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  • Writer's pictureProfiles in Catholicism

Obituary of Father Emil Kapaun

Updated: Apr 25, 2020

Fr. Kapaun’s Medal of Honor award citation describes his actions on November 1-2, 1950:

“During the Battle of Unsan, Kapaun was serving with the 3rd Battalion of the 8th Cavalry Regiment. As Chinese Communist forces encircled the battalion, Kapaun moved fearlessly from foxhole to foxhole under direct enemy fire in order to provide comfort and reassurance to the outnumbered Soldiers. He repeatedly exposed himself to enemy fire to recover wounded men, dragging them to safety. When he couldn't drag them, he dug shallow trenches to shield them from enemy fire. As Chinese forces closed in, Kapaun rejected several chances to escape, instead volunteering to stay behind and care for the wounded. He was taken as a prisoner of war by Chinese forces on Nov. 2, 1950.”

After their capture the men endured a forced 60-mile march to the prisoner of war camps.

“Once inside the dismal prison camps, Kapaun risked his life by sneaking around the camp after dark, foraging for food, caring for the sick, and encouraging his fellow Soldiers to sustain their faith and their humanity. On at least one occasion, he was brutally punished for his disobedience, being forced to sit outside in subzero weather without any garments. When the Chinese instituted a mandatory re-education program, Kapaun patiently and politely rejected every theory put forth by the instructors. Later, Kapaun openly flouted his captors by conducting a sunrise service on Easter morning, 1951.”

While attending men on the battlefield, Fr. Kapaun was taken prisoner and endured a 60-mile march to a prison camp.  While at the camp, he ignored his own wounds while tending to others.  He died of complications from his in injuries in 1951. He is one of five priests awarded the Medal of Honor.

He died alone in a filthy, unheated, hospital on May 23rd, 1951.

Fr. Kapaun was named a Servant of God in 1993;


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