Dale Vincent Gaffney was born on February 18, 1894, the son of John and Edith Gaffney, at Methuen, Massachusetts. His father died when the General was a boy. His mother, Mrs. R. H. Goldie, resides at 15 Atkins Street, Brighton, Massachusetts. He attended grammar school at Sea View, Massachusetts and was graduated from the Marshfield (Massachusetts) high School. His wife is the former Miss Kathleen McCarthy of Spokane, Washington. He has two sons, Dale Jr. (who is a pilot with the Troop Carrier Command in the European Theater during World War II), and Michael.
In January 1915, he enlisted in Company “K”, 5th Infantry, Massachusetts National Guard, and served as private, corporal and sergeant with that company on border duty from June 19, 1916 to November 9, 1916. He then became supply sergeant, 5th Infantry, Massachusetts National Guard, and served in that capacity until December 6, 1917, when he was honorably discharged to enlist as a private first class in the Aviation Section, Signal Corps.
In December 1917, he was assigned to the School of Aeronautics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Boston, Massachusetts. In January 1918, he was moved to the School of Military, Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y. From March to April 1918, he was at Camp Dix, Dallas, Texas; and from there he was assigned to Park Field, Memphis, Tennessee, where he earned his wings and was commissioned on July 6, 1918. From July 1918 to June 1919, he took advanced flying training at Park Field at Memphis, Tennessee, and at Ellington Field, Texas. He then served with the 11th and 104th Aero Squadrons at Fort Bliss, Texas, until May 1921. Following this assignment, he became Flight Commander of the 50th Squadron at Langley Field, Virginia. In October 1921, he joined the 13th Squadron (Attack) at Kelly Field, Texas, and the following December was named Adjutant of the 3rd Group (Attack) at Kelly Field.
In July 1923, he returned to Langley Field for duty with the 96th Bombardment Squadron for a brief tour of duty, following which he joined the 3rd Attack Group as Adjutant at Kelly Field. In July 1924, he became Post Adjutant and Operations Officer at Kelly Field. In February 1925, he was assigned to France Field in the Panama Canal Zone and joined the 7th Observation Squadron. He was transferred to the 25th Bombardment Squadron at France Field in December 1925; and in May 1927 joined the 6th Composite Group at France Field and became Post and Group Operations Officer.
Upon his return to the U.S., he assumed command of the 48th School Squadron, Air Corps Advanced Flying School, at Kelly Field in March 1928. In January and February 1929, he attended the Flight Instructors School at Kelly Field and then was named Commandant of Cadets, Air Corps Advanced Flying School, and Flying Instructor, Pursuit Section, Air Corps Advanced Flying School at Kelly Field in October 1930, remaining in that post until August 1935, when he enrolled in the Air Corps Tactical School at Maxwell Field, Alabama.
Following his graduation in June 1936, he entered the Command and General Staff School at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas in August, and was graduated in June 1937. At that time, he was named Operations Officer, 7th Bombardment Group, at Hamilton Field, California. In August 1938, he became Group S-3, Plans and Training Officer.
In 1939, Major Gaffney flew from Washington, D.C. to Fairbanks. Alaska. The mission was a survey of Alaska for air bases and a location for a Cold Weather Test Station for the Proving Ground Command, AAF. A survey of Ladd and Elmendorf Fields resulted. In April 1940, General Gaffney was ordered to Ladd Field, Fairbanks, Alaska, as Commanding Officer to take charge of operation and equipment tests in temperatures ranging from -60 to -70 degrees F. The same year, he flew a B-17 from McChord Field to Fairbanks in the record time of 6 hours, 45 minutes. He was in command at Ladd Field when the Japanese struck at Pearl Harbor. He participated in the defense of Alaska and the Aleutians and received the Legion of Merit on 2 April 1945 for his accomplishments. With the exception of a special mission to Africa in 1942, he remained at Ladd Field until April 1943, when he was transferred to Edmonton, Canada to take command of the Alaska Wing (elevated to Division status in July 1944) of the Army Air Forces Air Transport Command.
The Wing, and later the Division, was responsible for ferrying combat planes and for carrying cargo over the strategic Northwest Route from Minneapolis, Minnesota, and Great Falls, Montana, via Edmonton, Canada, to Fairbanks and Nome, Alaska. At the time of his assumption of command, facilities for the mission were either meager or non-existent. During the first winter, its tasks were labeled “impossible” by higher commands. However, statistics show that more than 8,000 Alsib deliveries and approximately 500 replacement aircraft deliveries for the U.S. forces in Alaska and the Aleutians as well as continuous operation and utilization of aircraft records established by a transport fleet of more than 50 aircraft were accomplished. Hazards of Arctic flying include ice fogs, multiple beams, extreme icing, temperature inversion and turbulence.
