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The story behind the photo

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Monday, Dec. 7, 2009, at 12:07 a.m.
  • Updated Monday, Dec. 14, 2009, at 1:49 p.m.

One of the two iconic photographs of Father Emil Kapaun shows him and another soldier carrying an exhausted GI off a battlefield early in the Korean War.

The photo shows Kapaun to the GI’s left. The soldier on the GI’s right is Capt. Jerome A. Dolan, a medical officer with the 8th Cavalry regiment.

Dolan wrote a description of the circumstances surrounding the photo in September 1951 in a letter to the Saturday Evening Post:

"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 4,500 and we were 100, including Headquarters Co. and my aid-station crew, and we were isolated from our line companiesæ.æ.æ. at the time that photo was made, the North Koreans had command of a rise 350 yards from us and also had captured the road to our rear, effectively cutting off 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.”

Dolan said in the letter that he did not remember the name of the young soldier being carried by him and Kapaun.

"Suffice it to say that he was just a kid who had fought through hell from July 20th till that day, with little sleep, too little food, and . . . cold C rations, no chance to bathe, without a day away from the firing line, always against the 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.

"Supporting the kid by the left arm, the GI in the field jacket is Father (Capt.) Emil J. Kapaun, of Marion, Kansas, our battalion Catholic chaplain and one of the finest men it has been my privilege to meet."

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