Gabreski, born Franciszek Gabriszewski, Francis Stanley “Gabby” 28-01-1919 in Oil City, Pennsylvania,
Gabreski’s parents had emigrated from Frampol, Poland to Oil City, Pennsylvania, in the early 1900s. His father (Stanisław “Stanley” Gabryszewski) owned and operated a market, putting in 12-hour days. As in many other immigrant-owned businesses in those days, the whole family worked at the market. But Gabreski’s parents had dreams for him, including attending the University of Notre Dame. He did so in 1938, but, unprepared for real academic work, almost failed during his freshman year.Gabreski’s parents had dreams for him, including attending Notre Dame University.
During his second year at Notre Dame, Army Air Corps recruiters visited the campus. Gabreski went to hear them, primarily because his friends were going. The Army’s enticing offer impressed him and he enrolled, reporting in July 1940. Advised by his flight instructor that he didn’t “have the touch to be a pilot”. Nazi Germany invaded Poland, angering him and re-kindling his interest in flying. Gabreski enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps
, volunteering as an aviation cadet. Gabreski achieved his wings and his commission as a second lieutenant in the Air Corps in March 1941, then sailed for Hawaii aboard the SS Washington to his first assignment. Gabreski followed closely reports on the Battle of Britain (see Bomber Harris
and the role played in it by Polish RAF squadrons
. He became concerned that the US did not have many experienced fighter pilots. This gave Gabreski an idea: since Polish squadrons had proved to be capable within the RAF
and since he himself was of Polish origin and spoke Polish, he offered to serve as a liaison officer to the Polish squadrons to learn from their experience. The idea was approved and he left Hawaii for Washington. Gabreski flew the new Spitfire Mark IX
Fighter Squadron, nicknamed “Top Dogs”
. Another ace of the 61st
was Robert Samuel “Bob” Johnson
Johnson credited with scoring 27 victories, died age 78, on 27-12-1998, in Tulxa. Johnson was the first to surpass Eddie Rickenbacker’s World War I score of 26 victories.
Rickenbacker suffered from a stroke while he was in Switzerland and died age 82, on 23-07-1973. Gabreski and his fellow pilots flew patrol sweeps over the Channel. Gabreski’s victory total steadily climbed through the winter of 1943-44. By 27-03-1944, he had earned 18 victory credits and had six multiple-kill missions to rank third in the “ace race”. From 1943 to 1945, the 61st
produced 19 Aces, the highest of any squadron in Europe, destroying 248 aircraft in the air and 67.5 aircraft on the ground. In 1944, it was recognized as the first fighter squadron in the European theather to score over 100 victories.
After the end of the war in Europe, the squadron demobilized in England, and was inactivated as an administrative unit on 18-10-1945 On 20-07-1944 at his last flight before going back to the States, Gabreski attacked a airfield but flew so low that he touched the ground with his propellers and crashed over Germany, near Bremen. He escaped from the German soldiers searching for him, but was captured five days later and Gabreski was sent to Stalag Luft I.
Gabby was liberated when Soviet forces seized the camp in April 1945. n Korea, December 1951, commander 4th
Fighter-Interceptor Group, Walker “Bud” Mahurin
began a 90-day tour of temporary duty with the 51st
Fighter-Interceptor Wing, serving as special assistant to the wing commander, colonel Francis S Gabrinski.
Death and burial ground of Gabreski, born Franciszek Gabriszewski, Francis Stanley “Gabby”.
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