In July 1946, General Gaffney was transferred to Bermuda to command Bermuda Base Command, Atlantic Division, Air Transport Command. He returned to the U.S. in March 1947, and assumed duties as Deputy Assistant Chief of Staff A-3 for Arctic Operations, Headquarters, Army Air Forces, Washington, D.C. In December 1949, he was named Deputy Commanding General of the Air Proving Ground, Eglin AFB, Florida.
General Gaffney died on March 28, 1950, at Oliver General Hospital, Augusta, Georgia.
He was rated a Command Pilot, Combat Observer and Technical Observer.
His avocation was ornithology, and he was an authority on wild fowl. The American Museum of Natural History utilized his knowledge on two of its expeditions to Panama in 1926 and 1927 to chart bird life. He was an expert hunter.
Private, Corporal, and Sergeant, Co. K 5th Infantry, Massachusetts National Guard, June 19, 1916, to November 9, 1916; Supply Sergeant, 5th Infantry, Massachusetts National Guard, July 25, 1917, to December 6, 1917; Private 1st Class, Aviation Section, Signal Corps, December 7, 1917, to July 5, 1918; Second Lieutenant, Air Service, July 6, 1918, to September 16, 1920; Second Lieutenant, Air Service, July 1, 1920; First Lieutenant,, July 1, 1920; Captain, November 1, 1933; Major (temporary), August 26, 1936; Major, July 1, 1940; Lieutenant Colonel (temporary), March 15, 1941; Lieutenant Colonel, A.U.S., September 15, 1941; Colonel (temporary), January 5, 1942; Colonel, A.U.S., February 1, 1942; Lieutenant Colonel, November 4, 1942; Brigadier General, A.U.S., September 17, 1943; Brigadier General, February 19, 1948.
Distinguished Service Medal, Legion of Merit, Distinguished Flying Cross, Army Commendation Ribbon, Mexican Border Service Medal, World War I Victory Medal, American Defense Service Medal with Foreign Service Clasp, American Campaign Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with one Bronze Star, European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal, World War II Victory Medal, Commander of the Order of the British Empire, Soviet Order of Suvorov (Second Class).
In April 1945 he was awarded the Legion of Merit with the following citation:
“For services from September 1939 to May 1943. As Commanding Officer of Ladd Field, Alaska, and later Commanding General of the Alaskan Wing, Air Transport Command, he contributed materially to the solution of the multifarious problems incidental to operating aircraft in cold climates and to the Alsib and other essential military aerial routes over cold countries. Prior to 1939 little was known of the means and methods of operations of military aircraft and equipment in sub-zero climates. Convinced that the information could not be obtained by the artificial means as practiced at Wright Field, he organized the Cold Weather Detachment at Ladd Field in September 1939. Operating in temperatures of 60 to 70 degrees below zero, during the following two winters, excellent results were obtained in testing airplanes, motors, automotive vehicles, ordnance and radio; the messing, housing, equipment and clothing of personnel; and the methods of location and construction of stations. Upon the outbreak of war, he expanded his base to support the movement of lend-lease aircraft to the Russians. The result of his efforts was a material contribution to the successful conclusion of the Aleutian Campaign.”
He was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal with the following citation:
“Brigadier General Dale V. Gaffney. As Commanding General of the Alaskan Division, Air Transport Command, from May 1943 to December 1945, devoted untiring effort toward solving problems of arctic flying. His knowledge of cold weather operations was of great value to the Army Air Forces and was largely responsible for developing his command into an efficient, all-weather transport route which played an important role in the successful prosecution of the War.”
He awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross with the following citation:
“Brigadier General Dale V. Gaffney, O-11345, Air Corps Army of the United States. For distinguished achievement while participating in aerial flights in Alaska and Arctic areas during the period October 1942 to February 1945, and for extraordinary accomplishment as aircraft pilot from 1917 to 1945 during which period of service General Gaffney has flown 11,000 hours in military aircraft. Through his strong and fearless leadership in thousands of hours of flying in northern regions under severe weather conditions and over extremely hazardous terrain, General Gaffney has set an outstanding example of piloting skill, courage, and fortitude and has brought about invaluable developments and improvements in Arctic flying equipment, Aircraft Maintenance methods and operating procedures under Arctic conditions, and by personal flights has proven the feasibility of the Alaskan-Siberian Route of the Air Transport Command for transport as well as tactical aircraft. Through his broad experience and knowledge of aviation and consistent piloting accomplishments since 1917, General Gaffney has contributed in an outstanding degree to the development of the tactics and techniques of military aviation and its use in operations against the enemy, the success of which has been demonstrated by the effectiveness of combat forces of the United States on every battle front of World War II.”