A Wounded Soldier is Assisted by Most Decorated Army Chaplain
Capt. Emil J. Kapaun –Image Courtesy: Pinterest
(U.S. Army) Catholic Priest/Army Chaplain Capt. Emil Kapaun while assigned to Headquarters Co. 8th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division, distinguished himself by extraordinary heroism, patriotism and selfless service during the ‘Battle of Unsan’ 01-02 November, 1950 while serving with the 3rd Battalion, Fr. Kapaun of the 8th Cavalry Regiment.
As Communist forces encircled the battalion, Fr. Kapaun moved fearlessly from foxhole-to-foxhole under direct enemy fire in order to provide comfort and reassurance to the outnumbered Soldiers, repeatedly exposing himself to enemy fire to recover wounded men, dragging them to safety.
When Fr. Kapaun could not drag them, he dug shallow trenches to shield them from enemy fire–As Communist forces closed in, Fr. Kapaun rejected several chances to escape, instead volunteering to stay behind and care for the wounded. On the 02 November, 1950 Fr. Kapaun was taken prisoner by Communist forces.
After being taken prisoner, Fr. Kapaun and other POWs were marched for several days northward toward POW camps. During the march, Fr. Kapaun led by example in caring for injured Soldiers, refusing to take a break from carrying the stretchers of the wounded, while encouraging others to do their part.
Once inside the dismal POW camp. Fr. Kapaun risked his own 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 humanity.
On at least one occasion, Fr. Kapaun was brutally punished by Communists for his disobedience, being forced to sit outside in subzero weather without any clothing. When Communist forces instituted a mandatory reeducation program, Fr. Kapaun patiently and politely rejected every theory put forth by the instructors. Later in 1951 Fr. Kapaun openly flouted his captors by celebrating Easter Sunrise Mass with Soldiers.
When Fr. Kapaun began to suffer from the physical toll of his captivity, the Communist forces transferred him to a filthy, unheated hospital–while being carried there, Fr. Kapaun asked God’s forgiveness for his captors and made his fellow prisoners promise to keep their faith. Capt Emil J. Kapaun died on the 23 May, 1951 alone as a POW in captivity.
Chaplain Kapaun, repeatedly risked his own life to save the lives of hundreds of fellow Americans, his extraordinary courage, faith and leadership inspired thousands of prisoners to survive hellish conditions, resist the enemy indoctrination and retain their faith in God and country.
For Fr. Kapaun’s heroic, patriotic and selfless military service in both WW II and the Korean War, he was awarded the Bronze Star, Distinguished Service Cross and Medal of Honor posthumously, becoming known as the ‘Soldiers Chaplain’ by the men her served throughout his life, devoted to the service of others.
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