Nov 28

Happy 235th Birthday to the Navy Chaplain Corps!

Sunday, November 28, 2010 12:01 AM


Today, marks the 235th birthday of the Navy Chaplain Corps. This day commemorates the Continental Congress’ adoption of the Rules for the Regulation of the Navy of the United Colonies of North America.

Article 2 of these rules stated: “The commanders of the ships of the 13 United Colonies are to take care that divine service be performed twice a day on board, and a sermon preached on Sundays, unless bad weather or other extraordinary accidents prevent it.”

Navy Chaplains like Joseph Timothy O’Callahan have always answered the answered the call to service:

The President of the United States of America takes pleasure in presenting the MEDAL OF HONOR to



for service as set forth in the following


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 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, 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.

  • Marvin

    Fr. O’Callahan reported abroad the USS Franklin on Mar 1st, just 18 days before the ship was attacked just off the coast of Japan.

  • martha sanger

    Were there any restrictions on naval chaplains in the 1800s against their dancing? A reference in a diary ca. 1830s said that when the person in question was no longer a chaplain he could dance as much as he pleased.

    Many thanks for your help. M

  • CalSailor

    Not that I am aware. It could be that because of the denomination of the Chaplain in question, he could not dance. A number of Protestant denominations did not allow dancing, some until just recently. The need to maintain his good standing within the church that sent him to the military might have limited his behavior in that respect; the church that endorsed him would have withdrawn his endorsement for service, and therefore, he would be no longer in good standing, and be forced out of the Chaplain Corps. (Chaplains must maintain their endorsements in order to continue on active service. If their endorsement is withdrawn, the Navy has no authority to retain them, no matter what kind of military Chaplain they were.)

    Pr Chris
    US Navy Chaplain, 1975-83

  • CalSailor

    Fr O’Callahan was one of several Chaplains over the years, to win the Medal of Honor; in addition several, such as Fr. Jake Laboon, won the Silver Star) Ironically (or not?) most of the Medal of Honor Winners have been Roman Catholics. I wonder if there is a connection….

    Pr chris
    US Navy Chaplain, 1975-83