Share This Page

Korean war chaplain who gave POWs hope finally receives his due

| Thursday, April 11, 2013, 7:45 p.m.

WASHINGTON — It took 60 years for the men who served in the Korean War with Army Chaplain Emil Kapaun to have his memory honored with the military's highest award. Members of the heroic Catholic preist's family and a handful of veterans, most in their 80s, listened on Thursday as President Obama lauded the captain's bravery and kindness before handing the Medal of Honor to his nephew, Ray Kapaun.

“POWs come and tell stories of him,” the Rev. John Hotze, a priest in Wichita, told the Washington Post. “They talked about how they would never have been able to survive had it not been for Father Kapaun, who gave them hope and the courage to live.”

Kapaun was “an American soldier who didn't fire a gun, but who (carried) the mightiest weapon of all: the love for his brothers so powerful that he was willing to die so that they might live,” Obama said.

On Nov. 2, 1950, the 8th Cavalry was encircled by Chinese and North Korean troops at Unsan. Kapaun carried a wounded man to safety. In a bleak and freezing North Korean prisoner of war camp, Kapaun shared the lessons he learned on the Kansas farm where he was raised in a community of Czech immigrants. He traded his watch for a blanket, which he cut up to make socks for others. He earned the nickname “the good thief” for his ability to forage for food. He told jokes and said prayers and gave his food away.

When Kapaun took ill himself, the guards took him to “the dying room.” But Kapaun reassured the soldiers that he was going to a better place. He then turned to the guards and said, “Forgive them, O Lord, for they know not what they do.”

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.