Chaplain Kapaun calmly walked through withering enemy fire in order to provide comfort and medical aid to his comrades and rescue friendly wounded from no-man’s land. Though the Americans successfully repelled the assault, they found themselves surrounded by the enemy. Facing annihilation, the able-bodied men were ordered to evacuate. However, Chaplain Kapaun, fully aware of his certain capture, elected to stay behind with the wounded. After the enemy succeeded in breaking through the defense in the early morning hours of November 2, Chaplain Kapaun continually made rounds, as hand-to-hand combat ensued. As Chinese Communist Forces approached the American position, Chaplain 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, Chaplain Kapaun, with complete disregard for his personal safety and unwavering resolve, bravely pushed aside an enemy soldier preparing to execute Sergeant First Class Herbert A. Miller. Not only did Chaplain Kapaun’s gallantry save the life of Sergeant Miller, but also his unparalleled courage and leadership inspired all those present, including those who might have otherwise fled in panic, to remain and fight the enemy until captured. Chaplain Kapaun’s extraordinary heroism and selflessness, above and beyond the call of duty, are in keeping with the highest traditions of military service and reflect great credit upon himself, the 3d Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, the 1st Cavalry Division, and the United States Army.

On Easter Sunday March 25, 1951, Father Emil Kapaun, go here to read more about him. was drawing near to his death, his body wracked by dysentery, weakened by starvation, an ulcer growing on one of his legs and the initial stages of pneumonia developing in his lungs. However, none of that was of any consequence to him: he was a priest in a Chinese POW camp, it was Easter, and his fellow soldiers needed him and nothing else mattered. Somehow he had convinced their guards to allow him to hold a service in a bombed out Church on a rise near the camp. At sunrise he and 80 other soldiers climbed up to the wrecked church. He had no bread or wine so he could not say Mass. Instead he led them in the stations of the cross, saying the Rosary while doing so, a Rosary he made out of barbed wire. Men who had been beaten and starved wept as Father Kapaun told them how Christ had been beaten and died for them. They said the glorious mysteries. He preached a sermon on forgiveness. They sang the Lord’s Prayer loudly at the end so that the enlisted men back at the camp, kept segregated from the officers by their Chinese captors, could hear the prayer.

After his death, which occurred a few weeks later, his men never forgot their Chaplain. He had lit a candle of faith in the souls of many of them that their atheist captors could not put out. After their release at the end of the War, they came out and told their recollections of Father Kapaun. Jewish Marine Major Gerald Fink carved a crucifix in captivity in honor of the priest who brought the joy of Easter to men in the bleakest of circumstances.

Major Gerald Fink and his Crucifix

Prayer for the Beatification and Canonization of Fr. Kapaun
Lord Jesus, in the midst of the folly of war, your servant, Chaplain Emil Kapaun, spent himself in total service to you on the battlefields and in the prison camps of Korea, until his death at the hands of his captors. We now ask you, Lord Jesus, if it be your will, to make known to all the world the holiness of Chaplain Kapaun and the glory of his complete sacrifice for you by signs of miracles and peace. In your name, Lord, we ask, for you are the source of peace, the strength of our service to others, and our final hope. Amen.

Chaplain Kapaun, pray for us.

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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.

9 Comments

  1. Remarkable and inspiring.
    I wonder if the Jewish Major, Gerald Fink, ever converted to Christianity. His carving is beautiful like the life lived to its fullest by the heroic Fr. Kapaun.
    Thank you Mr. McClarey.
    (Typo on date. Act of Congress March 3rd 1863.)
    Bless you and your family on this Holy and Joyous Easter Season.

  2. “This is the day the Lord has made.”
    .
    Happy Easter to all!
    .
    Pray, and give thanks to God, for the men and women who never made it home.
    .
    By His life, death, and Resurrection Christ Jesus has purchased for us the rewards of eternal life.
    .
    “Let us rejoice and be glad in it.”

  3. A Saint!
    And now the modern military powers that be wants to get rid of Catholic chaplains so that those in mortal danger will not have access to sacraments. The holy Name of Jesus is being banned.

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