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The Grunt Padre: Father Vincent Robert Capodanno Vietnam 1966-1967 [Paperback]

By Daniel L. Mode (Author)
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Navy Chaplain killed in vietnam l967 with Marine search unit in operation swift, outnumbered 2500 to 500 marines, killed protecting a corpsman who was administering first aid to soldier. Receive Congressional medal of honor, Bronze star and 3 purple hearts. Even though wounded refused to leave battle area to assist his grunts. Most recognized and respected chaplain in that war, memorials and buildings thoughout the world named after him. This is a hero

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Item Specifications...

Studio: CMJ Marian Publishers
Pages   212
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 0.75" Width: 6" Height: 9"
Weight:   0.85 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Jun 1, 2003
Publisher   CMJ Marian Publishers
ISBN  1891280082  
ISBN13  9781891280085  

Availability  0 units.

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6Books > Subjects > History > Military > Vietnam War

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The Grunt Padre  Mar 30, 2008

The Grunt Padre
By Father Daniel L. Mode
Reviewed by Cos Ferrara

When Vincent R. Capodanno, Jr. decided to become a Maryknoll priest, he expected to be bringing the word of Christ to foreign lands. But it is unlikely that he expected to be the Christ-bearer to American soldiers in Vietnam during one of the deadliest of wars. After spending seven years in Taiwan and Hong Kong, Father Vincent requested permission to become a U. S. Navy chaplain and serve Marines in the field of battle. And serve he did.
The Grunt Padre by Father Daniel L. Mode (CMJ Marian Publishers, Oak Lawn, IL, 2000), tells his story. The book is the result of painstaking research over a number of years into the life and death of a quietly heroic Catholic priest. Father Mode read every available account on Father Vincent. He spoke to Father Vincent's family, his fellow Marines, and military officials who investigated the priest's heroism before the appropriate medals and honors could be bestowed on him. Once word of his research spread, Marines from across the country sent their accounts of the grunt Padre to be included in the book.

The Grunt Padre
Father Vincent Capodanno arrived in Vietnam in April 1966, to begin his 12-month tour. The United States had 385,000 troops there, with an average of 40 US soldiers dying there every month. In speaking of Father Vincent's ministry, one Marine said: "He was not standing on any soapboxes. The only thing he asked of the grunt Marines was the honor to be with them, and that meant he had to become one of them." "Grunt Marine" is a term that by rights should only be used by enlisted infantry Marines. They use it to remind themselves of the seriousness of their training: sweat in peace saves lives in war.
Father Vincent lived as a grunt Marine. Another Marine said he "was not a religious leader who did his job and then returned to the comfort of his own circle. Wherever they went, he went. Whatever burdens they had to carry, he shared the load. No problem was too large or too small to take to Father Vincent. He was available to them day and night. In a short time, the grunt Marines recognized Father Vincent's determination to be with them and one of them. The men respectfully and affectionately dubbed him "The Grunt Padre."

Whatever It Takes
He heard confessions, instructed converts, and administered the sacraments. He also walked dangerous perimeters, accompanying Marines positioned in distant jungle outposts.
In his spare time, Father Vincent wrote letters of condolence and information to families of dead and wounded Marines. One family later wrote of such a letter they had received from Father Vincent: "It had been a week of terrible worry for us, and his letter was the most important thing in the world to us."
Asking to be assigned to the operations entailing the greatest risk, Father Vincent went on many dangerous operations. On November 25, 1966, during Operation Rio Blanco, Captain David L. Walker was wounded in an open, flat rice paddy. He lay hopelessly in pain and exposed to enemy fire. He could not move. He later said:

Father Capodanno was the first at my side, even though he had to run about 75 meters through heavy enemy small arms fire. After summoning a Corpsman, he then assisted in carrying me to a safe area where I was med-evaced. During this time he was constantly exposed to enemy fire.

With the Medical Battalion
After eight months working with field combat units, Father Capodanno was transferred to the 1st Medical Battalion. The wounded were carried by helicopter to the hospital 24 hours a day. During 1966, the Medical Corps there treated more than a million South Vietnamese civilians and nearly 6400 wounded Marines and sailors.
The Sacrament of Reconciliation was particularly important to the wounded who were fearful that they might die. In addition, Father administered the sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick, known then as Extreme Unction, to many about to die.
Lieutenant Joseph L. LaHood, a Navy doctor, commented on the gentle and effective way Father Vincent carried out his pastoral duties:

I am a doctor and after a year in Vietnam saw much. But never had I seen such dedication and selflessness, not as a sticky "piety" but as a "way." For the hundreds of cigarettes he held for the wounded, many of whom could no longer reach their hands to their lips, and for the hundreds of letters he wrote and helped to write for his men, the Marines will never forget that he is one of them. This priest of God is a hero.

