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. Continue reading
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.
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. Continue reading
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.