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b. 20/04/1916 Pilsen, Kansas. d. 23/05/1951 Pyoktong, Korea.


DATE OF MOH ACTION: 01-02/11/1950 Unsan, Korea.


Emil Joseph Kapaun was born on April 20, 1916, and grew up on a farm three miles southwest of Pilsen, Kansas on rural 260th Street of Marion County. His parents were Enos and Elizabeth Kapaun, Czech immigrants. He graduated from Pilsen High School in May 1930. Kapaun also graduated from Conception Abbey seminary college (College of New Engleberg; Conception Seminary College) in Conception, Missouri, in June 1936 and Kenrick Theological Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1940. In 1947, he attended Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.


On June 9, 1940, Kapaun was ordained a Catholic priest at what is now Newman University in Wichita, Kansas. He celebrated his first Mass at St. John Nepomucene Catholic Church in Pilsen, Kansas. In January 1943, Kapaun was appointed auxiliary chaplain at the Herington Army Airfield near Herington, Kansas. In December 1943, Kapaun was appointed pastor to replace Fr. Sklenar who had retired. He served in the Pilsen area under the Roman Catholic Diocese of Wichita


Kapaun entered the U.S. Army Chaplain School at Ft. Devens, Massachusetts in August 1944, and after graduating in October began his military chaplaincy at Camp Wheeler, Georgia. He and one other chaplain ministered to approximately 19,000 service men and women. He was sent to India and served in the Burma Theater from April 1945 to May 1946. 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, the 1st Cavalry Division and Kapaun embarked and left Tokyo Bay sailing for Korea, less than a month after North Korea had invaded South Korea.


He was captured and taken prisoner by Chinese soldiers during the Battle of Unsan near Unsan, North Korea, on November 2, 1950. He and other members of the 3rd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment taken prisoner were marched 87 miles (140 km) to a temporary prison camp at Sombakol near the permanent camp (Prison Camp 5) at Pyoktong, North Korea where they were later held. Kapaun was able to persuade some prisoners, who had ignored orders from officers, to carry the wounded.


Kapaun developed a blood clot in one of his legs besides having dysentery and pneumonia. Weakened as the months passed, he managed to lead Easter sunrise service on Sunday, March 25, 1951. He was so weak that the prison guards took him to a place in the Pyoktong camp they called the "hospital", which was really a place where he was left alone without any help and left to die ... of malnutrition and pneumonia on May 23, 1951.




Chaplain Emil J. KAPAUN distinguished himself by acts of gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty while serving with the 3rd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division during combat operations against an armed enemy at Unsan, Korea, from November 1–2, 1950. On November 1, as Chinese Communist Forces viciously attacked friendly elements, Chaplain KAPAUN calmly walked through withering enemy fire in order to provide comfort and medical aid to his comrades and rescue friendly wounded from no-man's land. Though the Americans successfully repelled the assault, they found themselves surrounded by the enemy. Facing annihilation, the able-bodied men were ordered to evacuate. However, Chaplain KAPAUN, fully aware of his certain capture, elected to stay behind with the wounded. After the enemy succeeded in breaking through the defense in the early morning hours of November 2, Chaplain KAPAUN continually made rounds, as hand-to-hand combat ensued. As Chinese Communist Forces approached the American position, Chaplain KAPAUN noticed an injured Chinese officer among the wounded and convinced him to negotiate the safe surrender of the American Forces. Shortly after his capture, Chaplain KAPAUN with complete disregard for his personal safety and unwavering resolve, bravely pushed aside an enemy soldier preparing to execute Sergeant First Class Herbert A. Miller. Not only did Chaplain KAPAUN'S gallantry save the life of Sergeant Miller, but also his unparalleled courage and leadership inspired all those present, including those who might have otherwise fled in panic, to remain and fight the enemy until captured. Chaplain KAPAUN'S extraordinary heroism and selflessness, above and beyond the call of duty, are in keeping with the highest traditions of military service and reflect great credit upon himself, the 3rd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, the 1st Cavalry Division, and the United States Army.




Emil Joseph Kapaun