Could Remains of Soldiers in North Korea Include Father Kapaun?

The recent summit between President Donald Trump and North Korea’s Kim Jung Un included an agreement to return the remains of American soldiers still missing from the Korean War.

That has caught the interest of the Catholic Diocese of Wichita because one of the missing is Chaplain Emil Kapaun.

Kapaun was awarded the Medal of Honor in 2013 for his bravery in Korea and could become a saint of the Catholic Church. He died in a North Korean prisoner of war camp in 1951.

“A lot of it still remains to be seen, but I think the news is very promising so far as to what President Trump has asked for and what the North Koreans have said that they are willing to do,” said Father John Hotze, who has led the Wichita Diocese’s efforts regarding Kapaun’s cause for sainthood.

“I think it’s great news regardless of whether or not the remains of Father Kapaun are found and returned. I think it will help a lot of the families of those who are missing from the Korean War.”

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When Every Day was Ash Wednesday

“Grant, O Lord, that we may begin with holy fasting
this campaign of Christian service, 
so that, as we take up battle against spiritual evils, 
we may be armed with weapons of self-restraint.”

Ash Wednesday is a shock to the system.  The day of fasting is the Church’s way of forcing us to dive into the deep end- there’s no easing our way into Lent.  As I was reflecting on how wimpy I am and the hunger I felt today, it occurred to me that I was still probably going to eat the same amount or even a little more today than Father Kapaun and the men in the prison camps had to eat day in and day out.  For me, Ash Wednesday is only one day.  For Father Kapaun and the men in the North Korean POW camps, every day was Ash Wednesday.

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Letter to the Editor

On June 23, 1951 the Saturday Evening Post, a popular news magazine, ran a story with this photo attached.  A few months later on September 15, they posted this Letter to the Editor from Captain Jerome Dolan giving more description on the happenings surrounding the photo.  Those who are familiar with the Korean War will understand how fierce the fighting was while UN forces made a last-hope defense of the Pusan Perimeter against the North Koreans near the beginning of the war in August and September 1950.  Father Kapaun and the 8th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Division had been fighting to stem the Communist onslaught since July of that year.  After the war and the POWs were released, the Saturday Evening Post featured the same picture with Mike Dowe's article "The Ordeal of Chaplain Kapaun."  Captain Dolan's letter follows the picture.

Saturday Evening Post Vol. 224, No. 11, September 15, 1951
Letter to the Editor by Captain Jerome Dolan

 “The Medics”

    For various reasons, chief among them being the distance from Philadelphia to Tokyo, I did not see your issue of June 23rd till today.  Reading Lt. Col. Blair’s article [I Send Your Son Into Battle] on Page 26 of that issue brought back the terror and glory of the first six months of the Korea fighting to me.  However, what brought back the smoke and smell of my small part in the war more acutely was your lead picture [see cut] captioned: “The exhausted soldier being helped to the rear has just been fighting a savage enemy.  A short time ago he was a boy in T shirt and blue jeans.” 

    Your readers might be interested in some of the incidents surrounding that picture and something about those portrayed….The North Koreans had thrown a banzai charge through the valley at Tabu-dong, between the 8th Cavalry’s 2nd Battalion and 1st Battalion, of which I was battalion surgeon.  They were a force of 4500 and we were about 100, including Headquarters Co. and my aid-station crew, and we were isolated from our line companies….At the time that photo was made, the North Koreans had command of a rise 350 yds. from us and also had captured the road to our rear, effectively cutting our escape route….For nine days we fought the elements and the Koreans and finally beat both to bring our wounded out to safety.  Incidentally, by the grace of God, all ten of our wounded made it….

    The GI on the extreme left, I don’t recognize, nor do I remember the name of the kid who had fought through hell from July 20th till that day, with little sleep, too little food, and that cold C rations, no chance to bathe, without a day away from the firing line, always against an enemy that outnumbered him by at least ten to one.  This boy had finally reached his limit, but we had to practically drag him out of action.  After a few days’ rest when we reached friendly lines, he was ready to go back again to “his team.”

    Supporting the kid by the left arm, the GI in the field jacket is Father (Capt.) Emile [sic.] J. Kapaun, of Marion, Kansas, our battalion Catholic chaplain and one of the finest men it has been my privilege to meet….He received the Silver Star [note: Kapaun was actually awarded the Distinguished Service Cross] for his heroism at Unsan, when the 8th Cavalry Regiment was decimated by the Chinese.  He and the battalion surgeon of the 3rd Battalion, Capt. Clarence L. Anderson, home unknown, volunteered to stay with the wounded, whom it was impossible to evacuate.  Since the North Koreans treated wounded prisoners with lead, they knew they faced certain death.  Luckily, the Chinese took them prisoners and at last account they were still serving nobly in a Chinese POW hospital.

    The sad-faced GI walking behind Father Kapaun, wrapped in a blanket because he had used his poncho to cover one of our wounded, is Sgt. Floyd W. Johns, of Tampa, Florida, my assistant platoon sergeant, and a braver boy I don’t expect to see….Just the night before that picture was taken, he had broken a roadblock singlehanded to get a jeepful of wounded out.  A Navy veteran of WWII, his physical disabilities could have kept him out of the Korean fighting, but he “didn’t want to let the gang down.”…

    The less said about the fellow in the poncho the better; he just happened to be in the wrong place at the right time, and besides, the Geneva Convention says that I’m a non-combatant, so I can’t admit that I was carrying a gun!...

