Lanowski was not in a frontline fighter unit during the blitzkrieg of September 1939, but he did fly one operational sortie in defense of the Deblin airbase. To avoid capture by the Germans, the Deblin staff (cadets, instructors, mechanics) was evacuated to southern Poland. On 17 September, a few hours before crossing the Romanian border, his unit was captured by Soviet cavalry. Lanowski and a few of his friends escaped from the column of POW's and on 27 September he arrived in Romania. A month later he started the trip to France, where new Polish units were being organized.
Unfortunately, Lanowski was unable to fight against the Luftwaffe in Napoleon's homeland. He dared to criticize the French military command, and for that was imprisoned in May of 1940. He escaped, this time from a prisoner's transport, in the midst of the chaos of the invasion of France, and in July of1940 finally landed in Great Britain.
Lanowski started retraining on British planes in April of 1941. In November he was posted to 308 Polish Fighter Squadron, "City of Krakow". In January of 1941 he was moved to 317 Fighter Squadron, "City of Wilno" and finally in December of 1942 he landed in 302 FS, "City of Poznan", where became leader of Flight A. His personality trait of challenging authority again got him in trouble - after quarrelling with a VIP of the Polish goverment in London, Lanowski was 'grounded'.
The 'winds of war', in effect, directed him to the U.S. Army Air Force in early March 1944. A special kind of asylum for more restless Polish pilots such as Boleslaw Gladych and Stefan Laszkiwicz had developed within the USAAF, and Lanowski joined the group. By this time, Lanowski had flown 98 sorties with the Polish Air Force, without any aerial victories. Lanowski's first 9th Air Force Assignment was with the 335th Reconn Squadron, 354th Fighter Group, based in Boxted, England. As the first fighter group to fly P-51 "Mustangs", the 354th was known as the "Pioneer Mustangs". Here he got the nickname 'Lanny' from American friends. Soon, Lanowski was ordered to the 8th Air Force, 61st Fighter Squadron, 56th Fighter Group, where he flew P-47 "Thunderbolt" fighters in combat. In 1944 he scored 4 aerial victories. The first kill was recorded on 22 May 1944, a FW 190. One month later, on 27 June, he downed a Bf 109. On 5 July, in combat over the French town of Conches, he shot down another Bf 109. For his fourth kill, again a Bf 109, he had to wait till 18 November 1944. Lanowski flew his last mission of WWII, sortie number 179, on 19 April 1945.
After the war Lanowski served in an RAF ferry unit. On 13 May 1955, flying a "Venom" jet, he crashed on the Fassburg airfield in Germany. His injuries required eleven months of hospitalization and plastic surgery on his face. Lanowski then returned to the RAF for a final two years of duty.
In 1962, Lanowski decided to take part in the civil war in Katanga (province rebel against Zair) - with a mercenary unit organised by Jan Zumbach. He flew two years of highly dangerous duty, and after the Katanga Air Force was destroyed he returned via Angola to Great Britain. Even though he had been hired as a mercenary, Lanowski never received any payment for his combat efforts in Africa. Lanowski currently lives in Essex, Great Britan.
It is interesting to note that official Polish victory statistics credit Lanowski with only two victories, reflecting that during his absence from the Polish Air Forces his kills with the USAAF were not added to his previous victories.