Joseph O'Callahan

Given NameJoseph
Born14 May 1905
Died18 Mar 1964
CountryUnited States


ww2dbaseJoseph Timothy O'Callahan was born in Boston, Massachusetts, United States. He graduated from Boston College Preparatory School in 1922, and entered the Jesuit Order of the Roman Catholic Church shortly thereafter. He received his bachelor's degree in 1925, master's degree in 1929, and became ordained in the Jesuit Order on 30 Jun 1934. Between 1927 and 1937, he was a professor of Mathematics, Philosophy, and Physics at Boston College. Between 1937 and 1938, he was a professor of Philosophy at the Jesuit seminary of Weston College in Massachusetts. Between 1938 and 1940, he was the Director of the Mathematics Department at the College of the Holy Cross, Worcester, Massachusetts. On 7 Aug 1940, Father O'Callahan was commissioned a lieutenant (jg) in the United States Naval Reserve Chaplain Corps, assigned to the Naval Air Station, Pensacola, Florida, United States. He was at Pensacola when the United States entered the war.

ww2dbaseIn 1942, O'Callahan was assigned to the aircraft carrier Ranger, serving off Norway and French Morocco. Between 1944 and Mar 1945, he served at the Naval Air Stations at Alameda, California and Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, both in the United States. On 12 Feb 1945, he came aboard the aircraft carrier Franklin. He was described as someone who was "charismatic" and possessed a certain "dash" or "flair". While many of the men of Franklin despise the arrogant Captain Leslie Gehres, O'Callahan became someone who they could turn to. Many called him "Father Joe."

ww2dbaseOn 19 Mar, while only 50 miles off the Japanese home islands as indirect support for the Okinawa campaign, the carrier was attacked by a single dive bomber, either a D4Y or a D3A aircraft. Two 250-kilogram bombs hit the carrier, igniting fires and leaving the ship dead in the water with a 13-degree list. Lieutenant Commander O'Callahan was in the thick of the raging fires, comforting his injured comrades and administering last rites to the dying while assisting with damage control tasks, despite also being wounded. US Marine Corps pilot Mike Sansone helped manning fire hoses in a makeshift firefighting team led by O'Callahan; he recalled him bravely lead teams into the fire, safely bring them out when explosions got too dangerous, and inspire the men to go back in again when the shrapnels stopped flying. "If it wasn't for him", said Sansone, "who knows what would have happened, because there wasn't any leadership on the flight deck.... [H]e couldn't be everyplace at once, though it seemed like he was." He also went down deep into the ship several times to lead over 700 men to safety. Franklin's commanding officer, Captain Leslie Gehres, described O'Callahan as "the bravest man I ever saw". He was recommended for, and received, the Medal of Honor. The citation read:

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, Lt. Comdr. 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 firefighting 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, Lt. Comdr. 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.

ww2dbaseO'Callahan was promoted to the rank of commander in Jul 1945 and transferred to the Navy Department and then to the Naval Training Station, Newport, Rhode Island, United States, through the end of the war. In Oct 1945, he was assigned to the newly commissioned aircraft carrier Franklin D. Roosevelt. In 1946, he served as Escort Chaplain as the body of the late Filipino President Manuel Quezon was carried from the United States to Manila, Philippine Islands. Released from active duty in Nov 1946, he returned to his civilian profession as a professor at Holy Cross College. He retired from the United States Naval Reserves in Nov 1953 and was promoted to the rank of captain on the retired list. He passed away at Worcester, Massachusetts in 1964.

ww2dbaseThe destroyer escort USS O'Callahan was commissioned in 1968 in his honor.

ww2dbaseSources: Inferno, United States Navy Naval Historical Center, Wikipedia.

Last Major Revision: Nov 2007

Joseph O'Callahan Timeline

14 May 1905 Joseph O'Callahan was born.
18 Mar 1964 Joseph O'Callahan passed away in Worcester, Massachusetts, United States.


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Event(s) Participated:
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