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Another story behind the photo

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Monday, Dec. 14, 2009, at 1:40 p.m.
  • Updated Monday, Dec. 14, 2009, at 1:49 p.m.


Frank Noel, a Pulitzer-Prize winning photographer and former photographer at The Wichita Eagle, was among the men imprisoned with Father Emil Kapaun in North Korea.

Noel was one of the first journalists ever awarded a Pulitzer for photography, for a photo he shot in World War II (www.pulitzer.org/awards/1943).

Korea was his second war. He was shooting pictures while accompanying members of the 1st Marine Division in late November 1950 when he was captured and sent to the same camp as Father Kapaun.

Knowing who Noel was, the Chinese guards sometimes tried to get him to shoot propaganda photos, but Noel refused; he was as angry as any of the soldiers at how the guards mistreated prisoners.

Noel did take some photographs of prisoners' faces during his imprisonment, and the Chinese allowed them to be released worldwide. The photos showed prisoners smiling, and by all appearances, well fed.

Noel did not like this, but he cooperated because he knew those photos would make their way to the families of the men involved, bringing those families some comfort and peace of mind.

After his release in 1953, Noel wrote bitterly about the communist guards and the abuse they inflicted. He also wrote that Father Kapaun was the "camp favorite" until his death, and that the priest from Pilsen "could do nearly anything with his hands," in helping fellow prisoners to survive.

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