Into the Minefield

Father Craig in Minefield

October 27, 1913.  The Great War was soon to begin in Europe and Leo Peter Craig was born into this world in Everett, Massachusetts.  He was five years old when his mother died, leaving his father with five young children to raise.  Under these unusual circumstances, his Aunt, Veronica Craig, a member of the Dominican Sisters of Springfield Kentucky, received a dispensation from her vows in order for her to help raise her brother’s children.  For 18 years she dedicated herself to this task, becoming a second mother to young Leo.  After the children were all raised, she returned to the religious life.  Leo attended the LaSalle Academy of the Christian Brothers in Providence, Rhode Island.  Going on to Providence College, he obtained his BA in 1935, at which time he entered the Dominican novitiate at Saint Rose’s in Springfield, Kentucky.  He completed his philosophy courses at the Dominican House of Studies in River Forest, Illinois, and his theological training at the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, DC.  He was ordained to the priesthood on May 21, 1942.

Father Leo P. Craig

 

Subsequent to his ordination he taught at the Aquinas High School in Columbus, Ohio and was curate at Saint Andrew’s Parish in Cincinnati.

In 1949 he joined the Army as a chaplain.  Assigned to the First Cavalry Division fighting in Korea, he had a stop over in Japan where he was able to have a joyful reunion with his big brother Father Lawrence A. Craig, 18 years his senior, who was a mission priest of the Sacred Heart.

The First Cavalry Division was participating in the counteroffensive that had retaken Seoul on March 15, 1951 and was driving the Communist Chinese and North Korean armies out of South Korea.  As they withdrew the Communists left behind unmarked minefields to slow the advance of the UN forces. (more…)

Published in: on April 5, 2018 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Into the Minefield  
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Outpost Harry

Korea has often been called The Forgotten War.  I had an uncle, who died in 2012, Ralph McClarey, who served over there as a combat infantryman in the Illinois National Guard.  He had a great sense of humor and would tell me stories about the war.  He served during the latter part of the war when fierce battles were fought for outposts.  These battles were obscure to most Americans at the time, and completely unknown to most Americans now.  This is the story of one of these forgotten battles.

Outpost Harry was a tiny outpost on a small hill in the Iron Triangle, an area 60 miles north of Seoul.  The Chinese high command decided to capture this position, assuming that a victory would strengthen their hand in the ongoing truce negotiation.  They assumed that it would fall to them easily, after all, Outpost Harry was a small position that could be only held by one company at a time, the four American companies and the Greek company taking turns holding the position.  The position was tiny but important.  Lose it, and the Chinese could direct fire on the Un Main Line of Resistance and force a six-mile withdrawal to the next defensible line by the Eighth Army.  Outpost Harry had to be held.

Aerial reconnaissance from June 1-June 8 indicated to the American high command that a major Chinese offensive was in the offing, spearheaded by the 22nd and 221rst regiments of the Chinese 74th division. (more…)

Published in: on February 18, 2018 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Outpost Harry  
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Saints of Lent: The POW Servant of God

(I posted this over at The American Catholic and I thought the history mavins of Almost Chosen People might enjoy it.)

 

Lent is a grand time to confront evil, both that evil which stains our souls, and the evil external to us.  Throughout the history of the Church there have been saints who risked all to bravely confront the popular evils of their time.  This Lent on each Sunday we will be looking at some of those saints.  We began with Saint Athanasius.  Go here to read about him.  Next we looked at Saint John Fisher.  Go here to read about him. Next we looked at the life of Saint Oliver Plunket.  Go here to read about him.  Last week we turned to the Lion of Munster.  Go here to read about him.  For this final Sunday before Holy Week we look at the man I have designated the POW Servant of God.

kapaun

In the midst of a World War, Emil Kapaun was born in peaceful Pilsen, Kansas on August 20, 1916.  His parents were Czech immigrants and virtually everyone in the area spoke Czech.  From an early age Emil knew that he wanted to be a priest and would play mass with his younger brother. (more…)

Published in: on April 7, 2017 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Saints of Lent: The POW Servant of God  
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The Korean War: Was It Worth It?

