Monday 8 April 2024

Kapaun's Battle - Jeff Gress

Kapaun's Battle
Jeff Gress
Ian Gorman
Faye Walker
ISBN 9781946743480
eISBN 9781946743503

I have very mixed feelings about this book. I have read much about Father Emil Kapaun, watched some stuff about him, and have a deep personal devotion to him. My son who at this point wants to be a military chaplain also has a devotion to Kapaun. 

The description of this volume:

“Kapaun's Battle is a powerful testament to the heroism of US Army Chaplain Emil Kapaun (Medal of Honor). The story follows him, from the start of the Korean War until his death as a Prisoner of War in a Communist Chinese Prison Camp in 1951, following the destruction of the 3rd Battalion, 8th Regiment of the US 1st Cavalry Division in November 1950. Written by Screenplay Writer Jess Gress, this is the story of a true American hero.

This is the story of a young man, from a humble Kansas farming family, whose Catholic faith led him to the priesthood. Kapaun became an Army Chaplain in Southeast Asia during World War II and then a parish priest. He volunteered to return to the Army as tensions rose on the Korean Peninsula. It is the story of Father Emil Kapaun's selfless bravery and dedication to the men he ministered to during the Forgotten War.

In 1993, Pope John Paul II declared Father Kapaun a Servant of God, the first stage on the path to canonization. In 2013, Kapaun posthumously received the Medal of Honor from President Obama for his actions in Korea. He was the ninth American military chaplain Medal of Honor recipient.

Although this book is relevant to every freedom-loving American and indeed people worldwide, it is especially intended for the enlightenment of students in schools and universities, along with members of religious congregations and military personnel, to the incredible impacts that one humble, pious American can have on the lives of so many by sacrificing his for them.”

The chapters in this book are:

U.S. Army Medal of Honor Presented Posthumously to Chaplain Emil J. Kapaun
Part One — Off to War
1 - July 18, 1950 – Korea Strait
2 - July 19, 1950, Advancing towards Taegu
3 - August 18, 1950, The Bowling Alley
4 - August 13, 1950, Ka-San Mountain
5 - August 14, 1950, Nurses’ Quarters, Tabu-dong
6 - October 11, Kumchon
7 - October 20, 1950, Pyongyang 
8 - October 31, 1950, Unsan
9 - South of Unsan, The Night of November 1st, 1950
Part Two — Prisoner of War
10 - November 2, 1950, Unsan
11 - November 28, 1950, Sombokal
12 - January 1, 1951, Pyoktong, North Korea
13 - March 16, 1951, Pyoktong, North Korea
14 - March 25, 1951, Pyoktong, North Korea
About the Author

With all I have read and watched about Kapaun I find the first half of this volume implausible. The first nine chapters of this volume read like historical fiction, written to be a made for TV movie. It feels like an episode or episodes of Tour of Duty (1987-1990) but written about the beginning of the Korean War. The dialogue seems too shaped and no sources are listed. Some of the events in this first half are documented but the conversations, actions, speeches … what are the sources? The interlude is a brief bio of Kapaun. And then chapters 10-14 Are stories about the march, and time in the camps. Many key events that most biographers bring up are missing, and some others seem shifted. Front the interlude to the end I appreciated the volume more. 

Much of this volume feels like story and less like biography. As such I really struggled with a rating to give to it. I debated and ended up being generous and giving it 3/5 Stars, if there was a way to give half stars it would have been an easy 2.5. I have recommended all the books I have read about Kapaun and given them to my son to read, once I was done. I would only recommend this book if someone was already well-versed in the life of Chaplain Emil Kapaun.

Resources from Kapaun's Men:
Virtue Series
Stewardship Series
Beatitude Series

Reviews of other books about Military Chaplains:
The Miracle of Father Kapaun: Priest, Soldier and Korean War Hero - Roy Wenzl and Travis Heying
A Shepherd in Combat Boots: Chaplain Emil Kapaun of the 1st Cavalry Division - William Maher
The Grunt Padre: Father Vincent Robert Capodanno Vietnam 1966-1967 - Daniel L. Mode
The Priest Barracks Dachau 1938-1945 - Guillaume Zeller
Blessings from the Battlefield - Edited by Thomas R. O'Brien

Heroic Catholic Chaplains: Stories of the Brave and Holy Men Who Dodged Bullets While Saving Souls
Fr Willie Doyle & World War I: A Chaplain's Story - K.V. Turley
Armed with Faith The Life of Father Vincent R. Capodanno, MM - Stephen M. Digiovanni

For all reviews and articles about Military Chaplains click here.

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