Father Vincent Capodanno
Medal of Honor, possibly sainthood
Rank and organization: Lieutenant, U.S. Navy, Chaplain Corps, 3d Battalion, 5th Marines, 1st Marine Division (Rein), FMF.
Place and date: Quang Tin Province, Republic of Vietnam, 4 September 1967.
Entered service at: Staten Island, N.Y. Born: 13 February 1929, Staten Island, N.Y.
Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as Chaplain of the 3d Battalion, in connection with operations against enemy forces. In response to reports that the 2d Platoon of M Company was in danger of being overrun by a massed enemy assaulting force, Lt. Capodanno left the relative safety of the company command post and ran through an open area raked with fire, directly to the beleaguered platoon. Disregarding the intense enemy small-arms, automatic-weapons, and mortar fire, he moved about the battlefield administering last rites to the dying and giving medical aid to the wounded.
When an exploding mortar round inflicted painful multiple wounds to his arms and legs, and severed a portion of his right hand, he steadfastly refused all medical aid. Instead, he directed the corpsmen to help their wounded comrades and, with calm vigor, continued to move about the battlefield as he provided encouragement by voice and example to the valiant marines.
Upon encountering a wounded corpsman in the direct line of fire of an enemy machine gunner positioned approximately 15 yards away, Lt. Capodanno rushed a daring attempt to aid and assist the mortally wounded corpsman. At that instant, only inches from his goal, he was struck down by a burst of machine gun fire.
By his heroic conduct on the battlefield, and his inspiring example, Lt. Capodanno upheld the finest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life in the cause of freedom.
Harton canâ€™t forget that September 1967 day in Operation Swift, when 300 Marines were facing 2,000 North Vietnamese in an exceptionally fierce battle.
Rushing with two others to take out an enemy machine gun yards away, Harton was hit in the left arm, knocked down and was seriously bleeding. He felt he was going to die, and began making peace with God as he went in and out of consciousness.
â€œWhen I looked it was Father Capodanno,â€ he recounted. â€œHe was down on his knees, his left arm behind my head. He said in a real calm voice, â€˜Stay calm, Marine, someone will be here to help soon. God is with us all here today.â€™
â€œWhen he said that everything went blank,â€ Harton continued. â€œThere was no pain. No fear. No noise, no sound. No one screaming. It was like I had died, the peace that came over me. Something I never witnessed before and never witnessed since.â€
Father Capodanno was himself seriously wounded, bleeding around the face, his hand half gone.
â€œHe was messed up, in bad shape, his right hand wrapped in a dirty and bloody bandage,â€ Harton continued. â€œWhen he laid my head down he blessed me with his left hand. I never can forget those eyes.â€
Harton spoke of the spiritual power flowing at that moment through Father Capodanno.
â€œJust by him touching me, I believe that really had something to do with me still being here. I do believe that the second Father Capodanno leaned over and touched me, that was God touching me through him,â€ he said. â€œWhen he said â€˜Stay calm, someone would be there to help and God is with all of us there that day,â€™ I believe he was â€“ through Father Capodanno.â€
While the priest ministered to Harton, a corpsman tending to other wounded was hit. â€œFather Capodanno got up and ran to him, to help Corpsman Leal,â€ Harton recalled. â€œAs he did, the machine gun opened up and killed both of them.â€
Harton paused as he retold the dayâ€™s events.
â€œWhen the news got around the whole division it was terrible,â€ he said. But, he added, â€œNo one could have kept him away. This is what he was there for and no one could have kept him away from what he did.â€
Said Harton, â€œHere was a man who had his shoulder ripped apart, had his hand gone, and running around, and he wasnâ€™t shouting, he wasnâ€™t excited. He was just as calm â€“ the spiritual power he had to have. You donâ€™t forget that â€“ itâ€™s like it happened to me yesterday.â€
Table of contents for Military Chaplains
- Jesus Walks the Battlefield
- Father Martin C. Hoehn
- Church: Chaplains are heroes, too.
- Chaplain Gave All-Chaplain (Major) Henry T. Vakoc
- Father Vincent Capodanno
- Father Elmer Heindl
- Father Heindl Saved America
- Father Leo – Saving Souls in Iraq
- Father (Capt.) Emil Kapaun
- Priest Called to Serve – in the Army
- Former Stunt Man Makes Leap to Airborne Ministry
- Female Chaplains Serve God and Country
- West Point Priest in Iraq
- Father Tim Never Surrendered
- Guard Member Earns Chaplain of Year Award
- Aiding God and Country: Chaplain Assistants
- To one Marine chaplain, karma is everything
- New Zealand chaplain making a difference to Afghan orphans
- St. Elijah’s Monastery in Iraq
- Captain Dale A Goetz KIA
- Mass celebrated in a far away land
- Serving God and the troops in Kyrgyzstan
- A breeze and a Bible changed her life
- Our Best: Spc. Heather Lane
- Military service a testimony of faith
- Father Emil Kapaun to be awarded Medal of Honor
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