Saints of Lent: The POW Servant of God

Sunday, April 2, AD 2017

Lent is a grand time to confront evil, both that evil which stains our souls, and the evil external to us.  Throughout the history of the Church there have been saints who risked all to bravely confront the popular evils of their time.  This Lent on each Sunday we will be looking at some of those saints.  We began with Saint Athanasius.  Go here to read about him.  Next we looked at Saint John Fisher.  Go here to read about him. Next we looked at the life of Saint Oliver Plunket.  Go here to read about him.  Last week we turned to the Lion of Munster.  Go here to read about him.  For this final Sunday before Holy Week we look at the man I have designated the POW Servant of God.


In the midst of a World War, Emil Kapaun was born in peaceful Pilsen, Kansas on August 20, 1916.  His parents were Czech immigrants and virtually everyone in the area spoke Czech.  From an early age Emil knew that he wanted to be a priest and would play mass with his younger brother.

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4 Responses to Saints of Lent: The POW Servant of God

4 Responses to The Korean War: It Was Worth It

  • This is an amazing image, juxtaposed with Victor Davis Hanson’s thoughts.

    Someone should do the same with the southern tip of Florida v. Cuba.

  • I have not served in the Armed Forces. I would not approve of my sons joining the Armed Forces if a schmuck such as Clinton or Obama were to be President. Having said that, one regret is that the North Koreans were not pushed back to China to end the war. It may not have been possible without further escalation. The poor Koreans stuck in the North, like the Cubans, have beencondemned to live under the worst form of government ever since.

  • We now know [cf. The Fifty Years’ War] that Stalin was planning on starting WW3 (an invasion of Europe) in 1952, and that he stopped Kim from invading South Korea in 1949 because he wanted his own nuclear weapons first. Thanks to our access to Soviet records in the early 1990’s we know that Stalin saw the Korean War as a test of Western resolve, as was surprised when Truman saw it the same way. WW3 got pushed off to 1954 at the earliest, Stalin died in 1953, and the new Soviet leadership then shelved the idea. Was it worth it? You bet it was, though perhaps not every detail was (PF, we successfully pushed back the Communists to Pyongyang. We might have been able to stay there had we negotiated a truce then and there and recognized Red China)

    Vietnam would have been worth it also, had not the basic strategy been so flawed and the resulting tactics so ineffectual.

  • Those lights in the area of South Korea seen in the photo and the darkness of North Korea are due in certain measure to the difference between each country’s nuclear policies. South Korea eschews the use of nuclear weapons, but has an active nuclear energy program. It generates 20.5 GWe from 23 nuclear reactors which supply between 22 and 29% of the country’s total electric consumption, operating at a capacity factor of 95%. Its home-grown pressurized water reactor design by KEPCO – the APR-1400 which is a modified Combustion Engineering System 80+ design – has been marketed around the world. South Korea is now building four of these behemoths at Barakah in the United Arab Emirates. In fact, I was offered a job at Barakah several years ago.

    Now North Korea’s nuclear policy is simple: it uses a small modified Russian RBMK (the kind of reactor at Chernobyl – graphite moderated, light water cooled) as a plutonium-239 weapons breeder. Most of its electricity comes from burning dirty brown coal imported from China. That electricity in turn is used in large measure for the military. It has no peaceful nuclear energy program. Its atheist communist leadership would rather the citizens starve to death in the cold and dark than to be prosperous like the south.

    Atheists and communists can never be trusted with the power of the atom, nor can their close cousins: liberals, progressives and feminists.

Collision Course

Monday, February 27, AD 2017


The things that you find on the internet.  I recently found on You Tube a television movie from 1976, Collision Course, which deals with the conflict between Douglas MacArthur and Harry Truman over Korean War policy.  I had seen the movie when it was first broadcast, and was delighted to watch it again.  Go here to watch the entire movie.  The late Henry Fonda stars as MacArthur and the late E.G. Marshall portrays Truman.  The Truman MacArthur conflict is often seen as a vindication of the right of the President to call the shots when it comes to foreign policy and waging war, but the conflict was actually caused by an abdication of presidential responsibility.  Truman viewed Korea as a potentially dangerous annoyance, and he wanted this “police action” wrapped up as soon as possible.  No planning was made about what to do if the Chinese intervened.  A sensible policy would have been to order MacArthur to form a defensive line north of Pyongyang and across to Wonsan.  The Korean peninsula narrows to a hundred miles at this point and would have been quite defensible with American firepower in the event of Chinese intervention.  Instead MacArthur, who was convinced that the Chinese would not intervene, was left free to conduct a helter-skelter advance to the Yalu, secure in his misguided belief that the Chinese would not intervene, and that if they did, he could easily defeat them.  MacArthur was guilty of military malpractice and Truman was guilty of presidential nonfeasance.

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

Sunday, March 27, AD 2016


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.

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

Bob Hope on Thanksgiving: 1950

Friday, November 27, AD 2015


Bob Hope spent many holidays away from his home entertaining the troops, and in this 1950 Thanksgiving message he reminds us of those who stand guard over our nation and often eat their Thanksgiving turkey far from home as a result.  God bless and keep them and their families.

