Powerful image captured in time: Story of iconic Fr. Kapaun photo shared

Published: Sep. 24, 2021 at 11:23 PM CDT
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - There are countless stories of Fr. Emil Kapaun shared around the world, but few were caught on camera. Even fewer know the photographer of an iconic photo taken in Korea more than 70 years ago and the story behind the image that shows Kapaun performing a mass in front of a soldier.

The photographer of the powerful image, Col. Raymond Skeehan, gave Marie Gillespie a copy of the original photo, taken just weeks before the eventual Medal of Honor recipient was captured in Korea, where he died as a prisoner of war in 1951. The image, showing Fr. Kapaun using the hood of a military jeep as an altar, is among Gillespie’s collection of photos from Fr. Kapaun’s time in Korea. The gallery has remained a secret for years.

Gillespie had the opportunity to capture copies of original images by taking pictures of the album Skeehan put together from the Korean War. That opportunity came after she met a woman who then introduced her to her husband, Skeehan.

“We were just talking and introducing ourselves and discussing different matters and her husband, Ray, happened to say, ‘oh, by the way, I’m the person who took the photo of Father Kapaun in Korea,’” Gillespie recalled. “He was kind enough to give me a copy of the original photo he took. He was not a professional photographer. He was the medic, but an amateur photographer and he carried his camera with him.”

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