Of all the things he has accomplished over the past 93 years — and the list is long indeed — Goochland resident Floyd Callihan says the one of which he is most proud is having led the charge in 2004 to have Virginia’s Route 288 designated as the World War II Veterans’ Memorial Highway.
Callihan, a Navy veteran whose own WWII service included serving aboard the USS Block Island from 1944-1946, will himself be honored on Oct. 19, when he is inducted into the Virginia Aviation Hall of Fame.
The honor will serve as the capstone to a career that has earned Callihan myriad awards and accolades for public service, as well as the respect and admiration of his peers.
“He is one of the most honorable people I know,” said John Myers, a fellow Navy veteran who came to know Callihan through his affiliation with Goochland’s American Legion Post 215, the current home of which Callihan lead the drive to build, debt free. “He has dedicated his life to the American Legion, and he supports us in all of our efforts.”
Callihan’s reputation for generosity and humility is well-known, Myers said, and not just among fellow Legion Post members.
Simply put, Myers said, “I have never in all my life heard anyone say a bad word about Floyd Callihan.”
While nine decades may seem like quite a few years —Callihan turned 93 on Monday, Sept. 30 — the Goochland resident seems to have packed in enough living for twice that many.
Born in Columbus, Ohio, in 1927, Callihan was already showing an industrious streak by the time he was in high school, spending much of the time he wasn’t studying working in a local pie shop. With the United States embroiled in war in the Pacific and in Europe, he left school in 1944 before he finished his senior year to join the US Navy (he would eventually be awarded his diploma).
Assigned to the carrier USS Block Island, Callihan spent his days helping to protect the Atlantic shipping lanes from the threat of German submarines, which had been sinking large numbers of American military transports.
It was during this time, Callihan remembers, that he first fell in love with the idea of flying as he watched the pilots take off and land on the carrier’s deck.
Callihan began taking flying lessons in 1953, the same year he joined the United States Air Force Auxiliary, the Civil Air Patrol (CAP), as a warrant officer in the Northfield Senior Squadron. He quickly earned his private pilot’s license, and would eventually earn his multi-engine and commercial licenses as well.
After years of dedication and perseverance—during which he was credited with 16 “finds” and 6 “saves” as a search and rescue pilot—Callihan achieved the rank on full Colonel and was appointed Commanding Officer of the CAP’s 1,500 member Virginia Wing. Serving from 1980-1983, he oversaw a program that would be rated first in the nation in operational readiness, a distinction for which Callihan was honored by the United States Congress in 1981.
Throughout his career, Callihan earned high praise for his willingness to roll up his sleeves and get things done, from producing a comprehensive safety manual for the Virginia Wing (still in use today), to negotiating a 100-year, $100 dollar lease with Chesterfield County for a new Wing headquarters at Chesterfield County Airport.
Though he isn’t likely to share them himself, Callihan’s accolades have been many: In 1999 alone, he was named Virginia Wing Senior Member of the Year; Virginia Wing Safety Officer of the Year and the Middle East Region Safety Officer of the Year.
Away from the airfield, Callihan and his wife Shirley, whom he married in 1947, raised their three children, Susan, Douglass and Glenn.
Following in their father’s footsteps, both of Callihan’s sons pursued carriers in the armed forces: Douglas is a retired Air Force Lieutenant Colonel who flew combat missions out of Italy during the Kosovo engagement, and Glenn, a retired Army Lieutenant Colonel, received the Bronze Star for his service in Kuwait during the First Iraq War.
As for his decades of service to aviation, there is little doubt as to Callihan’s legacy.
As Callihan’s time with the Civil Air Patrol was drawing to a close, Major General Antonio Pineda wrote to him as follows: “You are to be commended for your many years of devoted service to your community, state and nation. You have made a lasting impact on Civil Air Patrol in your years of service, and your contributions have been of enduing value. Your personal commitment and support of our mission for America — aerospace education, cadet programs and emergency services are the fiber that made Civil Air Patrol great and will keep it as such.”