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William M. Callaghan
Rear Admiral, United States Navy
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Rear Admiral William McCombe Callaghan (August 8, 1897 - July 8, 1991), born in Chevy Chase, Maryland, was a U.S. naval officer and the first commander of the USS Missouri (BB-63).

Callaghan graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1918. After commanding the USS Reuben James (DE-153) in 1936, he joined the staff of the Chief of Naval Operations in 1939.

In 1944, Captain Callaghan was named the first commanding officer of the Missouri, the Navy's newest battleship.

On April 11, 1945, USS Missouri was struck by a kamikaze off the coast of Okinawa. The damage was minor, and no one died aboard this battleship except the Japanese pilot, Setsuo Ishino, whose body was recovered. Captain Callaghan insisted that the young Japanese airman had done his job to the best of his ability and with honor and deserved a military funeral. The following day, April 12, 1945, the pilot was given a military funeral at sea.

During the Korean War, Callaghan commanded U.S. naval forces in the Far East. He retired in 1957.

Admiral Callaghan died July 8, 1991, at Bethesda Naval Hospital after suffering a stroke.


From contemporary press reports:

William M. Callaghan a retired Navy Rear Admiral, 93, who served as Commanding Officer of the USS Missouri in World War II, died July 8, 1991 at Bethesda Naval Hospital after suffering a stroke four weeks ago.

The California native graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1918 and served aboard a destroyer in World War I. He later assumed command of the USS Reuben James in 1936. After joining the staff of the Chief of Naval Operations in 1939, he was war plans officer for logistics for the commander in chief of the Pacific Fleet. For his performance, was awarded the Legion of Merit.

In 1944, Admiral Callaghan commissioned the USS Missouri and commanded it in operations against Tokyo, Iwo Jima and Okinawa.

During the Korean War, he served as commander of Naval forces in the Far East.

He retired in 1957.

His first wife, Helen Brunett Callaghan, died in 1970. His second wife, Martha Harper Callaghan, died in 1973. He is survived by his third wife, Sarah Duerson Callaghan; two children, Rear Admiral W.M. Callaghan Jr and Jane Callaghan Gude; four stepchildren, Conrad R. Harper, Sally H. Vance, Samuel H. Duerson Jr and Bruce Duerson; eight grand-children; and six great-grandchildren.

Services will be held at the Fort Myer Chapel Thusday at 2:45 pm, followed by burial at Arlington National Cemetery.

His first wife, Helen Brunett Callaghan (died 1970), and his second wife, Martha Harper Callaghan (died 1973) are buried with him.

His third wife, Sarah Duerson Callaghan, was alive as of July 1991.

WM Callaghan Gravesite PHOTO
 Photo Courtesy of Russell C. Jacobs, January2006


Posted: 9 September 2000 Updated: 24 November 2001  Updated: 6 Sepember 2005 Updated: 28 January 2006 Updated: 9 Decembet 2006
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Legion of Merit