History of the 352nd Fighter Group, 67th
Fighter Wing,8th US Airforce.
Known as "The Blue Nosed Bastards of Bodney"
The 352nd FG was formed at Mitchell field, Long Island in October 1942,and was made up of 3 units,21st SQ,34thSQ, and 328th,(a new unit made up at the same time as the Group). The 21st and 34th SQ`s then had a change of unit numbers to the now more familiar 486th and 487th FS`s respectively, and along with the 328th now made up the famous 352FG.
In March of the following year, the Group began training on P-47 Thunderbolts at Farmingdale Army Airfield ,and by May had moved to Camp Kilmer, New Jersey, in preparation for overseas operations. Luckily the Group got passage to England onboard the passenger liner Queen Elizabeth to the Firth of Clyde in Glasgow Scotland. Once in England ,the Group was assigned to VIIIth FC on 6th July 43,and were assembled at what was to be their "Home Base" of *Bodney (Station141) in Norfolk 2 days later under the command of Col. Joseph L Mason.
The tribute memorial stone at Bodney 2011. ŠTony Brooks.
Used with permission from Tony Brooks with Many Thanks .
*Bodney was established early in in the war as a satellite station to the near by permanent RAF station at Watton. Its was a grass surfaced strip with a macadam track and 26 tarmac hard-standings dispersed in -surfaced perimeter woodland bordering the airfield. The technical area was situated on the western side, and the dispersed domestic sites to the north and south-east of the airfield. In May of 1941 No.90SQ of the RAF, used it in preparation for its new aircraft, Fortress Mk1 , (it became the first unit to use the American bomber in operational missions over Europe, and suffered heavy losses). From March to October 42,the site was also used by the of RAF using Blenheim VI `s and Lockheed 21stSQ Ventura's.).
RAF Bodney as it looked in 1946.
|RAF Bodney as it looks in 2007.|
(Click Image To Enlarge)
Having trained on the Thunderbolt, the units first combat aircraft type was the Thunderbolt (these "razor-backs" were form production batches,P-47D-5 and D-16.) These were to be the Groups mounts for their first 9 months of operations in England. The Group did not see its first operational combat mission until 9th September 43.This consisted of supporting B-17`s by patrolling the coast from Southwold to Felixstowe, and to cover the landings of Thunderbolts of the 56th and 353rd FG`s.40 pilots of the 352nd FG got there first taste of operational duty. The unit suffered no loses, but did not gain any victories either (but then again they did not encounter the enemy.) It was not until 26th November 43 did the unit first encounter the enemy, and gain its first aerial victory.
On 26th November 43 the Group was supporting the withdrawal of 120 B-17`s and 120 B-24`s from Bremen. Fighters from the 487thFS bounced 4 Me-109`s.3 of the 4 were shot down, falling to the guns of John Meyer and Donald Dilling (1 each) and the other shared between John Bennet and Robert Berkshire, (with Meyers being the first 352nd aerial victory). Meyer himself would go on to become the second highest ranked P-51 Mustang Ace of WW2 behind George Earl Preddy Jr, who also flew with the 352ndFG.If all aircraft destroyed were taken into account (air to air and ground), Meyer would have piped George to the top spot, but as only air to air victories count in the prestigious status rank of "ACE" George heads the list.
The morale was low, the bomber Groups were taking a pounding
and heavy loses were becoming a to frequent occurrence.
The P-47 Thunderbolts units in England at the time were equipped with long range tanks, but even with these flown till empty the range was only 340miles, plus if they encountered the enemy early in the flight, they had to be dumped and so leaving the bombers to there fate. This was not good. What was needed was a fighter capable of escorting the bombers to the target AND back.