Hope had already been to Korea to entertain the troops, even beating the Marines ashore at Wonsan on the east coast of North Korea!  He would be back to entertain the troops again, continuing his tradition of service that would stretch a half century from World War II to Desert Storm.  Hope was a comedic genius, in his prime perhaps the greatest American stand up comedian.  However, what I remember him for is the true patriotism that caused him, whether a war was popular or unpopular, to endure discomfort and danger to bring a smile to Americans far from home serving their country.  He was born in England, but he might as well have been born in the heart of America on the Fourth of July.

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PopeWatch: North Korea

Thursday, August 7, AD 2014

VATICAN-POPE-AUDIENCEWe will not buy an armistice by turning over human beings for slaughter or slavery.

Harry S Truman, 1952, in explaining his refusal to force the return of North Korean and Chinese POWs who wished to stay in the West.

An uncle of PopeWatch fought in the Korean War.  A Protestant, he was given a rosary by a Catholic family out in California just before he shipped out for Korea, the father of the family, a World War I vet, saying he carried it with him in France.  He carried it through bloody hill battles in Korea and it was with him every day after he got back to the States.  He used to tell PopeWatch that  the  best thing he had ever done in his life, outside of his family, was to fight to make certain that South Korea did not fall under Communism.

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5 Responses to PopeWatch: North Korea

  • Pardon me if I’m repeating myself. I don’t know if I’ve posted this here before.

    When I grew up, M*A*S*H was on the air. To the extent that I understood any of its geopolitics, I knew that it was about Korea, but it was really about Vietnam. The US was hapless, the Korean soldiers on either side were just as likely to be decent or cruel, heroes or cowards. The villagers were caught in the middle. They were victims, not of either side or any side, but of War. The opposite of War was peace, humanity, freedom, life.

    Take a moment and stop thinking about M*A*S*H as a Vietnam analogy. Think about Korea. Think about whether it was really so trivial if you ended up on the north or south side of a line. Think about the show’s whole “war doesn’t solve anything” attitude. Half of those villagers live in a country with the 10th highest average wages in the world. Half live in a country where an estimated 1/4 of the population can’t serve in the military because of malnutrition-related developmental problems.

    If you listen to a progressive for a while, he’ll inevitably mention Ozzy and Harriet or Leave It to Beaver, and how Republicans want to send the world back to the 1950’s, but the 1950’s wasn’t really like that. It’s a pivotal moment when you realize that TV is lying to you. The boomers grew up with an idealized world on the screen. I grew up with Maude extolling the benefits of abortion.

  • Of course, if you want to truly understand Asia, you can rely on CNN:

  • Take a moment and stop thinking about M*A*S*H as a Vietnam analogy. Think about Korea.

    When exhibitionistic peace-and-justice types start enlarging on ‘just war’, see if you can get a straight answer out of them about whether or not the Korean War counts as ‘just’.

  • Exodus 8:27 “We will go three days’ journey into the wilderness, and sacrifice to the LORD our God, as he shall command us.”

The Marines Called Her Reckless

Sunday, August 25, AD 2013


“I was surprised at her beauty and intelligence, and believe it or not, her esprit de corps. Like any other Marine, she was enjoying a bottle of beer with her comrades. She was constantly the center of attraction and was fully aware of her importance. If she failed to receive the attention she felt her due, she would deliberately walk into a group of Marines and, in effect, enter the conversation. It was obvious the Marines loved her.”

Lieutenant General Randolph Pate 

One of the most beloved members of the Marine Corps went into battle on four feet.  A mare of Mongolian mixed breed, the horse who would become Sergeant Reckless was foaled in 1948 in South Korea.  Originally named Ah Chim Hai, Morning Flame, she was sold to Lieutenant Eric Pederson, USMC,  for $250.00 in October of 1952.  (The owner was a stable boy who needed the money to buy an artificial leg for his sister who had stepped on a land mine.)

Pedersen bought the horse, which had been a race horse, to serve as a pack animal for his recoiless rifle platoon of the 5th Marine regiment.  The platoon called her Reckless after the platoon’s nickname of Reckless Rifles.  Gunnery Sergeant Joseph Latham gave Reckless an equine version of boot camp, known in her case as hoof camp.  He taught her how to avoid getting tangled up in barbed wire, how to lay down under fire, and to run to a bunker when hearing the shout “Incoming”.  Latham had his wife mail a pack saddle from the states so that Reckless could better fulfill her role of being a pack animal from the platoon.  Reckless quickly became a platoon favorite and was given the freedom to roam the platoon encampment at night and to enter tents at will.  She loved cokes and beer, and would eat with enthusiasm whatever she could get her mouth on, including, one dark day, $30.00 worth of winning poker chips of Latham.

However, Reckless quickly demonstrated that she was not a mere mascot or pet.  In the battle of Hedy’s Crotch she proved fearless in transporting shells for the recoiless rifles of the platoon.  At first alarmed by the sounds of the rifles going off, by the end of the day she was calmly going about her business.  A highly intelligent horse, she only needed to be led the first few times, and afterwards would make the trips bringing up the shells on her own.

At the battle of Outpost Vegas, March 26-28, 1953, she received a promotion to Corporal for her sterling service, including on one day 51 solo trip bringing up 386 shells.  She was slightly wounded twice during the engagement for which she was awarded two Purple Hearts.

Outside of battle Reckless performed many functions, including stringing telephone lines.  It was said that she could string telephone lines at a rate that it would take 12 men to match.  She enjoys the distinction of being the only horse to participate in a Marine Corps amphibious landing. 

