#VeteranOfTheDay Army Air Corps Veteran Francis S. “Gabby” Gabreski
Francis S. “Gabby” Gabreski was born in January 1919 in Oil City, Pennsylvania. He attended college for two years at Notre Dame but left the university to take flying courses. As a boy, he witnessed Jimmy Doolittle fly in an air race and was captivated by aircraft. He entered the Army Air Corps cadet program and graduated in March 1941 as a second lieutenant.
Gabreski was stationed at Wheeler Field in Hawaii during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Once word of the attack reached him, he immediately took off to defend the base, but arrived after the Japanese planes had departed.
After Germany invaded Poland in 1939, Gabreski’s Polish descent prompted his desire to help defend Poland from German aggression. He requested to be reassigned to a Polish fighter squadron which flew with the British Royal Air Force in Europe. He flew over 20 missions with the group in early 1943 before he joined the U.S. 56th Fighter Group in Europe.
In the middle of 1944, Gabreski was on a mission to escort bombers over Frankfurt when he crash-landed his P-47 Thunderbolt after strafing an airfield. He survived for five days before being turned over to German forces by a local farmer. The Germans knew of Gabreski, given his ace status and ability to shoot down Axis aircraft (“ace” status is achieved when a pilot shoots down at least five aircraft). Gabreski shot down the fourth most enemy aircraft in the European theater during the war. He was a prisoner of war in Germany until the Germans surrendered in May 1945.
After the conclusion of World War II, Gabreski worked for Douglas Aircraft, but returned to military duty in 1950 at the onset of the Korean War. He commanded the 51st Fighter Wing on the peninsula and achieved ace status during the Korean conflict, as well. He received a parade upon his return in 1952 and was greeted by President Harry Truman.
Gabreski retired as a colonel in 1967. During his military career, he received a Distinguished Service Cross, a Distinguished Service Medal, a Distinguished Flying Cross, a Polish Cross of Valor and many more. After retirement, he briefly headed the Long Island Railroad, but later resigned. He died in January 2002.
We honor his service.
Carry the Load
In 2022, VA is joining forces with Carry The Load to honor veterans during the “Memorial May” March, a national relay visiting 50 VA national cemeteries to honor our nation’s fallen service members. A link to this webpage is here. The complete list of participating cemeteries can be found here. Volunteers are encouraged to register in advance.
Do you want to light up the face of a special Veteran? Have you been wondering how to tell your Veteran they are special to you? VA’s #VeteranOfTheDay social media feature is an opportunity to highlight your Veteran and his/her service.
It’s easy to nominate a Veteran. Visit our blog post about nominating to learn how to create the best submission.
Veterans History Project
This #VeteranOfTheDay profile was created with interviews submitted to the Veterans History Project. The project collects, preserves, and makes accessible the personal accounts of American war Veterans so that future generations may hear directly from Veterans and better understand the realities of war. Find out more at http://www.loc.gov/vets/.
Writer: Ryan Beane
Editors: Nathaniel Scott, Theresa Lyon
Researcher: Jake Halderson
Graphic Designer: Kiki Kelley
Project Manager: Oasis Diaz