A Korean War chaplain’s remains have been identified after being interred in a US grave for 70 years, according to ABC.
Emil Kapaun’s remains were identified as part of an effort by the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency to identify all the unknowns at the national cemetery in Honolulu. “For our family, it’s just an incredible time right now,” his nephew Ray Kapaun told ABC Wichita, Kansas, on Friday. “None of us ever expected it, no one in our family did. We always hoped, but the expectations were always low that his remains would be found,” he added.
The storied chaplain’s remains were turned over by the North Koreans to the United Nations Command as part of the 1953 armistice. While the U.S. Army laboratory in Japan was able to identify more than 50% of them, 867 sets of remains were transported to the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific where they were interred as unknowns. Kapaun died in the Korean War as a prisoner of war on May 23, 1951, but his fellow service members long told tales of his heroic and selfless acts as a soldier in battle and then ministering to other prisoners of war, Ray Kapaun told ABC News in 2013. “All of the stories that came out, that my grandmother would even tell us, all of that came from the POWs,” Ray Kapaun said.
“You talk to these guys and a lot times, when they first met him, they didn’t even realize he was a priest or a chaplain. He was just one of the guys,” he added. The military chaplain who was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor was also a priest who the Catholic Church is considering canonizing as a saint. “It’s just all come together as one, you know, the Medal of Honor and the possible sainthood has all become this — like a shining light,” his nephew told ABC News.
ENTERTAINMENT EDITOR: CONNOR KMIECIK
PHOTO CREDITS: KSL TV