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8 Responses to The Marines Called Her Reckless

  • Great story. Reminiscent of the movie “Gallant Bess” of WW2 in the Pacific if I recall correctly.

  • Off topic :-).

    On San FraNZisco Bay earlier today, Emirates Team New Zealand defeated Prada Luna Rosa in the Louis Vuiton cup for the right to challenge Larry Ellison’s Team Oracle for the America’s Cup, currently held by Oracle.
    The big 72 foot catamarans are amazingly fast, sailing as fast as 47 knots in only 18 knots of wind. The advance in sailing technology over the past decades has been quite spectacular.
    I am a bit of a sailing purist for events like the America’s cup. The competition in the monohulls, with the similarity in the boats makes for much more interesting sailing. However, to see these catamarans in full flight is great. So next month, the Kiwis could well kick some yankee butt in this yacht race 🙂
    It will all unfold on San FraNZisco Bay starting on – I think – 7th.September.

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  • My grandfather was a Regular cavalryman (5 Dragoon Guards) and his horse was killed under him at the Battle of Nery (1 September 1914). Warfare is endemic to the human condition; it results from our fallen state; and although modern war has its horrors, at least we no longer depend on brute creation which has no choice in the matter. Infantry were enjoined to shoot at the horses since it was the best way of bringing the rider down.

    The British cavalry (unlike their French allies) always dismounted on the march and walked their horses in order to save their backs. I loved the story of “Reckless”. In London’s Hyde Park there is a memorial, opened in 2004, to commemorate those animals who served in Commonwealth and allied armies in the wars of the 20th century.

  • Breyer, caterers to horse-happy little girls, offers a model of Sgt. Reckless.

  • I read the story about Reckless on the 26th, the birthday of my late father who enjoyed the sport of kings and was part owner in a few nags. I posted my nephew, his grandson, a printed copy; he’s at an FOB in Afghanistan and I thought he would enjoy receiving a positive war story. Thank you.

Uncle Ralph, the Rosary and the Korean War

Sunday, July 28, AD 2013


I love praying the Rosary.  It always has given me peace whenever I have recited it, and my family prays the Sorrowful Mysteries together each Lent.  However, the person who had the greatest devotion to the Rosary in my family was my Protestant Uncle Ralph.

When I was growing up my family lived next door to Uncle Ralph and his family.  Uncle Ralph was my favorite uncle.  He always had a sense of fun, loved to shoot the breeze with kids and did a hilarious Donald Duck imitation.  My Dad’s family were all Protestant;   my brother and I were Catholic because my Dad had married my Catholic Mom, so I was surprised one day during my teen years when Uncle Ralph pulled out his rosary and told me how he came to always carry it.


Ralph was a homesick 19 year old in 1951.  His Army National Guard unit had been called up for duty in the Korean War.  He was stationed in California waiting to be shipped out, when, one Sunday, he had dinner with a Catholic family under an Army sponsored program to give troops some home-cooked meals.  Ralph enjoyed himself immensely.  The family treated him like a long lost son and brother, and the meal was superb.  Ralph was relaxing after the meal when the father of the family, a WWI vet, handed him a Rosary.  “Here son, this got me safe back from France and I hope it does the same for you in Korea.”  Ralph wasn’t sure what a Rosary was, but he was touched by the gesture and he took the Rosary.

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14 Responses to Uncle Ralph, the Rosary and the Korean War

  • I served in Korea in the US Air Force. I was stationed in Suwon at the 51st Figther Interceptor Wing. Somewhere in September 1953, My replacement showed up with orders to take over the communications radio maintenance responsibility. So I had no more duties, I then offered myself to the Wing Chaplain, Fr. Daniel Campbell. A Jesuit, he was a hoot. every morning he would go on the flight line and bless the pilots, and when they came back he would get loaded with them at the officers club. He was a dynamite man, I happy I knew and worked with him

  • Beautiful story and beautiful tribute to your Uncle. Thank you for sharing it and him with your readers.

  • “I served in Korea in the US Air Force.”

    Thank you for your service to our country.

    My Dad was in the Air Force during the Korean War. He was a supply sergeant stationed at Pepperrell in Newfoundland. He was never assigned to Korea which is just as well for me, since he met my Mom as a result who was a resident of Saint John’s.

    The 51st named a plane after Father Dan!

  • “Thank you for sharing it and him with your readers.”

    Thank you for your kind words Tina. Uncle Ralph was a very special man, and I smile every time I remember him, which is a very good legacy for anyone.

  • My Father in Law served in the 2nd Inf. Div. as a driver for a Catholic chaplain. One day as his newly married Son in law I innocently asked about his experiences in Korea. He talked for 3 or 4 hours about what happened and what he saw, and the heroic efforts his chaplain went through to provide the sacraments to the dead and dying. I later found out that he hadn’t even told his wife or family any of those stories. I was honored to have been able to hear them.

  • To show the perfidy of those in power one need only look at the Soldiers in Ponchos.. they were chosen because the original memorial design showed to vividly why they were there. Weapons in hand.. Since the Armistice (not end of the Korean War) some 1500 more American Servicemen have lost their lives on the Pennesula.. No doubt 10s of thousands more have been seriously injured or permantly disabled..

    Worth it? Yes

    Take a look at the North.. a cesspool of misery and sadness.

