The Lady V

The right of naming aircraft was not always given to the flight crews. The flight crews quite often flew several aircraft during their tour and did not always have a plane they could truly call their own. The story was different for the ground crews who were assigned a hardstand and an aircraft to maintain. It was the crew chief that, more often than not, was given the privilege of naming the aircraft he was in charge of. One such aircraft was the "Lady V."

T/SGT George Pray was assigned the B17 numbered #856 to keep in flying condition. He wanted to christen #856 and, in honor of his fiancÚ Miss Virginia Pierce, named his bird the "Lady V." The "Lady V" was originally assigned to the 833rd and identified by the plane code, "K." "Lady V" was stylishly painted on the nose in yellow paint.

On October 14th, #856 was flown by LT Hughes on a mission to Köln (Cologne), Germany. The aircraft was badly shot up by flak and was forced down somewhere between Lille and Amiens, France. The crew would return the next day, but the aircraft was a little slower in arriving back in Sudbury. In the mean time, T/SGT Pray and his ground crew were given a new plane, #130, which T/SGT Pray dubbed the "Lady V II." When the original "Lady V" was returned to Sudbury late in November it was reassigned to the 834th and given the aircraft ID, "R." Both aircraft continued to fly missions for the 486th.

On February 3rd during a mission to Berlin, "Lady V II," flown by LT Ogle with LT J. Rex as squadron commander in the right seat, was hit by flak. LT Ogle was unable to stay with the formation and headed to the Eastern Front and friendly lines. LT Ogle finally put the aircraft down in Central Poland and was warmly received by the Russians. The crew would eventually return to Sudbury via the southern route and would arrive a month later. The aircraft, however, was written off and never returned.

T/SGT Pray found himself given yet another aircraft, but, unfortunately, had received a "Dear John" letter from his fiancÚ. His broken heart was revealed in his choice of names for his new charge, "Lonesome Polecat." #856 continued flying for the 834th until April 10, 1945 when it was once again shot up over Briest, GR. Flown by LT Vanderhoef the aircraft was no longer air worthy and was put down at an emergency field at Venlo, the Netherlands. The aircraft was finally written off and remained at Venlo for a couple years after the war.

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