    Capt. Jerome A. Dolan, MC Tokyo, Japan

New Birth

 "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who in his great mercy gave us a new birth to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you." - 1 Peter 1:3-4

Just a month ago I was able to travel to North and South Carolina to interview Bill Richardson and William Funchess.  Both were Korean War POWs.  Bill knew Fr. Kapaun from fighting in the same battalion, but was separated from him in the prison camp.  William did not fight with Fr. Kapaun, but met him in the prison camp and ended up sleeping next to him and caring for him the last few weeks of his life.  

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Nanami's Flight

                Recently I’ve been getting a number of requests for information about Father Kapaun from all over the world.  I don’t know for sure what has been prompting these requests, but it is exciting to see Father Kapaun’s story spreading.  This week, however, I received a letter from England that was different.  Instead of asking for more information, it was a woman named Nanami who was sharing her story of surviving the Korean War.  She had recently heard about Father Kapaun for the first time, and his story had a profound impact on her, although she has quite the story in her own right, which I’d like to share.

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Icons Impact Radio Interview

Father Hotze did an interview on Father Kapaun this past week for Icons Impact, a radio show for Relevant Radio in New York. The show is hosted by two of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal (CFR), Brother Angelus and Father Innocent who were actually classmates of mine for a few years in elementary school here in Wichita. The interview is 28 minutes and does a great listen!

Right click here to download

Learn more about the Friars and their Icons mission here:

Missing the Miracles

Missing the Miracles?
By Scott Carter

Recently I have been getting an increasing number of questions from people wondering how strict the requirement for miracles is in regard to the canonization of saints.  When talking to them, they seem to have a suspicion that for some reason Father Kapaun has been singled out for unnecessary requirements.  (I picture a cartoon with Saint Peter saying to Father Kapaun, “Please stand over here, Sir,” while with his other hand he vigorously waves all sorts of other people through the pearly gates without even a cursory glance.)  I assure you this isn’t the case!

In reality, I can understand why people might think this, and it stems from two things.  First, Pope Francis has recently canonized two saints without the requirement of a second miracle (John XXIII and Peter Faber).  However, both of these were special cases and previously had one miracle approved for their Beatification.  The Church takes very seriously her requirement for miracles before declaring definitively that someone is in heaven with God.  That’s because while we can examine a person’s life to the best of our abilities, only the Lord sees the heart and truly knows the holiness of a man or woman (cf. 1 Samuel 16:7).  Although a miracle is granted primarily for the sake of the person it blesses, it also acts like a supernatural stamp of approval from God that the intercessor is indeed in heaven with Him.

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Fr. Kapaun Cause for Canonization Takes Important Step Forward

By Fr. John Hotze

On Tuesday, June 21, 2016, the six Historical Consultants of the Congregation for Saints met in Rome to discuss the historical documents that have been presented to the Congregation as part of the Positio for the Cause for the Beatification and Canonization of Father Emil Kapaun, prepared by the Postulator Dr. Andrea Ambrosi.  After evaluating the documents for completeness and accuracy, the Historical Consultants gave an affirmative vote in regard to these documents.  As a reminder, the Positio is the official document that will be used to determine if Father Kapaun lived a life of heroic virtue and sanctity.  Bishop Carl A. Kemme presented this Positio to Cardinal Amato, Prefect of the Congregation for Saints on November 9, 2015.
The affirmative vote by the Historical Consultants allows Father Kapaun’s Cause to move forward to the Theological Consultants.  These Consultants will review the Positio to determine if Father Kapaun’s writings and teachings are doctrinally sound and in harmony with the Church’s teachings.  If the Theological Consultants also provide an affirmative vote, the matter will be given to a panel of Cardinals and Archbishops of the Congregation for Saints.  This panel will convene to review Father Kapaun’s life one final time.  Hopefully they will come to a consensus and decide to pass Father Kapaun’s Cause on to the Holy Father who will make the ultimate decision on Father Kapaun’s Beatification and Canonization.
As the review of Father Kapaun’s life continues, medical consultants in the Congregation will be working on the proof of alleged miracles.  One alleged miracle must be approved and accepted as having no scientific explanation for the Beatification; and, then a second miracle approved and accepted for the Canonization of Father Kapaun.  To some, this may seem like an unending process, but the naming of a Saint has never and, hopefully, will never be taken lightly.  We pray that, God willing, Father Kapaun’s cause may proceed with speed and that we will soon be honoring him as a Saint of the Holy Catholic Church.

 "This news cannot be perceived as anything but a great sign," said Fr. John Hotze, Episcopal Delegate of the Office of Canonization of Father Emil Kapaun. "This is a great step forward and recognition of the work we've done and of the life of Father Kapaun, and has happened much more quickly than I had anticipated."

Habitual Mercy

By Fr. John Hotze

On December 8, 2015, Pope Francis called for the opening of a Holy Year, the Year of Mercy.  The celebration of the Year of Father Kapaun coincides perfectly with the celebration of the Year of Mercy.  When you study the life of Father Kapaun, you see God’s mercy being put into action.  Father Kapaun not only makes visible God’s mercy but also demonstrates that mercy in a way that we can follow.  Hopefully in following his example we too will become saints.  

While investigating the life of Father Kapaun, I was fortunate to speak to a man, Philip O’Brien.  Mr. O’Brien worked for the Department of Defense.  It was his job to try to identify the 1,600 men that died in Prison Camp No. 5 during the Korean War.  In his efforts, he interviewed as many men that were in the Prison Camp that he could find.  In these interviews, the former POW’s told their stories of being in the Prison Camp.  It was during these interviews that he not only came to know of Father Kapaun but also how he came to believe that Father Kapaun was a saint.  

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