On 1st December, George Preddy at last got his first crack at the enemy. George was assigned the task to take a flight of P-47 Thunderbolts to Germany to escort a group of bombers back home after bombing the industrial area of Solingen. 299 bomber took on the task, but only 281 actually made it to bomb the target. Just after meeting up with the bombers, George spotted what would be the first of 27 aerial victories he scored before his untimely and tragic death on the 25th of December 44. Seeing the Me-109 behind the rear box of the bomber formation, George made his attack. As he got within 1000 yards of the Me-109 the pilot must of seen him and began to take evasive action. But George was not about to let his first shot at the enemy get away. He closed in to within 400 yards and opened fire. HIT!. Hits from his guns peppered the cockpit and wing root, but the aircraft carried on. George got closer still to within 100yards and fired again with just enough time to break off before hitting the aircraft. As he did so the Me-109 disintegrated. (this could have been a rookie pilot, as he was still carrying his external fuel tank. A must to drop when you are engaged, as I shot could really ruin you day. He never got out.). Gun camera footage and an eye witness account for George's wingman confirmed the victory. (George's wingman on that mission was none other than Lt. William T. " Whiz " Whisner. Another great pilot from the 352ndFG ,who went onto become a Triple " ACE ", with 16 victories to his credit. He also went onto fly combat in Korea with the 51st Fighter Interceptor Wing, and also became their first " ACE " of the war. And he also served in Vietnam, but not as a combat pilot. Tragically William Whisner died in 1989 due to complications arising from bee stings.) This was 1 of 3 claimed by the 487thFS that day. Lt. Virgil K Meroney bagged himself 1 and shared another. (Lt. Meroney became the first "ACE" and only P-47, " ACE " of the 352ndFG, and went onto fly F-84`s in Korea and F-4`s in Vietnam.)
Only 10 mission were flown by the 487thFS during December 43, as weather and other problems slowed things down. But, on the 22nd December George flew the mission that would bring him a recommendation for the "Distinguished Service Cross". He was awarded the "Silver Star". This came about as the result of George protecting and escorting a crippled B-24 Liberator of the 445thBG called "LIZZIE". The bomber was suffered mechanical problems was unable to keep up in formation and so fell behind with a couple more stragglers. (easy prey for the enemy...or so they thought). Just then,1 of the crew spotted 1 of the other bombers being attacked by 15 Me-109, to much for 1 bomber ,and the aircraft went down in flames. Then the other, that just left them. Lizzie began to take a real pounding from the Me-109`s, which were then joined by 8 Me-210`s. They were doomed, most of the crew were injured or dead, but then, for no apparent reason, the enemy disengaged when they had them cold. Luck really did shine on them that day, as 40 years after the war, the pilot of the bomber discovered the reason for the enemies withdrawal. They were attacked by just 3 aircraft, and 1 of them was George Preddy. Amazingly the enemy bugged out at the site of these mad men attacking them and promptly broke off their attack. Not before George had bagged his second victory of his career, an Me-210.
The aircraft Major. Preddy flew during the mission described above.
Again poor weather plagued the unit in January, only 11 missions flown. On the 29th January 44 while on escort duty, George was hit by AA and forced to ditch into the sea. But he also claimed another victory, this time an Fw-190.
Come April 44, the 352ndFG traded in its P-47 Thunderbolts
for the new kid on the block, The North American P-51 Mustang.
This was the aircraft that would become a Legend, and the mount of "Major George Earl " Ratsy " Preddy Jr " top Mustang "ACE" of WW2.(George's brother, William Rhodes Preddy, also flew the Mustang with the 339thFG,and was also KIA .He was shot down on the 17th April 45,and survived the crash, but died 3-4 days due to the lack of immediate medical care from his captors.) It was while on R&R, 22nd March 44, George was promoted to Major, and on the 24th April 44 assumed command of the 487thFS.while John Meyer was on R&R.
In May of that year, the Group bagged 14 victories in a single mission. Lt. Carl J Luksic got 5 for himself making him the first pilot in the ETO to do so in a single mission, also Capt. Clayton Davis got 4.(later turned to 3.5). Luksic was later shot down on another mission and survived the war as a POW.