    Take a look at South Korea.. Beautiful, Vibrant Alive….they are really one of the few peoples we have ever fought beside who have kept faith with US as a Nation and in spite of media hype continue to demonstrate profound respect for Americans and the American GIs who served there in the past and continue to do so today.

    Well worth it..


  • “I was honored to have been able to hear them.”


  • The Korean War was a good war, but the Vietnam War fought for similar ends and against similar enemies, by similar and sometimes even the same men was a bad war. This is the kind of disconnect one has endure when listening to leftwing pundits.

  • Take a look at South Korea.. Beautiful, Vibrant Alive…

    Making really nice minivans and selling our guys really nice leather jackets at dirt-cheap prices…. (for two examples from our household!)

    I liked Rep. of Korea, when our ship would pull in. We even had ROKers on the ship for some exercises! (Security was crazy– not because South Korea was suspect, but because who wouldn’t spy if North Korea had your family?)

  • Don beautiful story, could you send me a copy of this story about my dad.Thank you!

  • I sure will Linda. I miss your Dad quite a bit and think about him frequently.

  • I miss him every day, I
    was so lucky to have had him as my father,I think of the times us kids were growing up with you and Larry, good memories.

  • Indeed Linda. You and Christie and me and Larry, we were more like brothers and sisters than cousins! Those were good days.

  • Wonderful story Don about Uncle Ralph and the rosary. Thank you for sharing.

Patrick J. Byrne, Bishop and Martyr

Sunday, July 28, AD 2013

Yesterday was the 60th anniversary of the armistice ending the Korean War.  That War produced many Christian martyrs as the Communist powers actively persecuted and murdered Christians luckless enough to fall into their hands.  One martyr that has never received the recognition that I believe he deserves is Bishop Patrick J. Byrne.

Born on October 26, 1888 in Washington DC, he was ordained in 1915 and joined the newly formed  The Catholic Foreign Mission Society of America, better known today as Maryknoll.  In 1923 he was chosen to begin the mission in Korea.  Named Prefect Apostolic of Pyongyang.  By the time he returned to the States in 1929 the Catholic population of Korea had increased by 25,000 and there were numerous Korean priests and sisters.

In 1935 he was assigned to open a mission in Kyoto, Japan and in 1937 was named Prefect Apostolic of Kyoto.  Kept under house arrest during the War, he broadcast calming messages to the Japanese people, at the request of the Japanese government following the surrender of Japan.  During the occupation of Japan, Supreme Allied Commander General Douglas MacArthur praised Monsignor Byrne for his assistance in helping bring peace to Japan.

In 1947 he was named Apostolic Visitor to Korea.  Two years later he was named the first Apostolic Delegate to Korea and titular Bishop of Gazera.

On July 11, 1950 he was seized by the Communists after the fall of Seoul and put on trial.  Bishop Byrne refused to be docile at the show trial and a second trial was held with similar results in Pyongyang.  He was then marched to the Yalu, a journey that took four months in appalling weather with almost no food or water.  He became ill with pneumonia and died on November 25, 1950.  The night before he died he told his companions:

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One Response to Patrick J. Byrne, Bishop and Martyr

  • Good info (again). Maryknoll priests continue in Korea today. Some of their efforts are documented at Catholic American Eyes in Korea blog.

Pow Servant of God Receives Medal of Honor

Sunday, April 14, AD 2013

The POW Servant of God Father Emil Kapaun received the Medal of Honor on April 11, 2012.  Here is what he did to earn it.

Serving as a chaplain at Fort Bliss, Father Kapaun was ordered to Japan in 1950.  Upon the outbreak of the Korean War, he was assigned to a front line combat unit, the 3rd battalion, 8th cavalry regiment, 1rst Cavalry Division.

With his unit Father Kapaun participated during June-September 1950 in the desperate defense of the Pusan Perimeter and then in the breakout from the Pusan Perimeter, which, combined with the Inchon landings in Operation Chromite, the brilliant stroke by General Douglas MacArthur,  led to the eviction of the invading North Korean armies from South Korea and the capture of the North Korean capital of Pyongyang on October 19, 1950.  During all of this Father Kapaun was a whirlwind of activity:  tending the wounded, administering the Last Sacrament to the dying, keeping up the morale of the troops.  He said mass as close as he could get to the battle lines from an improvised platform on a jeep.


On November 1, 1950 Chaplain Kapaun’s unit ran headlong into advancing Chinese Communist forces at Unsan, North Korea, about 50 miles south of the Chinese border with North Korea.   The official citation of the award of the Distinguish Service Cross to Chaplain Kapaun tells of his role in the battle:

The Distinguished Service Cross is presented to Emil Joseph Kapaun(O-0558217), Captain (Chaplain), U.S. Army, for extraordinary heroism in connection withmilitary operations against an armed enemy of the United Nations while serving as Chaplain with Headquarters Company, 8th Cavalry Regiment (Infantry), 1st Cavalry Division. Captain (Chaplain) Kapaun distinguished himself by extraordinary heroism in action against enemy aggressor forces in the vicinity of Unsan, Korea, on 1 and 2 November 1950.

