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Vincent Capodanno was born in 1929, in New York, the baby of a large Catholic family that called him “Junior.” He always had a playmate since he had eight older brothers and sisters. When Vincent grew up, he understood that Jesus was calling him to be a missionary priest. After being ordained, his first assignment was to go and minister to the poor in Taiwan.

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Later he would receive orders to go to Hong Kong and teach English at a high school run by his religious community. At that time, a war in Vietnam had begun and he had a deep desire to help the young American Marines who were fighting in that war. So even though he didn’t like the assignment to go teach English, he obeyed. Still, Father just could not stop thinking about all the young men he had seen on Vietnam’s battlefield when he had made a visit home to America and watched the evening news. Father wanted to be a priest where he believed God wanted him the most. 

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In time, he was granted permission to enter the Chaplain Corps. He was now a priest who served US soldiers in the military. His plane ride from America to Vietnam took over sixteen hours.

Regardless of race or religion, Father was always available to every Marine. He joined his Marines on patrol and on the battlefield. He was often under heavy enemy fire and risked his life to attend to the men who were wounded. He calmed their fears and bolstered their faith. He was there to administer the Sacraments to the Catholic men. “Grunt Padre” is what his Marines called him. 

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From the outside, Father looked just like the other officers. He wore a flak jacket to blend in with his men and had a crewcut under his helmet. The only difference was the hair color. Father’s hair was a little bit grey on the sides since he was thirty-seven years old. Most of his Marines were only eighteen.

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On September 4, 1967, in the United States, families celebrated Labor Day in peace. In the Que Son Valley of Vietnam, it was not peaceful. The enemy soldiers outnumbered the U.S. Marines, 2,500 to 500. The battle was fierce. Father moved slowly among the wounded and dying, ministering and blessing them. When he saw one corpsman get knocked down, he positioned himself between the injured man and the enemy. There was more shooting and this time Father Capodanno was killed. When word of the Padre’s death got out, there was a silence in the valley. Men wept. Father died precisely where he had wanted to be, where he knew God willed him to be. A Marine who served with Father said he had a look of peace on his face when he died.

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Father Capodanno, pray for us!

Pray especially for the brave members of our military!




By Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio

(Make the Sign of the Cross) 

Almighty and merciful God, look with love on those who plead for Your help. Through the intercession of your servant, Father Vincent Capodanno, missionary and Catholic Navy Chaplain, grant the favor I earnestly seek (mention the request). May Vincent, who died bringing consolation to the Marines he was privileged to serve on the field of battle, intercede in my need as I pray in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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