The month of June 44 brought with it the operation that was to become known as "D-DAY", the Normandy Invasion. The Allies total all out assault on Hitler's "FORTRESS EUROPE". This operation had to succeed or else the war in Europe would be lost. Everything the Allies had was to be thrown against the German Army, a do or die deal. The Group flew many missions over the beaches of Normandy. The 487thFS flew 9 missions in just 3 days, D-Day and the following 2 days.
By July, only one pilot had more victories than George, that was Capt. John F Thornell of the 328thFS. Capt. Thornell went onto amass a total of 19.25 victories, later reduced to 17.25, making him the 3rd highest ranked Ace in the 352FG.
Capt. John F. Thornell taken on July 19, 1944 at the "Big Show".
This was when the Secretary of War Stinson, Spaatz and Doolittle visited the base at Bodney.
(info via Sam Sox with thanks.)
On the 18th July, the Group was again on escort duty. This in support of a massive bombing run, to help the ground offensive. The 352ndFG got a hat full, with 21 destroyed and 11 damaged. George claimed 5 but did not get the credit for all of them. But it did add an Oak Leaf Cluster to his Silver Star.
The 352ndFG continued to escort bombers on raids into Germany and against targets in France, pushing back German offences, and cutting off supplies to squeeze dry their ability to fight. During this time, Lt. Raymond Littge bagged a Me-262 jet fighter.
August brought George his finest hour. On the night 5th August 44 the Group were relaxing with prospect of no missions the next day as the weather was forecast was not good, so all were having a bit of a party. (George, more than most ,was knocking it back, having won 1 of the many crap games he played.). But word came late in the evening after George had retired slightly worse for wear that there indeed would be a mission the following day,6th August 44.(George used the money he won at craps to buy war bonds ). Georges famous series of "CRIPES A` MIGHTY" aircraft was named after his favourite saying which was probably picked up by George while serving with the 9th Pursuit Squadron-49th Pursuit Group in Northern Australia protecting Darwin, and became George's habitual exclamation while shooting " craps " (dice game), a passion of his. This proved a very profitable flight for the Group, especially for George. Despite suffering a hangover form the festivities the night before, George bagged himself " 6 "! yes " 6 "! Me-109`s, a record. This feat was possibly equalled, maybe even surpassed by William T Whisner on the 21st November 44" while flying his famous P-51" Moonbeam McSwine "44-14237/ HO-W. He made a claim for 6 victories, but this was later reduced to 5 and 1 probable. This score information comes via Thomas G. Ivie's, Osprey Aviation Elite 8 book,"352nd Fighter Group" . Though the 352FG history book "The Blue Nosed Bastards of Bodney" by Powell, Ivie & Sox, states the score was 6+1 probable, later reduced to 5+2 probable. In Joe Noah, Sam Sox 's book "George Preddy, Top Mustang Ace" it states that Whisner was credited with 5+2 probables, though his DSC General Order for the action credited him for 6+1 probable. He wasn't given full official credit for all 6 victories until 1978. Confusing!. Out of attacking force of 30, 2 more were claimed by White flight (George's flight of 4 aircraft that day, but 1 aborted leaving just the 3 of them).
The above picture of George was taken on his arrival back at base after his Record " 6 " kill flight on the 6th August 1944. (showing the stress of combat, and the remains of his hangover!). The aircraft on the right is William T Whisner`s famous " MoonbeamMcSwine ", used to great effect on the 21st November 44.
