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Emil Joseph Kapaun was a farm boy from Pilsen, Kansas, born in 1916 to a devout Czech Catholic family that eked out an existence during the Depression. Young Emil felt called to the priesthood and ended up a Chaplain to the U.S. Army during World War II, where he served admirably in the Burma Theater.
He re-enlisted and attained the rank of Captain when the Korean War broke out in 1950. And this is where his jaw-dropping heroism emerged. Father Kapaun, in the words of the soldiers he loved and served, was “all priest and all man.”
He twice declined the chance to escape the Communist Chinese, preferring to stay with “his boys,” many of whom were badly wounded or otherwise abused. Kapaun was sent to a Communist prison camp north of the Yalu River, where he, among other incredible things, gave the traumatized POWs reason after reason to stay alive and to hope for liberation—a liberation that never arrived for him.
Father died of his many illnesses and deprivations from forced starvation. His mortal remains were discovered in December, 2020, ina military cemetery in Hawaii, which will hopefully move his Cause for Canonization forward.
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