15 March, 2009

Profile 29 - RUSTY as flown by William R. Preddy

Visually, "Rusty" is a rather unremarkable P-51. The 339th FG color scheme was, by WW2 standards, somewhat hum-drum. However, to me, this airplane represents a bold reality of living that I often choose to ignore - that life can be horribly unfair.

William Preddy was the younger brother of 8th AF ace, George Preddy. George's machines are shown twice in this blog - Profile 1 and Profile 23...and the elder Preddy's legend is well documented through book, museum, foundation and memories of the grateful men who served under and alongside.

Bill was an excellent combat pilot in his own right. According to the Preddy family, George believed Bill was on his way to achieve at least the same aerial success he had. And, there was none of that "big brother shadow" for Bill - he trained and achieved on his own skill. The Air Force may have appreciated the elder Preddy, but nepotism had no place in putting pilots into expensive technology and work where competence could mean the life and death of many, many others.

Bill learned of George's death almost a month later. The following is an excerpt from his letter home to mom & dad:

"What I have to say now is difficult to explain because I hardly understand it myself. There is no use to say not to grieve for I know that is impossible. It is useless to say try and forget, for we can’t and shouldn’t. We should remember, but in doing so we should look at it in the true light.

A man’s span on this earth is not measured in years. Above all, that is least important. To find happiness, success, and most important, to find God is the Zenith of any man’s worldly activities. I think a man has not lived until these things have been achieved. ... Yes, George knew a full, rich life. He surely reached out and touched the face of God many times. ...

I close offering you my eternal love and devotion. Let us carry on as George wanted and may we arrive at his standard.

Always Love, Bill"

Bill wrote that the day after he learned of George's death. Geez. What an attitude! To be able to lose a beloved to the senselessness of war (and friendly fire, no less) and maintain a level of objectivity is impressive, especially so in today's culture of self-gratification. At the risk of being trite, would the situation happen today, would Bill have been pressured to contact a lawyer?

We'll never know. Bill died on April 18, 1945 at a Czech hospital from wounds he sustained from being shot down by German ground fire.

Two sons - the best of the best, so wholly deserving of what the world may offer as success, dead because a small group of sociopaths...bah. It's not fair at all.

The picture below is one I took at St. Avold American Cemetery in France. Bill's cross is on the left, George's is on the right. It was a gorgeous day.

Note: "Rusty"has 2 victory markings (one earned by Bill, the other earned by Rusty's prior pilot, Lloyd French).