"The bravest man I ever saw"
Ministering to an injured man aboard the USS Franklin
Jesuit Naval Chaplain Joseph T. O'Callahan was the first priest to be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, which he received for heroism following a kamikaze attack on his ship during the Second World War. The citation read:
For conspicious gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving as chaplain on board the U.S.S. Franklin when that vessel was fiercely attacked by enemy Japanese aircraft during offensive operations near Kobe, Japan, on 19 March 1945. A valiant and 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 open flight deck and into the midst of violently exploding bombs, shells, rockets and other armament. With the ship rocked by incessant explosions, with debris and fragments raining down and fires raging in every-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 the 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 to return their stricken ship to port.
More on Fr. O'Callahan may be read here and here.
Offering Mass at Rio de Janeiro
For Memorial Day, additional accounts of priestly selflessness and heroism in crisis, this time at Ground Zero: here and here and here.