Chaplain's Medal of Honor page7


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Captain Joseph T. O'Callahan
14 May 1904 +18 March 1964

Joseph Timothy O'Callahan was born in Boston, Massachusetts, on 14 May 1905. He joined the Jesuit Order of the Roman Catholic Church in 1922, after graduation from preparatory school, and subsequently received degrees from several institutions of higher learning. He was ordained in 1934, and was a Professor of Mathematics, Philosophy and Physics at Boston College in 1929-37, Professor of Philosophy at the Jesuit Seminary of Weston College in 1937-38 and Directo of the Mathematics Department at Holy Cross College, Worcester, Massachusetts, in 1938-40.

Father O'Callahan was commissionn as a Lieutenant (Junior Grade) in the Naval Reserve Chaplain Corps in August 1940. He was assigned to the Naval Air Station, Pensacola, Florida, in 1940-42, to the aircraft carrier Ranger in 1942-44 and to the Naval Air Stations at Alameda, California, and Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, into early 1945. Lieutenant Commander O'Callahan joined the the aircraft carrier Franklin in early March 1945. A few weeks later, when his ship was badly damaged by a Japanese air attack, he distinguished himself comforting the injured and leading damage control and ammunition jettisoning parties. The ship's Commanding Officer described O'Callahan as "the bravest man I ever saw". For his heroism on board Franklin, Lieutenant Commander O'Callahan was awarded the Medal of Honor.

Department and at the Naval Training Station, Newport, Rhode Island, until Promoted to the rank ofCommander in July 1945, O'Callahan served at the Navy October 1945, when he reported on board the new aircraft carrier Franklin D. Roosevelt.In 1946, he served as Escort Chaplain as the body of the late Philippines President Manuel Quezon was carried from the United States to Manila. Released from active duty in November 1946, Commander O'Callahan returned to Holy Cross College as Professor of Philosophy. Upon his retirement from the Naval Reserve in November 1953, he was advanced to the rank of Captain on the basis of his combat awards. Joseph T. O'Callahan died at Worcester, Massachusetts, on 18 March 1964.

On 21 July 1965, the USS O'CALLAHAN, a Destroyer Escort vessel, was christened in Bay City, Mich. Present at the ceremony was Sister Rose Marie, O.P., also known as Alice O'Callahan, Joseph's younger sister, who had survived her own ordeal in the Philippines. The escort ship USS O'Callahan (DE-1051, later FF-1051), 1968-1994, was named in honor of Joseph T. O'Callahan.

JOSEPH TIMOTHY O'CALLAHAN, Rank and organization: Commander(Chaplain Corps), U.S. Naval Reserve, U.S.S. Franklin. Place and date: Near Kobe, Japan, 19 March 1945. Entered service at: Massachusetts. Born: 14 May 1904, Boston, Mass.

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, Lt. Comdr. O'Callahan groped his way through smoke-filled corridors to the 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.

The ship's Commanding Officer described
O'Callahan as the bravest man I ever saw".

Congressional Medal of Honor

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Lieutenant Vincent R. Capodanno
13 February 1929 + 4 September 1967

Chaplain Capodanno was born in Richmond County, New York, 13 February 1929. He was an avid swimmer a great sports enthusiast. After receiving his training at Fordham University, New York City; Maryknoll Seminary College in Glen Ellyn, Illinois; and Maryknoll Seminaries in Bedford, Massachusetts and New York City, he was ordained 7 June 1957 by the late Francis Cardinal Spellman, Archbishop of New York and Military Vicar of the United States Military Ordinariate. Shortly thereafter he began an eight year period of service in Taiwan and Hong Kong under the auspices of the Catholic Foreign Mission society.

Chaplain Capodanno received his commission in the grade of lieutenant 28 December 1965. Having requested duty with Marines in Vietnam, he joined the First one year tour by six months in order to continue his work with the men. While seeking to aida wounded corpsman he was fatally wounded 4 September 1967, while assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines, by enemy sniper fire in the Quang Tin Province. He was posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor "for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above nd beyond the call of duty..."  He had previously been awarded the Bronze Star Medal for bravery under battle conditions.

The USS CAPODANNO(DE1093) keel was laid on 25 February 1972, and she was christened and launched 21 October 1972 and commissioned 17 November 1973. She is designed for optimum performance in antisubmarine warfare. Deployments have included operations in the Western Atlantic, West Africa, the Mediterranean, and South America.  She was decommissioned on 30 July 1993.

VINCENT R. CAPODANNO\ Rank and organization: Lieutenant. U.S. Navy. Chaplain Corps. 3d Battalion, 5th(Marines, 1st Marine Division (Rein). FMF. Place and Date and date: Quang Tin Province, Republic of Vietnam, 4 September 1967. Entered service at: Staten Island, New York. Born 13 Februar 1929, Staten Island, New York.

