Christmas Day, 1944 ETO. Major George Preddy "Cripes-A-Mighty III" Revell 1/32 P-51D-5
Hello everyone. This build was done to pay respects to a man who gave his life on Christmas Day, 1944, in the name of freedom. His name was George Preddy, who was a Major in the US Army Air Corps. Tragically he was killed on this day in 1944.
Please follow along as I tell the story, about the man and his Mustang.
Several years ago, I picked up this book that came with a set of decals for several versions of "Cripes-A-Mighty". This book is very informative, as it shows how the Mustang he flew went through the various changes as time went on, and the requirements changed for the Air War over Europe. If you are interested, these decals are available in 3 scales, and I have since picked up another set in 1/48 for a future Mustang build. I also have plans to build another one of Preddy's Mustangs, 44-14906, which is trimmed in red as well as having a darker blue nose section than this one does. This later Mustang also happens to be the same plane he lost his life in.
George, the oldest of 6 children, was born on 05 February, 1919, and he was raised in Greensboro, North Carolina. According to the Eagle Editions book that I mentioned above, he was also thin / slight of build and highly intelligent. Because of his thin stature, he shied away from sports like football, instead he played tennis and basketball at the local YMCA.
George graduated from school early, at the age of 16. He took a short break from school, and he worked at a cotton mill, where he was able to save his earnings for flight lessons. He apparently wanted to fly after his interest for flying developed in his High School years. Like other future airmen from this era, he read stories about the exploits of the "Aces" and pilots from the "Great War" which had ended shortly before his birth.
George saved his money and took his first flight in an Aeronca aircraft 3 years after graduating from High School. Not too long afterwards, George began taking flight lessons in a Waco. As a side note, my very first flight was in a Waco UPF7. It is a biplane with an open "tandem" cockpit arrangement like the similar PT-17 Stearman has. I was about 8 years old at the time, and I remember it like it had happened just yesterday.
In 1939 George Preddy took lesson from a dirt strip runway at an airport just south of Greensboro. His instructor pilot was a man named Bill Teague, and together they purchased another Waco shortly after his solo flight. The two men set out on a barn storming tour shortly afterwards. This is where George learned how to perform aerobatics. Having this flying skill would undoubtedly help him to excel in the following years.
Not too long after the invasion of Poland in September, 1939, George applied as a Naval Aviator. He was however denied acceptance, due to his small stature. Undaunted, he went back home and began a body building regimen. He was determined to become a military aviator.
While the United States was still "Neutral", George applied a little while later to the US Army Air Corps. Since America was still not officially at War, the standards for acceptance for flight training were still very high. This time he was accepted, and his name was put on a long list with many others, for future flight cadet training.
Not hearing anything back from the Air Corps, and seeing what was happening in the world at this time he became frustrated and instead he joined the National Guard. He began training as part of the 252nd Coast Artillery located at Fort Moultrie, South Carolina, which was not too far away from his home. The training was tough, as was the physical fitness and discipline.
By now George was beginning to worry because he still had not heard anything back from the Army Air Corps, for his flight training. So he began writing letters in hopes this would hasten the wait. During this time, he was transferred to another Army base located in Georgia, at Fort Screvins.
Just as his unit was deploying by ship to Puerto Rico for additional training, he finally had his Commanding Officer cut him a set of orders to report for flight training. He got the word that he was to report for Aviator Flight Training just a few hours before he got onboard the troop transport ship.
George reported to Darr Aero Tech in Albany, Georgia, to begin his flight training. Since he already had accumulated more than 300 hours in his Waco, The PT-17 Stearman and BT-13 Valiant gave him no troubles at all. He easily passed his basic flight training school and was ordered to Craig Field, Alabama for fighter pilot training.
George was realizing his dream of becoming a fighter pilot, as he passed with "flying colors" with pursuit pilot training in the AT-6 Texan. The "Texan" was designed and manufactured by North American Aviation, as was the P-51 that he would later fly... It was also here at Craig Field where he would first fly the Curtiss P-36. George was on the way to his destiny.
