AN UPDATE TO A MONDAY MORNING BOOST I ORIGINAL WROTE ON APRIL 8, 2013
I had never heard of Father Emil Kapaun before yesterday. But after reading of his heroic actions as a chaplain during the Korean War, I will never forget him. This coming Thursday, the nation will officially recognize Kapaun for those actions by awarding him, posthumously, the Congressional Medal of Honor.
According to an AP article in Sunday’s Deseret News, Kapaun, who grew up in the small town of Pilsen, Kansas, is credited with saving hundreds of soldiers during the Korean War before dying of pneumonia and dysentery at the age of 35 in a prisoner of war camp.
Lieutenants Mike Dowe and Robert Wood were with Kapaun (pronounced Kaw-PAHWN) that day 62 years ago. As the Deseret News points out, these two never forgot their chaplain’s “courage in swatting away an enemy soldier pointing a gun at a GI’s head… his talent for stealing food, then sneaking it to emaciated troops… [his] inspiring way he rallied his ‘boys,’ as he called them, urging them to keep their spirits up.”
Sgt. Herbert Miller tells the incredible story of how he was rescued by Kapaun after his ankle had been broken by a grenade attack. It was November 1950 and Miller was playing dead, hiding in a ditch beneath a dead enemy soldier near the Korean village of Unsan. When he was discovered, a Chinese soldier pointed his rifle at Miller’s head. It’s at that moment Kapaun appears from across the road and knocks the rifle away.
“Why he never shot him,” Miller says, “I’ll never know. I’ll never know. … I think the Lord was there directing him what to do.”
Kapaun picked up Miller, hoisting him unto his back, as the pair were taken prisoner. When Miller told the Kapaun to put him down, the chaplain simply replied, “If I put you down, they’ll shoot you.”
Kapaun carried and assisted Miller for several days as they were marched to Pyoktong, a Korean village that later became a prisoner of war camp. It was at this camp in the Spring of 1951 Father Kapaun, “defying his captors,” held an Easter Mass and led the POW’s singing “America the Beautiful.”
Kapaun died just a few weeks later on May 23, 1951.
Lieutenants Dowe and Wood, both now in their mid-80’s, will be there for Thursday’s Medal of Honor ceremony.
Have a great Monday. Thanks for letting me share!
p.s. Take 13 minutes today and read about Korean War Hero and Medal of Honor recipient Chaplain Emil Kapaun.
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