Medal of Honor Citation:

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as Chaplain of the 3d Battalion, in connection with operations against enemy forces. In response to reports that the 2d Platoon Of M Company was in danger of being overrun by a massed enemy assaulting force, Lt Capodanno left the relative safety of the company command post and through an open area raked with fire, directly to the beleaguered platoon. Disregarding the intense enemy small-arms, automatic-weapons, and mortar fire, he moved about the battlefield administering last rites to the dying and giving medical aid to the wounded. When an exploding mortar round inflicted painful multiple wounds to his arms and legs, and severed a portion of his right hand, he steadfastly refused all medical aid. Instead, he directed the corpsmen to help their wounded comrades, and, with vigor, continued to move about the battlefield as he provided encouragement by voice and example to the valiant marines. Upon encountering a wounded corpsman in the direct line of fire of an enemy machine gunner positioned approximately 15 yards away, Lt. Capodanno rushed in a daring attempt to aid and assist the mortally wounded corpsman. At that instant, only inches from his goal, he was struck down by a burst of machine gun fire. By his heroic conduct on the battlefield, and his inspiring example, Lt. Capodanno upheld the finest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life in the cause of freedom.

He was posthumousl awarded the
Congressional Medal of Honor

Military Chaplains(Roman Catholic) Army
Service to God and Country

Only two Army Chaplains have received the Congressional Medal of Honor. The recipients were Chaplains Charles Joseph Watters and Angelo J. Liteky.

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(Major) Charles Watters
17 January 1927 + 19 November 1967

Chaplain Watters was a 40-year-old native of Jersey City, New Jersey. After his ordination in 1953, he served parishes in his home town as well as in Rutherford, Paramus, and Cranford, New Jersey. In 1962 he became a chaplain in the Air National Guard and two years later entered active duty as an Army chaplain. In July 1967 he had already completed his 12-month tour in Vietnam but had voluntarily extended his service there by 6 months.  On 19 November 1967 his unit was involved in close combat with the enemy. For his "conspicuous gallantry ... unyielding perseverance and selfless devotion to his comrades" on that day, Chaplain Watters was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor by Vice President Spiro Agnew on 4 November 1969.
Chaplain Charles J. Watters served with the 173d Airborne Brigade. After ministering day and night to the men of the 2d battalion, 503d Infantry, in a battle that was to rage for 12 days, he was killed while helping care for the wounded Chaplain Watters received the [Congressional Medal of Honor] posthumously.

Recalling Chaplain Watters’ sacrifice, a former Chief of Chaplains, Chaplain (Major General) Gerhardt W. Hyatt (deceased) said ...The Army did not tell him to be on the battlefield that day. He could have been back in a safe area with his men. Then when the battle raged and the wounded were lying on the field, repeatedly he risked his life to bring them in and give them help.

l knew that he was one of the men on the battlefield that day whose life Charlie Watters had saved. It was one man's investment of his profession...I was at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and a young soldier asked that he might be my driver for that day because he wanted to tell and of himself, and that investment is still paying spiritual dividends through the lives of the grateful men whose lives he saved.

He Was Always There: U.S. Army Chaplain Ministry in the Vietnam Conflict, Henry F. Ackerman, Office of the Chief of Chaplains, Department of the Army, Washington, D.C. 1989, p.171.

Charles Joseph Watters

Rank and organization: Chaplain (Maj.), U .S. Army, Company A, 173d Support Battalion, 173d Airborne Brigade. Place and Date: Near Dak To Province, Republic of Vietnam, 19 November 1967. Entered service at: Fort Dix, N.J. Born: 17 January 1927.

Medal of Honor Citation:

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. Chaplain Watters distinguished himself during an assault in the vicinity of Dak To. Chaplain Watters was moving with one of the companies when it engaged a heavily armed enemy battalion. As the battle raged and the casualties mounted, Chaplain Watters, with complete disregard for his safety, rushed forward to the line of contact. Unarmed and completely exposed, he moved among, as well as in front of the advancing troops, giving aid to the wounded, assisting in their evacuation, giving words of encouragement, and administering the last rites to the dying. When a wounded paratrooper was standing in shock in front of the assaulting forces, Chaplain Watters ran forward, picked the man up on his shoulders and carried him to safety. As the troopers battled to the first enemy entrenchment, Chaplain Watters ran through the intense enemy fire to the front of the entrenchment to aid a fallen comrade. A short time later, the paratroopers pulled back in preparation for a second assault. Chaplain Watters exposed himself to both friendly and enemy fire between the two forces in order to recover two wounded soldiers. Later, when the battalion was forced to pull back into a perimeter, Chaplain Watters noticed that several wounded soldiers were lying outside the newly formed perimeter. Without hesitation and ignoring attempts to restrain him, Chaplain Watters left the perimeter three times in the face of small arms, automatic weapons, and mortar fire to carry and to assist the injured troopers to safety. Satisfied that all of the wounded were inside the perimeter, he began aiding the medics ... applying field bandages to open wounds, obtaining and serving food and water, giving spiritual and mental strength and comfort. During his ministering, he moved out to the perimeter from position to position redistributing food and water, and tending to the needs of his men. Chaplain Watters was giving aid to the wounded when he himself was mortally wounded. Chaplain Watters' unyielding perseverance and selfless devotion to his comrades was in keeping with the highest traditions of the U.S. Army.