He graduated from his Advanced Flight Training in fighters on 12 December, 1941. This was only 5 days after the Japanese attack of Pearl Harbor happened. He was now commissioned as a Second Lieutenant, and he was assigned to West Palm Beach, Florida. He reported for duty and became part of the 49th Pursuit Group. At this time his unit was flying the Bell P-39 Airacobra.
Not too long after reporting to his Fighter Group, on 11 January, 1942, they were alerted and given orders to board a troop train that was headed to the West Coast of the US. Their eventual destination was the troop ship named "Mariposa". The Mariposa docked in Melbourne Harbor, Australia on 01 February, 1942. It seemed like George would be fighting the Japanese in the Pacific Theater of Operations.
The 49th Fighter Group went through transition training in the newer Curtiss P-40E's. While flying the P-40, he claimed a Mitsubishi A6M destroyed, while damaging another Mitsubishi bomber. He never received credit for these two aircraft though...
While on a routine training flight he was involved in a mid air collision with another aircraft. He was seriously injured, and spent three months on convalescence leave before he returned back home to North Carolina. While George was home, he took this time to fly any aircraft he could, flying many of the latest models as they became available.
In January, 1943, he was reassigned to the 352nd Fighter Group. This unit was known as "Meyers Maulers" and they flew the huge Republic P-47 Thunderbolt. On the evening of 30 June, 1943, his unit loaded on board the Queen Mary and set sail for England.
The 352 FG, (Fighter Group) was composed of these three Fighter Squadrons:
328th, Fighter Squadron
427th, Fighter Squadron
428th Fighter Squadron
They became operational at Bodney during the first week of September in 1943. They were still flying the P-47 during this time.
On 09 September, 1943, the unit flew their first combat mission. It was a patrol into enemy territory over the North Sea, and it was considered a "Milk Run" as no enemy opposition was encountered. Preddy did have some success while flying his first P-47 that was by now named appropriately as "Cripes-A-Mighty". He picked this name because it was "rumored" that he said this expression regularly while playing a gambling game called "Dice".
Lieutenant Preddy received his Silver Star medal on 22 December, 1943, for shooting down his second kill, which was a German Me-210. Ironically a little more than a month later he would be shot down while flying in another P-47 by AAA (Anti Aircraft Artillery). He was shot down a plane that was normally assigned to a pilot named Lieutenant John Bennett. This P-47 was Serial Number 42-8421.
Preddy had to ditch the crippled P-47 into the freezing cold waters of the North Sea. These waters are cold enough during normal summer time weather, and during the colder months, death could happen in minutes due to exposure, especially at the end of January. He survived as was rescued because of the efforts of Lt. William Whisner.
George Preddy was promoted to the rank of Captain on 05 March, 1944.
He was promoted again shortly afterwards, to the rank of major on 22 March, 1944.
This would be the rank he held at the time of his death 9 months later. In April of 1944, the 352nd started receiving the new P-51B Mustangs. They transitioned into the new plane at this time. This was the final part needed for the newly minted Major to start raising his score.
On 11 April, 1944, Major Preddy made his first claim in the new Mustang s/n 42-106451. He claimed a Heinkel 111 destroyed on the ground. This P-51B was also named "Cripes-A-Mighty", as was his earlier P-47 Thunderbolt.
He claimed a further 10 (of his total of 13 by this time), while flying this "Razorback" version of the Mustang. Some of these 13 victories were on the ground, and some were aerial kills. Many pilots actually preferred the earlier Mustangs believe it or not... They said it was faster and more stable, also a bit easier to fly.
During the middle of June, 1944, the 352 FG began receiving the new D model "Bubble top" Mustang fighter. This is when Major Preddy was assigned a brand new P-51D-5 Mustang, serial number 44-13321. Like his earlier Mustang, it also carried the fuselage letter codes of "HOP". Also like his earlier Mustang, it too received a full set of D Day Invasion Stripes. If you look closely at these stripes, they are not even or perfect by any means. In fact, they are crooked and not evenly spaced. I spent a lot of time studying the photos that are shown in the book I mentioned. This is the final result, and as close I can get to looking like the real plane.
It was named "Cripes-A-Mighty III", and is the subject of the model I have posted here. Later on, towards the middle of July, 1944, (before 19 July) the upper D Day Invasion stripes were painted over on the wings, and stripped from the fuselage. The lower portion of the stripes remained on the aircraft.
