Emil Kapaun was born April 20, 1916, in Pilsen, Kansas. After attending Pilsen High School Kapaun went to Conception Seminary College in Conception, Missouri, where he graduated in 1936. He attended Kendrick Theological Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri and was ordained as a priest in 1940. He returned to Kansas in 1940 and became an assistant pastor at his home parish.
However, in 1944 Kapaun joined the U.S. Army Chaplain Corps and was sent to Burma, India, in 1945. Kapaun was promoted to captain in 1946 upon his return home. Kapaun attended Catholic University in Washington, D.C., and graduated with a master’s degree in education in 1948. Kapaun re-enlisted in the army and was sent to Japan in 1950. Communist forces captured Kapaun and his fellow soldiers in November 1950 and he died in a prisoner of war camp May 23, 1951, in North Korea.
Kapaun was awarded the Bronze Star Medal and the Distinguished Service Cross, among many other awards for his heroic actions on the battlefield. In 1993 Kapaun was named a servant of God by the Roman Catholic Church, and further investigations into possible canonization have been made by the Vatican. In 2000 U.S. Representative Todd Tiahrt of Kansas began a campaign to award the Medal of Honor to Kapaun. On April 11, 2013, President Barack Obama presented the Medal of Honor posthumously to Kapaun for his actions in Korea.
Entry: Kapaun, Emil
Author: Kansas Historical Society
Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.
Date Created: June 2012
Date Modified: April 2014
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