Operation Swift
With three months left on his tour, Father Vincent asked for a six-month extension. On September 4, 1967, while people back home were celebrating Labor Day, Father Vincent was accompanying his Marines on Operation Swift. Lieutenant Joseph E. Pilon, M.D., gave this account:

On Labor Day our battalion ran into a world of trouble. When Father C. arrived at the scene it was 500 Marines against 2500 North Vietnamese Army regulars.....
Casualties were running high and Father C. had his work cut out for him. Early in the day, he was shot through the right hand, which all but shattered his hand--one corpsman patched him up and tried to med-evac him but Father C. declined, saying he had work to do.
A few hours later a mortar landed near him and left his right arm in shreds hanging from his side. Once again he was patched up and once again he refused evacuation. There he was, moving slowly from wounded to dead to wounded using his left arm to support his right as he gave absolution or last rights, when he suddenly spied a corpsman get knocked down by the burst of an automatic weapon.
The corpsman was shot in the leg and couldn't move and understandably panicked. Father C. ran out to him and positioned himself between the injured boy and the automatic weapon. Suddenly, the weapon opened up again and this time riddled Father C. from the back of his head to the base of his spine.

Father Vincent was one of 127 Marines who died in Operation Swift in the Que-Son Valley that day. He was awarded the Bronze Star of Valor, the Medal of Honor, the highest military award the United States can present. He also was given the Purple Heart. A United States Navy vessel was named in his honor--the USS Capodanno. Perhaps the tribute that would mean the most to Father Vincent is having his name inscribed on the Vietnam Memorial on the Mall in Washington, D.C., along with the other 58,181 dead and missing soldiers from the Vietnam War.

In May 2006, Father Capodanno was publicly declared Servant of God, the first step toward canonization as a saint in the Catholic Church.

A Painful but Uplifting Read

While this book is not for the feint of heart, it does tell a story of Christian sacrifice that should be heard.

1187 words
A must read  Jan 17, 2008
This is a must read. I met Father Vincent while I was in a Chu Lai hospital where he was stationed. It was sometime in January 1967. I remember his first visit with me; he brought to me a small transistor radio and some cookies he had received in the mail. I was immediately awed by his presence. He raised my spirits and made me feel special in a place that was overwhelming and intimidating. For the brief time I was there I would visit him in the chapel and had some wonderful conversations with him. When I returned to my company (C 1/7) area I would occasionally see him. I recall we were on an operation and one Sunday he provided services right there out in the field (one of the pictures in the book). A number of us Marines (regardless of faith) would gather and he would lead the service. It exemplified the importance of faith and the unimportance of individual beliefs; we would all prey to the same God. I recall we were on a line sweep across a field and a Marine about three down from me had tripped a land mind. Two Marines were down. Father Vince ran at full speed past me and went in front of the line with no regard for himself. Within a matter of moments he was the first to arrive at the aid of the fallen Marines. I knew then that he would not survive in Vietnam; his dedication to us would be his sacrifice. It wasn't until after I ended my tour of duty and was home that I learned of his death. There is not a day goes by that I do not think about him. I have this book proudly displayed in my office and enjoy talking about him when anyone asks. Recently I published a book Life with an Angel and I'm working on a sequel which will be based on my experiences in Vietnam and will be dedicated to Father Capodanno. He has had a profound impact in my entire life. For that I will always be thankful that God allowed me to share a small part of Father Vincent's life. I hope that this book and his memory and inspiration will live forever.
Non Combatant  Dec 21, 2007
A lot of things come when you hear those words. Being a Veteran from the US Navy a Hospital Corpsman I know all to well what those words mean. I know the sacrifices that a Non Combatant goes through when he accepts that Torch of Freedom. Fr Vincent Capadano also understood what it meant to be a Non Combatant as well. He died coming to the aid of a Fellow Non Combatant a Mortally Wounded Corpsman. I read this book and I was forced to put it down several times to calm my nerves and tears. Never before has a book moved me like Grunt Padre.

A week ago I sat in the Stands of Parris Island watching my son graduate Basic Training as a brand new Marine. My thoughts returned to that book I read so many years ago. I bought the book and am giving it to my son as one of his Christmas Gifts. Every Marine should read this book. Every Catholic should Read this book.
The Spirit of Peace on the Battlefield  Dec 16, 2007
"The Grunt Padre" is by all definitions a true testimony to the spirit of peace and slavation that Christ brought mankind and the humble example of Christ's teaching in action as epitomized by Lt Capadono's ministry to his 'Marine congregation.' His story is further testimony to the efficacy of the Chaplain's Corps in maintaining the soldier's ethical and moral compass in the most trying of circumstances . . . war.

One need not wonder that if Chaplains such as Lt. Capadano had been assigned to Ahbu Ghraib whether such atrocities would have ever occurred.

This book should be on every middle school and high school summer reading list if not mandatory reading during the school year. Such a story needs to be told to all our children!

A beautiful and holy man of God.  May 30, 2007
I saw the documentary of Fr Vincent Capadano and tears came from my eyes. Something that never or rarely happens in my life. I now have to re read the book again.

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