Local Mulwala resident Yvonne Nicholson tells the story of how her father in law came in to possession of a WWII USA Flying Ace’s cap and how after half a century and a lot of internet searching, the cap is now being returned to the rightful owner’s family in the USA.
In Darwin in 1942, Mark Nicholson, my Father in Law was operating heavy equipment used to maintain and build aerodromes in the area.
The American air force was quite heavily involved in the defence of Darwin and indeed Australia at that time.
On one occasion, as a US pilot was taking off, he threw his cap to Mark.
The cap came home to Mulwala with Mark at the end of his deployment there.
It was passed to me since his son Les, my husband, died in 2010.
Over the years, we have wondered about the owner of the cap and/or his relatives.
Those questions have gone unanswered until very recently when Neil Nicholson, a cousin to Les, found the name Lt Preddy inside the cap and used it as a starting point on the internet.
It has brought forth a wealth of information.
Lt George Preddy spent some time on leave in Melbourne and became engaged to a girl there.
On arrival in Darwin, he found there were very many bomb craters but few people as most civilians had been evacuated.
Following a crash, he was returned to America and after further training was promoted and sent to Europe where, as a Major he commanded many successful missions and was responsible for shooting down 25 enemy planes.
He was one of the US Ace pilots before being killed on Christmas Day in 1944, when his plane was brought down by friendly fire.
His brother, also a pilot, was killed a short time later and they are buried side by side in a military cemetery in France.
This news evoked a saddened response in me, Neil and our family here.
His cousin, Joe Noah, founder of The Preddy Memorial Foundation in North Carolina has let us know by email that they are very appreciative and accepting of my desire to return the cap to them.
They are really keen to see it, to have it and to place it in The North Carolina Aviation Museum or The Greensboro History Museum.
The cap is now on its way to the USA.
Thanks to the internet, this has been made possible.