Chaplain Emil Kapaun, Medal of Honor

The White House announced today that Chaplain (Captain) Emil Kapaun would receive the Medal of Honor for his heroic service and sacrifice on behalf of Soldiers during the Korean War. I previously wrote about Chaplain Kapaun in Is the Chaplain a Saint? The Army has also posted a biography of Chaplain Kapaun.

Here is what I believe to be the Medal of Honor citation from the Army web site.

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Chaplain Emil J. Kapaun, while assigned to Headquarters Company, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division, distinguished himself by extraordinary heroism, patriotism, and selfless service between Nov. 1, 1950, and May 23, 1951. During the Battle of Unsan, Kapaun was attached to 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 crawled to wounded men and either dragged them back to the safety of the American lines, or 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.

After he was captured, Kapaun and other prisoners marched for several days northward toward prisoner-of-war camps. During the march 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 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.

When Kapaun began to suffer from the physical toll of his captivity, the Chinese transferred him to a filthy, unheated hospital where he died alone. As he was being carried to the hospital, he asked God’s forgiveness for his captors, and made his fellow prisoners promise to keep their faith.

Chaplain Emil J. 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 enemy indoctrination, and retain their faith in God and country. His actions reflect the utmost credit upon him, the 1st Cavalry Division, and the United States Army.

Chaplain Kapaun conducts mass in October 1950.
Chaplain Kapaun conducts mass in October 1950.
Chaplain Kapaun assists medical personnel with evacuation of a Soldier.
Chaplain Kapaun assists medical personnel with evacuation of a Soldier.

Photos of Chaplain Kapaun’s ministry in Korea prior to his capture. Via the U.S. Army.