Colonel Charles V. McCaffrey was a native of Providence, Rhode Island and a 1930 graduate of Hope High School. Charles was a member of the track team and an excellent scholar. He entered Rhode Island State College (now the University of Rhode Island) in the fall of 1930 and enrolled in the Army ROTC program. He was a member of the Phi Beta Chi Fraternity. In 1934, Charles graduated from URI where he earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Engineering and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the Engineer Corps.
Colonel McCaffrey served in the Southwest Pacific during World War II. During the period 8 January 1944 to 2 September 1945, he was the Commanding Officer of the 593rd Engineer Boat and Shore Regiment. Throughout the war, Colonel McCaffrey displayed superior leadership, personal courage and professional skills in training and fighting his battalion. The frantic pace of almost continuous amphibious combat operations against a well-entrenched enemy tested his ability to plan and execute these complex and dangerous missions. For more than 18 months, he employed his boats hundreds of miles behind enemy lines without naval escort or air cover.
Colonel McCaffrey led his unit from the front and skillfully transported assault troops ashore at Madang, Aitape, New Guinea, Tarakan, Brunei Bay, Balikpapan, and Borneo. Specially armed Landing Craft Mechanized (LCMs) filled the role of gun boats and rocket-boats, and it is these crafts that the infantry assault troops looked for their main support in advances up the Borneo River against enemy troops. At Limbang and in river movements in the Beaufort area, the soldiers of Colonel McCaffrey’s Boat Battalion played an especially critical role in the success of these operations against a heavily armed and determined enemy force.
In the Beaufort amphibious operation, the waterborne spearhead was ambushed; and many members of the Boat Battalion were wounded. Soldiers of the Boat Battalion died heroically at Labuan when the Battalion was attacked by a Japanese suicide force. As a result of Colonel McCaffrey’s leadership, courage and resourcefulness, the Japanese suicide force was defeated. Colonel McCaffrey was awarded the Legion of Merit for his leadership during this battle.
In supporting Australian landing forces at Tarakan and Brunei Bay, Colonel McCaffrey again led his heroic Boat Battalion on a nearly impossible mission due to the arduous pace of landings, rapid advance and overwhelming distances.
Colonel McCaffrey returned from World War II and continued serving his country in the US Army Reserve. He was instrumental in the planning, organizing, staffing and inauguration of the 443rd Civil Affairs Command serving as the organization’s first Commander.
Colonel McCaffrey’s awards include the Legion of Merit, Bronze Star and the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal.
Colonel McCaffrey’s support of the State of Rhode Island, his community and the University of Rhode Island parallels that of his military service and accomplishments. He served as President of the Rhode Island Chapter of the Camp Fire Girls; Chairman, Rhode Island Small Business Division of the United Fund; Trustee of the Memorial Hospital of Rhode Island; Trustee of the Pawtucket, Rhode Island Boys Club; Board Member for the Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Rhode Island and was appointed a Rhode Island “Commodore” by the Governor of Rhode Island.
The “Charles V. McCaffrey Scholarship” was established in 1978. This scholarship is given each year by the Valley Resources Company to a deserving son or daughter of an employee attending URI in Colonel McCaffrey’s honor. In 1978, Charles McCaffrey retired as the CEO of Valley Resources Company.
Colonel McCaffrey lived his entire life serving others and his service is in keeping with the finest traditions of the military and reflects great credit upon himself, his family and the University of Rhode Island.
Colonel Charles V. McCaffrey died on 13 June 2001. He was buried with full military honors at St. Francis Cemetery, Wakefield, Rhode Island.