Forty of the Fifth 1999
Ron Williams 2001
Justin Taylan 2003
|Pilot 2nd Lt. George P. Gaffney
Jr., O-687424 (MIA / KIA, BR) Madison, WI
MIA March 11, 1944
Built by Republic at the Indiana Division of Republic Aviation in
Evansville, IN. Constructor Number 647. Delivered to the U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as P-47D-11-RA Thunderbolt serial number 42-22896. Disassembled and shipped overseas to Australia and reassembled.
Assigned to the 5th Air Force (5th AF), 35th Fighter Group (35th FG), 41st Fighter Squadron (41st FS). This aircraft had olive drab upper surfaces and gray lower surfaces. The tail was painted white with tail number 91. The front edge of the engine cowling was painted with a white ring with a pointed edge. No known nickname or nose art.
When lost engine R-2800-63 serial number 42-126308. Armed with eight .50 caliber machine guns serial numbers 672298,
658938, 658993. 672522, 660507, 672272, 671855 and 901010 manufacturers unknown.
On March 11, 1944 took off from Gusap Airfield piloted by 2nd Lt. George P. Gaffney
Jr. on an escort mission over Wewak. Over the target, Gaffney engaged an enemy fighter and claimed it as shot down (this aerial victory claim was never officially credited). During this engagement, he became separated from the rest of the formation and afterwards flew back to base alone. Following the north coast of New Guinea he landed safely at Saidor Airfield.
On the ground, Gaffney was anxious after the dog fight and had his plane checked for damage and refueled. Later that same afternoon he took off from Saidor Airfield on a short cross country flight over the Finisterre
Range bound for Gusap Airfield Runway No. 5. When this aircraft departed, the weather was reported as scattered cumulus clouds 5,000' with a solid overcast at 16,000' over the mountains and scattered cumulus clouds 5,000' to 12,000'. When this aircraft failed to arrive it was officially listed as Missing In Action (MIA).
In fact, this P-47 crashed near Sawan village near the Saidor Gap in the Finisterre
Range in New Guinea. Likely, it crashed in poor weather.
During November 1997 a team from US Army Central Identification Laboratory Hawaii (CILHI) conducted a survey in the area and obtained information about two aircraft wrecks in the area. These tips later proved to be this aircraft and L-4A Grasshopper 43-29071.
On June 26, 1998 the crash site of this P-47 was visited by Richard
Leahy and Alfred
Recovery of Remains
During October 1998, a team from US Army CILHI visited the crash site and confirms the aircraft identity and recovered the pilot's remains, his .45 caliber pistol and a .50 caliber machine gun for the PNG
Museum. The Department of Defense officially identified Gaffney on March 11, 1999.
Gaffney was officially declared dead on January 18, 1946. He earned the Air Medal and the Purple Heart, posthumously and was promoted to the rank of 1st Lieutenant 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.
After his remains were recovered and identified, Gaffney had two memorial services. On June 5, 1999 a memorial service was held in his hometown of Madison, WI. On June 9, 1999 Gaffney was buried at Arlington
National Cemetery at section 66, row 0, grave 5619. His widow and daughter were in attendance at both services.
Ruth Gaffney (wife) was pregnant with their first child when notified her husband was missing on March 25, 1944.
Patricia Gaffney (daughter)
The couple's only daughter was born June 22, 1944 after her father went Missing In Action (MIA).
NARA World War II Army Enlistment Records - George P. Gaffney, Jr.
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, Richard
Leahy and Bruce Hoy for additional information
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February 20, 2020
March 11, 1944