Robert William Callaghan was born in Reno, Nevada, on April 11, 1909, son of John P. and Elizabeth C. (Ivory) Callaghan. He graduated from Medoc Union High School, Alturas, California, in 1927 and attended the Samuel Gompers Trade School, San Francisco, California, for two semesters in 1932. He was employed for sixteen years in the heavy construction field in California on such projects as the Hetch Hechy Water System; Golden Gate Bridge; Rapid Transit Viaduct; San Francisco Bay Bridget; Todd Shipyard, Richmond; and the Naval Air Station, Alameda. On May 21, 1943 he entered the United States Naval Reserve as a Warrant Carpenter, Civil Engineer Corps, and was advanced to the rank of Chief Warrant Carpenter Engineer Corps, and was advanced to the rank of Chief Warrant Carpenter on August 1, 1944. On August 15, 1944, he was commissioned Lieutenant ( junior grade), USNR, and subsequently progressed in rank to that of Commander, to date from January 1, 1958, having transferred to the Regular Navy on July 1, 1947.
Following his entry into the naval service in 1943, he had four months’ indoctrination training as Camp Peary, Virginia, and three months advanced training with the 108th Naval Construction Battalion at the Advanced Base Depot, Gulfport, Mississippi. From December 1943 to March 1944 he had stevedore training at the Stevedore School, New York, New York, then reported as Special Acting Company “A” Commanding Officer with the 25th Naval Construction Battalion at Milne Bay, New Guinea. During the period March to December 1945, he served as Transportation Officer, Stevedore Officer and Acting Company Commander of the 118th Naval Construction Battalion, at Zamboango and Subic Bay, Philippine Islands. He had three months’ terminal leave and in February 1946, was assigned as a student at the Civil Engineer Corps Officers School, Davisville, Rhode Island.
In May 1946 he became Public Works Officer at the Naval Air Station, Tillamook, Oregon, and transferred in a similar capacity to the Fleet Air Defense Training Center, Dam Neck, Virginia, in August 1948. Ordered to the District Public Works Office, Pearl Harbor, Territory of Hawaii, he was Special Programs Officer from January 1950 to May 1953. As such he supervised a Civil Engineer Corps Naval Reserve Program for one year. Assigned to the Naval Training Center, San Diego, California, he served as assistant Public Works Officer, Assistant Resident Officer in Charge of Construction and Shops Engineer until May 1957.
He next had duty as Assistant Public Works Officer at the Naval Shipyard, San Francisco, and in May 1960 became Operations Officer at the Public Works Center, Norfolk, Virginia, and for the last six months of that assignment served as Executive Officer. He was Planning Officer and Executive Officer at the Public Works Center, San Diego, from August 1963 until December 1964, when he reported as Resident Officer in Charge of Construction, Bureau of Yards and Docks Contacts, San Diego.
In December 1968 he was ordered to the Office of the Officer in Charge of Construction, Naval Facilities Engineering Command Contracts, Republic of Vietnam, headquartered in Saigon.
Commander Callaghan has the American Defense Service Medal; Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal; World War II Victory Medal; National Defense Service Medal with bronze star and the Philippine Liberation Ribbon.