World War I U.S. Army Air Service pilot was the first U.S. officer prisoner of war to escape from his German captors. He was the youngest of seven sons born to William Pressley and Fannie Mildred Wright Puryear in Hendersonville, Tennessee. He graduated from Vanderbilt University with a law degree in 1916 and moved to Memphis to work in his brother David's law practice.
During World War I, George joined the Aviation Section, U.S. Army Signal Corps (which would become the Army Air Service in 1918) and served in the 95th Aero Squadron. In July 1918, he was captured by German forces and sent to several different prisoner of war camps in Germany over the course of several months, before managing to escape from the camp at Villingen on 6 October 1918, swimming across the Rhine River to reach Switzerland. His heroic escape was chronicled in newspapers across the United States, and George traveled to various Air Service units to relay his experiences in the German prison camps.
Upon his return home, George was reassigned to the 9th Aero Squadron based at Rockwell Field, San Diego, California. From April to May 1919, he was a pilot with the No. 3 (Far West) Flight of the Victory Loan war bond campaign. When this campaign ended, George returned to the 9th Aero Squadron.
While on border patrol on 20 October 1919, the engine of his DH-4 cut out, causing it to crash. George died from his injuries within minutes of the crash. The airfield at El Centro/Calexico was named Puryear Field in his honor.
Source: Find a Grave