Monday, March 11, 2013

Chaplain Emil J. Kapaun to get Medal of Honor posthumously

From: Army Times

Chaplain (Capt.) Emil J. Kapaun, a World War II and Korean War veteran who repeatedly sacrificed his own safety to care for his fellow soldiers, will be honored April 11 with the nation’s highest award for valor.

The White House announced Monday that President Obama will present the Medal of Honor to Kapaun.

Kapaun will receive the award posthumously for his extraordinary heroism while serving with 3rd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division, during combat operations in Unsan, Korea, and as a prisoner of war, according to the White House announcement.

“When 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,” the White House statement reads.

When the soldiers were surrounded by the enemy, on Nov. 2, 1950, the able-bodied men were ordered to evacuate the area. Kapaun, “fully aware of his certain capture, elected to stay behind with the wounded,” according to the White House statement.

“As hand-to-hand combat ensued, he continued to make rounds. As enemy 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 bravely pushed aside an enemy soldier preparing to execute a comrade, thus saving a life and inspiring all those present to remain and fight the enemy until captured,” the White House said.

Upon capture, Kapaun and the other prisoners of war were forced to walk more than 85 miles to the city of Pyoktong, North Korea, according to a statement from the 1st Cavalry Division.

During this march through snow and ice, Kapaun helped the wounded and encouraged other soldiers to do the same. In captivity, Kapaun snuck around to more than 200 fellow POWs to say prayers and give support. He also secretly moved able-bodied men out to the countryside at night, while avoiding the guards, to get food and firewood to help keep the prisoners alive.

Kapaun, whom fellow prisoners nicknamed the “good thief,” was a POW until he died from a blood clot on May 23, 1951.

In August 1951, Kapaun was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross; the Medal of Honor is an upgrade of that award, according to information from the 1st Cavalry Division.

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