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Adapted from "Vice Admiral William M. Callaghan, United States Navy, Deceased" [biography, dated 18 March 1957] in Modern Biographical Files collection, Navy Department Library.

Document Type
  • Biography
Wars & Conflicts
  • Korean Conflict 1950-1954
  • World War I 1917-1918
  • World War II 1939-1945
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Location of Archival Materials

William McCombe Callaghan

8 August 1897 - 8 July 1991

PDF Version [1.6MB]

Born in Oakland, California William McCombe Callaghan entered that Naval Academy on appointment from that state in 1916. Graduated on June 6, 1918, he served in USS Wisconsin, based on Queenstown, Ireland, during the last months of World War I, followed by duty in destroyers until the summer of 1923. He then returned to Annapolis, for postgraduate instruction in electrical engineering and completed the course at Columbia University, New York City, receiving the degree of Master of Science in 1925. 

Duty afloat in the cruiser Concord and the aircraft carrier Saratoga was interspersed with an assignment in the Repairs Division, Bureau of Engineering, Navy Department. He next served for three years an an Instructor in the Department of Marine Engineering at the Naval Academy and from June 1936 until May 1939 had successive service as Commanding Officer of USS Reuben James and Executive Officer of USS Henderson

The entry of the United States into World War II, late in 1941, found him in the Ships’ Movements Section, Office of the Chief of Naval operations, where he remained until the summer of 1942. In that assignment he had a month’s duty as US Naval Observer in London, England. He next served on the Staff of the Commander in Chief, US Pacific Fleet and was awarded the Legion of Merit for his outstanding service in the field of logistic planning. 

The fitted out, then commanded the USS Missouri, which arrived in the forward area of the Pacific early in February 6 1945 and, that month, participated (as part of the famous Task Force 58), in the first mass air strike against the Japanese homeland and the carrier strikes against Tokyo. In March the Missouri took part in strikes against Iwo Jima, in a two day sweep down the Japanese coast line and in the initial bombardment of Okinawa. During the latter operation a Kamikaze plane crashed on her deck but the Missouri suffered little damage. 

Between September 1945 and August 1948 he was Chief of Naval Transportation Service, after which he had duty as Commander Training Command, Atlantic Fleet. On September 15, 1949 he became Commander Military Sea Transportation Service and served and served as such, in the rank of Vice Admiral, until January 1953. Following duty as Commander Amphibious Force, US Pacific Fleet, he reported an April 2, 1954 as Commander Naval Forces, Far East. He was Commander Western Sea Frontier from November 1956 until March 1, 1957 when he was transferred to the Retired List of the US Navy after thirty-eight years of active duty. 

Vice Admiral Callaghan’s brother, the late Rear Admiral Daniel J. Callaghan, USN, was killed in action on board USS San Francisco during the Battle of the Solomons in November 1942. 


Born: Oakland, California; August 8, 1897

Education: St. Mary’s College of California; University of San Francisco; 

      Drew’s Preparatory School; U. S. Naval Academy (BS, 1918); 

      Postgraduate School (Electrical Engineering, 1923- 1924); Columbia University (MS, 1925)


Legion of Merit 

Army Commendation Ribbon with Metal Pennant

World War I Victory Medal with Destroyer Clasp

American Defense Service Medal, Base Clasp

Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal 

American Campaign Medal

World War II Victory Medal

China Service Medal 

National Defense Service Medal 

Korean Service Medal 

United Nations Service Medal

Foreign:    Order of Boyaca (Grand Officer) Republic of Columbia

                      Most Exaulted Order of the White Elephant, Thailand 


Legion of Merit: “For exceptionally meritorious conduct…as Assistant War Plans Officer for Logistics and Assistant Logistics Officer, Pacific Fleet, during operations against enemy Japanese forces in the Pacific War Area from July 10, 1942 to may 1, 1944. During this period, Rear Admiral (then Captain) Callaghan skillfully assisted in the planning for logistical support of the Navy and shore-based establishment engaged in the campaigns for the capture of the Gilbert and Marshall Islands and their subsequent maintenance. Assisting in organizing the Logistics Division of the Joint Staff of Commander in Chief, Pacific Fleet and Pacific Ocean Areas, he was instrumental in developing its operational methods and procedure…”

Army Commendation Ribbon: “For commendable service as Chief of the Naval Transportation Service from November 30, 1945 to May 15, 1946, during which time he performed with distinction in the solution of the problems connected with the operations of Navy vessels emeployed in the return of troops to the United States” 


Commissioned Ensign, June 7, 1918

Lieutenant (jg) (T), November 24, 1918

Lieutenant (jg), July 1, 1920

Lieutenant, June 3, 1922

Lieutenant Commander, July 1, 1932

Commander, June 23, 1938

Captain (T), September 8, 1942

Rear Admiral, May 24, 1945, to rank from August 11, 1943

Vice Admiral, April 11, 1951

Retired in permanent rank of Rear Admiral and advanced to Vice Admiral by Act of Congress, March 1, 1957


Jun 1918    Aug 1918     USS Wisconsin

Aug 1918   Dec 1918     USS Stevens

Dec 1918    Jul 1919      USS Allen

Jul 1919     Aug 1919     USS Chaplain

Aug 1919   Oct 1920      USS Hamilton (cfo; Engineer Officer)

Oct 1920     Jan 1921      USS Nicholas (cfo; Engineer Officer)

Jan 1921     Jun 1921      USS Dent

Jun 1921     Aug 1921     USS Farquhar

Aug 1921    Nov 1921     USS Twiggs (Engineering Duty)

Nov 1921    Jun 1923      USS Sloat

Jun 1923     Jul 1924       USS Postgraduate School (Instruction)

Jul 1924      Sep 1925      Instruction at various places under supervision                                         of  Postgraduate School

Sep 1925    Oct 1928      USS Concord

Oct 1928    May 1930     Bureau of Engineering, Navy Department 

                                                       (Repairs Division)

May 1930   May 1933    USS Saratoga ( Asst. Engineer Officer)

May 1933   May 1936    USNA (Instructor, Marine Engineering) 

May 1936   Mar 1938     USS Reuben James (Commanding Officer)

Mar 1938    May 1939    USS Henderson (Executive Officer)

May 1939   Aug 1941     Office of Chief of Naval Operations, Navy Department (Ships’ Movements Section)

Aug 1941    Sep 1941      American Embassy, London (Naval Observer) 

Sep 1941     Jul 1942       Office of CNO, Navy Department 

Jul 1942      May 1944      Staff of Commander in Chief, US Pacific Fleet

May 1944   May 1945       USS Missouri (cfo; Commanding Officer)

May 1945    Jul 1945        Staff of Commander US Pacific Fleet

Jul 1945      Aug 1948      Office of CNO (Ass. Chief of Naval Operations for 


Aug 1948   Aug 1949     Commander Training Command, Atlantic Fleet

Aug 1949   Dec 1952      Commander Military Sea Transportation Service

Dec 1952    Mar 1954     Commander Amphibious Force, US Pacific Fleet 

Mar 1954     Nov 1956    Commander Naval Forces, Far East

Nov 1956     Mar 1957    Commander Western Sea Frontier

1 Mar 1957                        Transferred to Retired List


Published: Fri May 22 10:13:48 EDT 2020