Saturday, December 30, 2006

Fr. Vincent Robert Capodanno

After Aunt Margaret's funeral we all gathered at the John Venditti Post #1 of Italian-Amercian Veterans. One of John's Uncle's is very involved with the post and we were looking at the various citations and pictures on the walls.

One picture that caught my eye was that of Father Capodanno. I've been told by various people that John is related to him but I have as yet not proven the relationship. John's great-grandmother was Filomena Capadano. I know of three of her brothers but nothing that connects to Father Capodanno. I admit that I haven't worked very hard at researching the relationship but I have spent many hours reading about Father Capodanno.

He was the youngest of 9 children born to Vincent R. and Rachel Capodanno, Sr. He was born February 13, 1929 in Richmond Co, NY. His father died when he was only 10 years old and the family struggled to support themselves. I have learned very little else about his childhood years.

He attended a year at Fordham University and then entered the Maryknoll Missionary Seminary. His work sent him to Taiwan and later to Hong Kong. He requested to be assigned as a USN Chaplain serving with the US Marines. When his tour was up he requested an extension.

He was known as the Grunt Padre. He was respected and revered by those he served with. He was killed September 4, 1967 in Que Son Valley, Quang Tin Province, South Vietnam, 30 miles south of Dan Nang. He had been shot in the hand earlier in the day but stayed in the field with his men. Later a mortar shell exploded near him, severely injuring his arm and still he stayed. He ministered to all those that he could get to. His death came from machine gun fire as he tried to help a corpsman. He was awarded the medal of honor posthumously.


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.

Several Chapels, a road and a Navy Frigate have been named for Father Capodanno. There are many websites dedicated to his memory. Currently there is a call for Canonization of Father Capodanno.

I took this picture and made a rubbing of the traveling Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall when it was in Syracuse. I was able to talk to the students on my bus about Father Capodanno a bit and it was nice to find them (and their teachers!) receptive to my commentary. I may never know if we're related but I am richer for having learned about his life.

Capodanno translates to New Year's Day, so Happy New Year!

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