He was posthumously awarded the
Congressional Medal of Honor

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Military service Born on February 14, 1931, in Washington, D.C., Liteky joined the Army from Fort Hamilton, New York. He served in Vietnam as a captain and chaplain in Headquarters and Headquarters Company of the 199th Infantry Brigade. n December 6, 1967, near Phuoc-Lac in South Vietnam's Biên Ḥa Province, he was accompanying Company A, 4th Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment, on a search and destroy mission when they came under heavy fire from a numerically superior enemy force. Seeing two wounded men lying 15 metres (49 ft) from an enemy machine gun, Liteky shielded them with his body and, once the volume of fire had sufficiently decreased, dragged them to the relative safety of a helicopter landing zone. Although wounded in the neck and foot, he continued to expose himself to hostile fire in order to rescue more of the wounded and administer last rites to the dying. When the landing zone came under fire, he stood in the open and directed the medical evacuation helicopters in and out of the area. After the wounded had been evacuated, he returned to the perimeter to encourage the remaining soldiers until Company A was relieved the next morning. Liteky carried a total of 20 soldiers to safety during the battle. For these actions, he was awarded the Medal of Honor

February 14, 1931 age 81 formerly known as Angelo Liteky, is an American peace activist who served as a United States Army chaplain in the Vietnam War and was awarded the U.S. military's highest decoration, the Medal of Honor. A Roman Catholic priest, Liteky received the award for braving intense fire to carry 20 wounded soldiers to safety during a 1967 battle.

Liteky's official Medal of Honor citation reads:

in a search and destroy operation when Company A came under intense fire from a battalion size enemy force. Momentarily stunned from the immediate encounter that ensued, the men hugged the ground for cover. Observing 2 wounded men, Chaplain Liteky moved to within 15 meters of an enemy machine gun position to reach them, placing himself between the enemy and the wounded men. When there was a brief respite in the fighting, he managed to drag them to the relative safety of the landing zone. Inspired by his courageous actions, the company rallied and began placing a heavy volume of fire upon the enemy's positions. In a magnificent display of courage and leadership, Chaplain Liteky began moving upright through the enemy fire, administering last rites to the dying and evacuating the wounded. Noticing another trapped and seriously wounded man, Chaplain Liteky crawled to his aid. Realizing that the wounded man was too heavy to carry, he rolled on his back, placed the man on his chest and through sheer determination and fortitude crawled back to the landing zone using his elbows and heels to push himself along. Pausing for breath momentarily, he returned to the action and came upon a man entangled in the dense, thorny underbrush. Once more intense enemy fire was directed at him, but Chaplain Liteky stood his ground and calmly broke the vines and carried the man to the landing zone for evacuation Liteky's actions reflect great credit upon himself and were in keeping with the highest traditions of the U.S. Army.

Liteky (second from right) receiving the Medal of Honor from President Lyndon B. Johnson on November 19, 1968 along with four fellow recipients: Gary Wetzel, Dwight H. Johnson, Sammy L. Davis, and James Allen Taylor.


Returns the Medal of Honor

Charles James "Charlie" Liteky,(formerly known as Angelo J. Liteky) On July 29, 1986, he renounced his Medal of Honor.


Liteky left the priesthood in 1975. In 1983, he married a former nun named Judy Balch, who encouraged his involvement in social justice activities, particularly protesting the School of the Americas (now the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation) at Fort Benning, Georgia. On July 29, 1986, he renounced his Medal of Honor by placing it in an envelope addressed to then-President Ronald Reagan near the Vietnam Veterans Memorial on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. The decoration is now on display at the National Museum of American History. In doing this, he became the only recipient to have renounced the medal. He wanted to renounce his Medal of Honor before embarking in September 1986 on the Veterans Fast for Life in protest against the U.S. policies in Central America. In recent years, he has also opposed the United States' invasion of Iraq.


The Four Chaplains' Medal

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Father John P. Washington was the only
Roman Catholic Chaplain to receive the medal.

