By Sgt. Kimberly Browne
Capt. Emil Joseph Kapaun, chaplain, served with Headquarters Company, 8th Cav. in the Korean War where he was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, or DSC, Aug. 18, 1951. The award of the Medal of Honor to Kapaun is an upgrade of the DSC.
Kapaun, also a World War II veteran, sacrificed his own safety while the regiment was attacked by hostile forces and he moved among the wounded to provide medical aid and comfort.
At dusk, Nov. 2, 1950, the troops who were able to fight were ordered to attempt to break through the surrounding enemy. Kapaun however, remained behind to administer medical treatment and render religious rites wherever needed.
Upon capture, Kapaun and other prisoners of war, known as POWs, were forced to walk more than 85 miles to the city of Pyoktong, North Korea. While forcibly walking this march through snow and ice, Kapaun assisted the wounded and encouraged other Soldiers to do the same.
While he was held captive, he snuck around to more than 200 men that were also captive to say prayers and give support. He also secretly moved able-bodied men out to the countryside at night, while avoiding guards, to get food and firewood to help keep the prisoners alive. At this point the other POWs had dubbed him the “good thief.”
Kapaun was a Prisoner of War from Nov. 2, 1950, until he died from a blood clot, May 23, 1951.
“Father Emil Kapaun is an American hero who embodies the Medal of Honor’s ideals as our nation’s highest award for military service,” said Maj. Gen. Anthony Ierardi, commanding general of the 1st Cavalry Division. “He distinguished himself with valor before his capture and continued to care for his fellow Soldiers at a great risk to himself while interned in a prisoner of war camp. Although Father Kapaun did not survive to be liberated along with hundreds of the prisoners he ministered to and assisted, his faith, honor and selfless devotion to duty reflects the finest tradition of the U.S. Army, the 1st Cavalry Division, and the Army Chaplain Corps.”
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