Daniel Judson Callaghan MOH

b. 26/07/1890 San Francisco, California. d. 13/11/1942 Savo Island, Solomon Islands.

DATE OF MOH ACTION: 12-13/11/1942 Savo Island, Solomon Islands.

Daniel J Callaghan MOH

Callaghan was born on July 26, 1890, in San Francisco, California, the son of businessman Charles William Callaghan and Rose Wheeler Callaghan. The family was devout Roman Catholic. One of his younger brothers, William Callaghan (1897–1991), would later go on to a career in the US Navy as well. Both brothers studied at Saint Ignatius College Preparatory in San Francisco, the elder graduating in the class of 1907. He then graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1911. His first assignment was on board the armored cruiser USS California (ACR-6), in command of a turret with twin 8-inch guns. He was promoted to the rank of Ensign on May 21, 1912.

During his first few years of naval service, Callaghan had been courting Mary Tormey of Oakland, California; the two married on July 23, 1914. Their son, Daniel Judson Callaghan Jr., was born in Alameda, California, on October 16, 1915.

In July 1915, the Truxtun was on its way to Alaska when it broke down and was unable to continue its mission. Initially, the blame fell on Callaghan, who had apparently ordered incorrect parts for the condenser. He was suspended from duty and ordered to appear before a court-martial. Subsequent investigation, however, found that another man was responsible for the error and Callaghan received a full acquittal and was reinstated. A few months latter, he was appointed as commanding officer of the Truxtun, but the stress of his trial appeared to have left its mark—at the age of 25 years, his hair had already turned gray.

Callaghan’s next posting was to the cruiser USS New Orleans (CL-22) in November 1916. Following the entry of the United States into World War I, in April 1917, the New Orleans escorted cargo ships crossing the Atlantic Ocean. It was at this time that he first met Ross McIntire, a surgeon, who would later have a significant impact on his career. According to biographer Francis Murphy, Callaghan played a pivotal role in the rescue of a disabled British liner off the coast of Ireland: “Four times a hawser was hauled aboard the cruiser from the liner, that was about three times the cruiser’s size, and four times the cable parted. The Captain was for abandoning the job. But not Dan. With superhuman strength and the full cooperation of his men, he finally secured the cable. For forty-eight hours the New Orleans stayed with the stricken vessel hauling it out of danger [and] finally handing it on to tugs from a North Ireland base.”

In May 1941, during the early stages of World War II, Roosevelt released Callaghan to take command of the cruiser USS San Francisco (CA-38). Roosevelt wrote: “It is with great regret that I am letting Captain Callaghan leave as my Naval Aide. He has given every satisfaction and has performed duties of many varieties with tact and real efficiency. He has shown a real understanding of the many problems of the service within itself and in relationship to the rest of Government.”

In April 1942, he was promoted to the rank of Rear Admiral and was appointed as Chief of Staff to the Commander, South Pacific Area and South Pacific Force Vice Admiral Robert L. Ghormley. In November, as commander of Task Group 67.4, he led US forces in an engagement off Savo Island during the Guadalcanal Campaign. During this battle, he was on the bridge of the USS San Francisco when incoming enemy fire killed him and most of his command staff on November 13, 1942. At that time, he became the third US Navy admiral killed in action during World War II. He received the Medal of Honor posthumously for his efforts in this battle. The Medal was presented to his son by President Franklin D. Roosevelt at The White House on 9 December 1942. Callaghan was buried at sea. He is commemorated on the Manila Memorial to the Missing, Manila American Cemetery, Manila, Philippines. 



For extraordinary heroism and conspicuous intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty during action against enemy Japanese forces off Savo Island on the night of 12–13 November 1942. Although out-balanced in strength and numbers by a desperate and determined enemy, Rear Admiral Callaghan, with ingenious tactical skill and superb coordination of the units under his command, led his forces into battle against tremendous odds, thereby contributing decisively to the rout of a powerful invasion fleet and to the consequent frustration of a formidable Japanese offensive. While faithfully directing close-range operations in the face of furious bombardment by superior enemy fire power, he was killed on the bridge of his Flagship. His courageous initiative, inspiring leadership, and judicious foresight in a crisis of grave responsibility were in keeping with the finest traditions of the United States Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life in the defense of his country.