Knights' film on chaplain's faith, heroism traces how his remains were returned home 70 years after his death

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (OSV News) - A short documentary just released by the Knights of Columbus highlights the life, ministry and selfless service of Father Emil Kapaun, a U.S. Army chaplain who died May 23, 1951, while ministering to prisoners of war during the Korean War.

The 15-minute film titled "The Magazine and the Miracle: Finding Father Kapaun" also traces the journey of Father Kapaun's mortal remains from a shallow grave in the prisoner-of-war camp where he died, to an unmarked tomb in the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu's Punchbowl Crater in 1954, to their eventual return to his home Diocese of Wichita, Kansas, and final resting place in a tomb at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception there, in 2021.

"Father Kapaun's heroism, selfless service to his country, and devotion to Jesus Christ and the Catholic faith were a daily inspiration to his fellow soldiers during World War II and the Korean War," said a news release announcing release of the film, which can be viewed at

His sainthood cause was formally opened in 1993, giving him the title "Servant of God." His case is being reviewed by the Vatican Dicastery for the Causes of Saints in Rome.

"The Magazine and the Miracle" shares how in 2003 a Korean war veteran, William Hansen, visited a VA medical clinic in Naples, Florida, and stumbled upon a copy of the Knights of Columbus magazine that featured an article about Father Kapaun.

Hansen immediately recognized the beloved chaplain and recalled burying him in the prisoner-of-war camp. His testimony then became a significant factor that led to the eventual discovery and identification of Father Kapaun's remains in Hawaii.

Born in rural Kansas, Father Kapaun was ordained a Wichita diocesan priest in 1940. He served in several parishes, as well as a chaplain for nearby military bases. In 1944, he was granted permission to enter the U.S. Army Catholic Chaplain Corps, where he served for two years.

He rejoined in 1948, and in 1949 was sent to Japan, then to South Korea, with the troops. In June 1950, communist North Korea invaded South Korea, and the U.S. entered the war.

Father Kapaun was captured and sent to a prison camp in North Korea, where he continued to serve the men. He died May 23, 1951, and in 2013 was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroic actions on the battlefield. It is the United States' highest military honor.

Seventy years after his death, a U.S. government forensics team in Hawaii -- the U.S. Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency -- announced March 4, 2021, that it had identified his remains among those of unidentified soldiers long interred in Hawaii at the Punchbowl's National Cemetery of the Pacific.

On Sept. 23, 2021, Honolulu Bishop Larry Silva celebrated an evening Mass in the Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of Peace, honoring Father Kapaun and preceding the transfer of the priest's remains from Hawaii to the Diocese of Wichita.

His remains arrived at Wichita's Eisenhower National Airport Sept. 25, 2021. They were then taken as part of a procession to his hometown church in Pilsen, Kansas, for public and private services. A morning funeral Mass was celebrated Sept. 28 in Hartman Arena, then his casket was taken from the arena to the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in downtown Wichita, where he was interred in a tomb prepared for him.

During the funeral vigil, a portion of a letter Father Kapaun wrote to his cousin was read: "I have a feeling that I am far, far from being a saint worthy to receive the Priesthood. Think what it means!! To offer up the Living Body and Blood of Our Savior every day in Holy Mass - to absolve souls from sin in Holy Confession and snatch them from the gates of hell."


Father Emil Joseph Kapaun, a U.S. Army chaplain, is pictured celebrating Mass from the hood of a jeep Oct. 7, 1950, in South Korea. A candidate for sainthood, he died May 23, 1951, in a North Korean prisoner of war camp. A new 15-minute film from the Knights of Columbus titled "The Magazine and the Miracle: Finding Father Kapaun" traces the journey of Father Kapaun's mortal remains from a shallow grave in the prisoner-of-war camp where he died to their eventual return to his home Diocese of of Wichita, Kan., and final resting place at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Wichita in 2021. (OSV News photo/courtesy U.S. Army medic Raymond Skeehan)