|Pilot 2nd Lt. George Philip 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, 35th Fighter Group, 41st Fighter Squadron. The tail was painted white with tail number 91. The front edge of the engine cowling was painted with a white ring. No known nickname or nose art.
On March 11, 1944 took off from Gusap Airfield piloted by 2nd Lt. George Philip Gaffney
Jr. on an escort mission over 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
Range. He never arrived, and was declared Missing In Action (MIA). In fact, Gaffney crashed in the mountains, likely in poor weather conditions.
In fact, this P-47 crashed near Sawan village near the Saidor Gap in the Finisterre
During November 1997, a team from US Army CILHI was conducting a wreck survey in the area and obtained information on two aircraft wrecks potentially in the area. These later proved to be this aircraft and L-4A Grasshopper 43-29071.
On June 26, 1998 this aircraft 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. 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 on March 25, 1944 her husband was Missing In Action (MIA).
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)
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 - Lieut George Philip Gaffney, Jr (Arlington grave photo)
FindAGrave - Lieut George P Gaffney, Jr (memorial marker photo)
FindAGrave - 2Lt George P Gaffney, Jr (tablets of the missing)
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, profile 25
The Greatest Generation Speaks pages 81-85
41st Fighter Squadron DVD 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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March 12, 2019