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Medal of Honor posthumously awarded to Chaplain (Capt.) Emil J. Kapaun

Thursday April 11, 2013

What is it?

Chaplain (Capt.) Emil J. Kapaun will posthumously receive the nation’s highest award for valor - the Medal of Honor - from President Barack Obama during a White House ceremony at 2:10 p.m. today. Chaplain Kapaun’s nephew, Ray Kapaun, will accept the medal on his uncle’s behalf.

What has the Army done?

Chaplain Emil J. Kapaun, while assigned to Headquarters Company, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division, distinguished himself by extraordinary heroism and selfless service between Nov. 1-2, 1950. On Oct. 31, the enemy attacked their position near Unsan, South Korea. It was while Kapaun was ministering and counseling to the Soldiers of the 3rd Battalion of the 8th Cavalry Regiment that the enemy attacked. As Chinese Communist forces encircled the battalion, Kapaun repeatedly exposed himself to enemy fire to recover wounded men, dragging them to safety. As Chinese forces closed in, Kapaun rejected several chances to escape; instead he stayed behind to care for the wounded. He was taken as a prisoner of war by Chinese forces on Nov. 2.

Kapaun and hundreds of other prisoners were marched for several days northward. Once inside the dismal prison camp, Kapaun regularly risked his life by sneaking around the camp after dark, foraging for food, caring for the sick, and encouraging his fellow Soldiers to sustain their faith and their humanity. When Kapaun began to suffer from the physical toll of captivity, the Chinese transferred him to a filthy, unheated hospital. As he was being carried to the hospital, he made his fellow prisoners promise to keep their faith. Chaplain Kapaun died in captivity on May 23, 1951. (Read the complete narrative on the Medal of Honor Chaplain (Capt.) Emil J. Kapaun website.)

What efforts does the Army have planned for the future?

Chaplain Kapaun’s actions embody the Army Values and are examples of the Warrior Ethos. In addition, his caring and courageous attitude in the worst of conditions gave his fellow Soldiers the will to live. He is an example of how the actions of a resilient Army leader can influence subordinates and colleagues to also be resilient.

Why is this important to the Army?

In addition to today’s White House ceremony, Army senior leaders will recognize Chaplain Kapaun, his family, friends and former POWs during a Pentagon ceremony on April 12. The ceremony will feature the unveiling of his Hall of Heroes inscription.


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