On the afternoon of 1 November 1950, and continuing through the following 36 hours, the regiment was subjected to a relentless, fanatical attack by hostile troops attempting to break through the perimeter defense. In the early morning hours, the enemy succeeded in breaking through the defenses, and hand-to-hand combat ensued in the immediate vicinity of the command post where the aid station had been set up. Chaplain Kapaun, with complete disregard for his personal safety, calmly moved among the wounded men, giving them medical aid and easing their fears. His courageous manner inspired all those present and many men who might otherwise have fled in panic were encouraged by his presence and remained to fight the enemy.

As the battle progressed, the number of wounded increased greatly and it became apparent that many of the men would not be able to escape the enemy encirclement. Finally, at dusk on November 2, 1950, the remaining able- bodied men were ordered to attempt to break through the surrounding enemy. At this time, although fully aware of the great danger, Chaplain Kapaun voluntarily remained behind, and when last seen was administering medical treatment and rendering religious rites wherever needed.

Along with the other Americans captured Father Kapaun was marched north in bitterly cold winter weather approximately 100 miles.  One of his fellow prisoners, Herbert Miller, was wounded and had a broken ankle.  Mr. Miller survived the war and here is a recent statement by him on what happened next.  “I was wounded with a broken ankle and the North Koreans were going to shoot me. He brushed them aside, reached down and picked me up and carried me. How he found the strength, I’ll never know. He was the bravest man I ever saw.”

Father Kapaun and his fellow POWs were taken, after their two week march, to a temporary camp which they called The Valley located 10 miles south of Pyoktong, NorthKorea, the first in a series of camps in the area where Father Kapuan and the men from his unit were held.  Of the approximately 1000 Americans who were taken here 500-700 died.  I was astonished in researching this article to learn that during their first year of operation the Chinese POW camps had a death rate of 40%, which makes them worse than the Japanese POW camps during World War II in which approximately one-third of the Allied prisoners perished.

Then the events began which made Father Kapaun unforgettable to the men who survived this Gehenna on Earth.  First, the men needed food.  On the miserable rations they had from the Chinese they were starving to death.  Father Kapaun staged daring daylight raids into surrounding fields to scavenge for hidden potatoes and sacks of corn.  If he had been discovered it is quite likely that he would have been shot on the spot.  He always shared his food with the other men, and his example shamed his fellow prisoners who also scavenged for food outside of the camp to do the same and share their food.

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Korean War II?

Thursday, April 4, AD 2013



Otto von Bismarck, the ever quotable Chancellor of the Second Reich, predicted in 1888 that “One day the great European War will come out of some damned foolish thing in the Balkans.”  I have long thought the same on a global scale about North Korea and Iran, where military power is wielded by regimes that seem to view rationality as a cardinal sin.

SEOUL — North Korea dramatically escalated its warlike rhetoric on Thursday, warning that it had authorised plans for nuclear strikes on targets in the United States.

“The moment of explosion is approaching fast,” the North Korean military said, warning that war could break out “today or tomorrow”.

Pyongyang’s latest pronouncement came as Washington scrambled to reinforce its Pacific missile defences, preparing to send ground-based interceptors to Guam and dispatching two Aegis class destroyers to the region.

Tension was also high on the North’s heavily fortified border with South Korea, after Kim Jong-Un’s isolated regime barred South Koreans from entering a Seoul-funded joint industrial park on its side of the frontier.

In a statement published by the state KCNA news agency, the Korean People’s Army general staff warned Washington that US threats would be “smashed by… cutting-edge smaller, lighter and diversified nuclear strike means”.

“The merciless operation of our revolutionary armed forces in this regard has been finally examined and ratified,” the statement said.

Last month, North Korea threatened a “pre-emptive” nuclear strike against the United States, and last week its supreme army command ordered strategic rocket units to combat status.

But, while Pyongyang has successfully carried out test nuclear detonations, most experts think it is not yet capable of mounting a device on a ballistic missile capable of striking US bases or territory.

Mounting tension in the region could however trigger incidents on the tense and heavily militarised border between North and South Korea.

The White House was swift to react to Pyongyang’s latest “unhelpful and unconstructive threats”.

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14 Responses to Korean War II?

  • 1. The concentrated metropolitan settlement has a population of about 13 million, similar to that of greater Los Angeles. The figure of “25 million” includes the population of the surrounding province of Gyeonggi.

    2. Japan’s total population, productive capacity, trajectory of economic growth, and demographic profile leave her ill-equipped to challenge Chinese pre-eminence in the Far East. Both Japan and Korea are facing social crises derived from abiding low fertility. China is as yet not.

    3. I suspect at some point in the course of hostilities between the U.S. and South Korea on the one hand and North Korea on the other, China will intervene. That is their near abroad and they have intervened before. The trick will be to avoid having American and Chinese troops shooting at each other.

    4. The most practical end result would be to place the ruins of North Korea under what amounts to a Chinese trusteeship. The place cannot be integrated any time soon into the politico-economic framework of a sophisticated and affluent country like South Korea.

    5. If we are very fortunate, the death toll will not exceed that of the Bosnian War.

    6. Ron Paul will blame the United States government.

  • “1. The concentrated metropolitan settlement has a population of about 13 million, similar to that of greater Los Angeles. The figure of “25 million” includes the population of the surrounding province of Gyeonggi.”

    True, but much of the province would be a battle zone in any case.

    “2. Japan’s total population, productive capacity, trajectory of economic growth, and demographic profile leave her ill-equipped to challenge Chinese pre-eminence in the Far East. Both Japan and Korea are facing social crises derived from abiding low fertility. China is as yet not.”

