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Emil Kapaun latest in long line of Medal of Honor recipients with Kansas ties

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Monday, March 4, 2013, at 12:02 a.m.
  • Updated Saturday, Oct. 12, 2013, at 3:32 p.m.

More information

At Kansas.com/Kapaun

• More stories about Father Emil Kapaun

• See photos of his childhood, his life as a priest and his military career

• Letters and sermons written by Father Kapaun

• Videos of the soldiers who served with him

About the Medal of Honor

The medal was created during the Civil War. It was first presented in 1863.

The Medal of Honor is awarded for the performance of a deed of personal bravery or self-sacrifice above and beyond the call of duty by a person in the U.S. armed forces.

Source: Congressional Medal of Honor Society

Kansas connections

Here is a list of other men with Kansas connections who have won the Medal of Honor:

Spanish-American War

• Samuel S. Triplett, Navy

Born: Cherokee

Place and date: Caimanera, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba; Dec. 14, 1898

Philippine Insurrection

• William Trembley, Kansas National Guard

Born: Johnson

Place and date: Calumpit, Luzon, Philippine Islands; April 27, 1899

• Frederick Funston, Kansas National Guard

Born: Springfield, Ohio, entered service at Iola

Place and date: Rio Grande de la Pampanga, Luzon, Philippine Islands; April 27, 1899

• Arthur M. Ferguson, Kansas National Guard

Born: Coffey County

Place and date: Near Porac, Luzon, Philippine Islands; Sept. 28, 1899

• Edward White, Kansas National Guard

Born: Seneca

Place and date: Calumpit, Luzon, Philippine Islands; April 27, 1899

• George Wallace, Army

Born: Fort Riley

Place and date: Tinuba, Luzon, Philippine Islands; March 4, 1900

• Joseph Henderson, Army

Born: Leavenworth

Place and date: Patian Island, Philippine Islands; July 2, 1909

Mexican Campaign

• Paul Frederick Foster, Navy

Born: Wichita

Place and date: Vera Cruz, Mexico; April 21-22, 1914

World War I

• George H. Mallon, Army

Born: Ogden

Place and date: In the Bois-de-Forges, France; Sept. 26, 1918

• George Robb, Army

Born : Assaria

Place and date: Near Sechault, France; Sept. 29-30, 1918

• John Henry Balch, Navy

Born: Edgerton

Place and date: Vierzy, France, and Somme-Py, France; July 19 and Oct. 5, 1918

• Erwin R. Bleckley, Army Air Corps

Born: Wichita

Place and date: Near Binarville, France; Oct. 6, 1918

• Harold I. Johnston, Army

Born: Kendall

Place and date: Near Pouilly, France; Nov. 9, 1918

World War II

• Donald Kirby Ross, Navy

Born: Beverly

Place and date: Pearl Harbor, Territory of Hawaii; Dec. 7, 1941

• Harold William Bauer, Marine Corps

Born: Woodruff

Place and date: Guadalcanal; May 10-Nov. 14, 1942

• William Dean Hawkins, Marine Corps

Born: Fort Scott

Place and date : The battle of Tarawa; Nov. 20-21, 1943

• Walter D. Ehlers, Army

Born: Junction City

Place and date : Near Goville, France; June 9-10, 1944

• Thomas E. McCall, Army

Born: Burrton

Place and date: Near San Angelo, Italy; Jan. 22, 1944

• Grant Frederick Timmerman, Marine Corps

Born: Americus

Place and date: Saipan, Marianas Islands; July 8, 1944

• Willy F. James Jr., Army

Born: Kansas City, Kan.

Place and date: Near Lippoldsberg, Germany; April 7, 1945

• Richard Eller Cowan, Army

• Born: Lincoln, Neb., grew up in Wichita

• Place and date: Near Krinkelter Wald, Belgium; Dec. 17, 1944

Korean War

• Stanley Adams, Army

Born: DeSoto

Place and date: Near Sesim-ni, Korea; Feb. 4, 1951

Vietnam War

• William L. McGonagle, Navy

Born: Wichita

Place and date: International waters, Eastern Mediterranean; June 8-9, 1967

• Danny Petersen, Army

Born: Horton

Place and date: Tay Ninh Province, Republic of Vietnam; Jan. 9, 1970

Sources: Kansaspedia “Congressional Medal of Honor”; Kansas State Historical Society; www.HomeofHeroes/moh/state/ks.html.

The Medal of Honor is the nation’s highest military honor, and winning it puts the recipient in elite company.

Only two Medal of Honor winners, both Vietnam veterans, live in Kansas. They are among 80 people living who have earned the right to wear it, said Carol Cepregi, deputy director of operations for the Congressional Medal of Honor Society, based in Mount Pleasant, S.C.

Recent news that Emil Kapaun will be posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor by President Obama in April means one more Kansan can be added to the distinguished list.

“I cannot argue that he meets all the criteria,” said retired Army Lt. Col. Charles Hagemeister of Leavenworth, who earned his Medal of Honor in 1967. “The recipients don’t have a vote; we just honor the ones that come up.”

In the 150 years since the medal was first awarded, it has been presented 3,460 times to a member of the military who has distinguished himself with valor during combat against an enemy. In many cases, the award is presented posthumously to a member of the medal winner’s family.

Kapaun will join about two dozen other men with Kansas ties who have won the Medal of Honor. A Pentagon letter said Kapaun’s family will receive his medal during a White House ceremony April 11.

Born in Pilsen, a small Czech community in Marion County, Kapaun was a chaplain during both World War II and the Korean War. His fellow soldiers said that, in Korea, Kapaun repeatedly ran through enemy fire, dragging wounded soldiers to safety during the first months of the war.

They said his most courageous acts followed in a prisoner of war camp, where Kapaun died in May 1951. They said he saved hundreds of soldiers’ lives by using faith to rally them against hopeless odds and by sharing food he stole from the guards, giving it to starving prisoners.

Hagemeister, 66, earned his Medal of Honor in the Binh Dinh Province, Republic of Vietnam, on March 20, 1967. He was serving as a medical corpsman when his platoon was attacked. Hagemeister ran through enemy fire to rescue wounded comrades and to help get support from a nearby platoon. In the process, he killed a sniper and captured an enemy machine gun.

Retired Col. Roger Hugh Donlon, who also lives in Leavenworth, was unable to be reached for comment. He earned his medal on July 6, 1964, the first medal recipient of the Vietnam War, according to the Home of Heroes website.

Donlon, 79, was the commanding officer at Camp Nam Dong when the camp was attacked by a Viet Cong battalion shortly before dawn. In the five-hour attack, Donlon recovered ammunition and weapons, rescued the wounded and rallied his men to overcome the enemy troops. In the process, he suffered shrapnel wounds to his stomach, leg, shoulder and face.

According to the Home of Heroes website, eight Medals of Honor were earned during the Indian Wars on Kansas soil, and four during battles fought in Kansas during the Civil War.

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