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Body Of Catholic Army Chaplain, Korean War Medal Of Honor Recipient Recovered After 70 Years

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  • The body of Korean War Medal of Honor recipient, Army Chaplain (Capt.) Emil Joseph Kapaun has been recovered, the Army Public Affairs office announced Friday.
  • “After 70 years Chaplain (Capt.) Kapaun has been accounted for,” acting Secretary of the Army John E. Whitley said in a statement. “His heroism and resilient spirit epitomized our Army values of personal courage and selfless service.”
  • Pope St. John Paul II launched Kapaun on the path to canonization in 1993 when he declared the Catholic chaplain a servant of God, and former President Barack Obama posthumously awarded him the Medal of Honor in 2013.

The body of Korean War Medal of Honor recipient, Army Chaplain (Capt.) Emil Joseph Kapaun has been recovered, the Army Public Affairs office announced Friday.

“After 70 years Chaplain (Capt.) Kapaun has been accounted for,” acting Secretary of the Army John E. Whitley said in a statement. “His heroism and resilient spirit epitomized our Army values of personal courage and selfless service.”

Kapaun, who was from Pilsen, Kansas, served as a chaplain to the 3rd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division. His battalion was in Unsan, North Korea in 1950 when they were surrounded by Chinese Communist Forces, according to the Army Public Affairs, and the unit members “became trapped and dug inside foxholes or behind bunkers.”

“Kapaun stayed with the wounded but was soon captured and marched from village to village, with little food and shelter, to Old Pyoktong, later known as Chinese Camp 5, on the south bank of the Yalu River,” the Army Public Affairs press release said.

SOUTH KOREA. Father Emil Kapaun celebrates Mass using the hood of his jeep as an altar, as his assistant, Patrick J. Schuler, kneels in prayer in Korea on Oct. 7, 1950, less than a month before Kapaun was taken prisoner. Kapaun died in a prisoner of war camp on May 23, 1951, his body wracked by pneumonia and dysentery. On April 11, 2013, President Barack Obama awarded the legendary chaplain, credited with saving hundreds of soldiers during the Korean War, the Medal of Honor posthumously. (Photo by U.S. Army Col. Raymond A. Skeehan, courtesy of US Army)

Kapaun fell “mortally ill” while he was ministering to his fellow prisoners of war. The 35-year-old Catholic priest would celebrate his final Easter mass shortly before he died of exhaustion and possible heart failure, according to the Army Public Affairs press release. (RELATED: Here’s Why Media Calls Biden A ‘Devout Catholic’ According To Theologians, Commentators)

“Chaplain Kapaun repeatedly risked his own life to save the lives of hundreds of fellow Americans,” the release said. “His extraordinary courage, faith and leadership inspired thousands of prisoners to survive hellish conditions, resist enemy indoctrination and retain their faith in God and country.”

The Catholic Diocese of Wichita, Kansas describes Kapaun’s seven months in camp as “heroic” and selfless.

“Father Kapaun spent himself in heroic service to his fellow prisoners without regard for race, color, or creed, giving them help and hope when they needed it most,” the diocese said in a statement on its website. “Ignoring his own ill health, he nursed the sick and wounded, stole food for the hungry, picked lice off of men, washed dirty and soiled clothing, and encouraged men through prayer and humor to keep fighting for life. Falling sick, the Chinese moved Father Kapaun to a so-called hospital, where, denied medical assistance, his death soon followed on May 23, 1951.”

SOUTH KOREA. Chaplain Emil Kapaun (right) and a doctor carry an exhausted soldier off the battlefield in Korea, early in the war. The photo shows Kapaun to the GI’s left, and Capt. Jerome A. Dolan, a medical officer with the 8th Cavalry regiment, to his right. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Raymond Piper, courtesy ACME)

Pope St. John Paul II launched Kapaun on the path to canonization in 1993 when he declared the Catholic chaplain a servant of God, and former President Barack Obama awarded him the Medal of Honor in 2013.

Chief of Staff of the Army James C. McConville said that recovering Chaplain Kapaun “reaffirms our commitment to never leaving a fallen comrade.” About 7,500 Korean War service members have not yet been accounted for, according to the Army Public Affairs.

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