Memorial Day Remembrances


Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind
~Matthew 22:37

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This past Memorial Day Weekend we remembered four Catholic military chaplains who received the Medal of Honor for extraordinary service to the physical and spiritual health and protection of their comrades.

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

Joseph O'Callahan, born in 1905, was ordained a Jesuit priest in 1934. Having taught at Boston College and Holy Cross, Father O'Callahan was commissioned as a Lieutenant in the Naval Reserve Chaplain Corps in 1940.

Medal of Honor Citation:

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty as chaplain on board the U.S.S. Franklin - fiercely attacked by enemy Japanese aircraft during operations near Japan, on 19 March 1945. A valiant, 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 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. 


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


Chaplain Capodanno, born in Richmond County, New York, was ordained a Maryknoll priest in 1957 by Francis Cardinal Spellman. He began an 8 year missionary period in Taiwan and Hong Kong. He received his Navy commission in 1965 and requested duty with the Marines in Vietnam. He has also been awarded the Bronze Star Medal for bravery in battle.

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 3rd Battalion, in connection with operations against enemy forces. In response to reports that the 2nd 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, went 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 gun, 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 inspiring example, Lt. Capodanno upheld the finest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life in the cause of freedom.


Major Charles Watters
17 January 1927 + 19 November 1967

Chaplain Watters, ordained a priest in 1953, became a chaplain in the Air National Guard and in 1964 began duty as an Army chaplain. In July 1967 he completed his 12-month tour in Vietnam but voluntarily extended his service by 6 months. He served with the 173rd Airborne.


Medal of Honor Citation:

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty. Fr. Watters distinguished himself during an assault near Dak To. He was with one of the companies when it engaged a heavily armed enemy battalion. As the battle raged and casualties mounted, Chaplain Watters, with disregard for his safety, rushed forward. Unarmed and completely exposed, he moved among, and 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, Fr. Watters ran and picked the man up on his shoulders carrying him to safety. As the troopers battled to the first enemy entrenchment, Fr. Watters ran through intense enemy fire to aid a fallen comrade. As the paratroopers pulled back in preparation for a second assault he exposed himself to both friendly and enemy fire so to recover two wounded soldiers. When the battalion was forced to pull back, Fr.  Watters noticed that several wounded soldiers were lying outside the newly formed perimeter. Ignoring attempts to restrain him, he left the perimeter three times in the face of small arms, automatic weapons, and mortar fire to carry and 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. In doing so, 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.


Captain Angelo J. Liteky

February 14, 1931 + January 20, 2017


Born on February 14, 1931, in Washington, D.C., Fr. Liteky served in Vietnam as an Army captain and chaplain in Headquarters Company of the 199th Infantry Brigade near Phuoc-Lac in South Vietnam.


Medal of Honor Citation:

In a search and destroy operation Company “A” came under intense fire from a battalion size enemy force. Momentarily stunned from the immediate encounter, 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 dragged 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. 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 calmly broke the vines and carried the man to the landing zone for evacuation His actions were in keeping with the highest traditions of the U.S. Army.



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