SHAMOKIN — The only weapon Chaplain Emil J. Kapaun wielded during the Korean War before he died as a POW in 1951 was love, a love that led the former Kansas pastor to risk his life to protect his fellow man from enemy fire.
Kapaun, a recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor for his extraordinary heroism, patriotism and selfless service during the Battle of Unsan between Nov. 1 and 2, 1950, will be honored by a memorial Mass at 11 a.m. Wednesday at Mother Cabrini Church, Shamokin, and a dedication of a fieldhouse to follow at the Springfield ballfield.
Shikellamy School District students involved in the Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps will be involved in the program and the Korean ambassador was invited.
“We were kicked in the face when we came back from Korea,” said event co-organizer Army Cpl. Ralph Nasatka, 82, of Maryland. “I feel that now someone is finally being recognized, we have to follow through. That man (Kapaun) did everything for us. That man died for us.”
Nasatka, who is organizing the event with Marine Col. Warren Wiedhahn, chose Shamokin to honor Kapaun because Nasatka’s first wife and parents are buried there. Nasatka fixed up the church rectory and ballfield and build the fieldhouse there.
Kapaun was born in 1916 on a farm in Kansas. He was ordained a Catholic priest in 1940 and joined the U.S. Army Chaplain Corps in 1944.
World War II service
After a brief post in Camp Wheeler, Ga., Kapaun served the remainder of World War II in the Burma and India Theater. In 1946, he separated from the Army and spent the next two years earning his advanced degree in education. In 1948, Kapaun decided to enlist in the Army Chaplain Corps for the second time.
After the Communist invasion of South Korea, Kapaun was among the first American troops that hit the beaches and pushed their way north through hard mountains and bitter cold; he was assigned to 3rd Battalion of the 8th Cavalry Regiment.