Unknown Sailor

BM2c James Thomas Callaghan

Just before Christmas, the family of two brothers from Denver, Colorado, was told that they were missing in action following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.

But their four sisters told the local Catholic Register newspaper that they had not given up hope that sailors James Thomas Callaghan and John Martin Callaghan were safe. And as the paper pointed out, “in the confusion of war several men were erroneously reported as dead in the first few days of fighting.”

In mid-January, the family received the joyful news that John was alive. But there was still no news of James.

The brothers had served together on the U.S.S. Arizona for more than four years. Then, 18 days before the attack, John was transferred. He was on a transport bound for Manila on Dec. 7.

About a week after they learned John was okay, relatives received the final word on James. “After exhaustive search it has been found impossible to locate your brother…”

James, born May 11, 1916, was a boatswain’s mate and petty officer second class, and had been in the Navy for six years.

John, born Dec. 11, 1918, served throughout the war but died in 1954. He had been a  gunner’s mate and, eventually, a chief petty officer.

A third brother, Frank, a technical sergeant in the Army Air Forces, was killed on Christmas Eve 1944 when the B-17 bomber on which he was the tail gunner was shot down over Belgium. The mission was to help stop Germans at the Battle of the Bulge.

Frank’s twin, Daniel, served in the Army and survived the war.

They were the sons of Cornelius Callaghan, a Denver policeman, and Catherine Munday Callaghan, a homemaker.  She died in 1922, leaving behind eight children between the ages of 1 and 10.  Cornelius died after a long illness on Dec. 5, 1936.

The family attended Holy Family Catholic Church and the children attended school there.


Sources: the Denver Catholic Register; Census; grave markers; headstone application for military veterans; Navy muster rolls; Veterans Administration. This profile was researched and written on behalf of the U.S.S. Arizona Mall Memorial at the University of Arizona.

NOTE: If you are a family member related to this crew member of the U.S.S. Arizona, or have additional information, pictures or documents to share about his life or service to our county please contact us through our FAMILY MEMBER SUBMISSION FORM