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Thursday, November 14, 2013

Book review: The Miracle of Father Kapaun: Priest, soldier, and Korean War hero

Most people have never heard of Fr. Emil (eh-meal) Kapaun (kah-PAWN). That is a tragic shame.

Many have heard of Abner Doubleday. They know of the Red Baron. They're familiar with Sgt. York. They know of Ernie Pyle. They know of President Kennedy's World War II heroics, and all with due cause.

But this man who saved dozens of men on the battlefield and hundreds under the most inhumane conditions after thousands were imprisoned in the freezing far north of North Korea, give them that name -- Fr. Emil Kapaun -- and they'll go deer-in-the-headlights on you. Blank stares. Uncomprehending stares. Really unfortunate stares.

Unfortunate because this man was Doubleday, the Red Baron, Sgt. York, Ernie Pyle, JFK, Chuck Yeager, and then some on steroids. His exploits are so astounding, so superhuman as to be unbelievable.

Until now, there has not been a single, comprehensive source for Fr. Kapaun's story, the tale of this man who in April 2013 was posthumously and finally awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, the highest decoration for any member of the military. Now there is, and praise God for it.

The Miracle of Father Kapaun: Priest, soldier, and Korean War hero is based off a series of articles written by Wichita Eagle reporter Roy Wenzl and a photographer from the same publication, Travis Heying. In a way that moves you along and is in many places gripping, you learn this war-hero-over-all-war-heroes' story. You learn of the miracles his intercession has allegedly wrought.

More to the point, though, you learn what a miracle this man was in and of himself. Words fail me in my effort to express just how well done this book is. Of course, it would be somewhat like a painter creating a portrait of Cindy Crawford. The model is so good, anyone with any degree of skill could do a passable job. But let's not take away anything from either Wenzl or Heying. They have done a top notch job of bringing this story to life.

Ignatius Press has published this wonderful work ($19.95, 160 pp., hardcover). You can find it at your local Catholic bookstore by going to Type in your zip code, determine how far you'd like to drive (anywhere from 5-100 miles), and hit "Search." Or order it from any bookseller, just preferably one that's brick and mortar.

As I told my son today, if you don't read this book, you're really missing out.

Dear God, may Fr. Kapaun pray for us now and always.

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