Father Kapaun’s remains returned to Kansas

By | September 25, 2021

His remains were formally returned to his family in a ceremony at Pearl Harbor, and a “send off Mass” was celebrated in Honolulu Sept. 23 ahead of his journey back to Kansas. 
Born April 20, 1916 in Pilsen, Kapaun grew up on a farm. He was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Wichita June 9, 1940, and began at the U.S. Army Chaplain School at Ft. Devins four years later. 
Kapaun was sent to serve troops overseas, and was promoted to Captain in January 1946. His first stint of active duty ended in July of that year, but he re-enlisted and returned to active duty in 1948 at Ft. Bliss. 
In January 1950, Kapaun was sent to Japan as a chaplain in the 8th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division. In July 1950, they were sent to Korea. While in Korea, Kapaun regularly celebrated Mass, sometimes in the battlefield on the hood of a Jeep as a makeshift altar, and brought the sacraments to the troops. He was known for praying with troops in the foxholes and for his heroism in tending to injured troops–both his own and the enemy. 
After a series of near-death experiences, including when his pipe was shot out of his mouth by a sniper and when his Mass kit and Jeep were destroyed, Kapaun took to carrying the Blessed Sacrament, confession stole, holy oils, and a Mass kit on his person. 
He was awarded the Bronze Star for rescuing a wounded soldier despite heavy enemy fire. Kapaun was reportedly embarrassed and angered that news of his heroism was printed in newspapers back in Kansas.  Kapaun and other soldiers were captured by communists in November 1950 during the Battle of Unsan. He and others were forced to march more than 60 miles to a prison camp in Pyoktong, North Korea. While in the camp, Kapaun would regularly steal food for his fellow prisoners, and managed to tend to their spiritual needs despite a prohibition on prayer. On Easter 1951, Kapaun celebrated Mass for his fellow prisoners in secret. 

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