 

 

 

My favorite living historian, Victor Davis Hanson, explains the Korean War courtesy of Prager University.  Was it worth it?  Look at the picture below and judge for yourself:

Published in: on April 5, 2017 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on The Korean War: Was It Worth It?  
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Collision Course

The things that you find on the internet.  I recently found on You Tube a television movie from 1976, Collision Course, which deals with the conflict between Douglas MacArthur and Harry Truman over Korean War policy.  I had seen the movie when it was first broadcast, and was delighted to watch it again.  Go here to watch the entire movie.  The late Henry Fonda stars as MacArthur and the late E.G. Marshall portrays Truman.  The Truman MacArthur conflict is often seen as a vindication of the right of the President to call the shots when it comes to foreign policy and waging war, but the conflict was actually caused by an abdication of presidential responsibility.  Truman viewed Korea as a potentially dangerous annoyance, and he wanted this “police action” wrapped up as soon as possible.  No planning was made about what to do if the Chinese intervened.  A sensible policy would have been to order MacArthur to form a defensive line north of Pyongyang and across to Wonsan.  The Korean peninsula narrows to a hundred miles at this point and would have been quite defensible with American firepower in the event of Chinese intervention.  Instead MacArthur, who was convinced that the Chinese would not intervene, was left free to conduct a helter-skelter advance to the Yalu, secure in his misguided belief that the Chinese would not intervene, and that if they did, he could easily defeat them.  MacArthur was guilty of military malpractice and Truman was guilty of presidential nonfeasance.

Published in: on February 27, 2017 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Collision Course  
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Bob Hope on Thanksgiving: 1950

Bob Hope spent many holidays away from his home entertaining the troops, and in this 1950 Thanksgiving message he reminds us of those who stand guard over our nation and often eat their Thanksgiving turkey far from home as a result.  God bless and keep them and their families.

Hope had already been to Korea to entertain the troops, even beating the Marines ashore at Wonsan on the east coast of North Korea!  He would be back to entertain the troops again, continuing his tradition of service that would stretch a half century from World War II to Desert Storm.  Hope was a comedic genius, in his prime perhaps the greatest American stand up comedian.  However, what I remember him for is the true patriotism that caused him, whether a war was popular or unpopular, to endure discomfort and danger to bring a smile to Americans far from home serving their country.  He was born in England, but he might as well have been born in the heart of America on the Fourth of July. (more…)

Published in: on November 27, 2015 at 5:30 am  Comments (1)  
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The Marines Called Her Reckless

Reckless_with_Sgt__Latham

“I was surprised at her beauty and intelligence, and believe it or not, her esprit de corps. Like any other Marine, she was enjoying a bottle of beer with her comrades. She was constantly the center of attraction and was fully aware of her importance. If she failed to receive the attention she felt her due, she would deliberately walk into a group of Marines and, in effect, enter the conversation. It was obvious the Marines loved her.”

Lieutenant General Randolph Pate 

One of the most beloved members of the Marine Corps went into battle on four feet.  A mare of Mongolian mixed breed, the horse who would become Sergeant Reckless was foaled in 1948 in South Korea.  Originally named Ah Chim Hai, Morning Flame, she was sold to Lieutenant Eric Pederson, USMC,  for $250.00 in October of 1952.  (The owner was a stable boy who needed the money to buy an artificial leg for his sister who had stepped on a land mine.)

Pedersen bought the horse, which had been a race horse, to serve as a pack animal for his recoiless rifle platoon of the 5th Marine regiment.  The platoon called her Reckless after the platoon’s nickname of Reckless Rifles.  Gunnery Sergeant Joseph Latham gave Reckless an equine version of boot camp, known in her case as hoof camp.  He taught her how to avoid getting tangled up in barbed wire, how to lay down under fire, and to run to a bunker when hearing the shout “Incoming”.  Latham had his wife mail a pack saddle from the states so that Reckless could better fulfill her role of being a pack animal from the platoon.  Reckless quickly became a platoon favorite and was given the freedom to roam the platoon encampment at night and to enter tents at will.  She loved cokes and beer, and would eat with enthusiasm whatever she could get her mouth on, including, one dark day, $30.00 worth of winning poker chips of Latham.

