Dzwonek and his P.11c.

Photos: A.Glass,T.Kopanski,T.Makowski - "PZL P.11" cz.II, ML 37, AJ PRESS 1997.

Jan Dzwonek - Within an Ace of Death.

Written by Dariusz Tyminski .

Here is Sec.Lt. Jan Dzwonek sitting on his PZL P.11c. Note the call-code "4", and the "turkey" painting - the insignia of the 161st Fighter Escadrille (Eskadra Mysliwska). The picture was taken at Sknilow airfield in the summer of 1939. In the text are photos dated 31 August 1939, at Basiowka near Lwow airfield showing Sec.Lt. Jan Dzwonek and Sec.Lt. Zbigniew Szubert (from 162nd EM) studying a map in front of a P.11a. There is also a post-war photo of Jan Jasinski (Dzwonek).
The 161st Fighter Escadrille (consisting of III/6 Squadron), commanded by Cpt. Wladyslaw Szczesniewski, was assigned after the mobilization order to the "Lodz" Army. On 1 September 1939, despite being vectored many times against enemy planes, the pilots of the unit were unable to contact or engage the Luftwaffe. The next day, Squadron leader Mjr. Stanislaw Morawski assigned four pilots (Sec.Lt. Szubert, Sec.Lt. Dzwonek, cadet Kremarski, Sgt. Pretkiewicz) to fly a sunrise mission to ambush the enemy. During darkness, the four-plane formation was moved to a secondary airfield in Wola Wezykowa near Zdunska Wola. Dzwonek, together with Kremarski, downed a Henschel 126 on a reconnaissance mission. About 16:00 hours the same pair took off again to intercept Heinkel 111's. But the Polish pilots were surprised by Bf 109's - - Cadet Kremarski, was hit in the head and killed, his plane crashing in the forest near Sedziejowice, and Sec.Lt. Dzwonek was wounded in his left arm and leg. Dzwonek describes what happened next:
Jan Dzwonek(left)-a day before war. "In a bleak mood I returned to the field airfield of our squadron. The plane had a lot of bullet holes. The cockpit instrument panel was almost all destroyed by Bf 109 shells. The only instrument untouched was the compass, and it showed me right way. Over Lask, our AA, defending a rail station, 'welcomed' me with gunfire. Luckily, they missed.

Suddenly, I noticed an unusual show. A few Bf 110's battled with our aircraft. The Germans had a great advantage. I had to decide whether to help my colleagues or safely land on the airfield. Without hesitating, I pulled full throttle. I moved my injured leg to avoid disturbing my steering. My left hand, sticky with blood, I laid on my thigh. I wedged my healthy leg into the rudder pedals for sure steering. Then, I flew away from the dogfighting planes to climb. Under me was Lodz city. Soon I reached a 500 meter altitude advantage over the swarm of clashing aircraft; I then trimmed the aircraft to a "nose-heavy" position to keep the P.11 better stabilized when diving.

I chose as a target the nearest Bf 110 and dropped my machine towards him. From the nearest distance I opened fire, the stream of bullets hitting the fuselage. High speed didn't permit me to open fire again. Black crosses passed nearby as I pulled up to avoid crashing with the Bf 110. I was again higher and turned to a second attack. After the second pass, the German slipped from my gunsight in a sharp turn. I wasn't able to follow him, because in diving the speed could reach 700 km/h. I flew down near the German and to drop him from my backside, I pulled the stick sharply. The inertial energy squeezed me into the seat. At the same time I blacked- out. Completing the pull-out, I was flying directly into the center of the dogfight. In my gunsight I caught one Bf 110, but the pass was too short. He banked right and escaped. I tired to follow him by banking inside his turn, but then I discovered another German sliding onto my tail. In some kind of unusual half turn I slipped under his gunfire, yet still received a few hits in my left wingtip. Again I encountered another Bf 110, and after a short pass, had to dodge again...

