Skip to comments.Father Emil Kapaun: In icy POW camps, Kapaun shares faith, provisions (Part 3)
Posted on 12/08/2009 9:11:06 PM PST by GonzoII
"Christ's works testified to what he was; our works will testify as to what we are." -Father Emil Kapaun
Three weeks after their capture, after 75 miles of marching, the starving survivors of the 8th Cavalry and 19th Infantry straggled into a mud-hut village called Pyoktong, on the banks of the Yalu River, two miles from Manchuria.
Theyd barely set foot in the village when American bombers roared in overhead and firebombed it. Horrified villagers spat at the prisoners, threw rocks.
Guards took them south again, 12 more miles. Men and discipline broke down in the snow and ice; men left their wounded to die in ditches, ignoring orders from officers to pick them up. They would not ignore Father Emil Kapaun, though. He walked the line, asking men to help. Many did.
Mike Dowe picked up a stretcher on this march one night, turned around and spoke to the tall soldier carrying the pole behind him.
Who are you? he asked.
The soldier reached out a hand. KuhPAWN, he said.
Dowe grinned. This was the heroic chaplain that 8th Cavalry prisoners told stories about.
Father Kapaun! Ive heard all about you!
Well, Kapaun said, in a self-mocking tone, dont tell the bishop.
The mountain valley was three miles long and included the hamlet of Sombakol. Temperatures dropped below zero; starvation fostered feelings of desperation that worsened every day.
The soldiers still had some fight in them; some, Moose McClain included, sneaked into neighboring fields and arranged cornstalks in piles, spelling P O W, hoping the U.S. Air Force would take notice.
But hunger began to take a toll.
Guards fed them birdseed twice a day two little handfuls of millet and cracked corn, maybe 300 daily calories at most.
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Father Emil Josheph Kapaun celebrating Mass with this jeep hood as an altar, Oct 7, 1950
Thanks for this post. Many years ago I read a book about him - it was incredibly moving and spiritually inspiring. He is a saint without a doubt, even if it’s not official yet. I tried to find a photo of the crucifix some of his fellow prisoners made for him from scrap wood, barbed wire and I don’t remember what else. What a man, what a soul.
I’m at a loss for words.