Friday, the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency announced that remains of Korean War Medal of Honor recipient, Army Chaplain (Capt.) Emil Joseph Kapaun, have been accounted for.
Kapaun, of Pilsen, Kansas, served as a chaplain with the 3rd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division during the Korean War and was listed as a POW near Unsay on November 2, 1950, with a reported date of death of May 23, 1951.
Chaplain Kapaun’s remains were disinterred from the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu, Hawaii, as part of Phase Two of the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency’s (DPAA) ongoing Korean War Disinterment Project. 867 remains were buried as “Unknowns” at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific. Following Kapaun’s 1951 death in captivity, other POWs buried his body in the North Korean prison camp’s cemetery, but he was not identified among the remains returned to U.S. custody after the 1953 armistice.
In 1993, Pope John Paul II declared Chaplain Kapaun a Servant of God, the first stage on the path to canonization in the Catholic Church. In 2013, Chaplain Kapaun was awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously for his service.
Kapaun Chapel, located on Normandy Drive, Fort Riley’s Custer Hill, is named after the Kansas native. The facility, originally constructed 1959 as Custer Hill Chapel, was dedicated Nov. 5, 2001 in Kapaun’s memory.
Chaplain (Maj. Gen.) Thomas L. Solhjem, U.S. Army Chief of Chaplains, said, “Father Kapaun lived the call, ‘caring for the Soul of the Army,’ with extraordinary courage, faith, and leadership.”
“Chaplain Emil Kapaun’s heroism and sacrifice inspire Soldiers of the First Infantry Division, myself included. He was an outstanding soldier and chaplain. We are honored to have a chapel on Fort Riley named in his honor and are eternally grateful to him and his family for their sacrifice,” said Maj. Gen. D.A. Sims, 1st Infantry Division and Fort Riley commanding general.
The Governor of Kansas, U.S. Senators and U.S. House Rep for Kansas District 1 recognized the historic importance of this accounting.
“Last Thursday, I was notified that the remains of Marion County-native Father Emil Kapaun, a priest of the Diocese of Wichita, were identified,” said U.S. Senator Jerry Moran. “Father Kapaun served as an Army Chaplain during WWII and the Korean War, and was taken as a Prisoner of War in 1950. He continued to minister to Americans as a POW before passing away on May 23, 1951. In 1993, Pope John Paul II declared Father Kapaun a Servant of God, the first step toward sainthood. In 2011, I introduced legislation to bestow Father Kapaun with the Medal of Honor, which was awarded in 2013. I am glad that his family has finally been granted closure after Father Kapaun’s selfless service to our nation.”
“As a Kansan and fellow veteran I know well the great works and honorable work Father Kapaun did for our troops and our great nation,” said U.S. Senator Roger Marshall, M.D. “Father Kapaun truly is a national hero and I am relieved to hear that his remains are finally returning home.”
“I am pleased to learn that Chaplain Kapaun’s remains were identified as part of the ongoing Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency’s Korean War Disinterment Project,” said U.S. House Rep. Tracey Mann. “Father Emil Kapaun was born in the Big First in Pilsen, KS and served as an Army Chaplain during World War II and the Korean War. During the Korean War, Fr. Kapaun was taken as a Prisoner of War. He continued serving and ministering to his fellow POWs until his death in May, 1951. Thanks to Senator Moran’s leadership, in 2013 Chaplain Kapaun was awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously for his service. I am thankful his family and Kansans can have closure and continue to honor this American hero.”
“It’s comforting news to hear Kansas native Fr. Emil Kapaun’s remains have been identified in Hawaii,” Kansas Governor Laura Kelly said. “He served with honor and dignity, and was known to care for all prisoners – regardless of their background or religion. It is my hope that Fr. Kapaun’s return home brings relief and closure to his family and his community.”
Reinterment arrangements will be announced at a later date.