SERVANT of GOD VINCENT ROBERT 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 in 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 in June 1957.
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 2500 men near the village of Dong Son. The outnumbered and disorganized Company D was in need of reinforcements. By 9:14 A.M. twenty-six Marines were confirmed dead and another company of Marines was committed to the battle. At 9:25 the commander of 1st Battalion 5th Marine requested further reinforcements.
|Lewis Williams, SFO|
Father Capodanno went among the wounded and dying, giving last rites and taking care of his Marines. Wounded once in the face and having his hand almost severed, 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, Staten Island, New York.
On December 27, 1968, then 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.
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, however, was not completed until 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.
|Monument to Father Capodanno, Staten Island|