Father Jake Laboon, S.J. (1922-1988)

There are two American Jesuits for whom the Navy has named ships, Father Joseph T. O’Callahan and Father John Francis (“Jake”) Laboon, who passed away on this day in 1988. The following is taken from the website of the USS Jake Laboon:

USS LABOON honors the distinguished career of Captain John Francis “Jake” Laboon, Chaplain Corps, U.S. Navy. Known to most simply as “Father Jake”, he devoted his life to service to God, Country and the Navy. A Football star at the National Championship Lacrosse All American, Laboon Graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy as a member of the class of 1944. Assigned to the submarine USS PETO (SS 265) then Lieutenant Junior Grade Laboon won the Silver Star for bravery for diving from his moving submarine to rescue a downed aviator under heavy enemy fire. At the close of World War II, Lieutenant Laboon left the Navy to become a Jesuit priest. In 1958 Father Laboon returned to the Navy he loved so much as a member of the Chaplain Corps. Over the next 21 years, he served in virtually every branch of the Navy and Marine Corps. His assignments included tours in Alaska, Hawaii, Japan and Vietnam. As Chaplain with the Marines in Vietnam, Father Laboon earned a Legion of Merit with Combat “V”. In addition to his heroic service in two wars, Father Laboon became the first chaplain for the Polaris Submarine Program and later became the Senior Catholic Chaplain at the Naval Academy. The Naval Academy has honored Father Laboon by renaming the Chaplain’s Center in his honor. When he retired in 1979, Captain Laboon was the Fleet Chaplain, Atlantic Fleet. When his naval career ended, Father Laboon returned to Annapolis as the house manager for the Jesuit retreat facility, Manresa-on-Severn. His final tour of duty was as pastor of St. Alphonsus Rodriguez Church in Woodstock, Maryland. When he passed away in 1988, Father Jake left behind countless service members and their families whose lives he had touched with his compassion and understanding. His courage and genuine concern for all his shipmates was then, is now, and will forever remain an extraordinary example for young sailors and marines everywhere.

About Pat McNamara
  • Michael Walsh

    I served with Fr. Laboon on the U.S.S. Peto during the Pacific War. He came on board the early part of 1944 and I came aboard about a week later. He was assigned as my communications officer and I attended his first mass in his hometown of Pittsburgh, Pa. after he was ordained into the Jesuit Order. Since my retirement I’ve followed this wonderful man’s life that is truly amazing. He made a great name for himself in many ways, truly a “man for all seasons”

  • Dennis and Nan Woolley

    I heard this morning that the USS Laboon had been repositioned off the coast of Libya. The name, Laboon, is so familiar and dear to my family that I had to do a search on the ship. To my amazement and extreme happiness I have discovered that my old and dear friend, Father Jake, is its namesake.

    We met him on Kodiak. He was our pastor and dear, dear friend. I will never forget our closeness, our gift of knowing him, and his beauty as God’s factor in our lives. Jake was one of the most special men ever born. He left Kodiak just before Nan and I did, and headed off to RVN. Our second son, Andrew, had just been born and Father Jake was scheduled to baptize him. Unfortinately, he had to leave the island too early, and he couldn’t baptize him.

    We didn’t see him again until after I got back from RVN and had a chance to visit him and our dear friend Ron Christmas at USNA Annapolis, where he was chaplain.

    I am so pleased to finally have read the last chapter of the life of Jake Laboon, and I know, through him, that our God truly blesses the United States of America.

  • Michael Walsh

    If anyone wants a great deal more of this wonderful man’s life, both during his naval career and his work as a Naval Chaplain which includes photos, CD’s and videos please feel free to contact me. Mike Walsh RM U.S.S. Peto (SS 265) W.W. 2

  • Scott Morgan

    Michael, its Scott Morgan, son of the PBY pilot your boat saved. I have not contacted you in a while, but just sent you a message to the old email I had for you. With Veteran’s day approaching, I was thinking of my father and you — realizing that my high school students (and me either) don’t have a clue as to your generation’s sacrifice. Please send me an email to let me know how you are. I noticed this posting is only 1 year old so I hope you are well. My school has a ceremony for Veteran’s day and all Veteran’s are welcome to attend. If you are ever in this area on Veteran’s day, you would do me the honor of attending.