Father Emil Kapaun


U.S. Army Chaplain

Medal of Honor recipient 

During the Korean War, Father Emil Kapaun served as a chaplain for the 8th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division. Kapaun was no stranger to combat and death, having served in the Pacific during World War II, and he quickly gained a reputation for his bravery and devotion to the soldiers under his care.

Throughout the months of fighting, Kapaun was often found on the front lines, ministering to the wounded and dying, and even rescuing soldiers under fire. He would set up an improvised altar on the front end of a Jeep and celebrate Mass for the troops. His courage and dedication to his men earned him the respect and admiration of all who knew him.

During one heavy skirmish, Kapaun and his assistant learned that a wounded soldier was left behind, pinned down by enemy fire. With no litter bearers available, the two chaplains bravely ventured out under heavy fire and saved the man's life. This act of selflessness and bravery was just one of many examples of Kapaun's dedication to his men.

On November 2, 1950, nearly 20,000 Communist soldiers attacked the regiment. Despite the pleas for him to escape, Kapaun chose to stay behind with his men while the rest of the regiment retreated. During the battle, he braved enemy fire and rescued nearly 40 men. Under overwhelming odds, he and the remaining survivors were captured and marched 87 miles to their prison camp.

At the prison camp, Kapaun continued to devote himself to his men, even though he himself was suffering from malnutrition and disease. He gave away his own food, raised morale, and smuggled in medicines to help the sick and wounded. He defied Communist indoctrination at every opportunity, refusing to abandon his faith or betray his country.

On May 23, 1951, Kapaun died in captivity, a victim of malnutrition and disease. He was the 12th chaplain to die in Korea, but his legacy lived on. Kapaun received numerous awards for valor, including the Medal of Honor in 2013, and in 1993, Pope John Paul II named him a Servant of God. Today, Kapaun is in the process of becoming a saint, a testament to his selflessness and devotion to others.


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