Chaplain John P. Washington
First Lieutenant, Chaplain's Crops, USAR
July 18, 1908 + February 3, 1943

John P. Washington was born in Newark, New Jersey on July 18, 1908. His parents were Frank and Mary; in addition they had daughters Mary and Anna, and sons Thomas, Francis, Leo and Edmund. In 1914, John was enrolled at St. Rose of Lima Catholic Elementary School. In those days, times were rough for a poor immigrant family, but John had his father's Irish grin and his mother's Irish stick-to-itiveness. He liked to play ball, but he had a newspaper route to help his mother with extra money, since there were nine mouths in the Washington household to feed. John choir. When he entered seventh grade, he felt strongly about becoming a priest...during the previous year, he became an altar boy and his priestly destiny was in process.

John entered Seton Hall in South Orange, New Jersey to complete his high school and college courses in preparation for the priesthood. He graduated in 1931 with an A.B. degree. He entered Immaculate Conception Seminary in Darlington, New Jersey and received his minor orders on May 26, 1933. John excelled in the seminary, was a sub deacon at all the solemn masses, and later became a deacon on December 25, 1934. John was elected prefect of his class and was ordained a priest on June 15, 1935.

Father Washington's first parish was at St. Genevieve's in Elizabeth, New Jersey, and then he served at St. Venantius for a year. In 1938 he was assigned to St. Stephen's in Arlington, New Jersey. Shortly after the Pearl Harbor attack of December 7, 1941, he received his appointment as a chaplain in the United States Army. He went on active duty May 9, 1942 and was named Chief of the Chaplains Reserve Pool, Ft. Benjamin Harrison, Indiana. In June 1942, he was assigned to the 76th Infantry Division in Ft. George Meade, Maryland. In November 1942, he reported to Camp Myles Standish in Taunton, Massachusetts and met Chaplains Fox, Goode and Poling at Chaplains School at Harvard.

Father Washington boarded the USAT DORCHESTER at the Embarkation Camp at Boston Harbor in January 1943 enroute to Greenland. Chaplain Washington was killed in action on February 3, 1943, when the DORCHESTER was sunk by a German U-boat. Chaplain Washington was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart and Distinguished Service Cross

United States Army Historical Medal
Four Chaplains' Medal
Establishing Legislation

The Four Chaplains' Medal was established by Act of Congress Public Law 86-656, 86th Congress on July 14, 1960.

A posthumous Special Medal for Heroism, never before given and never to be given again, was authorized by Congress and awarded by the President 18 Jan 1961. Congress wished to confer the Medal of Honor but was blocked by the stringent requirements which required heroism performed under fire. The special medal was intended to have the same weight and importance as the Medal of Honor.

The four chaplains who received this medal were George D. Fox, Alexander D. Goode; Clark V. Poling, and John P. Washington. The medal was presented posthumously to their next of kin by Secretary of the Army Wilber M. Brucker at Ft. Myer, Virginia on January 18, 1961.

Event Commemorated

This medal commemorates the extraordinary heroism and devotion to duty displayed by four American chaplains during the Second World War. It was awarded posthumously to Chaplains: George D. Fox, Methodist; Alexander D. Goode, Jewish; Clark V. Poling, Dutch Reformed; and John P. Washington, Roman Catholic for giving their life vests to others during the sinking of the troop transport ship Dorchester in the North Atlantic just after midnight on February 2, 1943. The four Chaplains were also posthumously awarded the Army's Distinguished Service Cross for their extraordinary heroism in action.

Four Chaplains' Medal

Army's Distinguished Service Cross

Order of Precedence

Since the Four Chaplains' Medal was posthumously awarded to only four recipients, it does not have a place in the Army's order of precedence.

The Four Chaplains' Medal was designed by Thomas Hudson Jones (1892-1969) of the Army's Institute of Heraldry.

Description and Symbolism


In the center of a gold oval, the general shape of an eagle with elevated wings with an overall width of two and one-sixteenths inches and height of two and five-eighths inches. The eagle is shown grasping olive branches in both talons; the branches extend upward and terminate at the eagle's wings, forming a wreath. The soaring eagle is representative of the majesty of the spirit of the government in renascence.


In the center of a gold oval two inches in width, an open book containing the names of the Four Chaplains. Above the left side of the book is a cross, and above the right side are the Tablets of Moses with a Star of David. An olive wreath extends upward from the base of the medal. The Christian Cross and the Tablets of Moses with the Star of David represent the faiths of the Four Chaplains whose names are inscribed forever in the annals of heroism.


The central stripe of blue is the same shade as the ribbon of the Medal of Honor and symbolizes courage above and beyond the call of duty. The black edge stripes symbolize the "last full measure of devotion" rendered by the Four Chaplains.


Requiescat in pace!

May they rest in peace!

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This Web Page was created by
Paul D. Henriott
Webpage reworked, 18 October 2012