O'Callahan composite

Captain Joseph T. O'Callahan
Chaplain Corps, USNR, (1905-1964)

"the bravest man I ever saw."
(Commanding Officer of the Franklin aircraft carrier describing Joseph O'Callahan)

Joseph Timothy O'Callahan was born in Boston, Massachusetts, on 14 May 1905.  He joined the Jesuit Order of the Roman Catholic Church in 1922, after graduation from preparatory school, and subsequently received degrees from several institutions of higher learning.  He was ordained in 1934, and was a Professor of Mathematics, Philosophy and Physics at Boston College in 1929-37, Professor of Philosophy at the Jesuit Seminary of Weston College in 1937-38 and Director of the Mathematics Department at Holy Cross College, Worcester, Massachusetts, in 1938-40.

Father O'Callahan was commissioned as a Lieutenant (Junior Grade) in the Naval Reserve Chaplain Corps in August 1940.  He was assigned to the Naval Air Station, Pensacola, Florida, in 1940-42, to the aircraft carrier Ranger in 1942-44 and to the Naval Air Stations and Alameda, California, and Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, into early 1945.  Lieutenant Commander O'Callahan joined the aircraft carrier Franklin in early March 1945.  A few weeks later, when his ship was badly damaged by a Japanese air attack, he distinguished himself comforting the injured and leading damage control and ammunition jettisoning parties.  (724 crewmembers died as a result of the Japanese attack)  The ship's Commanding Officer described O'Callahan as "the bravest man I ever saw."  For his heroism on board Franklin, Lieutenant Commander O'Callahan was awarded the Medal of Honor.

Promoted to the rank of Commander in July 1945, O'Callahan served at the Navy Department and at the Naval Training Station, Newport, Rhode Island, until October 1945, when he reported on board the new aircraft carrier Franklin D. Roosevelt.  In 1946, he served as Escort Chaplain as the body of the late Philippines President Manuel Quezon was carried from the United States to Manila.  Released from active duty in November 1946, Commander O'Callahan returned to Holly Cross College as Professor of Philosophy.  Upon his retirement from the Naval Reserve in November 1953, he was advanced to the rank of Captain on the basis of his combat awards.  Joseph T. O'Callahan died at Worcester, Massachusetts, on 18 March 1964.

The escort ship USS O'Callahan (DE-1051, later FF-1051), 1968-1994, was named in honor of Joseph T. O'Callahan.

Lieutenant Commander O'Callahan

Lieutenant Commander
Joseph T. O'Callahan, USNR (ChC)

Navy Medal of Honor

U.S. Navy Medal of Honor

Medal of Honor Citation
of Lieutenant Commander Joseph Timothy O'Callahan.

"For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving as Chaplain on board the U.S.S. Franklin when that vessel was fiercely attacked by enemy Japanese aircraft during offensive operations near Kobe, Japan, on 19 March 1945.  A valiant and forceful leader, calmly braving the perilous barriers of flame and twisted metal to aid his men and his ship, Lieutenant Commander O'Callahan groped his way through smoke-filled corridors to the open flight deck and into the midst of violently exploding bombs, shells, rockets and other armament.  With the ship rocked by incessant explosions, with debris and fragments raining down and fires raging in ever increasing fury, he ministered to the wounded and dying, comforting and encouraging men of all faiths; he organized and led fire-fighting crews into the blazing inferno on the flight deck; he directed the jettisoning of live ammunition and the flooding of the magazine; he manned a hose to cool hot, armed bombs rolling dangerously on the listing deck, continuing his efforts despite searing, suffocating smoke which forced men to fall back gasping and imperiled others who replaced them.  Serving with courage, fortitude and deep spiritual strength, Lieutenant Commander O'Callahan inspired the gallant officers and men of the Franklin to fight heroically and with profound faith in the face of almost certain death and to return their stricken ship to port."


Helmet worn in combat            US Military Gallery            Subject Gallery

Composite photo by Eric Shindelbower.
Left inset photo - Lieutenant Commander Joseph T. O'Callahan gives "last rites" to an injured crewman aboard USS Franklin (CV-13), after the ship was set afire by a Japanese air attack, 19 March 1945.  The crewman is reportedly Robert C. Blanchard, who survived his injuries.  Official U.S. Navy Photograph / National Archives.  Photo courtesy of the Department of the Navy, Naval Historical Center - Photo #: 80-G-49132.

Right inset photo - President Harry S. Truman awards Commander Joseph T. O'Callahan the Medal of Honor; the first Navy Chaplain to ever be awarded the Medal of Honor.  Photo courtesy of the College of the Holy Cross.  Used by permission of Mark W. Savolis.     College of the Holy Cross - http://www.holycross.edu/

Background image - USS Franklin (CV-13) approaches New York City, while en route to the New York Navy Yard for repairs, 26 April 1945.  Note the extensive damage to her after flight deck, received when she was hit by a Japanese air attack off the coast of Japan on 19 March 1945.  Photographed by Naval Air Station, Lakehurst, New Jersey.  Official U.S. Navy Photograph / National Archives.  Photo courtesy of Department of the Navy, Naval Historical Center - Photo #: 80-G-274014.     http://www.history.navy.mil/

All of the text on this page was used courtesy of the Department of the Navy, Naval Historical Center.
Lieutenant Commander Joseph T. O'Callahan, USNR (ChC) portrait courtesy of the Department of the Navy, Naval Historical Center - Photo #: 80-G-K-5003-B (Color).  Commander O'Callahan is photographed wearing the Service Dress Grey uniform, circa April-July 1945.  Official U.S. Navy Photograph / National Archives.
U.S. Navy Medal of Honor and ribbon photo courtesy of the Department of the Navy, Naval Historical Center - Photo #: NH 86703-KN (Color).     Naval Historical Center - http://www.history.navy.mil/

Background pattern courtesy of  Iconbazaar.com

Web page design and content - Eric Shindelbower