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Patron of all military chaplains, Kansas.

 

Emil Kapaun was born in 1916 on a farm in Pilsen, Kansas, 60 miles north of Wichita. He was ordained a priest on June 9, 1940, and served at his home parish of St. John Nepomucene in Pilsen, until entering the U.S. Army Chaplain Corps in 1944. Father Kapaun began his military service as a chaplain to troops in India and Burma in the final years of World War II. After the war, Father Kapaun was sent to study education at Catholic University in Washington, DC, and then returned to the Diocese of Wichita to serve as a parish priest. Two years later, Father Kapaun sought permission to re-enter the Chaplain Corps. He was sent to Japan in 1949.A month after North Korea invaded South Korea in June of 1950, Father Kapaun and the First Cavalry Division were ordered to the Korean War to help repel the invasion. Father Kapaun became well-known for risking his life ministering to the soldiers on the front lines.

 

In November, when 250,000 Chinese troops entered the war from the north, his unit was the first to be overrun. During the Battle of Unsan, Father Kapaun rescued about 30 wounded soldiers and ministered to countless others. He elected to stay behind with the wounded rather than flee to safety with the rest of the unit. He was captured on November 2, 1950, and forced to march over 60 miles to Prisoner of War Camp #5. Along the way to the camp, he saved another soldier from execution and encouraged the wounded soldiers to carry others who could not walk on their own.

During the seven months that Father Kapaun was in captivity, he spent himself totally for the benefit of his fellow prisoners, without regard to race, color or creed. Men of all faiths who were imprisoned with him still testify to this day about the acts of courage and heroism that he displayed while in the camp.

Emil Kapaun

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