World War II pilot shot down in 1945 finally comes home


Martin O’Callaghan

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SHELBY COUNTY, Tenn. — A special ceremony was held Monday at the West Tennessee Veterans Cemetery in East Shelby County for a World War II pilot who finally came home after he was shot down in 1945.

Family and friends say goodbye to 2nd Lt. Martin O'Callighan, a Christian Brothers High School graduate who became a pilot in the U.S. Army Air Force.

It would be 73 years before his remains would be identified and returned to the United States for burial.

"He was one of those special people that through his own life, raised the quality of life around him,"  said his nephew, Mark Johnson.

O'Callighan was described as a patriot who cherished his assignment in war-torn Europe — so much, in fact, that he turned down a full and honorable discharge just one year before his death in 1945.

The 22-year old Memphian was at the controls of his P-38 when it was hit by anti-aircraft fire over what was formerly Yugoslavia.

His remains, found in 1947, were officially identified in April through DNA analysis.

"Finally now the grieving is over," Johnson said. "After three quarters of a century, let us forever remember him, honor him, be so ever proud of him, and thank him."

Monday's ceremony gives surviving family members peace in knowing the young Memphian who died for his country will rest this "field of honor."

"Many of us no longer live in Tennessee, but Tennessee and Memphis are deep in our hearts," Johnson said. "My mom's, one of her last requests, was in fact that he would be brought back to Memphis."

Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam declared Nov. 5th as a day of mourning to honor O'Callighan.

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