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Legislation introduced to award Medal of Honor to Father Kapaun

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Tuesday, Jan. 25, 2011, at 11:37 a.m.
  • Updated Friday, March 30, 2012, at 4:49 p.m.


WICHITA — Sens. Pat Roberts and Jerry Moran introduced a bill today to award Father Emil Kapaun, a Kansas war hero, the Medal of Honor for acts of valor in the Korean War.

Rep. Mike Pompeo, R- Wichita, introduced a companion bill in the House of Representatives.

"Father Kapaun was by all accounts an American hero," Roberts said in a statement. "Taken prisoner at the Battle of Unsan, Father Kapaun served his soldiers by escaping to steal food from nearby farms to bring back to starving prisoners. He cared for sick soldiers, washed them, shared his food with them, and inspired them with his unfailing faith and acts of generosity until his death as a prisoner in May 1951.

"His selfless actions are certainly deserving of the Medal of Honor."

Kapaun was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his actions in Korea. In 2009, former Congressman Todd Tiahrt called for a review of Kapaun's record.

Then-Secretary of the Army Peter Geren confirmed that his actions in combat operations and as a prisoner of war in Korea warranted award of the Medal of Honor. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff concurred.

Tiahrt had introduced legislation last year similar to what the Kansas members of Congress introduced today, but Kapaun's name was dropped from that legislation late last year, prompting Roberts and the other members to reintroduce it.

The bill authorizes and requests the posthumous Medal of Honor. The Department of Defense must concur with the Senior Army Decorations Board's determination and convey approval to the Committees on Armed Services in the Senate and the House. It must then be approved by both chambers and signed into law.

Kapaun's numerous heroic actions as a U.S. Army chaplain, described for the past 60 years by surviving fellow soldiers, took place in North Korea in 1950 and 1951. He was born on a farm outside Pilsen, and served there as a Catholic priest before he volunteered for the Army, both in World War II and the Korean War.

Fellow soldiers say that on battlefields and in prison camps he saved hundreds of lives because he was both resourceful and inspiring.

"When all else looked hopeless, the Father rallied men around him to persevere in the midst of their suffering," Moran said in a statement.

"This good man distinguished himself by going above and beyond the call of duty and risking his life for the sake of others. In doing so, he is more than deserving of this distinguished award."

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