SHAKO: Medal of Honor for Chaplain

April 12, 2013 at 12:24 am Leave a comment

Honoring Korean War Hero

(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Teddy Wade)

(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Teddy Wade)

An Army chaplain who comforted the wounded during one of the early battles of the Korean War and then elected to stay behind with them — facing certain capture or death — has been awarded the Medal of Honor by President Obama at a White House ceremony this week.

Rev. Emil J. Kapuan, who died in that POW camp after inspiring his men and seeing to their medical and spiritual needs under the harshest conditions,  served with the 1st Cavalry Division.

Here is the citation for Father Kapuan’s Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest award for bravery by those in uniform:

“Chaplain Emil J. Kapaun distinguished himself by acts of gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty while serving with the 3rd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Calvary Division during combat operations against an armed enemy at Unsan, Korea, from November 1st to 2nd, 1950.

On November 1st, as Chinese Communist Forces viciously attacked friendly elements, Chaplain Kapaun calmly walked through withering enemy fire in order to provide comfort and medical aid to his comrades and rescue friendly wounded from no-man’s land.

Though the Americans successfully repelled the assault, they found themselves surrounded by the enemy.  Facing annihilation, the able-bodied men were ordered to evacuate.  However, Chaplain Kapaun, fully aware of his certain capture, elected to stay behind with the wounded.

After the enemy succeeded in breaking through the defense in the early morning hours of November 2nd, Chaplain Kapaun continually made rounds as hand-to-hand combat ensued.  As Chinese Communist Forces approached the American position, Chaplain Kapaun noticed an injured Chinese officer amongst the wounded and convinced him to negotiate the safe surrender of the American forces.

Shortly after his capture, Chaplain Kapaun, with complete disregard for his personal safety and unwavering resolve, bravely pushed aside an enemy soldier preparing to execute Sergeant First Class Herbert A. Miller.  Not only did Chaplain Kapaun’s gallantry save the life of Sergeant Miller, but also his unparalleled courage and leadership inspired all those present, including those who might have otherwise fled in panic to remain and fight the enemy until captured.

Chaplain Kapaun’s extraordinary heroism and selflessness above and beyond the call of duty are in keeping with the highest traditions of military service and reflect great credit upon himself, the 3rd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, the 1st Calvary Division and the United States Army.”

Several Korean War vets, including some who had survived the prison camp — thanks to Father Kapuan, were present at the White House award ceremony. The medal was presented to his nephew by Obama. Here is the transcript of that ceremony.

“He was a bright light in a dark, dark tunnel,” former POW Bob Wood told the Kansas City Star.  “He didn’t get the Medal of Honor for killing people or leading a brave charge, but for something even more terribly inspiring.”

The Korean War Memorial in Washington, D.C. This summer marks the 60th anniversary of the end of the war, which Father Kapuan did not live to see. Photo: aculty.smu.org

The Korean War Memorial in Washington, D.C. This summer marks the 60th anniversary of the end of the war, which Father Kapuan did not live to see.
Photo: Faculty.smu.org

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488px-Shako-p1000580SHAKO is an occasional 4GWAR posting on military history, traditions and culture. For the uninitiated, a shako is the tall, billed headgear worn by many armies from the Napoleonic era to about the time of the American Civil War. It remains a part of the dress or parade uniform of several military organizations like the corps of cadets at the U.S. Military Academy, West Point, New York.

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Entry filed under: Asia-Pacific, National Security and Defense. Tags: , , , , , , , .

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