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Prisoner in the Death House: Father Emil Kapaun

korean war

It was Thanksgiving, so he knew where to find them. The postman made for the local Catholic Church. Fearing the worst, he handed the telegram to the parish priest. After Mass concluded, its contents were read out privately to those to whom it was addressed:

The Secretary of State of the Army has asked me to express his deep regret that your son Captain Emil J. Kapaun has been missing in action in Korea since Nov. 2nd ’50…

The parents of the man now missing listened in stunned disbelief. Thereafter, there was only silence in the room.

While this news was being delivered, Fr. Emil Kapaun was many miles away with many others on what came to be known as a ‘death march’, having been taken prisoner in the aftermath of the battle of Unsan.

On 1 November 1950, All Saints Day, Fr. Kapaun had celebrated Holy Mass for the soldiers of the battalion he served in. At this point, the Korean War looked to be all but over with the North Korean Communist forces routed by America and her allies. The soldiers had started to think of home. Then, in the early hours of the following morning, All Souls Day, something changed. By dawn the battalion was overrun, decimated, with many killed and many more taken prisoner. The speed and numbers of those attacking that night surprised everyone. What had been picked up by outlying radio operators, but too late to warn the camp, was summed up in one word that had been repeated frantically over and over again through the crackling static: ‘Chinese.’

Read more at Catholic Exchange. 


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