Famous WWII Fighter Pilots (of P-51s of course!)
Just like the present saying about race car drivers, “it is the driver, not the car that wins races” the quote can also be applied to successful aviators. Here, focusing on famous WWII fighters, these pilots exemplify what it truly means to be an ‘Ace’. These pilots using technology of their time fought gallantly in an effort to win the war for America. Here are some of those men.
Chuck Yeager, posing in front of his aircraft shortly after his first confirmed kill. This is one of his most famous photos.
Courtesy of http://www.aeronautics.ru/
Chuck Yeager, Famous P-51 Mustang pilot
Chuck Yeager joined the Army Air Force at the age of 18 in 1941. He is most noted for not only becoming a revered ‘Ace’ of WWII, shooting down a minimum of 5 confirmed kills on enemy targets, but also for shooting down at least 2 of his multiple kills being German jet-fighters. He became an ‘Ace’ in one day, giving birth to the term that is consistently referenced to Yeager, “Ace in a Day” (Gruenhagen 23). He was unfortunately shot down over France, where he eluded the enemy, returned to the states and then flew many high-danger and high-priority campaigns over Europe. This is a testament not only to his dog-fighting skills and flying ability, but also a testament to his age, as he did this all before the age of 22. Chuck Yeager is now and forever will be remembered as an American Hero of WWII. Ironically, he is the pilot that inspired me to pursue a career as an aviator in the military.
Chuck Yeager went on to become a test pilot for the Air Force in post-war years. He is the first person to break the sound-barrier. He was flying the Flying Bell X-1 when performing this feat. Chuck Yeager’s plane that he will forever be tied to was the “Glamorous Glen”. He is also renowned for being a test pilot for the 357th fighter group.
See where he was shot down...
George Preddy, Fighter Pilot of the 352nd Fighter Group
Preddy flying the "Cripes A' Mighty
George E. Preddy can be called the best pilot of the P-51. He flew for the 352nd fighter group and 8th Air Force during WWII. Ironically his career as a pilot was delayed due to an overwhelming number of pilots already in the USAAF. In order to wait for that opening, he joined the Army National Guard to gain experience. He finally reported to flight school. Upon his graduation in December of 1941, he was sent to Australia. When the war began for America, Preddy fought furiously against Japanese fighters. During a battle, Preddy collided mid-air with another American pilot which seriously injured Preddy and killed his comrade. After long hospital stays, Preddy was able to rejoin, but not without struggle. He then became part of the 352nd fighter group. In this squadron is where Preddy would be named an 'Ace', and a top WWII Ace at that. On Christmas Day, 1945, during a patrol, Preddy and his squadron encountered enemy bombers. The outcome of the battle would be for the worst, though. After downing 2 enemy B-1-09s, Preddy would continue to pursue an FW-109 just above the treetops of Liege. The planes flew right over American troops and Preddy was unfortunately hit by friendly fire. The fire he took caused him to crash and Preddy was killed. Preddy was ranked third Ace of the war with over 26 victories.