1944 saw the 56th suffering from a severe shortage of
pilots, mainly due to a number of them coming to the end
of their tours and returning to the United States.
Francis Gabreski had previously served with 315 Squadron
RAF, and since transferring to the 56thFG had kept in
contact with his friends at Northolt. In his book "A
Fighter Pilot's Life" he recalled a meeting with
Hub Zemke, "We were running down a roster of guys
who were approaching the magic two hundred when an idea
struck me: We have need of experienced pilots, and the
Poles of 315 have experience but aren't getting any action.
How about bringing some of them over to Halesworth to
fly P-47's with us in the 56th?"
It's believed that a total of seven Polish pilots flew
operationally with the 61st Fighter Squadron from February
1944 onwards, remaining with the group for periods ranging
from just over three weeks for Aleksander Gabszewicz and
in the case of "Mike" Gladych and "Lanny"
Lanowski until the end of the war.
Zbigniew Janicki was the only one of these pilots to lose
his life while serving with the group, failing to return
from the 13th June 1944 mission.
Scroll down for the individual photos