Vincent R. Capodanno
Born: February 13, 1929
Died: September 4, 1967
Vincent R. Capodanno was a United States Navy Roman Catholic chaplain and a posthumous recipient of America's highest military decoration — the Medal of Honor — for actions during the Vietnam War.
Vincent R. Capodanno was born on Staten Island, New York, on February 13, 1929. He graduated from Curtis High School, Staten Island, and attended Fordham University for a year before entering the Maryknoll Missionary Seminary in Ossining, New York. He was ordained a Roman Catholic priest on June 14, 1958.
Father Capodanno's first assignment as a missionary was with aboriginal Taiwanese in the mountains of Taiwan where he served in a parish and later in a school. After seven years, Father Capodanno returned to the United States for leave and then was assigned to a Maryknoll school in Hong Kong.
In December 1965, Father Capodanno received his commission as a lieutenant in the Navy Chaplain Corps. He was assigned to the First Marine Division in Vietnam in April 1966.
At 4:30 am, September 4, 1967, during Operation Swift in the Thang Binh District of the Que Son Valley, elements of the 1st Battalion 5th Marines encountered a large North Vietnamese unit of approximately 2,500 men near the village of Dong Son. The outnumbered and disorganized Company D was in need of reinforcements. By 9:14 am, 26 Marines were confirmed dead, and another company of Marines was committed to the battle. At 9:25 am, the commander of 1st Battalion 5th Marine requested further reinforcements.
Father Capodanno went among the wounded and dying, giving last rites. Wounded in the face and hand, he went to help a wounded corpsman only yards from an enemy machine gun and was killed. His body was recovered and interred in his family's plot in Saint Peters Cemetery, West New Brighton, Staten Island, New York.
On December 27, 1968, Secretary of the Navy Paul Ignatius notified the Capodanno family that Lieutenant Capodanno would posthumously be awarded the Medal of Honor in recognition of his selfless sacrifice. The official ceremony was held January 7, 1969.
On May 19, 2002, Capodanno's Cause for Canonization was officially opened, and he is now referred to as a Servant of God. In May 2004 the Initial Documentation was submitted to The Congregation for the Causes of Saints with CatholicMil, later renamed Mission Capodanno, acting as Petitioner and Father Daniel Mode named Postulator. On May 21, 2006 a Public Decree of Servant of God was issued by the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA. The statement was made by Archbishop Edwin F. O’Brien in Washington D.C. On October 13, 2013 Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio, J.C.D. of the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA presided over a the formal renewal of the opening of the Cause for Beatification of Father Capodanno. Archbishop Broglio announced at this time that the newly established Father Vincent Capodanno Guild would serve as the Petitioner of the Cause and Dr. Ambrosi as Roman Postulator.
Father Capodanno's official Medal of Honor citation is as follows:
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 multiple painful 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.
USS Capodanno (FF-1093) was named in honor of Lieutenant Capodanno. The Capodanno was commissioned September 17, 1973, and was decommissioned July 30, 1993, and sold to Turkey. It became the first ship in the U.S fleet to receive a Papal Blessing when it was blessed by Pope John Paul II in Naples, Italy, September 4, 1981.
New York City honors
In March 1971, the Knights of Columbus, Madonna Council in Staten Island sought to have a permanent public memorial honoring Father Capodanno. In October 1974, a bill was proposed to change the name of Seaside Boulevard to Father Capodanno Boulevard; a year later, the bill was passed by the Mayor of New York.
The city of New York declared July 3, 1976, "Father Capodanno Day" and held a Mass, followed by a parade that included the United States Marine Corps Color Guard, bands from the United States Navy and the United States Marine Corps, and Boy and Girl Scouts.
A monument was erected at the corner of Midland Avenue and Father Capodanno Blvd on Staten Island. It is made of light gray Barre granite, stands 8' high and 4' wide and has a bronze plaque.
Saint Vincent Chapel, Taiwan
Saint Vincent's Chapel was the Capodanno family's first choice as a memorial. Within four months after his death, almost $4,000 had been raised by organizations such as The American Legion, The Veterans of Foreign Wars, the Knights of Columbus and the Marine Corps League. The chapel was completed in 1993. It was built in the small mountain town of Thiankou with the help of Father Dan Dolan, another Maryknoller and Father Capodanno's former pastor when he was a missionary in Taiwan.
Capodanno Hall, San Francisco Bay Naval Shipyard
The San Francisco Bay Naval Shipyard dedicated Capodanno Hall on November 3, 1969. The hall serves as a Bachelor Officers' Quarters. Phillip Capodanno unveiled the plaque which describes Father Capodanno's heroic deed:
Lieutenant Capodanno made the ultimate sacrifice ministering to the wounded and dying during savage fighting in Vietnam. He has become the third chaplain in our country's history to receive the Medal of Honor and the second Navy chaplain to be so honored.