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O'Callahan Science Library: Reverend Joseph Timothy O'Callahan

Welcome to the Science Library at Holy Cross!

Reverend Joseph T. Callahan

   The O'Callahan Science Library was named in honor of the Reverend Joseph Timothy O'Callahan, S.J.  O'Callahan was born on May 14, 1905 in Boston, Massachusetts.  After graduating from Boston College High School, he earned the Bachelor of Arts degree in 1925 and the Master of Arts degree in 1929 form St. Andrew's College in Poughkeepsie, New York.  After being ordained in the Jesuit Order in 1934, he worked as a professor for ten years at Boston College before coming to the College of the Holy Cross to serve as the Director of the Mathematics Department from 1938-1940. 

   During World War II Father O'Callahan began serving his country as Lieutenant, J.G. in the Chaplain Corps of the U.S. Navy Reserve.  During his military service, he was assigned to the Navy ship USS Franklin in March of 1945.    Shortly after beginning his service as chaplain aboard the Franklin, the ship was attacked and badly damaged from two bombs by a lone Japanese aircraft.  Father O'Callahan prayed with the injured and provided comfort while performing last rites. (See actual footage of the attack and Father O'Callahan.)

   Without concerns for his own safety, he also organized a group of men to spray down bombs abourd the ship that were dangerously hot and at risk of exploding.  He worked for hours not only administering to the injured and dying men but also leading military crews to help save the ship and remaining sailors.  Because of O'Callahan's courage, leadership, and compassion, he was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.  His citation from the White House which is signed by President Harry Truman reads:

   "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 March 19, 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 Copmmander 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."

   President Truman awarding Father O'Callahan's Congressional Medal of Honor

   He continued in active duty until the fall of 1946 when he returned to the College of the Holy Cross to serve as a Professor of Philosophy until 1951.

   In November of 1953, because of his combat awards, Father O'Callahan was promoted to Captain upon his retirement from the Naval Reserve.    Joseph T. O'Callahan died in Worcester on March 18, 1964.  He is buried on the College's campus in the Jesuit cemetary.


--written by Barbara Merolli

Remembering Joseph T. O'Callahan, S.J.

On March 18th, 2014, the College of the Holy Cross observed the 50th anniversary of the death of Father Joseph T. O'Callahan.  Preceding a presentation by Dr. John Satterfield, author of Saving Big Ben:  The USS Franklin and Father Joseph T. O'Callahan, a wreath laying ceremony was held at Father O'Callahan's grave site in the Jesuit cemetery at Holy Cross.  Attendees included Reverend Philip L. Boroughs, Reverend Robert Keane, members of the U.S. Naval Institute in Annapolis, MD and the NROTC Unit at Holy Cross, and members of the O'Callahan Society.  Below are pictures of the ceremony at the cemetery. (Photos courtesy of Barbara Merolli.)