This was achieved flying his now famous P-51D Mustang "CRIPES A` MIGHTY 3rd 44-13321/HO-P" Due to the great pride George's ground crew, Cpl. Joseph J. "Red" McVay and armourer SGT M G Kuhaneck had for the Mustang and its pilot, this particular P-51D Mustang NEVER suffered a mechanical failure OR gun jam in its long combat service, in fact, probably the longest combat service career of any Mustang of WW2, serving continuously for 10 months. PLUS!, this particular Mustang had more aerial and ground victories accredited to it than ANOTHER Mustang of WW2. This came about after the fact that when George got a new Mustang, this particular 1 carried on in service being flown by John C Meyer himself who got 4 in it and a number of other pilots also scored victories in her. (Meyers 4 were the last 4 victories to be scored in her under the name of "CRIPES A` MIGHTY 3rd before it was changed to " The Margaret's ") This was the last time George flew this aircraft in combat. It's was eventually shot down and destroyed, killing it's last pilot, Lt. Walter Padden while strafing on the 16th April 45. It's name then had changed to again to " Sexshunate ". The same fate awaited George's brother William, of the 339FG, just a couple of days later. (More info on Williams fate on my CAM3 page). George was again recommended for the CMoO, but did not receive it, but instead got another DSC. By now George had an unadjusted 28.5 victories. George was used to being out numbered, as he was on many occasions, including while flying in Australia in the spring of 42, before joining the USAAF, flying P-40E,SN 85,named " Tarheel " with the 49th Pursuit Group.
A rather nice clip of life at Bodney for the 352FG.
If I'm not mistaken, there is a quick shot of Major. Preddy taking a cigarette break!
After some very well earned R&R, spending September at home with loved ones, George returned to the 352ndFG to be given command of the 328thFS. George took command on the 28th October 44, and was given his last mount P-51D-15 NA-44-14906/PE-P "Cripes A` Mighty". This was the aircraft that George would be flying the day he was killed. This particular aircraft sported a barbers pole on the right side of the nose, which came to get there as George's new crew chief, SGT Arthur Snyder cut the Squadrons hair on the side when not carrying out maintenance. The squadrons first mission under George on 30th October 44 was unsuccessful due to bad weather. But the next was more like it. An escort mission to the oil refineries at Merseburg Germany on the 2nd of November. George's new Squadron bagged 24 of the 38 enemy aircraft accounted for by the 352ndFG that day. Including 5 victories for Capt. Don Bryan, another victory for George. As a side note to this mission, George may have been able to score more victories if it wasn't for the fact that the aircraft of the 352nd had been fitting with the new K-14 gun sight while he was away on leave. And had not had enough time to get associated with the sight. Writing in his report :
Quote: " I believe the K-14 sight is effective if the pilots know how to use it. My results were not satisfactory on this occasion because I haven't had enough experience with it. Pilots should have eight to ten hours training and continue practice tracking while on training hops."
During the making of the History Channels new tv series "Dogfights". Capt. Don Bryans appears in the episode "P-51 Mustang", and recants his 5 victory action during the Merseburg mission on the 2nd November 1944.
Below is the footage containing Don Bryan from the show. ( found on YouTube.) In two parts.
The manoeuvre employed by Byran was learnt from a student! during a ‘friendly’ dogfight training mission at Pinellas Army Airfield. He called it the ‘inverted vertical reverse’. He would pull back on the stick as hard as he could, apply full left rudder, and then pushed the stick forward. You experience a lot of negative Gs doing this manoeuvre. The torque of the engine prop would then flip the aircraft around and you would vanish from your pursuers view.
By now the Luftwaffe were throwing up every last man and boy against the Allies in a desperate bid to holt the Allied thrust into Germany. Its was about this time the Germans put up there ace card the Me-262 jet fighter, the worlds first operational jet fighter. None but the best pilots with a good stead had any hope of bagging this fearsome aircraft with 4, 30mm cannons, unless it was court by surprise from a dive, or as it was taking off or landing. With its top speed of around 540mph, not even the P-51 Mustang with it's impressive speed, despite it's weight, could not catch it. It wasn't designed as an out and out fighter, but more of a bomber/bomber killer. With it's speed and fire power, it could get passed the protecting fighters and deliver a big punch, and get out before the fighters had a chance to do anything about it. The Squadron first encounter the Me-262 on the 11th November 44. For the most part, other than Don Bryans 5 victory mission on the 2nd,(Bryan was already an ace by this time). The rest of November saw little action until the 21st when escort for a bomber raid on the Merseburg oil refinery. This was George's 132rd combat mission. With 1 destroyed 1 probable and another damaged, George's score continued to climb his position as the leading active "ACE" in the ETO was under threat from none other than John C Meyer. Meyer bagged 3 Fw-190`s on the same mission, bringing his total to 30 (17 air to air and 13 ground).
