George Philip Gaffney Jr. was born on February 8, 1921 in
In March 1942 he enlisted in the U. S. Army as a private with serial number 16050146 then became an aviation cadet and completed flight school as a 2nd Lieutenant with serial number O-687424. On August 13, 1943 he married Ruth Christenson and the couple conceived before he was deployed overseas. Sent overseas, Gaffney arrived in New Guinea on December 24, 1943 and was stationed at Nadzab Airfield. Later, he contracted malaria and hospitalized in Australia, then returned to duty at Gusap Airfield and flew twelve combat missions over New Guinea.
On March 11, 1944 took off from Gusap Airfield piloting P-47D Thunderbolt 42-22896 on a mission against Wewak. Over the target, Gaffney engaged an enemy fighter and got separated from his formation. Returning, he
followed the north coast of New Guinea and landed at Saidor Airfield,
where he refueled and had his plane checked for damage. No damage was observed.
He claimed one fighter destroyed. Later that afternoon, Gaffney took off
to from Saidor Airfield to return to Gusap Airfield, crossing over the Finisterre
Mountains. He never arrived, and was declared Missing In Action (MIA). In fact, he had crashed in the mountains, likely in poor weather.
Gaffney was officially declared dead on January 18, 1946. He earned the Air Medal and the Purple Heart, posthumously. He is memorialized at Manila American Cemetery on the tablets of the missing. He also has a memorial marker on his parents grave at Resurrection Cemetery in Montebello, CA at plot: D, tier 10, grave 113.
Daughter Patrica Gaffney
On June 22, 1944 Patricia Gaffney was born, his only child. During September 1993, Patricia Gaffney learned about Janice Olson. In May 1995 Olson and Gaffney travel together to Papua New Guinea. During November 1997, an aircraft wreck is reported in the Finisterre
Mountains. On June 26, 1988 P-47D Thunderbolt 42-22896 was visited by Alfred Hagen.
In October 1988, a team from U. S. Army Central Identification Labratory (CILHiI) visited the crash site and confirms the aircraft is Gaffney' plane. In January 1999, Gaffney's remains are identified and on March 11, 1999 an Army board of officers confirms the findings. On June 5, 1999 a funeral service is conducted for Gaffney in his hometown of Madison, WI. On June 9, 1999 he is buried at Arlington Cemetery.
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - George P. Gaffney, Jr.
Pacific Wrecks - P-47D-11-RA Thunderbolt 42-22896
Missing Air Crew Report 3308 (MACR 3308) created March 14, 1944
PNG Museum Aircraft Status Card - P-47D Thunderbolt 42-22896
CILHI List, page 3
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - George P. Gaffney Jr. "Remains recovered"
FindAGrave - 2Lt George Philip Gaffney, Jr (tablets of the missing)
FindAGrave - 1LT George Philip Gaffney, Jr (Arlington grave photo)
FindAGrave - 1LT George Philip Gaffney, Jr (memorial marker photo)
Wisconsin State Journal "Madison WWII Combat Pilot Was Long Los, But Now is Found" May 30, 1999
Washington Post "Sorrow Is Laid to Rest" June 10, 1999
Army Times "Patricia
Gaffney Buries father's remains" June 28, 1999
Patricia Gaffney Online Event on December 4, 1999
Forty of the Fifth (1999) profile 25
The Greatest Generation Speaks (1999) pages 81-85
41st Fighter Squadron DVD (2000) interview with Patricia Gaffney
Pechakucha 20x20 "Journey of the Heart" by Patricia Gaffney-Kindig November 11, 2018
Thanks to Patricia Gaffney for additional information
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