He was the son of John Russell Kavanagh and Catherine Isabelle (Cannon) Kavanagh. He attended four years of college and was a teacher in civilian life.
On May 1, 1943 Kavanagh was pilot of B-24D #41-42513 serving with the 10th Air Force, 7th Bombardment Group, 492nd Bombardment Squadron. They were part of an eight plane mission to bomb Japanese cargo ships in the harbor at Rangoon, Burma. Immediately after dropping their bombs they were attacked by enemy fighter planes, knocking out two engines and wounding four of the crew. Their plane fell out of formation and the fighters continued their attacks until Kavanagh was able to lose them in cloud cover.
Approximately an hour later they were finally unable to keep the plane in the air and crash landed in a rice paddy northwest of Bassein, Burma. By this point three of the crew had died of their wounds. The remaining crew set out on foot through the jungle in hopes of reaching India. They were attacked by Japanese patrols three time over the following week (one crewman was killed and Kavanagh was wounded) before finally being captured and taken to Rangoon Central Jail.
Kavanagh died as a prisoner of war. He was from Swift County, MN, and received the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Air Medal and the Purple Heart.
On May 17, 1946 a C-47B cargo plane took off from Rangoon carrying the remains of Kavanagh and approximately forty other service men who died as prisoners of war. They were to be returned to the United States, however the plane crashed in a storm in India, killing the three man crew as well as the eight passengers from the American Graves Registration Service. The wreckage was discovered by Clayton Kuhles in 2009, and efforts are being made to return the remains to the US.
Because his body was not recovered, he is memorialized on the Tablets of the Missing.
Kavanagh is also Sacred Heart Catholic Cemetery in Murdock Minnesota.
Gravesite Details Entered the service from Minnesota.