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North Carolina WWII P-51 Pilot Scored 27 Victories Against German, Japanese Fighters

George Preddy with his famous P-51 Mustang, Cripes A'Mighty. Photo: Greensboro History Museum.

By Brent Lancaster, The Raleigh Telegram

RALEIGH – On Christmas Day in 1944, North Carolina native George Preddy was in the skies over Belgium, chasing German planes in his P-51 Mustang, when his luck ran out. He lost his life when an American anti-aircraft team on the ground missed the Germans and hit him by mistake.

Along the way, though, the Greensboro native took advantage of a little luck and a lot of skill to be one of America’s deadliest fighter aces. He still stands at number seven on the list of our country’s top fighter aces.
 
Preddy was born in Greensboro, North Carolina in 1919 and learned to fly before the war. He spent his summers in 1939 and 1940 barnstorming around the state.
 
Preddy saw his first combat against Japanese Zeros over Australia. By 1943, he had been transferred to Bodney, England, and was escorting B-17 and B-24 bombers on runs into Germany in a P-47. In 1944, he was assigned a P-51 Mustang. It was in this plane that Preddy would make his mark.
 
On August 6, 1944, he shot down six German fighters in the space of five minutes. When he returned to North Carolina on leave in 1944, he was the top-rated American ace in the European Theater and is still the top-rated Mustang ace. But soon after, during the Battle of the Bulge, Preddy was shot down on Christmas Day by friendly fire.
 
His cousin, Joe Noah, started the Preddy Memorial Foundation to keep the memory of George and his brother Bill, who was also a fellow pilot also killed in combat during World War II, alive.
 
Bill Preddy was shot down by enemy ground fire while strafing an airfield at Ceske Budejovice, Czechoslovakia on 17 April 1945, just days before the war ended in Europe. It was the last mission flown by Bill’s 339th Fighter Group.
 
Noah has a simple explanation as to why George Preddy isn’t well-known outside Greensboro, despite his heroics and skill as a fighter pilot – the dead pilots didn’t get much attention after the war.
 
“He got killed,” Noah said. “He wasn’t around to talk.”
 
The Preddy Foundation has placed busts of the brothers around the world and close to home. Pairs are on display at Greensboro’s Piedmont Triad International Airport and in the Greensboro Historical Museum.
 
Noah remembers both brothers from his boyhood. Though George was older, he knew him better than Bill.
 
“George was my idol as a high school kid,” Noah remembers.
 
Following in George’s footsteps, Noah learned to fly and took his first solo at 16. He later served in the Marine Corps and in the United States Air Force.
 
Noah started his work documenting what his cousins did after reading in The Air Force Times that George had been credited with 25.83 victories. At the end of the war, the family had George’s mark as 27.5. George’s record now stands at 26.83.
 
Noah has written two books on the topic, “Wings God Gave My Soul” and “George Preddy: Top Mustang Ace.”
 
He has been all over Europe, visiting the American cemetery where the brothers are buried and the site where Bill’s plane went down.
 
These days, Noah is trying to find audio recordings of George Preddy’s voice.
 
Preddy was interviewed by Bill Shadel of CBS on August 9, 1944. Afterwards, Noah said, he got to talk with fellow Greensboro native Edward R. Murrow in the CBS studios.
 
He was also interviewed by Greensboro’s WBIG while home for a 30-day leave.
 
If you have copies of either of those recordings, or want to know more about the foundation, contact Noah at (434) 374-2781 or go to www.preddy-foundation.org  ::
 
MAJOR GEORGE PREDDY’S 13 RULES TO LIVE BY:
  1. No smoking at any time or under any circumstances.
  2. Drink intelligently and sparingly.
  3. Eat sensibly.
  4. Exercise regularly and diligently.
  5. Learn everything possible about flying or any other job at hand.
  6. Always be willing to go out of the way to learn something new.
  7. Always try to give the other man a boost.
  8. Fight hardest when down and never give up.
  9. Don’t make excuses but make up with deeds of action.
  10. Learn by experience.
  11. Listen to others and profit by criticism.
  12. Live a clean life.
  13. Trust in God and never lose faith in Him.
EDITOR’S NOTE:  This article originally appeared in a previous edition of The Telegram is being reprinted in the hopes of recovering audio files of interviews with Major Preddy.