Abstract

At his home parish in Kansas stands a statue of Father Emil Kapaun, a Catholic priest and military chaplain who died in a POW camp during the Korean War, inscribed with the words, “All Man, All Priest.” This is a curious inscription since Catholic priests are men by definition. It is not therefore asserting Kapaun’s biological sex, but his fulfillment of a particular form of masculinity. In fact, this inscription accurately portrays how Kapaun’s contemporaries remembered him. This article will therefore argue, based on a reading of the historical materials left by Kapaun and those who knew him, that while Kapaun’s actions were shaped by his understanding of his priesthood, Cold War anxieties led to the production of particular ideals about masculinity that caused his contemporaries to remember Kapaun in masculine terms. This paper will also examine the 1950s television program The Good Thief, and show how it portrayed Kapaun in accordance with Cold War ideals of masculinity to prove that religion could make men strong enough to defeat Communism, even at the cost of removing those religious memories of his life that conflicted with these ideals, thereby illustrating the complex relationship between memory, masculinity, and religion during the Cold War.

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