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Heroes: Father Vincent Capodanno

| 4 Comments | 1 TrackBack

As in "Medal of Honor recipient Marine Chaplain" Father Vincent Capodanno. Reverened Sensing has noted that pacifism isn't what it used to be, and this story is surely further proof of that.

First a Maryknoll missionary serving in Taiwan and Hong Kong, Father Capodanno became a Navy Chaplain and served with the 7th and 5th Marines in Vietnam. He called them "my Marines," and was always there for them when they needed him. They called him "The Grunt Padre," the highest compliment they could bestow.

At 4:30 am, September 4th, 1967 , in the Thang Binh District of the Que-Son Valley, elements of the 1st Battalion, 5th Marines found the large North Vietnamese Unit, approx. 2500 men, near the village of Dong Son. By 9:14 am, twenty-six Marines were confirmed dead. The situation was in doubt and another Company of Marines was committed to the battle. At 9:25 am, the 1st Battalion 5th Marine Commander requested assistance of two company's of the 3rd Battalion 5th Marines, "M"and "K" Company.

During those early hours, Chaplain Capodanno received word of the battle taking place. He sat in on the morning briefing at the 3rd Battalion's Combat Operations Center. He took notes and listened to the radio reports coming in. As the elements of Company "M" and "K" prepared to load the helicopters. "Fr.Vince" requested to go with them. His Marines needed him. "It's not going to be easy" he stated.

Wounded once in the face and suffering another wound that almost severed his hand, Father Capodanno was killed while trying to save the life of a fellow servicemen. He received the Medal of Honor posthumously in 1971.

Father Capodanno never fired a weapon in anger, yet "his Marines" still consider him one of their great heroes. His example is a stark reminder to us all that pacifism can be a brave and honourable stand. It also stands as a stark reminder of the moral chasm that has opened beneath the feet of Western pacifism in the last 40 years.

1 TrackBack

Tracked: February 20, 2003 6:43 AM
Excerpt: Joe, at Winds of Change.NET illustrates the difference between a pacifist and a coward, with the story of Father Vincent

4 Comments

I grew up in Staten Island, where there's a street named for him.

I never bothered to find out why, figuring that the heavily Catholic population in that area wanted it for some church-related reason or other.

Boy, was I wrong. Thanks for pointing out someone who should have been a hero to me all along.

A story that needs to be told, for sure. I am reminded of the four chaplains aboard a troops ship bound for England. The ship was torpedoed. The order to abandon was given. When the chaplains saw that all of the life jackets had been given away and some troops were left without, they each gave theirs away, locked arms and prayed and sang hymns while the ship sank beneath them.

One of those four chaplains was a Methodist, Lt. George L. Fox. The others were Lt. Alexander D. Goode, Jewish; Lt. John P. Washington, Roman Catholic; and Lt. Clark V. Poling, Dutch Reformed.

Although chaplains do not bear arms, it is not necessarily true that a chaplain is automatically a pacifist.

In wars past, many pacifists did enlist in the armed forces to serve as medics or another medical field. Steven Den Beste once documented the story of Pvt Doss, who earned the Medal of Honor even though he was a stout pacifist.

Pacifism does not equal cowardice, although I have written that almost all the self-proclaimed pacifists I have met are cowards:

"What their brand of pacifism decidedly is not is a self-risking position on which they are willing to risk their lives in mortal danger to bring peace through non-violent means. They don't go anywhere, certainly not anywhere dangerous. They just stay at home and tut-tut their way through the war. Then, after having had their freedom preserved through the sacrificial, blood-letting exertions of others, they congratulate themselves on what a splendid religion they have and how morally superior they are."

That was the first time I cried reading one of your columns.

My Father was just a "Grunt" who happened to be the supply officer for Company M and K. Vince Capodanno just happened to be one of his very best friends.
Something else that needs to be added to your story is that Father Vincent Capodanno asked to "re-up" for yet another tour of duty in Viet Nam. But he was refused. He had already served an extra term. He was told, "It's time for you to go home."
He was due to fly out 3 days after my Father, James J. Wiese flew home. They had plans to "meet up" in Cherry Point when Father Capodanno returned.
Well the 2nd day of my fathers return he got word of Father Capodannos death. It's been over 30 years now and to this day, he still has trouble talking about his death. But one thing he can say with ease is what a wonderful man he was!

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