However, Reckless quickly demonstrated that she was not a mere mascot or pet.  In the battle of Hedy’s Crotch she proved fearless in transporting shells for the recoiless rifles of the platoon.  At first alarmed by the sounds of the rifles going off, by the end of the day she was calmly going about her business.  A highly intelligent horse, she only needed to be led the first few times, and afterwards would make the trips bringing up the shells on her own.

At the battle of Outpost Vegas, March 26-28, she received a promotion to Corporal for her sterling service, including on one day 51 solo trip bringing up 386 shells.  She was slightly wounded twice during the engagement for which she was awarded two Purple Hearts.

Outside of battle Reckless performed many functions, including stringing telephone lines.  It was said that she could string telephone lines at a rate that it would take 12 men to match.  She enjoys the distinction of being the only horse to participate in a Marine Corps amphibious landing.  (more…)

Uncle Ralph, the Rosary and the Korean War

I love praying the Rosary.  It always has given me peace whenever I have recited it, and my family prays the Sorrowful Mysteries together each Lent.  However, the person who had the greatest devotion to the Rosary in my family was my Protestant Uncle Ralph.

When I was growing up my family lived next door to Uncle Ralph and his family.  Uncle Ralph was my favorite uncle.  He always had a sense of fun, loved to shoot the breeze with kids and did a hilarious Donald Duck imitation.  My Dad’s family were all Protestant;   my brother and I were Catholic because my Dad had married my Catholic Mom, so I was surprised one day during my teen years when Uncle Ralph pulled out his Rosary and told me how he came to always carry it.

Ralph was a homesick 19 year old in 1951.  His Army National Guard unit had been called up for duty in the Korean War.  He was stationed in California waiting to be shipped out, when, one Sunday, he had dinner with a Catholic family under an Army sponsored program to give troops some home-cooked meals.  Ralph enjoyed himself immensely.  The family treated him like a long lost son and brother, and the meal was superb.  Ralph was relaxing after the meal when the father of the family, a WWI vet, handed him a Rosary.  “Here son, this got me safe back from France and I hope it does the same for you in Korea.”  Ralph wasn’t sure what a Rosary was, but he was touched by the gesture and he took the Rosary. (more…)

Published in: on July 30, 2013 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Uncle Ralph, the Rosary and the Korean War  
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Patrick J. Byrne, Bishop and Martyr

Last Saturday was the 60th anniversary of the armistice ending the Korean War.  That War produced many Christian martyrs as the Communist powers actively persecuted and murdered Christians luckless enough to fall into their hands.  One martyr that has never received the recognition that I believe he deserves is Bishop Patrick J. Byrne.

Born on October 26, 1888 in Washington DC, he was ordained in 1915 and joined the newly formed  The Catholic Foreign Mission Society of America, better known today as Maryknoll.  In 1923 he was chosen to begin the mission in Korea.  Named Prefect Apostolic of Pyongyang.  By the time he returned to the States in 1929 the Catholic population of Korea had increased by 25,000 and there were numerous Korean priests and sisters.

In 1935 he was assigned to open a mission in Kyoto, Japan and in 1937 was named Prefect Apostolic of Kyoto.  Kept under house arrest during the War, he broadcast calming messages to the Japanese people, at the request of the Japanese government following the surrender of Japan.  During the occupation of Japan, Supreme Allied Commander General Douglas MacArthur praised Monsignor Byrne for his assistance in helping bring peace to Japan.

In 1947 he was named Apostolic Visitor to Korea.  Two years later he was named the first Apostolic Delegate to Korea and titular Bishop of Gazera.

On July 11, 1950 he was seized by the Communists after the fall of Seoul and put on trial.  Bishop Byrne refused to be docile at the show trial and a second trial was held with similar results in Pyongyang.  He was then marched to the Yalu, a journey that took four months in appalling weather with almost no food or water.  He became ill with pneumonia and died on November 25, 1950.  The night before he died he told his companions:

“After the privilege of my priesthood, I regard this privilege of having suffered for Christ with all of you as the greatest of my life.” (more…)

Published in: on July 29, 2013 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Patrick J. Byrne, Bishop and Martyr  
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Pow Servant of God Receives Medal of Honor

The POW Servant of God Father Emil Kapaun received the Medal of Honor on April 11, 2012.  Here is what he did to earn it.

