Press Release | May 14, 2021

Chaplain Accounted For From Korean War (Kapaun, E.)

WASHINGTON  –   The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) announced today that Army Chaplain (Capt.) Emil J. Kapaun, of Pilsen, Kansas, who died as a prisoner of war during the Korean War, was accounted for March 2, 2021.

After serving in World War II, Kapaun returned to active duty in the U.S. Army and served in the Korean War with the 8th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division. On November 2, 1950, his unit was near Unsan when they came under heavy fire from Chinese forces and received orders to withdraw. Approximately a quarter of the unit’s soldiers made their way back to friendly lines. The others, including many wounded soldiers, became trapped. Kapaun volunteered to stay with the wounded, and was soon captured and taken to a Chinese-run prison camp on the Yalu River's south bank known as Camp 5.

Even after he became gravely ill, Kapaun continued to serve as a spiritual leader for his fellow prisoners, encouraging them to faithfully await their release and regularly defying his captors to bolster the collective morale of the POWs. Due to prolonged malnutrition, he died on May 23, 1951, after which the other POWs buried him in one of the camp's cemeteries.

As part of the 1953 Korean Armistice Agreement, Kapaun’s remains were among the 1,868 who were returned to U.S. custody as part of Operation GLORY, but they were not able to be identified. The Army declared his remains non-recoverable in January 1956. At the end of the identification process, 848 unidentified remains, including one designated X-14550 Operation GLORY, were interred at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, also known as the Punchbowl, in Honolulu, Hawaii.

In 1993, Pope John Paul II declared Kapaun a Servant of God, the first stage toward possible canonization, which is the culmination of the Roman Catholic Church’s recognition of a deceased person as a saint.

At a White House ceremony on April 11, 2013, President Barack Obama posthumously awarded Kapaun the Medal of Honor for extraordinary heroism and selflessness.

X-14550 Operation GLORY was disinterred as part of the DPAA’s Korean War Disinterment Project on Aug. 19, 2019, and was transferred to the DPAA Laboratory at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii.

To identify Kapaun’s remains, scientists from DPAA used dental and anthropological analysis, as well as circumstantial evidence. Additionally, scientists from the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System used mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) analysis.

Kapaun’s name is recorded on the Courts of the Missing at the Punchbowl, along with the others who are still missing from the Korean War. A rosette will be placed next to his name to indicate he has been accounted for.

Kapaun will be buried Sept. 29, 2021, in Wichita, Kansas.

For family and funeral information, contact the Army Casualty Office at (800) 892-2490.

DPAA is grateful to the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of the Army for their partnership in this mission.

To see the most up-to-date statistics on DPAA recovery efforts for those unaccounted for from the Korean War, go to the Korean War fact sheet on the DPAA website at:
https://www.dpaa.mil/Resources/Fact-Sheets/Article-View/Article/569610/progress-on-korean-war-personnel-accounting/.

For additional information on the Defense Department’s mission to account for Americans who went missing while serving our country, visit the DPAA website at www.dpaa.mil, or find us on social media at www.facebook.com/dodpaa or https://www.linkedin.com/company/defense-pow-mia-accounting-agency.

Kapaun’s personnel profile can be viewed at
https://dpaa-mil.sites.crmforce.mil/dpaaProfile?id=a0Jt00000004mBjEAI.