Above, a mix of P-51B's & D's of the 328FS, 352FG escort B-24 Liberators of the 753BS(J4) & 754BS(Z5) of the 458BG.
December 44 brought bad weather with it and the 328thFS were only able to get off the ground 8 times in the early part of December. Its was also in this month (23rd) the Group relocated to the continent at Asche (Y-29) in Belgium, in readiness for the Battle of the Bulge. Asche was a hole, no comforts like what the Group had at Bodney. It was tents mud and that's it. Not much action was seen, but on the 4th December Lt Guy Taylor? was brought down by a combination of a Me-109 and AA. He survived by bailing out and was lucky enough to land on friendly soil. Once he was sorted out, he was given a carbine and a platoon of infantry and sent to the front line......Hehehehe. (meant in the best possible taste of course) George took the chance of some spare time to write what would be his last letter home. 16th December 44.
December 25th 1944 was a very black day indeed, not just for the 352ndFG,but the whole of the USAAF and Allied war effort. On this day Major George Earl " Ratsy " Preddy was shot down and killed by American AA. (for more info on this tragedy please read my CAM3rd page.). As George was a hero of mine, I always drink a toast to him on Christmas Day in his honour. I'm not a religious man, but I'm sure where ever George is now, I'm sure that he would be very proud of the fact that so many people still remember him and the contribution he made in the Battle for Freedom in Europe in WW2. Also, he'd be extremely proud of his nephew Joe Noah who set up " The Preddy Memorial Foundation" in the memory of George and William. You can find a link to the foundations site on my opening page. There you can find pictures and info on the Preddy brothers and a shop where you can buy books and videos etc. Please take the time to visit, as all the money made goes to good causes.
The Group then moved to Chievres.(A-84). While they were there, the Group was visited by William Preddy who came to find out the full story of how his brother became to be shot down by friendly fire. On the 27th December 44 the 352ndFG.got into a mass of enemy fighters in the vicinity of Bonn. And again the Group came out on top. Major. Bill Halton got 3 and 19 shared amongst the rest of the Group. But the best was still to come. John Meyer had a hunch that the Luftwaffe would think the Americans would be hung over from the New Year, and so be an easy target for pay back so he decided to postpone the New Year celebrations. Meyer was right. On the 1st January 1945 Meyer got the 487thFS up early just in case, (after much harassing of HQ from Meyer who was initially told he could not have an early patrol). But no sooner had the Squadron began to taxi for take off, a swarm of Fw-190A-8`s and Me109G-14/K4`s of JG11 ( lead by Major. Gunther Specht in Fw-190A-9 a/c:205033 Black 4 ), came trashing across the airstrip. This was just part of a huge force of some 800 fighters assigned to destroy Allied airfields called " Operation Bodenplatte ", in the area set aside for the German offensive "Battle of the Bulge". Even before they had got off the ground and retracted their wheels they had their fingers on the triggers firing as they took off. That's how close the enemy were. In the ensuing dogfights, William Whisner got 4,so did Capt. Sanford Moats. Meyer himself got 2. Whisners aircraft was hit, a first for him, and the last. The enemy never touched him again. For this action the 487thFS was awarded the DUC ( Distinguished Unit Citation ), the only fighter squadron in Northwest Europe to receive it. This defensive aerial action was to become known as the "Legend of Y-29".Meyer himself got a DSC, and Whisner got an Oak Leaf Cluster to add to his DSC awarded on the 21st November. The 487thFS got 23 confirmed victories and 1 damaged for the lose of just 4 aircraft in aerial combat and 1 damaged on the ground, all 4 pilots survived.
