George E. Preddy (1919-1944)

Written By North Carolina History Project

A native son of Greensboro, North Carolina, George E. Preddy became one of America’s top flying aces during World War II.  At the end of the war, he was the third-highest ace in the European Theater of Operations (ETO).  He rank seventh among American pilots of all wars with 26.83 aerial victories.  Historians speculate that he might have emerged as the nation’s premier ace had not his plane been shot down by friendly fire on Christmas Day 1944.  

Born on February 5, 1919, Preddy grew up in Greensboro, North Carolina.   As a young man (21 years old), Preddy thrice failed to pass the U.S. Navy physical exams.  During the summer of 1940, he tried instead to join the United States Army Air Forces, passed his physical, and started his successful flying career.

His meritorious military service began in Australia and ended in Europe.  Flying a P-40 in Australia, he damaged two enemy aircraft in 1942.  Later that year, his plane collided with another American plane, and he suffered injuries that required months to recover.  In 1943, Preddy was assigned to the 352nd Fighter Group in Bodney, England.  For his service during the latter half of 1943, while flying a P-47, Preddy earned a Silver Star, the third highest military honor awarded to American serviceman; he escorted and defended bombers and shot down several enemy aircraft.  He shortly afterward flew the P-51 Mustang and increased his victory count.  July and August 1944 were his most triumphant months; in his plane, Cripes A’ Mighty 3rd, he shot down four Nazis in July and six on August 6.  For his August 6th mission, he earned the Distinguished Service Cross, the second highest honor given to American military personnel.  During the summer and fall months of 1944, and under Preddy’s leadership, the 328th Fighter Squadron became one of the most successful squadrons in the ETO (it shot down 25 enemy planes on November 2).  

On Christmas Day 1944, Preddy died while in the service of his country.   On that Christmas Day mission, Preddy shot down two Nazis.  When returning to base, he saw several German planes at low altitude.  In pursuit of them, Preddy and his aircraft were hit by American anti-aircraft fire.