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Tribute to the memory of U.S. Air Ace Francis S. Gabreski

May 04, 2007

New York’s Long Island community will commemorate the fifth anniversary of the death of Col. Francis S. “Gabby” Gabreski, America’s top air ace in Europe in World War II, according to the Downstate New York Division of the Polish American Congress.

As the umbrella organization of America’s Polish ethnics, the Congress announced a wreath-laying ceremony will be conducted at Col. Gabreski’s gravesite on Saturday, May 19th, Armed Forces Day, at 11:30 a.m. Joining the Congress in the observance will be the American Polish Council of Long Island.

His remarkable record of shooting down 28 German aircraft and destroying another three on the ground was achieved within a period of less than eleven months. After going into private industry when WW II ended, Gabreski rejoined the military a few years later when the Korean War broke out. There he shot down six Soviet-built MIG-15 fighters and shared credit for the downing of another.

Gabreski took great pride in his Polish heritage. Because he spoke Polish and felt strongly “about what the Nazis had done to Poland” after they invaded and started WW II in 1939, he requested assignment to a Polish fighter unit attached to the Royal Air Force.

He then flew some two dozen missions over Europe alongside the Polish pilots prior to joining the United States 56th Fighter Group in Britain with which he amassed his amazing feats in air combat.

After he retired from the Air Force in 1967, Gabreski held an executive position with Grumman Aerospace and then was named president of the Long Island Rail Road. In tribute to him, the Suffolk County Air Force Base in Westhampton Beach was renamed the Francis S. Gabreski Airport, now a general-aviation airport.

The Polish American Congress honored “Gabby” at a special banquet in Brooklyn, N.Y. in 1998. A year later, the Congress celebrated his 80th birthday at its annual Christmas party, the traditional Polish “Oplatek.”

He was brought close to tears when the gathered children of the Maria Konopnicka Supplementary School sang their “Happy Birthday” and the traditional Polish “Sto Lat” to him. Gabreski kept in close contact with the Polish American Congress until his death in 2002.

“He was a great American and a proud American but an American who never forgot his Polish roots and always remembered his Catholic origin,” said Richard Brzozowski, secretary of the Congress and chairman of the Col. Francis S. Gabreski Memorial Committee.

The public is invited to participate in the commemorative observance at Calverton National Cemetery, 210 Princeton Blvd., Route 25, Calverton, N.Y., exit 68N on the L.I. Expressway.

Contact: Frank Milewski
(718) 263-2700 – Ext. 105