In the photo above are Polish fighters from the 61st Squadron, 56th Fighter Group. From left side: Boleslaw Gladych, Tadeusz Sawicz, Francis Gabreski, Kazimierz Rutkowski, Tadeusz Andersz and Witold Lanowski. In the text are shots of Gladych sitting on his "Spitfire", "Pengie", from 302nd Fighter Squadron, RAF and a group portrait of American pilots of 61st, FS 56th FG dedicated to "Mike Killer".
Escaping from the Romanian internment camp Turnu Severin he reached France, where he joined the recently formed volunteer "Finnish" Squadron, intended to take part in the Finnish-Soviet war. Except for two French pilots (Maj. Demarnier and Capt. Pougevain) all the volunteers were Polish. It must be kept in mind that Poland, following the Soviet aggression of 17 September 1939, practically was at war with Soviet Russia. Anyway this expedition never was realised and the squadron was changed to a completely Polish unit named Groupe de Chasse I./145. The appointed commander was Mjr. Kepinski, with Capt. Wczelik and Mjr. Frey as flight leaders. The unit was equipped with Caudron Cr-714 "Cyclone" fighters. This was a new and interesting fighter design, but suffered from many technical troubles. Nevertheless, these were the aircraft the Polish pilots had to fly against the Germans, and they fought bravely with them against the Germans after the May 1940 attack.
Participating in "Cyclone" (on 10 June 1940 ?) Gladych had a dramatic air duel with a Bf 109. After a long and tough combat, the German managed to hit the Polish fighter severely. But realizing Gladych's hopeless situation, the pilot of the Messerschmitt - with the call-code "13" - acted with great honour: he simply waved his wings and disengaged.
After the French surrender, 2/Lt. Gladych arrived in the British Isles. On 21 April 1941 he finished training on British fighters and was posted to 303 Squadron. Five days later he downed his first enemy plane achieving the 250th air victory among all Polish pilots in the UK. On 23 June 1941, the squadron took part in two missions over France. On both occasions they were involved in combat and claimed 5-4-0 victories in total. Gladych was injured during these missions and his damaged "Spitfire" Mk V had to crash land on the British coast. In October of 1941 Gladych claimed one confirmed kill.
During the period 9 July 1942 - 16 September 1942, Gladych was a member of 302nd squadron "City of Poznan", unit call-code "WX". Following an operational break, he returned to the same unit on 4 December 1942. By the beginning of 1943 he was promoted to Flight Leader.
In the spring of 1943, during a heated battle near the town of Lille, France, Gladych downed one enemy fighter. But soon after, an FW 190 scored damaging hits on the "Spitfire". Although severely shot up, Gladych's aircraft somehow remained flying. The German pilot flew close to him, waved his wings and disengaged. Gladych noticed the clearly visible number "13" on the fuselage of the "gentelman's" FW 190!
Misfortune hit Gladych hard in the autumn of 1943. He mistakenly almost shot down the aircraft carrying British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. The English High Command demanded Flight Lt. Gladych should be punished, and decided to "ground" him - very tough punishment for a fighter pilot.
But one day Gladych met Capt. Francis Gabreski (or rather Franciszek Gabryszewski, in Polish), who previously had been in the Polish Fighter Squadron. By now he was a very well-known fighter pilot. Gabreski offered him flights in the U.S. 56th Fighter Group, outfitted with P-47 "Thunderbolts". Soon, Gladych organized battle training for unexperienced American pilots. With the 61st Fighter Squadron he took part in many combat flights. On 21 February 1944 he downed 2 Bf 109s on one mission.
Gladych's next run-in with the call-code "13" took place on 8 March 1944. On this day American bombers flew to Berlin. In combat with attacking FW 190s, Gladych claimed one. But soon he was left alone with dwindling supplies of both ammo and fuel in his P-47 HV-M "Pengie II", facing another two enemy aircraft. The two Germans, one of them with call-code "13", held their fire and told Gladych to land on the nearby Vechta airfield. The Polish pilot went down, dropped his landing gear and prepared to land. When he was over airfield he suddenly opened fire with his remaining ammunition. Responding intensly, the flak gunners accidently hit the escorting Focke-Wulfs. Gladych gave full throttle and escaped. When he crossed the coast of the English Channel his P-47 ran out of fuel, giving him no choice but to bail out. For that mission he was awarded the Silver Star.
During his duty in the 61st Fighter Squadron, 56th Fighter Group Gladych scored a few more kills, shown in the table below. Some sources say her achieved eleven with the USAAF.
|Pilot||Date||No - Type||Remarks|
|Boleslaw Gladych||21.02.1944||2 Bf-109|
|Boleslaw Gladych||08.03.1944||1 Fw-190||rendez-vous with "13"!|
|Boleslaw Gladych||27.03.1944||1 Bf-109|
|Boleslaw Gladych||06.06.1944||1 Bf-109|
|Boleslaw Gladych||07.06.1944||1 Bf-109|
|Boleslaw Gladych||05.07.1944||1 Bf-109|
|Boleslaw Gladych||12.08.1944||1 Ju-88|
|Boleslaw Gladych||21.09.1944||2 Fw-190|
Boleslaw Gladych had no opportunity to fight in Polish (or British) units, and he served in the USAAF until the end of the war. From American friends he was nick-named "Mike Killer". Gladych was never officially included in any American unit, he was only a "guest star" of the 56th. A few days after the end of the war he was simply kicked out of the U.S. Armed Forces. Apart from Gladych, a few other Polish pilots flew with success in 61st FS, 56th FG - - Witold Lanowski (1 FW 190 on 22.06.1944, 1 Bf 109 on 27.06.1944, 1 Bf 109 on 6.07.1944 and on 18.11.1944) and Tadeusz Andersz (1 Bf 109 on 9.04.1944).
Epilogue. In 1950 Gladych was in Frankfurt, Germany. He accidentally encountered a meeting of the "Gemeinschaft der Ehemailigen Jagdflieger der Luftwaffe". Asked by his wartime adversaries of his war memories, he told the story about the mysterious fighter with the code "13". As he ended his story, he noticed one of the attending German pilots was really touched. It was the pilot of this "13" in all three cases. His name is Georg Peter Eder, an ace with 78 victories who was himself shot down 17 times!
Boleslaw Gladych belonged to the top-scoring Polish aces - officially ranked fifth with a record of 14-2-1/2. Currently he is living in the USA.