Perry Dahl was born on February 18, 1923, in North Battleford, Saskatchewan, Canada. He enlisted in the Washington National Guard on June 17, 1940, and entered the Aviation Cadet Program of the U.S. Army Air Forces on September 26, 1942. Dahl was commissioned a 2d Lt and awarded his pilot wings at Williams Field, Arizona, on June 22, 1943, and then completed P-38 Lightning training before joining the 432nd Fighter Squadron of the 475th Fighter Group in the Pacific in October 1943. He was credited with the destruction of 9 enemy aircraft in aerial combat, plus 1 damaged, before returning to the U.S. in June 1945. Capt Dahl left active duty and joined the Air Force Reserve on November 29, 1945, completed his bachelor's degree at Southern Colorado State University, and was recalled to active duty on February 16, 1951. He served at Kelly AFB, Texas, from February to September 1951, and then at Chateauroux AS, France, until June 1954. Maj Dahl then served with the Flying Safety Branch at Norton AFB, California, from June 1954 to August 1957, followed by Air Command and Staff College at Maxwell AFB, Alabama, from August 1957 to July 1958. His next assignment was as a Weapons Director with the Washington Air Defense Sector at Fort Lee, Virginia, from July 1958 to February 1960, and then in Europe until February 1961. He served on the staff of the 25th Air Division at McChord AFB, Washington, from February 1961 to August 1963, followed by service on the staff of Headquarters Air Defense Command at Ent AFB, Colorado, until July 1966. Col Dahl next served on the staff of Headquarters U.S. Air Force in the Pentagon from July 1966 to June 1970, and then deployed to Southeast Asia, where he served with the 19th Tactical Air Support Squadron at Bien Hoa AB in the Republic of Vietnam from June 1970 to June 1971. He was Deputy Commandant for the Cadet Wing and then Vice Commandant of Cadets at the U.S. Air Force Academy from June 1971 to July 1974, followed by another deployment to Southeast Asia as Commander of the 56th Special Operations Wing at Nakhon Phanom Royal Thai AFB, Thailand, from July 1974 to April 1975. Col Dahl's final assignment was as Deputy Chief of Staff for Plans and Programs with Headquarters Aerospace Defense Command and NORAD from April 1975 until his retirement from the Air Force on June 30, 1978.
His Silver Star Citation reads:
For gallantry in action off the coast of French Indo-China on 28 March 1945. Captain Dahl led a squadron of 8 P-38 aircraft excorting bombers on an attack against an enemy convoy. Preceding the bombers to the rendezvous, he searched for the convoy and, after 45 minutes, discovered it. He circled the vessels at a dangerously low altitude, made observations at the risk of being hit by accurate anti-aircraft fire, and reported the position of the convoy to the B-25's. Shortly afterwards, he noticed that an accompanying fight of P-38's, their pilots apparently unaware of some 20 enemy fighters above, was attacking a few hostile planes at a lower altitude. Unable to communicate with the endangered flight, he pulled up to intercept the enemy fighters as they dived to attack it. After dispatching part of his own squadron to pursue another attacking fighter, he continued the uneven engagement with the aid of only 4 other P-38's. As pairs of enemy planes dived in rapid succession, he attacked each pair in turn, forcing the pilots to break off the attack and destroying one of the enemy fighters. The lower flight of P-38's finally rose to engage the enemy after he and his flight had carried on a 20-minute battle. Leaving the target area, he was again attacked by 6 enemy fighters. With a dangerously low gasoline supply he had to fight his way through the interception and, unable to get to his own base, succeeded in reaching another airfield with only 10 to 20 gallons of fuel reserve. The outstanding leadership, courage and flying skill displayed by Captain Dahl during this flight represent the highest type of service to be rendered to the United States Army Air Forces.