Flyboy from Sequim provided a beacon of hope for pilots returning from missions over Europe

By Dan Aznoff | Nov 02, 2017
Courtesy of: Jon Talman Former Army Air Corps radioman Preston Scheid was reunited with on of the P-51 Mustangs that flew support for American bombers over Europe during World War II at the John Sessions' Historic Flight Museum at Paine Field after it was salvaged from a muddy field in England. The 99-year-old veteran provided the homing beacon for Allied aircraft returning across the English Channel after dangerous missions over hostile territory.

American Preston Scheid had a memorable tour of duty as a radioman with the 361st Fighter Group of the Army Air Corps stationed at Little Walden RAF and Bottisham RAF at the end of WWII.

The 99-year-old has shared stories of his wartime experience with his children, grandchildren and great grandchildren about how he performed his duties from the relative safety of the British airfield. He also spent time in the belly of American B-29 bombers on missions over Germany.

His memory may not be what it once was, but Scheid still sits tall in his wheelchair when he describes how he sat at his radio at the base near London to help guide tired pilots across the English Channel and out of harm’s way.

He was drafted in 1942, and sailed on the Queen Elizabeth to England to begin his duties at the base outside London.

“His stories have entertained the family for as long as I can remember,” his daughter, Midge Talman, told The Beacon. “He rarely talked about how his squadron dropped bombs on the enemy, but he was always proud of the lives he helped save by talking the pilots home after a long mission.”

In addition to repairing American fighters, Scheid played bass fiddle and managed the jazz band on the base. The band was appropriately named The Mustangs.

The memory his daughter loves to hear over and over was about how her father was on a bus headed into London when British Prime Minister Winston Churchill came on the radio to announce that the war in Europe was over.

“The band was headed into London to perform that night,” she said. “There was pandemonium when they arrived at Piccadilly Circus. The band got up on a balcony to entertain the crowd during the famous VE Day celebration.”

Returning home to Sequim after the war, Scheid found work as a skilled craftsman. He met his wife of 62 ½ years while playing with his band at an Elks Club near Centralia.

Over the years, Preston and his bride, Marion “Isabel” Scheid, became “pillars of the community,” according to their daughter. The couple spent “countless” days—including Christmas--serving cups of free coffee and cookies at rest stops along I-5 to raise money for the American Legion and other veteran’s organizations.

The dedicated couple used two buses to volunteer at the VA Hospital “for years,” according to their daughter. Scheid continued to make the trip two days every week until he was 95.

They each logged more than 9,000 hours volunteering time for veteran causes. Talman still recalls how her mother urged her father to reach for the 10,000-hour plateau before she passed away in June of 2014.

Scheid ended his career as a volunteer with more than 9,700 hours of service to veteran organizations.

The former staff sergeant has ridden in numerous Veteran’s Day parades and visited schools around Western Washington to tell young people about his experiences as part of the Greatest Generation. Some years he would work his schedule so he could visit five or six different schools on a single Veteran’s Day.

“The kids would always come up to him after his presentation. Many of them just wanted to touch a real hero,” Talman said. “He still loves that.”

The former radioman moved his family from the Olympic Peninsula to Bothell, where Scheid served as commander of Legion Post 127, while Isabel served on the local and district boards for the American Legion Auxiliary. In 2012, Scheid’s photo was added to the Wall of Heroes at the Veteran’s Hospital in Seattle.

Jon Talman, Scheid’s son-in-law, has carried on the family tradition of service to serve as commander of the Legion Post for three years beginning in 2012. Talman also used his expertise as a finish carpenter to oversee the construction of a new Post building on Hwy. 9 between Snohomish and Woodinville.

Talman is especially proud of one story his father-in-law told that actually came to life. The muddy remains of one of the P-51 Mustangs from Scheid’s squadron was uncovered in a beet field in England. The plane—known fondly as The Impatient Virgin—was restored and brought back to America.

The plane, according to Talman, went down on June 22, 1945, during a training flight when the American pilot flew too close to the ground near a hay stack, and the plane’s engine began to overheat and catch fire from the dry hay that had been sucked into the motor.

“The pilot, Wade Ross, wisely was able to take the plane up high enough to safely parachute out of the burning aircraft,” Talman said. “After three years of British bureaucracy and digging in a muddy beet field, restoration of the Mustang was completed in 2008. It is now displayed at John Sessions' Historic Flight Museum at Paine Field.”

Scheid was reunited with the plane during ceremonies shortly after it arrived at the museum.

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