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First Name: Joseph

Last Name: O'Callahan

Birthplace: Boston, MA, USA

Gender: Male

Branch: Navy (present)


Middle Name: Timothy

Date of Birth: 14 May 1950

Date of Death: 18 March 1964

Rank or Rate: Captain

Years Served: 1940-1953
Joseph Timothy O'Callahan
'Father Joe'

•  World War II (1941 - 1945)


Joseph Timothy O'Callahan

Captain, U.S. Navy

Medal of Honor Recipient

World War II

Captain Joseph Timothy O'Callahan (14 May 1905 - 18 March 1964) was a Jesuit priest and, during World War II, a U.S. Navy officer and chaplain. He was awarded the U.S. military's highest award for valor, the Medal of Honor, for his heroic actions during World War II.

Joseph Timothy O'Callahan was born on 14 May 1905, in the Roxbury neighborhood of Boston, MA. He joined the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) in 1922, shortly after graduating from Boston College High School. He began the 13 years of required training for a Jesuit at St. Andrew's College, Poughkeepsie, NY; he received the Bachelor of Arts degree in 1925 and his Master of Arts degree in 1929. Specializing in Mathematics and Physics in addition to Religious Philosophy, he was ordained in the Jesuit Order in 1934. He was a Professor of Mathematics, Philosophy, and Physics at Boston College from 1927 to 1937. He then spent a year (1937-38) as a Professor of Philosophy at Weston Jesuit School of Theology (Weston College). He served as the Director of the Mathematics Department at the College of the Holy Cross, Worcester, MA, from 1938 to 1940.

Among his students at Holy Cross was John V. Power, who would himself be awarded the Medal of Honor, although posthumously, during World War II. After the war, while O'Callahan was a patient at Saint Vincent Hospital, he was tended to by Power's sister, nurse Patricia Power Rose.

Appointed Lieutenant, J.G. in the Chaplain Corps of the U.S. Navy Reserve on 7 August 1940, Chaplain O'Callahan progressively advanced in rank and became a Commander in July 1945.

While in active service, O'Callahan reported aboard the USS Franklin on 2 March 1945, just 17 days before she was severely damaged by two bombs from a lone Japanese aircraft that attacked the Franklin at dawn on 19 March 1945. The hangar deck immediately became an inferno of exploding gas tanks and ammunition. Although wounded by one of the explosions after the attack, Chaplain O'Callahan moved about the exposed and slanting flight deck administering the last rites to the dying, comforting the wounded, and leading officers and crewmen into the flames to carry hot bombs and shells to the edge of the deck for jettisoning. He personally recruited a damage control party and led it into one of the main ammunition magazines to wet it down and prevent its exploding. For this action he received the Medal of Honor.

Medal of Honor

Rank and organization: Commander (Chaplain Corps), U.S. Naval Reserve, USS Franklin.

Place and date: Near Kobe, Japan, 19 March 1945.

Citation: 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 USS 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.

On 23 January 1946, President Harry S. Truman presented the Medal of Honor to Commander O'Callahan in a White House ceremony during which the Medal was also presented to three other participants.

Post-War Life

O'Callahan returned to Holy Cross in the fall of 1948 as a Philosophy Professor. In 1956, he wrote an account of the attack, titled I was Chaplain on the Franklin.


O'Callahan's service on the USS Franklin is also recounted in the story "Father Joe" by his nephew, storyteller Jay O'Callahan.

The USS O'Callahan (DE-1051), a U.S. Navy destroyer escort later re-classified as a frigate, was named in his honor.

O'Callahan's Medal of Honor "resides in the Archives" at Holy Cross College.

Death and Burial

Captain Joseph Timothy O'Callahan died on 18 March 1964. He is buried at College of the Holy Cross Cemetery in Worcester, MA, in the 1st Row, 1st Grave.

Honoree ID: 1571   Created by: MHOH




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