All the time I tried to join to my battling colleagues, without success. I attacked the next fighter. After a good targeting pass, the Bf 110 disengaged. He was damaged. Following the attack I noticed other Bf 11O's. One of them escorted the damaged plane and they left combat. I turned back to main arena and noticed a Bf 110 under fire by two P.11's. I shot a short burst at him. After our pair of 'Pezetel' fighters followed another Bf 110, I caught him in my crosshairs. German pilot discovered me and left our pair, who just burned first one Bf 110.

With the engine of my plane still at full throttle, I climbed up over the battling machines to begin my next attack. A German in a left turn tried to dip under my stream of bullets. Then we flew head to head, the Bf 110 growing to fill my gunsight. I pressed the trigger, sending a long burst into the Bf 110 and immediately pulled the stick back to avoid a crash. My fire was well targeted and effective, but my P.11 was being attacked from behind by another Bf 110 and in seconds my machine was on fire. Flames reached the cockpit and burned my face. I had to bail out.

Jan Jasinski(Dzwonek)-after war photo. I began to fry in the cockpit. My struggle with the seat belt and shoulder harness was so long, that I was almost resigned to my fate. Covering my face and eyes against the fire with my left hand, I opened the belts and with a great heave, bailed out the port side. We had had instructions to only open our parachute near the ground (after incidents of airmen being strafed in their chutes on 1st September, Polish HQ ordered pilots to open their parachute as low as possible). I looked at my hands - - they were white, simply fried, and I thought that 2000 meters lower they might be totally useless. I pulled the handle, and the pain was like holding molten metal. A moment later I felt the jerk - - the parachute was open.

I was hanging in the chute at about 2000 meters altitude when I noticed tracers passing near to me. They missed, but this pirate of the Third Reich not give up and attacked me again. This second time the wave of bullets also spared me. Shells passed to the left and right of my body. The German didn't get a third chance to kill me because my friend Jan Malinowski from 162nd Escadrille (flew on P.7a !) successfully attacked the German. On the first attack he set the right engine of the Bf 110 on fire, and on the second pass killed the pilot. The aircraft fell, crashing in pieces.

During my landing I damaged my backbone. I was transported to the hospital in Pabianice, where I heard someone say I had no chance to see next sunrise. I did go into a coma for 20 hours. When I awakened, the doctor told me, that in the same hospital was a Bf 110 pilot - - the one I downed."

After SKRZYDLATA POLSKA, Tadeusz Malinowski "Dramatyczne chwile."

The adversaries of eight PZL fighters of Polish Squadron III/6 were a formation of 23 Messerschmitt Bf 110's of I./ZG76. German pilots that day reported 2 victories (Leutnant Helmuth Lent and Oberleutnant Nagel), at the loss of three aircraft. Polish pilots claimed 2 kills: one shared by Sec.Lt. Koc and Sec.Lt. Glowczynski (the Bf 110 fell on a field in the village of Sladkowice, near Pabianice). The second victory was by Corp. Jan Malinowski of 162. Eskadrille. The third victory should probably be added to score of brave Sec.Lt. Dzwonek. Because he wasn't able to report his Bf 110 kill, his official victory score was only 1/2 of a Hs 126.

Besides the death of Sec.Lt. Edward Kremarski in further combat and the shooting down of Dzwonek, Squadron losses included one P.11c, piloted by Wieslaw Choms. He crashed while landing after combat. With Polish victories matching the number of Polish aircraft lost in this battle, you can appreciate the great effort of the Polish pilots, outnumbered 3-1 by enemy aircraft of far more modern design as was the Bf 110 C-1.

As he recovered form his burns, Jan Dzwonek changed hospitals several times to avoid German arrest. In December of 1939 he changed his name to Jan Jasinski (he used this name also in post-war period). After the war he flew as a glider pilot in the Polish Aeroclub. Jan Dzwonek-Jasinski died in Warsaw on 13 May 1982.

Special thanks to John Crump for English language support !

In this fighter - PZL P.11c call-code "4" of 161. Eskadra Mysliwska - Sec.Lt. Jan Dzwonek battled on 2 September 1939.

Photo: A.Glass,T.Kopanski,T.Makowski - "PZL P.11" cz.II, ML 37, AJ PRESS 1997.


1998.05.31, WW II Ace Stories.