    That has not stopped them from doing so Art, especially in regard to Senkaku Island. A nuking of a Japanese city would awake some very old patterns in Japan, call into question the value of the American defense shield, and remind Japan of their traditional foreign policy of never trusting gaijin.

    “3. I suspect at some point in the course of hostilities between the U.S. and South Korea on the one hand and North Korea on the other, China will intervene.”

    Perhaps, but the Chinese have been wary about becoming too involved in North Korea, the casualties suffered in the first Korean War still being vividly alive in the institutional memory of the Chinese military. So long as the US and South Korea do not seek to occupy North Korea, I think the Chinese will sit this one out.

    “4. The most practical end result would be to place the ruins of North Korea under what amounts to a Chinese trusteeship. The place cannot be integrated any time soon into the politico-economic framework of a sophisticated and affluent country like South Korea.”

    I doubt if anyone will want the immense task of dealing with the wreckage of a society in North Korea.

    “5. If we are very fortunate, the death toll will not exceed that of the Bosnian War.”

    Depends if nukes hit a civilian center.

    “6. Ron Paul will blame the United States government”

    But of course!

  • “Both Japan and Korea are facing social crises derived from abiding low fertility. China is as yet not.”

    I thought China was in the middle of some very severe social crises derived from “low fertility” — that is, forced low fertility courtesy of the one-child policy. However, that crisis does not, as of yet, include any lack of military manpower — if anything, they have a huge surplus of single young men with no wives/girlfriends around to discourage them from fighting or getting killed. Would that, perhaps, tilt the balance in favor of Chinese intervention? Or do they have too much of a good thing going as far as trade with the West, etc. to take that chance?

  • “3. I suspect at some point in the course of hostilities between the U.S. and South Korea on the one hand and North Korea on the other, China will intervene.” – I cannot think of a better means to end (high quality) Hyundia/Kia competition for Government Motors Conglomerate and the UAW’s lemons . . .

    The CHICOM army made the hike in 1950. It’s a long walk from the Yalu R. to Seoul.

  • Per the World Bank, the total fertility rates for China, Japan, and South Korea are as follows: 1.6, 1.39, and 1.22. China’s fertility rate fell below replacement level in 1993, Korea’s in 1983, and Japan’s in 1974. Unlike a number of European countries, there has not been any discernible improvement in fertility rates in the last 15 years here or anywhere else in the Far East. China has had a foolish anti-natalist policy for a generation now and could presumably improve if they all stopped penalizing procreation. (By way of contrast, France’s fertility rate is 2.0 and the anglospheric countries bar Canada have fertility rates between 1.94 and 2.16. Germany and Austria have problems similar to Japan).

  • “6. Ron Paul will blame the United States government.”

    Everybody (but FOXNEWS) will blame Bush.

  • Not so. Mark Shea will blame Richard Cheney (“cowardly war criminal”), or perhaps The Thing Which Used To Be Conservatism.

  • If, as Mr. McClarey acknowledges, South Korea’s military could deal with the North Koreans easily enough, then there is absolutely no reason for America to be involved. As it is, our presence on the peninsula guarantees our participation in any war. Let South Korean and Japan develop their own nuclear arsenals and then they would be able to handle any kind of threat from Kim. If we can live with China and Pakistan possessing nuclear arms, then surely world peace won’t be any more seriously threatened by SK and Japan having them.

  • To what planet would we have to retreat to to not risk being hit by a nuclear armed missile from a rogue state like North Korea? What would be the consequences of China confronting a nuclear armed Japan in the Pacific? What would be the consequences to the US to a nuclear conflict between China and Japan? Retreating to Fortress America is one answer to foreign policy challenges but it is almost always a bad one.

  • It is far from a foregone conclusion that any of the scenarios that you lay out would actually occur if the US adopted a less interventionist foreign policy in the Far East. As for any threat Kim directly poses to us, I think we can deter him by letting him know in no uncertain terms that he and his regime would be utterly destroyed in the event of a conventional or nuclear attack on the United States. This could be done without maintaining a garrison in South Korea.

    BTW, I do enjoy this website, but I have my disagreements with you on foreign policy.

  • “I think we can deter him by letting him know in no uncertain terms that he and his regime would be utterly destroyed in the event of a conventional or nuclear attack on the United States.”

    We have done that many times to no avail. Irrational regimes, and North Korea is clearly in that category, have their own agendas and are often not deterred by threats. A US pullout from South Korea might well convince Kim that now is the time to strike. The idea that the US retreating to its own shores would solve our foreign policy difficulties is simply an illusion. The world is shrinking each year through technological advances and a foreign policy suitable for the US in 1789 has no chance of success in this century.

  • Mr. McClarey, you are 10,000 times wiser than a certain Pat Buchanan, who believes to his core that Fortress America is all we need to fix every problem.

POW Servant of God

Sunday, February 24, AD 2013


In the midst of a World War, Emil Kapaun was born in peaceful Pilsen, Kansas on August 20, 1916.  His parents were Czech immigrants and virtually everyone in the area spoke Czech.  From an early age Emil knew that he wanted to be a priest and would play mass with his younger brother.  Graduating from Conception Abbey seminary college in Conception Missouri in 1936,  Emil attended Kendrick Theological Seminary in Saint Louis, and was ordained a priest of the diocese of Wichita in June 1940.  Father Kapaun returned to his home parish Saint John Nepomucene in Pilsen as an assistant to Father Sklenar who, together with his Bishop, had paid the cost of his attendance at the seminary.  During these years Father Kapaun was also an auxiliary chaplain at Herington Air Base.  After the retirement of Father Sklenar in December 1943, Father Kapaun became pastor of his boyhood parish.  Receiving permission from his Bishop, Father Kapaun joined the army as a chaplain in July 1944.