Major Preddy had a dedicated ground crew. Like any pilot who flew in WW2, these men would not have been able to achieve what they did without the help from their ground crews. These ground crewmen are the unsung hero's and they don't get the recognition they deserve. They put in countless hours, often working non stop overnight, and in brutal weather outside.
He had an armorer named Sergeant M. G. Kuhaneck, without who's efforts he would not have had his impressive score of 25 plus victories. (There is some controversy about the total number achieved by Major
Preddy also has a ground Crew Chief named Staff Sergeant Lew Lunn, and Assistant Corporal J.J. "Red" McVay. It was due to their skill the Major never had to abort any missions due to mechanical troubles.
While flying "Cripes-A-Mighty III" Major Preddy became the leading American Ace in the ETO. He was credited with destroying 6 Bf-109's during a single mission on this day. At this time he had a total of 31 white outline German Crosses on the nose of "Cripes-A-Mighty III".
26 of these kills were air to air victories, while 5 were destroyed on the ground. Major Preddy was sent back to the States on a well deserved rest. During his time home, this Mustang, 44-13321 was still flown regularly by other men, including Colonel John Meyer the Unit Commander. Colonel Meyer claimed 4 more aircraft destroyed while flying this Mustang on 10 September, 1944.
This Mustang was then reassigned to another pilot during Major Preddy's leave. It was assigned to a pilot named Captain Henry Stuart, who changed the name to 'The Margarets" on the next day, 11 September, 1944. At this time all of the previous markings were removed, and the aircraft was re-coded to the fuselage / tail letters of HO N.
Following this, the Mustang 44-13321 was once again reassigned to another pilot and named "SEXSUNEIGHT". It was lost in action on 16 April, 1945 just a few days before the War was officially ended in Europe. At the time it was destroyed, it was being flown by a pilot named Lieutenant Walter Padden. Lt. Padden was killed in action, another tragedy.
At the time this aircraft was destroyed, it had been credited with destroying more enemy aircraft than any other P-51 fighter at any time during the War.
After his visit to the United States, Major Preddy returned to the 352nd FG at Bodney, the now famous "Blue Nosed Bastards of Bodney" as they have been called. Major Preddy returned to Bodney on 20 October, 1944. Little did he know he would be dead in a little more than two months from his arrival.
Upon his return, Major Preddy was assigned a new P-51D-15-NA, serial number 44-14906. This Mustang arrived at Bodney shortly before the Major did, on 15 October, 1944. This newer Mustang has the fin fillet added ahead of the vertical fin and rudder assembly. This feature was also added to some of the earlier P-51D-5 Mustangs that were delivered from the factory without them.
The major was placed in a Command position, now commanding the 328th Fighter Squadron, since it was having the least amount of success. Color Meyer thought Major Preddy could impart his combat knowledge and experience to better the Squadron.
This is also the Mustang in which he scored his last victories in, on the 2nd of November, he scored a Bf-109, and on 21 November, 1944 he shot down a FW-190. This Mustang would have 33 German Crosses displayed on the fuselage to reflect Major Preddy's score.
This last P-51D-15 had fabric covered elevators and rudder. It also had a solid style breather plate, or possibly even a different style of lower engine cover that didn't have a breather opening at all.
This last Mustang was very colorful. It had a Red painted rudder, and a small "Barber Pole" painted on the nose. It had a Red and White triangular shaped feature painted over the MG openings, and also on the engine cover. This set of decals is included in the decal set form Eagle Editions.
I have a desire to build his last Mustang, as a future build. I might use the old Hasegawa 1/32 scale model to do this, or I could get the new tool Revell of Germany version. I don't think I have enough money saved up to get the definitive Tamiya version. That would be the "hot ticket" to build for sure ! Maybe someday.
I also have this set of decals in 1/48, where I will use either the new tool Airfix kit for the D-5 and an Eduard for the D-15.
Major Preddy lead the 328th FS on it's second of two missions on Christmas Day 1944. He was flying his newest / last Mustang, 44-14906 on this mission. The 352nd FG had arrived at Asch, Belgium on 23 December, only two days before. It was a very cold day...