Serving as a chaplain at Fort Bliss, Father Kapaun was ordered to Japan in 1950.  Upon the outbreak of the Korean War, he was assigned to a front line combat unit, the 3rd battalion, 8th cavalry regiment, 1rst Cavalry Division.

With his unit Father Kapaun participated during June-September 1950 in the desperate defense of the Pusan Perimeter and then in the breakout from the Pusan Perimeter, which, combined with the Inchon landings in Operation Chromite, the brilliant stroke by General Douglas MacArthur,  led to the eviction of the invading North Korean armies from South Korea and the capture of the North Korean capital of Pyongyang on October 19, 1950.  During all of this Father Kapaun was a whirlwind of activity:  tending the wounded, administering the Last Sacrament to the dying, keeping up the morale of the troops.  He said mass as close as he could get to the battle lines from an improvised platform on a jeep.

jeep-mass

On November 1, 1950 Chaplain Kapaun’s unit ran headlong into advancing Chinese Communist forces at Unsan, North Korea, about 50 miles south of the Chinese border with North Korea.   The official citation of the award of the Distinguish Service Cross to Chaplain Kapaun tells of his role in the battle:

The Distinguished Service Cross is presented to Emil Joseph Kapaun(O-0558217), Captain (Chaplain), U.S. Army, for extraordinary heroism in connection withmilitary operations against an armed enemy of the United Nations while serving as Chaplain with Headquarters Company, 8th Cavalry Regiment (Infantry), 1st Cavalry Division. Captain (Chaplain) Kapaun distinguished himself by extraordinary heroism in action against enemy aggressor forces in the vicinity of Unsan, Korea, on 1 and 2 November 1950.

On the afternoon of 1 November 1950, and continuing through the following 36 hours, the regiment was subjected to a relentless, fanatical attack by hostile troops attempting to break through the perimeter defense. In the early morning hours, the enemy succeeded in breaking through the defenses, and hand-to-hand combat ensued in the immediate vicinity of the command post where the aid station had been set up. Chaplain Kapaun, with complete disregard for his personal safety, calmly moved among the wounded men, giving them medical aid and easing their fears. His courageous manner inspired all those present and many men who might otherwise have fled in panic were encouraged by his presence and remained to fight the enemy.

As the battle progressed, the number of wounded increased greatly and it became apparent that many of the men would not be able to escape the enemy encirclement. Finally, at dusk on November 2, 1950, the remaining able- bodied men were ordered to attempt to break through the surrounding enemy. At this time, although fully aware of the great danger, Chaplain Kapaun voluntarily remained behind, and when last seen was administering medical treatment and rendering religious rites wherever needed.

Along with the other Americans captured Father Kapaun was marched north in bitterly cold winter weather approximately 100 miles.  One of his fellow prisoners, Herbert Miller, was wounded and had a broken ankle.  Mr. Miller survived the war and here is a recent statement by him on what happened next.  “I was wounded with a broken ankle and the North Koreans were going to shoot me. He brushed them aside, reached down and picked me up and carried me. How he found the strength, I’ll never know. He was the bravest man I ever saw.”

Father Kapaun and his fellow POWs were taken, after their two week march, to a temporary camp which they called The Valley located 10 miles south of Pyoktong, NorthKorea, the first in a series of camps in the area where Father Kapuan and the men from his unit were held.  Of the approximately 1000 Americans who were taken here 500-700 died.  I was astonished in researching this article to learn that during their first year of operation the Chinese POW camps had a death rate of 40%, which makes them worse than the Japanese POW camps during World War II in which approximately one-third of the Allied prisoners perished.

Then the events began which made Father Kapaun unforgettable to the men who survived this Gehenna on Earth.  First, the men needed food.  On the miserable rations they had from the Chinese they were starving to death.  Father Kapaun staged daring daylight raids into surrounding fields to scavenge for hidden potatoes and sacks of corn.  If he had been discovered it is quite likely that he would have been shot on the spot.  He always shared his food with the other men, and his example shamed his fellow prisoners who also scavenged for food outside of the camp to do the same and share their food. (more…)

Published in: on April 14, 2013 at 5:30 am  Comments (2)  
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