Seventy years ago today Rear Admiral Daniel J. Callaghan was killed in action aboard the heavy cruiser USS San Francisco during the Night Battle of Guadalcanal.
During the night of November 12-13, 1942, Callaghan’s task force of 13 ships, with Rear Admiral Norman Scott as second in command on the light cruiser USS Atlanta, engaged a Japanese armada of 17 warships, including 2 enemy battleships. Admiral Callaghan and his flag staff were on board the San Francisco during the fierce fighting. During the battle both Callaghan and Scott were killed when direct hits destroyed the bridges of their respective flagships. The Captain of the USS San Francisco, Cassin Young, was also killed.
As the highest ranking surviving officer, Lieutenant Commander Herbert Schonland assumed command of the ship. Lieutenant Commander Bruce McCandless conned the ship from the immediate battle area. Callaghan, Schonland, McCandless, and Boatswain’s Mate 1st class Rheinhardt Keppler would later receive the Medal of Honor for their actions during the battle. The awards to Callaghan and Keppler were posthumous. Rheinhardt Keppler’s Medal of Honor is on permanent display at the Vallejo Naval and Historical Museum.
During the battle 107 men aboard the USS San Francisco lost their lives. After returning to Mare Island for repairs the ship returned to the war zone and played an important role throughout the rest of World War Two.
Daniel J. Callaghan and Norman Scott are the only two admirals to lose their lives in surface ship combat in U.S. Navy history. The battle damaged bridge of the USS San Francisco stands today in the city of San Francisco as a permanent monument to the ship and her crew. In Vallejo, Admiral Callaghan Lane was named in honor of the Rear Admiral.