Chaplain Kapaun’s intial assignment was as chaplain at Camp Wheeler in Georgia.  In April 1945 he was sent to the C-B-I (China-Burma-India) theater of operations.  While in the C-B-I he traveled over 2000 miles by jeep to say mass for the troops in the forward areas.  Arriving in India he served as a chaplain for the troops on the Ledo road from Ledo, India to Lashio, Burma.   Chaplain Kapaun became friends with the Catholic missionaries, priests and nuns from Italy, at Lashio.  Taking up a collection for the missions from American troops, who responded generously, Father Kapaun also prevailed upon American combat engineers to construct a building in Lashio to be used as a school and a church.  Here is a picture of Father Kapaun, viewer’s right, along with his trusty jeep, while he was in the C-B-I.


Promoted to Captain, he remained in the C-B-I until May of 1946 and was mustered out of the Army in July 1946.  With the approval of his Bishop, Father Kapuan enrolled at Catholic University in Washington on the G.I. Bill, and obtained a Master’s degree in education in February 1948.  In April his Bishop appointed him pastor in Timken, Kansas in April 1948.  Believing that he was called to be a chaplain for the troops, and with the consent of his Bishop, Father Kapaun rejoined the army as a chaplain in September 1948.

Serving as a chaplain at Fort Bliss, Father Kapaun was ordered to Japan in 1950.  Upon the outbreak of the Korean War, he was assigned to a front line combat unit, the 3rd battalion, 8th cavalry regiment, 1rst Cavalry Division.

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POW Servant of God To Receive Medal of Honor

Sunday, February 24, AD 2013


On April 11, 2012 Father Emil Kapaun, the POW Servant of God, will receive posthumously this nation’s highest decoration for heroism, the Medal of Honor:

The Pentagon is expected to invite several of Kapaun’s fellow former prisoners of war to attend the ceremony. They survived horrific conditions in the prison camp after they were captured in the first battles against the Chinese Army in late 1950, shortly after China entered the Korean War.

All of these soldiers, now in their mid- or upper 80s, have lobbied for more than 60 years to persuade the Army to award Kapaun the Medal of Honor.

They also have lobbied the Roman Catholic Church to elevate him to sainthood. The Vatican recently completed an extensive investigation and is considering the matter.

Soldiers like Mike Dowe, William Funchess, Robert Wood, Robert McGreevy and Herb Miller, most of them Protestants, have spent decades writing letters or giving interviews describing repeated acts of bravery by Kapaun. They said he repeatedly ran through machine gun fire, dragging wounded soldiers to safety during the first months of the war.

They said his most courageous acts followed in a prisoner of war camp, where Kapaun died in May 1951. They said he saved hundreds of soldiers’ lives using faith and the skills honed on his family’s farm near Pilsen.

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4 Responses to POW Servant of God To Receive Medal of Honor

  • I am very pleased that Father Kapaun is finally going to receive the Medal of Honor. Reading his story never fails to bring tears to my eyes. He was a great man, a fine soldier, a faithful priest. We are very proud here in Kansas.

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  • What is perhaps more shameful for our American military (see “bureaucracy,” and “government”) is that the toughest group in the world to be admitted to, the recognized saints of the Church, seems to be more easily given than the Medal of Honor.

  • “I never liked being called the ‘most decorated’ soldier. There were so many guys who should have gotten medals and never did–
    guys who were killed.”

    Audie Murphy

Franciscan Love

Monday, June 18, AD 2012

 For love of Him they ought to expose themselves to enemies both visible and invisible.

Saint Francis of Assisi


Born in Louisville, Kentucky on July 17, 1913, Herman G. Felhoelter was ordained a Franciscan priest in 1939.  He served as an Army chaplain during War II and was awarded a Bronze Star.

Reenlisting in the Army after the war, on July 16th 1950 he was a Captain serving as a chaplain with the 19th Infantry in Korea.  The 19th was in a tough spot that day.  The North Koreans had established a road block in the rear of the regiment near the village of Tunam, South Korea.  The regiment was in retreat, moving through mountains, trying to get around the roadblock, and slowed by the numerous wounded being carried due to the heavy fighting with the North Koreans during the battle for Taegu.  It was obvious by 9:00 PM on the evening of July 16th that 30 of the most seriously wounded could go no farther due to their stretcher bearers being exhausted.  Father Felhoelter and the chief medical officer Captain Linton J. Buttrey volunteered to stay with the wounded while the rest of the men escaped.  Father  Felhoelter was under no illusions of what would happen to the wounded and to him after the advancing North Koreans captured them, and swiftly gave them the Last Rites while he tended to them.

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15 Responses to Franciscan Love

  • Franciscan love . . . zeal for the salvation of souls . . . moral courage.

    How blessed am I that I have Father Felhoelter’s brother priests of St. Francis of Assisi on 32nd Street 24/7 loving me!

