Colonel Waclaw Makowski’s achievements in aviation span 46 years during which time he fought for the freedom of his homeland in two wars, and helped establish an air force and two national airlines. Born in 1897 in Tsarist-controlled Poland, he was inducted into the Russian Army in 1916 and was in Petrograd (Leningrad) in October 1917 at the start of the Russian Revolution. He narrowly escaped to Poland where he joined the newly organized Polish Army as it prepared to regain the territory that had been under Russian control for over 100 years.
In 1919, he became an aviator in the Polish Air Force and flew reconnaissance missions over the Lithuanian-Belorussian Front. Piloting a wide variety of surplus World War I German aircraft, he finished the war commanding the No. 1 Reconnaissance Squadron and received the Virtuti Militari and Cross of Gallantry, Poland’s highest orders of valor. Makowski departed the Polish Air Force in 1930 and was a founding member of the Polish Air Line “LOT,” which he left in 1939 as its General Manager. He was also the last prewar President of the International Air Transport Association, forerunner of the United Nations International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). Shortly before Germany invaded his homeland in September 1939, Makowski was called back to uniform.
Following the collapse of Poland, he joined 11,000 fellow airmen escaping to England to fight another day. There he commanded No. 300 Squadron, the first operational Polish squadron with the Royal Air Force, flying Fairey Battles and later Vickers Wellington bombers. In this capacity, he first led his unit on a mission against German barges massed for Operation Sea Lion, the planned invasion of Great Britain in late 1940. Remaining in England after the war, he began a 14-year career with ICAO in 1951 and worked as an aviation advisor in Iran, Nepal, Tunisia, Morocco, Mali, Upper Volta, Mauritania, Guinea, and Afghanistan.
While in Afghanistan he was recognized for contributing to founding that country’s national airline, Ariana. Waclaw Makowski retired from ICAO in 1965. A pioneer organizer in military and civil aviation, his work serves as a monument to the progress aviation has made throughout the world.