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George Preddy « North Carolina's WWII ExperienceNorth Carolina's WWII Experience

George Preddy

Hometown: Greensboro, NC
Branch of Service: Army Air Corps, 9th Pursuit Squadron of the 49th Pursuit Group; 487th & 328th Fighter Squadrons of the 352nd Fighter Group
Location of Service: Europe

George Preddy grew up in Greensboro, North Carolina. He joined the US Army Air Corps and became the world’s top Mustang ace. He was killed in action by friendly ground fire on Christmas Day 1944. George was recommended for the Medal of Honor for a mission on which he shot down six enemy fighters. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. In 2007, the Preddy Memorial Foundation wrote the Secretary of the Army requesting the Medal of Honor for George, the Nation’s highest honor.

On December 12, 1941 Preddy graduated from flight training and was sent to Australia where he joined the 9th Pursuit Squadron, 49th Pursuit Group. George spent the next six months flying combat and training missions in the P-40. The combat missions netted him two damaged enemy aircraft. In July 1942 Preddy was involved in a serious mid-air collision that killed the other pilot (one of his squadron mates) and left Preddy in the hospital for several months.

By July 1943, Preddy was assigned to the 352nd Fighter Group at Bodney, England. Preddy scored his first victory on December 1, 1943, a Bf-109. Three weeks later, he scored a second victory, fighting a superior force, as he was to do many times. He led his flight of three P-47s (one stayed up as top cover) against six Me-210s covered by 10 Bf-109s that were attacking a B-24 straggler. In the melee, Preddy knocked down one Me-210, broke up the attack, and then lured the remaining enemy aircraft away from the damaged B-24, earning for himself a Silver Star.

The 352nd converted to P-51s in April 1944. Preddy got his fifth victory on May 13 and was on his way to becoming, a few months later, the leading active ace in the ETO.

During the Battle of the Bulge in December 1944, elements of the group were moved to fighter strip Y-29, Asche, Belgium. On Christmas Eve, Preddy indulged in a game of craps and scooped the pot to win $1200, which he intended to invest in war bonds. On Christmas Day, Preddy led 10 of his P-51s on a patrol. They were vectored to a formation of enemy planes, and in the ensuing fight, though the squadron became scattered, Preddy downed two more Bf-109s. He and his wingman, Lt. James Cartee, were then vectored to an unknown number of bandits near Liege. Preddy saw a FW-190 on the deck and went after him at treetop height. As they roared over American ack-ack batteries, Preddy was hit by friendly ground fire and killed, probably by the bullets from the quad 50s.

George Preddy was on his way to becoming the leading ace in Europe when tragedy struck. General John C. Meyer, who was the fourth ranking American ace in the ETO (European Theater of Operations) and Preddy’s squadron commander for more than a year, wrote: “I have never met a man of… such intense desire to excel…. George Preddy was the complete fighter pilot.” Meyer also wrote that Preddy was a man with a “core of steel in a largely sentimental soul.” George once said, “I’m sure as hell not a killer, but combat flying is like a game, and a guy likes to come out on top.”

Almost certainly, he would also have come out as top American ace in Europe had it not been for that tragic error on Christmas Day in 1944. The Preddy Memorial Foundation, set up by his cousin Joe Noah, honors and memorializes both George Preddy and his younger brother Bill (also a P-51 pilot killed in the Czech Republic on April 17, 1945). Bill’s story will also be submitted to UNC-TV who is to be commended for this project.