March 24th, 2008 by xformed
Born May 14th, 1905, he was destined to serve his Maker and our nation many years later.
At the outbreak of World War II, Fr. Oâ€™Callahan entered the chaplain corps and began a ministry focused on the sailors destined to serve in the Pacific. He was assigned to the Naval Air Station, Pensacola, Florida, from 1940-42, then served at sea aboard the U.S.S. Ranger from 1942-44, and returned to shore duty at Pearl Harbor into early 1945. His final assignment of the war was to the carrier U.S.S. Franklin, which was given orders taking it close to enemy territory.
This past week, I found the Spring 2008 issue of MHQ has an article by Joseph Springer about the attack on the USS FRANKLIN, too, but that is but an extracted piece from a newly published book: “Inferno: The Epic Life and Death Struggle to Save USS FRANKLIN in WWII” by Springer.
Chaplin O’Callahan was everywhere. Besides performing his duties to the dying and wounded, he helped jettison munitions into the sea, and made several trips below decks to lead his shipmates to safety. He organized firefighting teams to water down ammo magazines and was credited with saving 700 men. The Commanding Officer of the FRANKLIN said of him: “he is the bravest man I have ever seen.” As a result of his heroic efforts, LCDR O’Callahan was awarded the Medal of Honor.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 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.
Retiring from the Naval reserve as a Captain in 1953, he passed away March 18th, 1964.
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