The mission of the 328th FS was to provide relief for the over worked and weary crews of the 9th AF. Major Preddy's wing man that day was Lt. Gordon Cartee.
Lt. Cartee later recalled the events as they happened that day. I am quoting this directly from the Eagle Editions book.
Lt. Cartee: " After stooling around for a while, due to no action, we were vectored to an area close to Koblenz, Germany, where enemy aircraft had been encountered. Preddy receiving the call said. 'They've started without us, let's go join them.'
Preddy Immediately turned in that direction. Just as Mitchell was about to peel off, he looked up and spotted two Bf-109's coming down on him and Lambright."
Cartee continued: "Preddy spotted two 109's and got into a Lufberry with the number one. Neither was gaining much advantage, when all of a sudden, another 109 cut in front of him".
"He eased up on the controls just enough, gave it a short burst, blazed it and then resumed his pursuit of the first one. The 109 lost his concentration seeing his buddy flamed, and Preddy nailed him.".
A few moments later, Preddy and Cartee were vectored to an area that was 3 or 4 miles Southeast of Liege. American troops in the area had reported that German aircraft were strafing their positions. Preddy's flight was joined by Lt. James Bouchier of the 479th FS.
Ground control approved and Preddy began accelerating from 1500 feet, as he had spotted a FW-190 Dora that was heading to the Northeast. Major Preddy was advised over the radio there was intense American AAA flak in the area, and how it was being halted because friendly American aircraft were operating in the area now...
Major Preddy was advised that he could now make his attack safely. However, the pilots flying these 3 Mustangs didn't know their flight path would take them directly over the position of the AA weapons operated by the 430th AA which was stationed to the west side of a large clump of trees. They were located two miles Southeast of Aachen, Germany.
There was a group of "quad" .050's mounted on what I think might have been an American half tack vehicle. They opened fire and Major Preddy was the first to be hit. His Mustang suffered numerous hits and it was losing coolant. Lt. Cartee saw Major Preddy do a chandelle to the left. He then jettisoned his canopy successfully.
Lt.s Bouchier and Cartee were also hit by the American AAA shortly thereafter. Bouchier's Mustang began to smoke, so he climbed to 1000 feet and jettisoned his canopy too, then bailed out.
As he was hanging in his parachute, he witnessed a large church and a wooded area. There were numerous men on the ground who witnessed the event too.
Sgt. Charles Brown, PFC John Starzynbski, and Lt. Murray Grobman were standing at the Northeast area of the wooded area and were positioned approximately 2.5 miles Southwest of the large church in Langerwehe.
Behind them and to their left, they heard a loud three to four second burst from a half track mounted "quad .050".
These men looked up, and saw Major Preddy's P-51 flying inverted at an altitude of approximately 200-300 feet. It was flying in a 20-30 degree nose down attitude.
In the large church in Langerwehe were two more men who witnessed the event. These were Sergeant Harold Kennedy, and Corporal Elmer L. Dye. Sgt. Kennedy reported the AAA was accurate and heavy.
The American "Quad .050" half track was located Northwest of the church and it was ordered to open fire by the senior NCO. At this time gun section number four opened up on Major Preddy and the two other Mustangs. They hit all three P-51's.
Sgt. Charles Brown, PFC John Starzynbski, and Lt. Murray Grobman all witnessed Major Preddy fall from his Mustang. He fell about 200 feet from his inverted plane and hit the ground. These men did not witness a parachute. "Cripes-A-Mighty" disappeared behind the tree line. When last seen, it was flying nose down, without a canopy, trailing coolant, and inverted.
Remember Lt Cartee ? He saw Preddy's Mustang cartwheel into the ground while still suspended from his parachute.
Lt. Grobman took his Jeep to the crash site and found Major Preddy's body.
Lt. Grobman reported that within a few minutes, a pair of German Bf-109's flew along the same path that Preddy had just taken. However they were not fired upon.
Sergeant Kennedy and Corporal Dye went to the crash site, and the largest portion of identifiable debris that was still intact was the engine. Sergeant Kennedy remembered seeing a portion of the fuselage that had a lot of German "Swastikas" painted on it.
