George Peter Novotny, a decorated war hero who was officially credited for shooting down eight enemy planes in World War II, died Jan. 7 at a senior living facility in Florida. He was 97.
The family would not disclose the cause of death.
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A veteran of World War II, the Toledo native enlisted in the United State Army Air Corps, the aerial warfare service of the United States between 1926 and 1941, soon after the attack on Pearl Harbor. After completing his flight training, Mr. Novotny spent 13 months in North Africa and Italy where he flew 57 combat missions.
“He is a true American war hero,” said his son, George Novotny, Jr.
On January 30, 1944, Mr. Novotny and his fighter group shot down 37 enemy aircraft. For all of his achievements, Mr. Novotny received numerous awards, including a Distinguished Flying Cross and Congressional gold medal.
When Mr. Novotny returned to the United States, he was assigned to Oscoda Army Airfield in Michigan, where he was a flight instructor and taught the Free French Air Force fighter pilots combat techniques in P-47 aircraft until the war ended in 1945.
Born Feb. 22, 1920, in Toledo to Frank and Julia Novotny, he graduated from Waite High School in 1939 before enrolling at the now defunct De Sales College of Toledo. He played football for both his high school and college. His collegiate career ended when he chose to join the military.
Throughout his time in the military, his plane number was always 27, which was the number he wore while playing football at Waite High and De Sales College.
After he left the military, Mr. Novotny worked for Capital Airlines and was then hired to work with Trans World Airlines in ground operations at what was then called the Detroit Metropolitan Airport. He retired from the airlines in 1982.
At home, Mr. Novotny was a loving father and husband to his four kids and Ruth, his wife of 65 years, his son said.
During the war he named his plane “Ruthless Ruthie” after his wife. In a letter to his fiancee he wrote, “You are not with me, so I am Ruth-less, and when I am in combat, I am Ruthless!”
Mr. Novotny and his wife enjoyed sitting in their living room and watching the wildlife in the backyard of their home in northern Michigan. Mr. Novotny was an avid stamp collector and maintained a stamp collection that took up an entire book shelf, his son said.
He frequently shared his war stories with his children, his son, George Novotny, Jr., said. He would simulate flying an airplane with his hands, illustrating how he shot people down, George Novotny, Jr., said.
Surviving are his sons, George Novotny, Jr., Lawrence, and Thomas; daughter, Mary Hughes; sister, Margaret Silberg; eight grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren.
Visitation will be from 2-8 p.m. Monday at Voran Funeral Home in Allen Park, Mich. Funeral services will be held at 10 a.m. on Tuesday at St. Frances Cabrini Parish in Allen Park, Mich.
The family suggests tributes to the American Fighter Aces Association, Museum of Flight, or Compassionate Care Hospice, The Villages, Fla.
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