Maj. George E. Preddy Jr., USAAF
“I have never met a man of such intense desire to excel. George Preddy was the greatest fighter pilot who ever squinted through a gunsight; he was the complete fighter pilot.”
– Gen. John C. Meyer
George Earl Preddy Jr. was the top-scoring P-51 Mustang ace in World War II. Born on Feb. 5, 1919, in Greensboro, N.C., he obtained his pilot’s license in 1939 and barnstormed for a year. Rejected three times for Navy flight training, he was finally accepted into the Army Air Corps in 1940 and received his wings in 1941.
Assigned to the 49th Fighter Group, Preddy departed the United States for the Southwest Pacific on Jan. 12, 1942. After seven months of combat flying the P-40 Warhawk, Preddy suffered a midair collision during a training exercise. He bailed out, was badly injured upon landing and spent three months in the hospital.
In July 1943, the 352nd Fighter Group, “The Blue-Nosed Bastards of Bodney,” set up shop at Bodney, England. Preddy went on his first combat mission in the ETO in September 1943, and scored his first victory on Dec. 1, a Bf-109. Three weeks later, he led his flight of three P-47s (one stayed up as top cover) against six Me-210s covered by ten 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 a Silver Star.
Once in the P-51 Mustang, Preddy’s score began to climb. During the next five months he was credited with 19 7/8 German aircraft destroyed, including six Bf-109’s on one day: Aug. 6.
During the Battle of the Bulge in December 1944, elements of the group were moved to fighter strip Y-29 near Asche, Belgium. On Christmas Day, Preddy led ten of his P-51s on a patrol. They were vectored to a formation of enemy planes, and in the ensuing fight Preddy downed two more Bf-109s. He and his wingman 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 anti-aircraft guns, Preddy was hit by friendly ground fire and killed.
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.
His final tally: 26 7/8 confirmed, 3 probable and 4 damaged.
His decorations: Distinguished Service Cross, Silver Star with one Oak Leaf Cluster, Distinguished Flying Cross with eight Oak Leaf Clusters, Air Medal with seven Oak Leaf Clusters.