Major Preddy was shot down and killed by American AAA on Christmas Day in 1944. Having survived all of his previous engagements, it's ironic that he was killed by men that were fighting on his side. Bad things happen occasionally, and this is one of them. These American AAA gunners did what the Luftwaffe and Japanese pilots couldn't do.
The Major was laid to rest at the Lorraine American Military Cemetery in St. Arvold, France. His brother Bill was in attendance at the funeral. Major Preddy was the top scoring P-51 Mustang "Ace" of the War.
Major Preddy was awarded the DSC, DFC with 8 Oak Leaf Clusters, Silver Star with an Oak Leaf Cluster, Air medal with Seven Oak Leaf Clusters, a Purple Heart and the Belgian Croix de Guerre.
I started building this model around 3 years ago. I had several outside "life" related events that caused me to put this one, (and others) on a temporary hold. I am currently building up another one of these Revell kits, and it will have the markings as supplied in the kit of "LOU IV".
I have a build journal underway here on Imodeler. If you are interested in how it went together, the good, and the little bit of bad, you can follow this link here.
This is the very first time I took the display base I built outside to photograph a model. I took these pictures using my cell phone, at two different times on two different days. I wanted to capture how the sunlight reflected off the bare metal finish. I used a Tamiya weathering deck to add the exhaust stains, using the patterns I have observed on the full sized version on several occasions.
The plane is covered using three different shades of Bare Metal Foil. I used "Chrome, Ultra Bright Chrome, and Matt Aluminum self adhesive foil on this Mustang. On the wings, they are painted, exactly how the original plane was done. I used Aluminum Plate color from the now discontinued Model Master line of enamels. I also used some Molotow Chrome refill paint that is actually designed for use in a marking pen. This stuff sprays great right from the bottle using an air brush.
I have to give a great big "Thank You" to Josh Patterson for this. He's the one who told me about how good this stuff worked.
As far as the build goes, I had a little trouble with the MG insert on the leading edge of the win, and a little more at the rear fuselage joint where the tail section gets glued on. These were not too bad, and could have been my fault. By far the worst part is the front windscreen. It's too small and not wide enough to fit without some plastic shim added. I almost round filed these two over this problem. In the end being stubborn and refusing to give up won.
Overall I would recommend this kit to anyone who wants a nice Mustang model and not have it cost a small fortune in the process. For the entry price they are getting for these, it's not too bad.
I used some aftermarket stuff. I used a set of Eduard seat harnesses with the included instrument panel on "LOU IV".
For Cripes-A-Mighty I went all out, and ordered a set of HGW seat harness straps and the Eduard "Look" IP for it.
I used an Eduard propeller and spinner resin set for the pair of Mustangs. I really don't think it was necessary though. I also used a set of Eduard resin exhausts on both Mustangs. This last item was a good idea, as were the seat harnesses.
I probably could have got away with using the kit supplied IP and decals. They actually look pretty good in my opinion.
I noticed the tire tread pattern was different on the Mustang in one of the pictures shown in the Eagle Editions book. Thank goodness they also make a set of replacement tires that have the "oval" tread section and not the diamond style tread that is included with the kit parts. With a little bit of surgery, these parts fit well. I used the resin tire along with the kit supplied inner wheel hub.
I took a TON of pictures, because I am happy with how it turned out. Now if I can make "LOU IV" look this nice I will be VERY happy.
On the Merlin powered version of the Mustang, the flaps and inner "clam shell" landing gear doors would start dropping after the engine was shut down. The hydraulic system would bleed off pressure, allowing these parts to droop.
If you look close at the area of the flaps on the top sides of the wings they were felt as a "Natural Metal" state. It shows up like this in one picture I saw in the Eagle Editions book. This indicated to me the Invasion stripes were painted on quickly before they started dropping. This would also explain why the stripes are not even or "squared up".
The decals were very pleasant to work with too. Other than the star portion being a little translucent, (but otherwise very good), these Eagle Cals are among the best I have ever used.
As always, comments are encouraged. Thanks for stopping by.
Merry Christmas to you and your families, or Happy Holidays if you prefer that.
Take care everyone.
Freedom is not free. This is the story of a man who paid the ultimate price, so that others could live free.