Army Chaplain Emil Kapaun will be posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor by President Obama in a ceremony today, 62 years after he died in a Chinese POW camp during the Korean War.
Fellow POWs lobbied for decades for the Roman Catholic chaplain to receive the medal, according to the Army Times.
Kapaun is credited with saving hundreds of soldiers during the war.
Supporters in the catholic church have also prepared an 8,000-page report urging the Church to consider Kapaun for sainthood.
The White House and Army cited the chaplain’s “extraordinary heroism” during the Battle of Unsan in Korea, walking through “withering enemy fire” to comfort and provide medical help, staying with the troops though capture was almost certain, leading prayers at the risk of punishment and resisting re-education programs by the Chinese Communists.
Also mentioned was an incredible life-saving episode.
It was November 1950 when Chinese soldiers overran the U.S. troops near Unsan. Sgt. Herbert Miller, a hardened World War II vet, was huddled in a ditch, his ankle broken from a grenade attack. He played dead for a time, hiding beneath the corpse of an enemy soldier. But he was ultimately discovered by another.
Miller picks up the story six decades later:
“He pointed his gun at my head. I was looking into the barrel. I figured to myself: ‘This is it. I’m all done.’“
Then almost miraculously, Miller saw a slender GI approaching across a dirt road. As he neared, Miller noticed a small cross on the soldier’s helmet. Kapaun simply pushed the enemy aside — shockingly, without retribution.
“Why he never shot him,” Miller says, “I’ll never know. I’ll never know. … I think the Lord was there directing him what to do.”
Kapaun reached down, scooped up Miller and carried him on his back as they were taken captive.
“Put me down. You can’t carry me,” Miller repeatedly told Kapaun. And he recalls the chaplain’s reply:
“If I put you down, they’ll shoot you.”
Kapaun carried the wounded sergeant, or supported him, hobbling on one foot, until they arrived days later at the village of Pyoktong, where a POW camp was eventually established.