Here are clips found on YouTube of the History Channels Dogfight Show.
This Episode was called "Death of The Luftwaffe" and recreates some of the actions of the Y-29 Legend.
As a foot note to the Y-29 action, the claims of 1/Lt Alden P. Rigby made during the battle were reviewed and verified in the year 2000 confirming Rigby as an "ACE" 55 years after the fact!. This, to all intense purposes, makes 1/Lt Alden P. Rigby the last official American fighter "Ace" of WW2.!
Despite this incredible feat, the tragedy of war was never far away. During the afternoon of the same day,1st Jan 45", fighters of the 328FS were patrolling the skies above Asche when they spotted what they thought were 4 inbound enemy aircraft. Unfortunately due to static on the radio communications with the 328FS, identification of the aircraft came to late and 1 of the approaching aircraft was shot down, crashing near the village of Zutendall. The aircraft turned out to be RAF Hawker Typhoons of 183Sq.from Gilze-Rijen on their way to their new base at Chievres. The unfortunate pilot to lose his life in the shot down Typhoon was F/Lt. Don Webber.
Col. J.C. Meyers famous " PETIE 2ND "
With the Allies fighter support still intact ,the Germans were forced to retreat. Combat became scarce after this action for a while, just the odd encounter nothing to exciting. Come 14th March 45 Major. Donald S Bryan got some action in the vicinity of Remagen where the last intact bridge across the Rhine was. The German made a desperate attempt to destroy the bridge. While escorting A-26 Invaders Bryan came across a Arado Ar-234 jet bomber protected by fighters. He dropped tanks and made for the bomber. With it speed the bomber began to get away, but almost ran into the 56thFG P-47`s.The bomber turned before they saw it, but that gave Bryan the time to catch him. Bryan hammer the bomber and it rolled over and went straight into the ground. This gave him his 13.34 victory, second highest in the 328thFS.
13th April 45 saw the Group back at Bodney, with Capt. Ray Littge of the 487thFS earning a DSC for strafing runs on the 16th April on Prattling aerodrome, while severely damaged, destroying 2 Me-262,and 7 other aircraft with 5 damaged. This was 1 of the last times the 352ndFG saw enemy action. The end was insight, Germany's moral and equipment were low, and it wouldn't be long before the game was up.
The 352ndFG flew its last ETO mission on the 3rd May 1945,making " The Blue-Nosed Bastards of Bodney " the 4th highest scoring Fighter Group of WW2, with 791.5 victories to 111 loses, of these 504.5 were in aerial combat. Flying some 15,673 sorties on 420 missions between 9th September 1943 and 3rd May 1945, including 4 "Ace in a Day" pilots (Georges "6" victory mission on the 6th August 1944 being a ETO Record) and 12 pilots with victories over jet opposition. The Group also had the 2 top Mustang "ACES" of the war in Major George Earl Preddy and Col. John C Meyer, plus 10 pilots that received the DSC. The 352ndFG finally shipped out of England back to America in November 1945.
This information is as accurate as I can make it, but there maybe mistakes (no-ones perfect....lol ). All information came from various sources, books, the net, and general correspondences with people in the know.
I hope they don't mind me using it, as it is not being used for profit making, but as a personal tribute to the men who gave their all for FREEDOM
Here at the Duxford Air Museum in England at the American Aviation Exhibit, is a black marble wall upon which is inscribed the names of all the know American aviators who lost their lives, including George and William Preddy.
The wall is in 2 sections, 1 at each end of the Exhibit Hall
352nd Roll Of Honour
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