Sins of Omission

The Fighting Chaplain

Born in 1905 in Roxbury, Massachusetts, Joseph Timothy O’Callahan was reared in a devout Irish Catholic family.  He took to learning with a passion and earned his bachelor’s degree by the time he was 20, and his doctorate at the age of 24.  Shortly afterward, he joined the faculty of the physics department at Boston College.  Having been accepted into the Society of Jesus in 1922, he spent many hours in religious training and was ordained a priest in 1934.  He remained at Boston College until 1937 when he left to spend a year as a philosophy professor at Weston Jesuit School of Theology.  In 1939 he became chair of the mathematics department at Holy Cross College in Worcester, Massachusetts, and probably would have remained a little-known college professor, had it not been for World War II.

Surprising his colleagues, Father O’Cal­lahan joined the Navy as a chaplain in 1940 and was commissioned a lieutenant (JG).  He served at Pensacola Naval Air Station until 1942, when he got his wish for sea duty aboard Ranger, the Navy’s first carrier to have been designed and built as such.  Ranger led the Western Naval Task Force in Operation Torch, the Allied landings in North Africa during November 1942.  From a position 30 miles northwest of Casablanca, Ranger launched nearly 500 sorties, destroying 85 enemy aircraft, sinking a submarine, and heavily...

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