TOP AMERICAN FIGHT ACE IN EUROPE (WWII) AND Korea
Francis “Gabby” Gabreski was born Oil City , Pennsylvania in 1919, and spent most of his adult career as a distinguished fighter pilot in the U.S. Air Force. Gabby came from a Polish background and he vowed that he would someday graduate from Notre Dame University . However, war was on the horizon and Gabreski elected to enlist in the USAAF (U.S. Army Air Force) pilot training in July 1940. He undertook primary flight training at Parks Air College , basic flight training at Gunter Air Base and Advanced training at Maxwell Field, Montgomery , Alabama .
His first assignment was with the 45th Fighter Squadron (15th Fighter Group) Wheeler Field , Hawaii . He was one of a group of pilots who managed to get a P-40 in the air at the latter part of the attack on Pearl Harbor , December 7th, 1941 attack but was too late to have any effect..
In October of 1942, Gabreski reported to the 8th Air Force in Great Britain . Eventually, because of his Polish background, Gabby was attached to the 315th Polish Deblinski Fighter Squadron at Northolt England . There he had the opportunity to fly England ’s outstanding new Supermarine Spitfire IX aircraft, a single-seat fighter with superior performance characteristics so important to fighter planes for that period.
In March of 1943, Gabreski became part of the legendary 56th Fighter Group. The 56th flew an airplane that, in later versions, became one of the most feared fighters by the enemy- the P-47 Thunderbolt. This plane was equipped with water injection (for combustion cooling) and large four-blade propellers, which gave it increased speed and performance. It was well-armed, with both .50 caliber machine guns and 20 MM cannons. In addition to heavy firepower, it was heavily armored and was well known for its ruggedness and its reputation for bringing its pilots back to home base from fierce combat with the German BF 109 and Focke Wulf 190 fighter aircraft- the best that the Germans had to offer.
On the 5 of July, 1944, Col. Gabreski made his 28th “kill,” surpassing the record held by WWI ace, Eddie Rickenbacker. He was scheduled to return home to the U.S. , but decided to fly just one more raid. On a strafing pass, he was so low, his propeller hit a mound on the airfield, and this bent the blades of his propeller. This in turn caused his engine to vibrate violently and he had to crash-land. Eventually he was captured by the Germans and spent the rest of the war in a prison camp.
Gabby returned to the United States and eventually became part of the test pilot training at Wright Field in Ohio . In April of 1946, Gabreski took a short leave from the Air Force; however, a year later in 1947, he re-joined the service this time flying the famous North American F-86 Sabre Jet. He was called to serve as the commander of the 51st Fighter-Interceptor Wing and he ended up flying combat in Korea . During this time, he encountered the infamous Mig-15 fighter plane and racked up an amazing 6.5 kills against a formidable foe.
He ended his career as commander of the 52nd Fighter Wing. He will be recorded in the history books as an American Fighter Pilot who flew more combat missions than any other and in 1978 was enshrined in the National Aviation Hall of Fame. He passed away in 2002.
Younger youth. Gabby Gabreski was one of America ’s best — patriot, fighter pilot, commander and leader of men — a true hero! He was a distinguished fighter pilot with a record number of victories. He fought in two of America ’s major conflicts against powerful foes. He was an expert fighter pilot with extraordinary skills in propeller driven aircraft, and then he transitioned to even faster, more powerful and more modern jet fighters. As a jet fighter pilot, he was again successful, and earned once again the title of ace with his 6.5 kills. He excelled as well as a leader and commander of a major fighter wing in Germany . And Gabby did it all without abusing drugs or alcohol. Imagine how tired and shaken he might have been after a day’s combat in the contested skies of Germany in WW II. How many close calls did he have? No doubt he did, but he never let that deter him. He never saw a need to resort to abuse of drugs like methamphetamine or cocaine to bolster his nerves. And he certainly knew he needed to be stone-cold sober in the cockpit if he was to be successful in his air-to-air combat engagements with the enemy. It would have been a privilege and an honor to get to meet and know Gabby. He was and remains a true American hero. Gabby knew full well the importance of remaining drug-free. It’s the way to be!
Older youth. Gabby is one of America’s best known aces, with a well-earned reputation for no-nonsense, heads-up flying under the toughest of combat conditions. It is well known and widely believed that fighter pilots carry a romanticized reputation of living fast and hard. War films often portray fighter pilots drinking hard and getting drunk every evening after flying a dangerous day’s mission, only to get up again the next day to fly and fight once more. Perhaps a few did try to do that. But anyone who has ever been in kill-or-be-killed, air-to-air combat like Gabby will quickly tell you that you have to have your wits about you, and your senses have to be sharp, keen and focused in air-to-air combat. After all, the guy you’re shooting at is trying to kill you! And that’s certainly no place to be drunk, high or hung over, especially if you plan to win and survive! Staying sober is the name of the game! Drug-free — Way to be!
This curriculum is sponsored by the Drug Demand Reduction
Program of the Civil Air Patrol National Headquarters
Maxwell AFB, Alabama
Famous Fliers | Bohn-Meyer | Bluford | Chang-Diaz | Cochran | Coleman | Crossfield | Dahl | Doolittle | Earhart | Gabreski | Goddard | Jemison | Lindbergh | Ochoa | Quimby | Rickenbacker | Ride | Rutan | Wright | Yeager