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    Korean War chaplain Emil Kapaun receiving Medal of Honor

    5:33 AM, Apr 11, 2013   |    comments
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    UNDATED (CNN) -- An unsung hero of the Korean War is getting the Medal of Honor. President Obama is awarding it posthumously to an army chaplain who gave prisoners of war the will to live.

    In the winter of 1950, the Korean War was tough going for often overwhelmed U.S. troops. Here on the right, an extraordinary soldier who never fired a shot. And now, more 60 years after his death, Emil Kapaun is receiving the Medal of Honor, the nation's highest award for valor in action.

    For Father Emil Kapaun, a catholic army chaplain, his sole weapon was faith. mike dowe, now 85, was a young lieutenant. He keeps a photo of him on his wall. He says, "Yeah. That one picture of him is the one I like of him holding his pipe when it was shot out of his mouth."

    Captured in November 1950, Dowe met the priest as they carried the wounded on the long POW marches north. Dowe says, "There was a fella in the back of the stretcher I was in front of I said, 'I'm Mike Dowe what's your name?' and he said 'Kapaun.'"

    Father Kapaun's nephew Ray is accepting the medal in part for the men who were there. Ray says, "Even though this Medal of Honor is for Emil, it's for these guys as well. They would tell everybody and anybody, they didn't want the story to die."

    Stories of a priest rescuing the wounded. Ray says, "It didn't matter if there were mortar shells falling around him and bullets flying by."

    Mike Dowe says he survived being a POW because of Father Kapaun. He says, "He was able to engender a spirit of loyalty and meaningfulness to being a captive by resisting your captors, and maintaining your faith with your country that enabled you to keep your will to live."

    The priest regularly stole food for the starving men. Dowe says, "He would come around saying hot coffee and give hot water to all of us there, that may not sound like much today but that sure meant a lot under those circumstances."

    The enemy, the North Koreans and Chinese, began to fear the now ailing Catholic priest. Ray says, "The Koreans came in and told him said that they're going to have to take him to the hospital and the hospital, you can ask all the guys, I mean the hospital was a death house."

    But they couldn't save him. Father Kapaun's final moments with his flock of POWs was as he was being carried away; difficult even now for mike dowe. Dowe says, "He turned to me and said something to the effect Mike don't worry I'm going where, always wanted to go and when I get there I will say a prayer for you."

    To this day, his remains are buried in a mass grave in North Korea. His nephew says still, the family would like to bring him home.

     

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