Fred Keith Mahaffey – General, United States Army

From a contemporary news report:

“Considered by many of his fellow officers to be one of the fastest-rising stars in the Army, he died of cancer at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington at the age of 52 (October 13, 1986).


Until the final days of his illness, he was Commander-in-Chief of the Readiness Command, Tampa, Florida. Under his command were most the Army and Air Force combat units stationed within the continental United States. Before that assignment, he had been the Army's Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations and Plans, a position that has oftenmarked an officer as a potential Chief of Staff.

“He was promoted to Full General when he was 51 years old, becoming one of the youngest fill generals in the modern history of the Army. In 31 years of service, he earned a reputation as a forceful commander, skilled,meticulous operations officer. A softspoken, good-humored man with a twinkle in his eye, he was popular with superiors and subordinated alike. General John A. Wickham, Jr., Chief of Staff of the Army, called him “a great soldier and an inspirational leader,”  The Army, he said, “grieves over this untimely loss.”

During the Vietnam War, he commanded a Battalion in the 9th Infantry Division. He commanded a Brigade of the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, in 1975 and the Third Division in West Germany in 1981-83.

He won three Silver Stars, two Distinguished Flying Crosses and four Bronze Stars for valor in combat. He also held the Distinguished Service Medal, the Army's highest non-combat award and four Legions Of Merit for exemplary service.

He was born January 4, 1934 at Clovis, New Mexico and was a graduate of the University of Denver and earned as masters degree in International Affairs at George Washington University. He was commissioned via the Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) in 1955.

In other assignments, he was an Operations Officer in Vietnam; Division Operations Officer with the 101st Airborne; Assistant Commandant of the Infantry School; Deputy Commanding General of the Combined Arms Combat Development Activity. Survivors included his wife, the former Jane Garnett and four daughters, Lorris Ann, Seldene, Julie Ann and Melissa Jane.”

He is buried in Section 30 of Arlington National Cemetery.

Courtesy of the Ranger Hall of Fame


General Fred K. Mahaffey is inducted into the Ranger Hall of Fame as an officer whose distinguished 31-year military career left a lasting imprint on the Ranger community.

In combat during the Vietnam War, General Mahaffey exemplified the Ranger Creed, and was always found “leading the way” whenever his unit engaged the enemy. His selfless and heroic leadership was recognized with seven Valor awards.

He encouraged his men to attend Ranger School as a way to “make a good soldier better.”

General Mahaffey's unparalleled leadership, knowledge of training and team-building, and technical and tactical proficiency ensured that his units always possessed the highest levels of combat readiness, cohesiveness and Ranger-like proficiency. As the Assistant Commandant of the United States Army Infantry School, he was a proponent of Ranger training for the entire Army. While the Deputy Chief of Staff for operations for the Army, General Mahaffey was instrumental in the reactivation of the 3rd Ranger Battalion and the 75th Ranger Regiment.

On 16 May 1989, the 3rd Infantry Division dedicated its Headquarters building in his honor. At that ceremony, he was remembered as a Commanding General who fostered the environment where all soldiers could develop their potential to the fullest, and as a soldier whose uncompromising loyalty and devotion to duty served the Army superbly for over a quarter of a century. General Mahaffey's illustrious career truly epitomizes the Ranger Credo of “Rangers, Lead The Way.”


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