Father Emil Kapaun: Catholic War Hero

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Father Emil Kapaun was born on April 20,1916 in Pilsen, Kansas. He was the son of Czech Catholic immigrants. He received a strong Catholic upbringing. In 1930, he graduated from Pilsen High School. He graduated from Conception Abbey seminary in Conception, Missouri in June 1936 and Kenrick Theological Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1940. On June 9,1940, he was ordained a priest in Wichita, Kansas and celebrated his first Mass at St. John Nepomucene Catholic Church in Pilsen, Kansas. In January 1943, he was appointed auxiliary chaplain at the Herington Army Airfield near Herington, Kansas and in December, he replaced Fr. Sklenar who had retired. He served in the Pilsen area under the Roman Catholic Diocese of Wichita, Kansas. In August 1944, he entered the U.S. Army Chaplain School at Ft. Devens, Massachusetts. He served during the remaining of World War II. In 1947, he attended Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. and earned a Master of Arts degree in Education in February 1948. In December 1949, he left Pilsen and his parents for the last time bound for Japan. In January 1950, he was stationed near Mount Fuji, Japan. He became a chaplain in the 8th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division. On July 15,1950, they left Tokyo Bay for Korea. It was less than a month after North Korea invaded South Korea. During his time in Korea, on the front end of a jeep this was his altar, he administered the Sacraments to the living and the dead. On November 2,1950, he was captured by the Chinese during the Battle of Unsan near Unsan, North Korea. He and his fellow division were marched to a permanent camp at Pyoktong, North Korea where they were held. At the camp, he denied himself food, gave it to the prisoners, he was a peacemaker in the midst of arguments, and he was also made to dig latrines by his captors.  During his captivity, he was very sick but celebrated Easter Mass. He died on May 23,1951, when he left alone in a hospital with no help. He was buried near the Yalu River in mass grave. He is a candidate up for beatification in the Catholic Church.

 

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