Ken Harbaugh tells the stories of service members who have distinguished themselves through an act of valor. These stories feature recipients from the Civil War to present day, including a few who were originally overlooked for the medal.
LT Capodanno spent 10 years as a priest before becoming a Navy Chaplain and deploying to Vietnam. He was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for saving Marines and sailors without regard for his own safety.
Welcome to the Medal of Honor podcast, brought to you in partnership with the National Medal of Honor Museum. I’m Ken Harbaugh. In each episode, we’ll learn about a different service member who has distinguished him or herself through an act of valor.
Lieutenant Vincent Robert Capodanno Jr. was born February 13th, 1929, on Staten Island, New York. He was the youngest of 10 siblings, and the son of an immigrant from southern Italy.
After High School, Capodanno attended Maryknoll Missionary Seminary and was ordained a Catholic priest in 1958.
As a priest and a missionary, he spent six years in Taiwan, then was sent to Hong Kong. There, he volunteered to be a chaplain in the United States Navy and was commissioned a Lieutenant in 1965.
In April of the next year, Capodanno was deployed to the Republic of Vietnam, assigned to 1st Battalion, 7th Marines. After completing his one-year tour, Capodanno requested another deployment after only one month of leave. In 1967, he was assigned to 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines and became known as the “Grunt Padre”.
On September 4th, 1967, Capodanno and his unit were in the Que Son Valley in Quang Tin Province when 2,500 People’s Army of Vietnam fighters attacked their defensive positions.
Upon hearing that two platoons were heavily engaged by the PAVN and taking casualties, Capodanno left the security of the company’s command post and went to the platoon’s defensive position. Despite the fact that he was unarmed, Capodanno ran through enemy fire to treat the wounded and give last rites to the dying. An enemy mortar landed nearby, severing some of Capodanno’s right hand and wounding his arms and legs. Capodanno refused medical attention, directing Navy Corpsmen towards other wounded. Upon seeing a Corpsman mortally wounded, Capodanno ran to help him, but was shot and killed by an enemy machine gun.
On January 7th, 1969, Father Capodanno was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor. His other awards include the Bronze Star with Valor, the Purple Heart, and the Combat Action Ribbon.
Capodanno’s legacy lives on in the USS Capodanno, commissioned in 1973, the first US naval vessel to be blessed by a Pope. In Staten Island, a statue of Father Capodanno was built and a street was named after him. There are several memorials to Capodanno across Navy and Marine Corps bases, as well as in Taiwan, Vietnam, and Italy.
The Medal of Honor podcast is a production of Evergreen Podcasts.
Nathan Corson is our producer and engineer, León Pescador is our associate producer, and I’m Ken Harbaugh.
We are proud to support the National Medal of Honor Museum. To learn more, and to support their mission, go to mohmuseum.org. Thanks for listening.