Eagle Profile

Boleslaw Gladych was one of the few who flew for four air forces–the Polish, French, British and US–during WWII. Born in 1910 in Warsaw, Poland, Gladych shaved eight years off his age in order to gain entrance to the military preparatory school. In 1937, he was accepted into the Polish Air Force Academy in Deblin where he graduated summa cum laude, receiving his commission and wings on the first day of WWII. Gladych defended Poland from the air before fleeing to Romania where the Nazis jailed him. After escaping to France, he joined a Polish unit Groupe de Chasse I./145 flying Caudron Cr-714 Cyclone fighters.

In June 1940, he was engaged in a dramatic duel with a ME-109. During the dogfight, the German managed to severely damage Gladych’s plane. The pilot of the ME-109 (call-code 13) realized Gladych’s hopeless situation, waved his wings and disengaged. Later, following the French surrender, Gladych escaped to Britain and joined the Royal Air Force No. 303 Squadron. On 23 June 1941 while flying a RAF Supermarine Spitfire Mk V, he was credited with four victories over ME-109s and one probable when he rammed his last opponent. This collision and subsequent crash left Gladych severely injured.

In 1943 after scoring a victory over a Focke-Wulfe 190, he was damaged by another FW-190 (call-code 13) that flew close aboard, waved his wings and disengaged. About that time, Gladych met Major Francis “Gabby” Gabreski, commander of the 61st Fighter Squadron, who offered him flights in the Republic P-47 Thunderbolt. Gladych finagled a leave of absence from the RAF and soon was training American replacement pilots. On 8 March 1944, while escorting bombers to Berlin, Gladych engaged three FW-190s, which earned him the USAAF Silver Star. Low on fuel, he attempted to disengage after earning one victory, but the other two fighters boxed him in and ordered him to land.

As he approached the German airfield configured for landing, Gladych suddenly opened fire on the airfield with his remaining ammunition. German flak gunners responded, but missed Gladych and shot down the two FW-190s, one of which was marked call-code 13. Gladych met call-code 13 after the war and confirmed their engagements. While flying with the 56th Fighter Group, Gladych was credited with 10 aerial victories. Due to his successes in WWII, he was awarded the Polish Virtuti Militari (U.S. Medal of Honor equivalent), three Crosses of Valor, Croix de Guarre, Silver Star, three Distinguished Flying Crosses, and 11 Air Medals. After WWII, he immigrated to the U.S., returned to school, and became a licensed psychotherapist. Gladych currently practices this profession and lives with his wife, Elizabeth, in Seattle, WA.

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2002 Lithograph

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Gladych's aggressive nature led him from captivity to combat in France and later Britain. After being grounded by the RAF, he resolutely sought a flying unit and ultimately found a home with the "Top Dogs" of the 61st Fighter Squadron in the USAAF. His successes in the P-47 and relationships with the men of the 61st FS led this Polish native to finish fighting WWII with the 56th Fighter Group. As an unofficial member of " Zemke's Wolfpack," "Mike Killer" Gladych became a double ace in the USAAF, attaining 18 victories and 2 probable overall.