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Body of Army Chaplain, Medal of Honor Recipient Recovered 70 Years After Heroic Death

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The body of Army chaplain and Medal of Honor recipient Emil Joseph Kapaun has been recovered 70 years after the Roman Catholic priest died while serving in the Korean War, the Army announced Friday.

“After 70 years Chaplain (Capt.) Kapaun has been accounted for,” acting Army Secretary John E. Whitley said in a statement.

“His heroism and resilient spirit epitomized our Army values of personal courage and selfless service.”

Kapaun, of Pilsen, Kansas, served as chaplain to the 3rd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division.

The battalion was in Unsan, North Korea, in 1950 when they were surrounded by Chinese communist forces.

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“Kapaun stayed with the wounded but was soon captured and marched from village to village, with little food and shelter,” the Army said.

Kapaun fell mortally ill while ministering to his fellow prisoners of war. The 35-year-old priest would celebrate his final Easter mass shortly before he died of exhaustion and possible heart failure.

“Chaplain Kapaun repeatedly risked his own life to save the lives of hundreds of fellow Americans,” the Army said.

“His extraordinary courage, faith and leadership inspired thousands of prisoners to survive hellish conditions, resist enemy indoctrination and retain their faith in God and country.”

The Catholic Diocese of Wichita, Kansas, described Kapaun’s seven months as a prisoner of war as “heroic.”

“Father Kapaun spent himself in heroic service to his fellow prisoners without regard for race, color, or creed, giving them help and hope when they needed it most,” the diocese said in a statement on its website.

“Ignoring his own ill health, he nursed the sick and wounded, stole food for the hungry, picked lice off of men, washed dirty and soiled clothing, and encouraged men through prayer and humor to keep fighting for life. Falling sick, the Chinese moved Father Kapaun to a so-called hospital, where, denied medical assistance, his death soon followed on May 23, 1951.”

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Pope St. John Paul II launched Kapaun on the path to canonization in 1993 when he declared him a servant of God, and President Barack Obama posthumously awarded Kapaun the Medal of Honor in 2013.

Chief of Staff of the Army James C. McConville said that recovering Kapaun “reaffirms our commitment to never leaving a fallen comrade.”

About 7,500 Korean War service members have not yet been accounted for, according to the Army.

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A version of this article appeared on the Daily Caller News Foundation website.

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