    Father Mychal Judge (RIP. 11 September 2001) ministered there as well.

  • I have to wonder about one thing: would a lesbian Episcopalian priestest give her life for the wounded?

    Or homosexual Bishop Gene Robinson?

  • Paul,
    One can acknowledge that homosexual conduct is sinful and object to its advocacy without entering into such unfair speculation.

  • This post was not written to have aspersions cast on the courage of others, but rather to marvel at the courage and love shown by Father Felhoelter. Let us thank God that God gave us such a man who so perfectly emulated the love shown by Christ and Saint Francis of Assisi.

  • My apologies, Mike P. and Donald M. I get angry that liberals say authentic Christians are unloving while the apostates are the only ones who aren’t apostate and who show true love. So I wondered aloud how many of them would sacrifice their own lives. This wasn’t the right post in which to make that comment. -10 points for me.

  • Last night on CNN Don Lemon talked with Stephen Hawking and gushed about him being the smartest man ever. Lemon talked up Hawking’s idea that God does not exist, that nobody made the universe, and nobody care about our life or death.

    Father Felhoelter – his belief in God was so strong that he went where he wasn’t comfortable, to do something so hard that it seems iin-credible to all of us narcissists who might try to “practice” our faith, who verbally acknowledge God– but, who look at Father Felhoelter- and realize he GAVE HIS LIFE for something unseen, unknown.
    Stephen Hawkings said theists only believe that to comfort themselves. Some comfort huh Father?

  • “The North Koreans killed him by shooting him in the head and the back and then proceeded to murder the helpless wounded.”

    Filthy, dirty, Godless commies.

    Steven Hawking will never experience the love that Father Felhoelter had.

  • We will meet Fr. Felhoelter in heaven

  • Stephen Hawking relies on the charity of others to stay alive, and all true charity comes from God. How ironic.

    “…ever learning and never coming to the knowledge of the truth.” 2nd Timothy 3:7.

    Stephen Hawking will at least one day see if not experience the love that Fr. Felhoelter had. For some that sadly will be as described in Revelation 20:11-15 when it is too late. Pray that that is NOT the case for Dr. Hawking. Fr. Felhoelter would not want him to so perish, nor would he have wanted those commies who murdered him to likewise perish, regardless that they were as filthy and dirty and godless as those Roman soldiers at the foot of the Cross. “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.”

    OK, this rare moment of lucidity has passed. I will now return to being the malcontent that I normally am. 😉

  • God bless S. Hawking and us all. Hawking’s lack of belief, and Don Lemon’s endorsement of it promotes atheism to an ever wider group.
    The faith of Father Felhoelter is such a contrast!

  • Wow now he is one of many Men of God.

  • Jaspar I think that the reason communist countries fail is because they are godless and so are weak and based on the hatred of Good, and so despite the vast and amazing zeal among communists communist nations always fail because of how corrupt they are. So the communist ideology is just another annoying evil that gets in the way.

  • I believe Fr Felhoelter grew up in my parish, as there’s a historical marker erected outside the parish for him.

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  • Stephen Hawking is in the bizarre situation of depending on millions of dollars of state of the art equipment and personal assistants to function and to pay for these, he must publish popular books that make lots of money. Scholarly books will not bring in the millions he makes ‘selling atheism’ and he basically writes the same book over and over. It is macabre.

The Korean War-Not The Forgotten War

Saturday, June 26, AD 2010

June 25, 1950, the North Koreans, at the instigation of Stalin, invaded South Korea.  The US, under UN auspices, intervened under General Douglas MacArthur.  In a brilliant campaign, MacArthur led the American and allied forces to victory, largely destroying the North Korean Army and conquering most of North Korea.  Massive Chinese intervention led to a see-saw war up and down the Korean peninsula, with a stalemate ensuing from July 1951-July 1953.  Eisenhower got the North Koreans and their Chinese and Soviet backers to finally agree to a truce by threatening to use nuclear weapons in Korea.

Our POWs during the war were treated with the usual barbarity with which Communist regimes have treated prisoners of war.

One reason that the war dragged on is because many North Korean and Chinese prisoners of war did not want to be repatriated.  Harry Truman, to his everlasting credit, refused to send them back against their will:  “We will not buy an armistice by turning over human beings for slaughter or slavery“.  Eventually, in a stunning rebuke to Communism, some 46,000 North Korean and Chinese soldiers refused repatriation.  Conversely, only 22 Americans and 1 Brit refused repatriation, with almost all of them eventually returning after the war.

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3 Responses to The Korean War-Not The Forgotten War

POW Servant of God Easter Sermon

Sunday, April 4, AD 2010

On Easter Sunday 1942 Father Emil Kapaun, the POW Servant of God  I have written about here, here , here and  here delivered an Easter Sermon.  Go here to read it.

Nine years later, shortly before his death in a Chinese prisoner of war camp, he preached another Easter sermon.  Before a crude wooden cross  he gave an unforgettable sermon on the Passion of Our Lord and led the rosary using a barbed wire rosary he had made from the wire that ringed the camp.  Suffering from dysentery, pneumonia and an infection in one of his legs and in his eyes and so weak he could barely stand, he somehow found  the strength to help his men,  in the midst of their misery, to recognize the boundless joy of Easter.  In many ways the entire life of Father Kapaun was a joyful sermon on Easter.

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4 Responses to POW Servant of God Easter Sermon