An article about Fr. Kapaun is appearing in the July-August 2012 issue of The Word Among Us magazine: When the Ordinary Becomes Extraordinary: The Life and Death of Army Chaplain Emil Kapaun. It is coauthored by Dominic and Kevin Perrotta, who have compiled the following additional information: about the status of Fr. Kapauns cause, about the Medal of Honor, and about the Korean War. If youd like to learn more about Fr. Kapaun, see the for more information section below.
Cause for Sainthood
The diocese of Wichita is pursuing the canonization of Fr. Emil Kapaun. The initial investigation has been completed at the diocesan level and the results passed on to the Vatican. He has been officially declared Servant of God, the first step toward sainthood.
At least two possible miracles associated with Fr. Kapauns intercession are under investigation by the Vatican. Both involve young people in the diocese of Wichita, Kansas, who experienced remarkable recoveries from critical illness. In each case, the doctors involved have described the recovery as miraculous.
Averys Story. In October 2006, twelve year-old Avery Gerleman began coughing up blood during a soccer game and, over the course of several days, developed advanced lung and kidney failure. She was placed on a ventilator and kidney dialysis, and her doctors, who determined she had an unusual auto-immune condition, did not expect her to live. Her family, who had a devotion to Fr. Kapaun, prayed to him persistently.
When Avery emerged from a coma and began a slow recovery, the pediatric intensivist and nephrologist who cared for her expected that she would, at the very least, have permanent and extensive lung and kidney impairment and be dependent on oxygen and dialysis. The family continued to pray to Fr. Kapaun, and Avery made a complete recovery. Six months later she was playing competitive soccer again.
Chases Story. In October 2008, when nineteen-year-old Chase Kear suffered a grave head injury from a pole vaulting accident, his parents and family began enlisting their parish to pray to Fr. Kapaun (www.frkapaun.org). A neurosurgeon removed a portion of his skull to relieve pressure on his swollen brain but gave him little likelihood of survival. His parents were told to expect that, if he did live, it would be with profound brain damage.
Within a few weeks, as prayers to Fr. Kapaun continued, Chase returned home from rehabilitation, having made an extensive recovery. In the spring of 2010, he resumed pole vaulting. He wore a helmet.
Lord Jesus, in the midst of the folly of war, your servant, Chaplain Emil Kapaun spent himself in total service to you on the battlefields and in the prison camps of Korea, until his death at the hands of his captors.
We now ask you, Lord Jesus, if it be your will, to make known to all the world the holiness of Chaplain Kapaun and the glory of his complete sacrifice for you by signs of miracles and peace.
In your name, Lord, we ask, for you are the source of peace, the strength of our service to others, and our final hope.
Chaplain Kapaun, pray for us.
(taken from the Catholic Diocese of Wichita website)
The Medal of Honor
During the American forces drive north from Inchon, Fr. Kapaun was awarded a Bronze Star for valor for risking his life to save a wounded soldier. The Army posthumously awarded him its second highest award, the Distinguished Service Cross, for his bravery on the field of battle when his battalion was overrun at Unsan and he was captured.
Each branch of the US military has as its highest award, a Medal of Honor. It is sometimes mislabeled the Congressional Medal of Honor, since it can also be given by act of Congress. From the beginning of World War II, fewer than nine hundred awards of this honor have been made, nearly two-third of them posthumous.
Following the Korean War, a number of Fr. Kapauns fellow prisoners worked to have him decorated for his actions as a POW as well. There is some precedence for thistwo POWs in Vietnam were presented the Medal of Honor for their leadership in resisting their captors. However, the time limit for awarding the Medal of Honor expired without its being granted to Fr. Kapaun.
In 2000, the US Representative for the Congressional district including Pilsen began the process of legislation to award Fr. Kapaun a Medal of Honor now, long after the time limit has expired. In 2009 the Secretary of the Army and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff stated he deserved the decoration. There is currently legislation before Congress which, if approved, will award him the Medal of Honor. On January 27th, 2012, Kansas Congressional delegation addressed a letter to the Secretary of Defense, urging him to recommend that the President award the medal to Chaplain Kapaun.
The Korean War
At the end of World War II, Japans Korean territory was divided by the Allies into spheres of supervision, much as was done with Germany. Control of the northern half was given to the USSR and of the south to the US. It was assumed that an arbitrary dividing line at the 38th parallel would shortly disappear as the Allies turned the peninsula back over to the Koreans.
Five years later, in June of 1950, the North Korean Peoples Army surprised the American military command in the Far East who had ignored intelligence reports of a pending invasion. General Douglas MacArthur scrambled to send a small American force to South Korea to slow the Communist advance while he planned a counterattack. Americans troops who had grown soft relaxing on occupation duty in Japan were suddenly thrown into a bitter fight against a well-trained and well-supplied North Korean force which nearly drove them off the southern end of the peninsula at Pusan. An audacious flank attack by MacArthur at Inchon forced the Communists to withdraw, and the US forces, formally part of a UN expedition, drove them nearly to their northern border with China and Russia.
Ignoring the looming threat of Chinese intervention, and warnings from Washington, MacArthur drove his scattered and under-supplied forces to finish off the North Koreans before winter fell. The Chinese Peoples Army, waiting for this moment, drove south in massive numbers, cutting off entire American units and capturing large numbers of prisoners. MacArthur, unchastened and increasingly insubordinate in his agitation for a larger war, was relieved of duties by President Harry Truman.
The remaining commanders, wiser and more experienced, pushed the Chinese back to roughly where the war began at the 38th parallel. After another year of bitter fighting without an appreciable gain for either side, a truce was called. It has held, more or less, since then, as South Korea became one of the most prosperous countries in Asia and North Korea vanished into the gloom of the worlds most oppressive and insular dictatorship.
Fr. Emil Kapaun joined the American forces that landed at Inchon and then advanced with them as they battled their way north, almost to the Chinese border. There his unit was overwhelmed by the sudden attack of the Chinese Peoples Army. He and thousands of other American soldiers were taken prisoner. The American prisoners of war were released only after the truce talks which ended the fighting. By this time, Fr. Kapaun had died.