09 June, 2008

Profile 1 - CRIPES A'MIGHTY flown by George Preddy

"Cripes A'Mighty!" was George Preddy's patent phrase when gambling with squadron mates - fitting he'd name his combat mounts same. This particular plane was Preddy's fourth and last combat mount to bear the name.

Preddy was a lazy scriptwriter's dream of a hero - poet, patriot, philosopher, pilot...type all the superlatives, gushes and adoration into a big heap and even his critics would be reluctant to disagree. With nearly 27 confirmed aerial victories, he remains the USAF's leading ace in the airplane that symbolizes America in the air war, the North American P-51 Mustang.

I've met a dozen or so people who flew with or knew George, including one woman who gleefully announced she was to have a date with him in the Fall of 1944. Her husband, a 3-star general and ace himself, seemed to smirk at the realization that he'd stolen a victory from the Legend.

However, it's the memory of the men who shot him down that are most striking - those who manned the American Army anti-aircraft battery that accidentally sent a dense burst of .50caliber bullets into his thin-skinned Mustang on Christmas Day, 1944; they reported seeing Cripes A'Mighty, inverted and angling into a dense wood...

Preddy is burried next to his brother at the Lorraine Cemetery in St. Avold, France.