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William Callaghan, Navy rear admiral, dies at 88

William M. Callaghan Jr.
Navy rear admiral

William M. Callaghan Jr., a Navy rear admiral who retired in 1980 as commander of Fleet Air Mediterranean based in Naples, Italy, died Dec. 22 at Walter Reed National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda. He was 88.

The cause was pneumonia, said a daughter-in-law, Debbe Callaghan.

The son of a Navy vice admiral, William McCombe Callaghan Jr. was born in New York and raised in Washington. He graduated from Gonzaga College High School and in 1949 from the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis. In 1958, he received an aeronautical engineering degree from the College of Aeronautics in Cranfield, England.

He became a naval aviator and, as a carrier pilot, he recorded more than 500 night-time landings, his family said. He also commanded two aircraft carriers, the Bennington and the Iwo Jima.

His other assignments included chairman of the U.S. delegation to the Joint Brazil-U.S. Military Commission in the late 1970s. In his final active-duty assignment, in Naples, he also held additional NATO responsibility for all maritime air units in the Mediterranean.

His decorations included the Legion of Merit.

He settled permanently in the Washington area after his military retirement and most recently lived in Washington. He was active in the Knights of Malta and, for many years, organized the annual pilgrimage to Lourdes, France, for the Washington chapter. He was a member of the Catholic Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Washington.

His wife of 60 years, Elizabeth Reidy Callaghan, died in 2009. Survivors include three sons, William M. Callaghan III of Orinda, Calif., Charles E. Callaghan of San Francisco and A. Carey Callaghan of Norwich, Vt.; and nine grandchildren.

— Adam Bernstein

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