Thursday, April 11, 2013
President Barack Obama today will posthumously award the Medal of Honor to Army Chaplain (Capt.) Emil J. Kapaun, a Catholic priest, who died on May 23, 1951, at a prison camp in Pyoktong, Korea.
(The ceremony begins at 2:10 p.m. EDT, and you can watch the live stream of the ceremony at the top of this post.)
According to the Department of Defense, Kapaun served with the 1st Cavalry Division’s 3rd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment in the Korean War. On November 1, 1950, in Unsan, Korea, Kapaun's battalion came under attack:
When Chinese communist forces viciously attacked friendly elements, Kapaun calmly walked through withering enemy fire to provide comfort and medical aid to his comrades. When they found themselves surrounded by the enemy, the able-bodied men were ordered to evacuate.
Kapaun, fully aware of his certain capture, elected to stay behind with the wounded. As hand-to-hand combat ensued, he continued to make rounds.
Kapaun was taken prisoner by the Chinese, where fellow soldiers say he continued to provide support and guidance in the prison camp. Former POW Mike Dowe said of Kapaun:
"His presence really made things almost seem tolerable. He inspired a lot of people with the will to live that wouldn't have otherwise."
Interesting side note: In 1993, the Vatican named Kapaun a "Servant of God." He is now a candidate for sainthood.