A former soldier of the 8th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division, will be posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor by President Barack Obama.
Capt. Emil Joseph Kapaun, a chaplain, served with Headquarters Company, 8th Cavalry Regiment in the Korean War, and was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross on Aug. 18, 1951. The award of the Medal of Honor to Kapaun is an upgrade of the previous one.
Kapaun, also a World War II veteran, sacrificed his own safety while the regiment was attacked by hostile forces and he moved among the wounded to provide medical aid and comfort.
At dusk Nov. 2, 1950, the troops who were able to fight were ordered to attempt to break through the surrounding enemy. Kapaun, however, remained behind to administer medical treatment and render religious rites wherever needed.
Upon capture, Kapaun and other prisoners of war were forced to walk more than 85 miles to Pyoktong, North Korea. While forcibly walking through snow and ice, Kapaun assisted the wounded and encouraged other soldiers to do the same.
While in captivity, he snuck around to more than 200 men who also were captive to say prayers and give support. He also secretly moved able-bodied men out to the countryside at night, while avoiding guards, to get food and firewood to help keep the prisoners alive. The other prisoners dubbed him the “good thief.”
Kapaun was a prisoner of war from Nov. 2, 1950, until he died from a blood clot May 23, 1951.
“Father Emil Kapaun is an American hero who embodies the Medal of Honor’s ideals as our nation’s highest award for military service,” said Maj. Gen. Anthony Ierardi, commander of the 1st Cavalry Division. “He distinguished himself with valor before his capture and continued to care for his fellow soldiers at a great risk to himself while interned in a prisoner-of-war camp. Although Father Kapaun did not survive to be liberated along with hundreds of the prisoners he ministered to and assisted, his faith, honor and selfless devotion to duty reflects the finest tradition of the U.S. Army, the 1st Cavalry Division and the Army Chaplain Corps.”
The ceremony will be in April at the White House.